I suppose we should be grateful for any week this season where we are not subjected to a Bataan death march of eliminated dancers. Only two are scheduled to go home tonight, and the judges will have some sort of legitimate choice instead of having to pluck only two to be saved from the roiling mass of the damned.
Who should it be? Tyce and Sonya, unfortunately, did their dancers no favors last night -- and Nigel almost called the latter out on it when he blamed his “having no connection” to Ashley and Chris’s dance on the choice of music (“Sorry, Telemark!”), the distancing effect of costuming and makeup, and the failure of the dancers to create characters. That’s about as close as we come these days to a judge saying that the choreographer didn’t come through. Tyce didn’t get any criticism for his muddled, frantic, cobbled-together streetwalker routine for Robert and Miranda, and the only reason I can imagine is that the judges have to sit next to Tyce some weeks and are trying to keep the peace.
Who should it not be? I fear that my girl Sasha might suffer from her piano-prop routine with Alexander coming very early in a packed show, and from Alexander being unable to match her remarkable precision and strength. I hope there’s no question about Melanie and Marko being safe -- there hasn’t been so far -- because what a fantastic showcase Napolean and Tabitha give them, complete with small close-up hand dancing at the start and exploding into sheer joy at the end. Also impressive: Caitlynn and Mitchell’s samba, largely because Mitchell really went for it. So many male dancers fail to throw themselves into the mannered stances ballroom requires, getting by on the steps and on performance, but Mitchell’s whole body and manner is super-samba, matching Caitlynn’s energetic shimmying hip for hip. And as much as it pains me to say it, because I find Jess insufferable when not dancing, that foxtrot with Clarice (or “CLAR-is,” as Chenoweth called her -- perhaps in retaliation for Cat calling her Keersten?) was sublime. Gone was the hesitation and staggering (well, there was only the one big lift, but it was smooth and confident) and on display were Jess’s gorgeous lines, athleticism, and control. He really paints the air with his body when he leaps -- reminds me of Billy last season.
Here’s the rub: With 16 dancers left, the ones that are going to be in trouble aren’t necessarily less talented, but less memorable. It’s not a surprise to me when Mary forgets Ashley’s name -- I couldn’t pick her out of a crowd, either. She has failed to distinguish herself. Similarly, I think Ricky needs a Mitchell-samba moment to attain recognition by the viewers. His solo last week was astounding, as Oliver correctly pointed out, but two weeks in a row he has been stuck with dances that don’t allow him to emerge as a personality. Or maybe it’s just that I hate, hate, HATE the costumes he and Ricky have been given so far. Strappy red and black bondage wear, what gives? Tadd and Jordan’s little one-night-stand number is correctly critiqued as slight but fun, and that often equals bottom three on this show. Jordan is all too memorable, unfortunately, for her one-note television character: “I dance sexy but I’m really embarrassed about it, teehee!”
Color me unimpressed by the slow-moving opening number set to the credit music for The Incredibles. Nothing like having a bunch of dancers basically stand in place and do steps. Axis, a dance ensemble Cat adorably describes as “INovuhtiv,” perfroms a very cool number with the male in a wheelchair; I like this as an extension of a philosophy I’ve always felt SYTYCD expressed, that dance is technique and tradition but also the transcending of limits. Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian do something called “theatrical ballroom that involves lots of spectacular lifts and spins, and that I want someone to give Jess and Clarice to do next week, just for the train wreck that might ensue.
Our bottom three turns out to be: Ashley and Chris, victims of Sonya’s love for Beetlejuice; Miranda and Robert, whose Broadway routine was such a mess; and Caitlyn and Mitchell, unjustly. If we’re going by solos, Chris gives it his all; Ashley once again fails to make a case that she has something the other female dancers don’t; Miranda is fabulous; Robert takes Nigel’s comments to heart and pulls every trick he has out of the bag, but I don’t know that it’s enough; Caitlyn delivers a surprisingly weak and hackneyed solo; and Mitchell is tremendous. My choices for a ticket back to their hometowns would be Ashley and either Chris or Robert. The judges’ choices: Miranda (which I understand given the competition routines so far, but is contradicted by her solo) and Robert (who has had the overall weakest performance since top 20 began).
However, I think we have a botched decision here, given that Nigel tells Chris how much the judges loved him in the woodpecker routine -- and that was Robert, not Chris! I think everybody’s coming back next week, folks, and we’re going to do it all again. Season 8: Nobody Ever Goes Home!
- What was with Nigel’s disturbingly race-specific comparisons last night? “You are the Chris Rock of this competition.” “You remind me of Cabin in the Sky.” Because you are black, and so are they, get me? Noel anticipated that Ashley might be compared to Whoopi Goldberg.
- The first word that came to mind while watching a snippet of Kristen Chenoweth’s music video was “country,” wasn’t it? The thing just screamed “country.”
- You get your choice of three routines for National Dance Day, July 30: Challenging, sexy, and simple. Which one are you choosing?
- I yield to no one in my affection for the wonderful Kristen Chenoweth, but it would have been nice to see her give a few critiques along with her praise. It was looking promising after the first routine when she was actually referring to notes she jotted down, and it’s adorable when she yells “Shut the front door!”, but she could have done so much more.
- “OK, when the camera comes to the judges backstage, Nigel hold your forehead like you’re having a migraine and Kristen mime the shutting of multiple doors.”