We’ve reached the last gasp for our surprisingly sticky pairings -- not a single Top 20 couple has been split up through the elimination of one member -- so as the second half of the season begins and the All-Stars run on the stage, let’s take a lingering last look at the relationships that have defined the dancers who got this far, for better or worse.
Jess & Clarice: During their smooth hip-hop number last night, I realized the problem I have with this pair. Jess makes everything into his supremely technical, gorgeous version of Broadway; he doesn’t change his style for the different styles. And although his Jess-face is a continuing annoyance, I can barely see Clarice when they dance together, no matter how much purple fringe she puts on, because Jess’s compact, explosive yet graceful moves are too arresting. I loved his jive and was disappointed that the judges dissed it; not only was it set to one of the more exciting songs of the night, but I was mesmerized by the way Jess’s vertical stillness repeatedly exploded into precise diagonal movements.
Mitchell & Caitlynn: I’m afraid that Caitlynn, Clarice, and Mitchell are the three dancers I’m going to forget the moment they walk off the stage for the last time; I have a hard time remembering them week to week, unfortunately. This pair is prime cut bait tonight (although Ryan could save Caitlynn now that couple-splitting is not a consideration), and it’s not just because their dances this week were both poorly choreographed. The judges liked the Janis Joplin piece, but it was a snooze for me; I thought it was superficial, super-flail-y, and just kind of all over the place. And the less said about that ridiculous hip-hop the better; thank goodness the judges weren’t inclined to tiptoe around it just because of the ostensible message. It was something I’d expect to see from one of those groups that goes around taking over high school assemblies: “This dance is about the terrible lives of children in Africa. If it bums you out, just chill; we’ll rap about it afterwards. Five, six, seven, eight!”
Tadd & Jordan: I was as taken by the vulture number as the panel was; after the judges praised the “strength” shown in the paso doble, I thought this dance was the real epitome of strength. Spencer Liff gets Weak Choreographer of the Night honors for foisting on these talented folks a largely stationary, completely uninteresting Sleeping Beauty thing. This is one of my two favorite couples, even though Jordan’s personality offstage grates as bad as Jess’s.
Alexander & Sasha: Oh man, did I ever hate that paso doble. The decision to put both dancers in the male role seemed to me extraordinarily ill-conceived, and the lack of distinction between the costumes made the moves seem limp and slow. That dance managed to make me wonder about Sasha -- it was that unappealing. Much better was their jazz routine, which gave me back the Sasha I love (that lift with flexed feet was glorious). But there’s an interesting battle brewing between Alexander, with his height and balletic lines, and Jess, with his compact, athletic grace. That is, if Alexander makes it past tonight.
Ricky & Ryan: Like Oliver, I thought the Broadway number was actually really nice, especially on Ricky’s part; his Sinatra-meets-Astaire flair was one of the best fits of choreography to his strengths that we’ve had. But the cha-cha was a big disappointment because of Ryan. She didn’t dance it tall enough; at one point I started peering at her shoes, wondering if the heels were lower than we normally see in this style. It’s really her bent knees and parted legs that were the problem, though, giving the whole performance a “I’m about to break out into a jazz number!” feeling. Hunched, step-focused, wary, Ryan drained all the energy out of the dance.
Marko & Melanie: My favorite couple, and probably yours, too. They get the signature dance of the night with Dean Caspery’s light-bulb number, and their tango is a joy to watch. I can’t wait for the Tadd-Marko and Melanie-Sasha cage matches, and dearly hope that’s the composition of the final four (although we’ve got to find room for Jess in there somewhere, if he’s not crushed by his All-Star partner some week).
And now to your results! Chief among them being Cat Deeley’s well-deserved Emmy nomination for best reality host, as called into existence by the best guest judge ever (well, until Neal Patrick Harris hosts later this season) Jesse Tyler Ferguson. She is clearly so tickled pink that it makes her twice as adorable anytime somebody mentions it. The show as a whole got eight Emmy nods, including five for choreography, and in a nice quick montage we get to see the routines and choreographers so honored. Loads of male-male pairings there, interestingly.
Dancing for their lives (not Dance 4 Your Life) are Caitlynn (who goes at it like she’s got one foot out of the door), Mitchell (giving it his all), Ryan (in a weird New Wave bit Cat calls “different … unique”), Ricky (showing incredible grace and poise), Sasha (creative but not as acrobatic as you might like to see), and Alexander (pulling out those balletic moves we haven’t seen since his audition).
Ryan exits for the girls and doesn’t seem at all surprised, having apparently figured out that America does not like her (her denial when Nigel said she seemed depressed was pretty unconvincing). In a 3-1 decision, Alexander goes home and his solo is especially faulted; granted I know nothing about ballet, but I thought that solo was riveting, much better than Mitchell. So I won’t get my Alexander-Jess throwdown (be honest -- wouldn’t you love to have seen them in a male-male pairing?).
Next week: Everything’s different! Who will show us a new side, and who will keep sliding along in mediocrity?
- The opening number is a terrific Latin-inspired thingie with fans and stuff, definitely a standout, especially after the Jordan-centric big skirt business ended and everybody else came to the foreground.
- Nigel reveals the format for the Top 10: dancers will pull one contestant partner out of a hat, and then will do one dance with an All-Star (presumably in the All-Star’s style).
- Good Lord, Ryan’s half-cornrowed hairstyle is not doing her face any favors tonight.
- Jason Samuels Smith and Anyone Can Get It do an entertaining a cappella tap and rap number -- and there’s poor out-of-place tapper Melinda from last season in the group. Good to see she’s got a home.
- Continuing the Pussycat Dollification of Season 8, lead singer Nicole Scherzinger appears to lipsync her way through a pre-recorded performance. I wonder how the rest of the Dolls feel about her bid for solo stardom?
- Sonya has stolen one of the incense burners from my church and is wearing it upside down in one ear.
- Yay! Pasha’s back! Which All-Star are you happiest to see, and which former contestant do you think is most egregiously missing?