We can start calling this show Five Guys, A Girl, and A Fancy Stage. Lauren was conspicuously the solitary representative of her gender during the introductions, and Cat didn’t waste any time telling us why: Ashley injured her rib cage during rehearsals and isn’t even watching tearfully from the audience, she’s in such bad shape. So we’re back to scrambling and improvising. The story of the night: Mismatches.
Lauren: Is it heresy to say I liked the rehearsal footage better -- because of the lack of featheriffic ethnic costuming? The Tahitian shimmy was fun, without a doubt, but it looked to me like the choreographer struggled to shoehorn in other moves than the fast hip circles (and muscular stomping, on Mark’s part). Those shakeroos were so fascinating that I wish they hadn’t given way to more conventional and familiar moves.
Adechike: “Death-defying” is a good way to describe this salsa with Anya. On the plus side, it was eye-popping. On the negative side, the flow and rhythm of the dance were interrupted constantly by the effort of tricks. You’ve got to be impressed by the muscularity of the achievement -- Anya’s extended backwards bend made my legs ache -- but as Mia said, it was more about “getting through it” than really mastering it.
Jose: I think this breaks more new ground than the salsa. It was the weirdest thing: there was no partnering. Jose and Courtney were not dancing together at all. So it came out like pantomime -- two characters individually expressing the essence of their characters. Steps schmeps, Nigel -- it wasn’t about technique, except to the extent that confidence and exuberance in technique translates to charisma. Jose wasn’t strong enough as a dancer or a personality to pull us in and make us watch. That was really a solo, and it was a failure as a solo.
Robert: Travis gives Robert the gift of this week’s -- and maybe this season’s -- most emotional routine. And to his credit, he doesn’t make the routine depend on the issue and its attendant emotion. That fabulous bursting out of unison movement at the heart of this routine was goosebump-inducing. Just beautiful, and not because of the sentiment. Thank God for Travis Wall; if all the contemporary on this show had his sense of invention, speed, and fluidity, I wouldn’t mind that there was so much of it.
Billy: Anya had to get right back on stage for this jive to a strangely chopped-up “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.” It was distracting that we got through the long journey of this song in a minute and a half -- and that the best part was the jive step side-by-side at the start. Everything else was like an extended stutter. Mia let slip that the judges were reacting to growth between rehearsals and live performances. But this was the moment they should have been critiquing the apparatus -- the music and choreography choices -- around the dancers.
Kent: Few things could have made me not want to stay tuned more than the sight of Kent prancing about in a baseball uniform before the commercial break. But apart from being corny as Kansas in August, there wasn’t anything wrong with the routine itself. The problem was with the pairing. Neil made Kent look like a little boy. It was like the Little Leaguers who get to run out to the bases and shake hands with the real players before the game starts. Not Kent’s fault, but the two were not well matched.
Lauren & Billy: Mandy Moore gets silly with her number about bedazzled pairs of Converse sneakers meeting each other. I feel like Billy did the most with the least this week; he looked like he was having a ball with this number, but it was a waste of time considering what we want to see from Billy (hint: not cuteness). I appreciate what Adam was saying about getting lost in the dance, but come on -- it’s just a shame when these dancers’ precious and limited TV time is spent on trifles, no matter how charming.
Jose & Dominic: It’s make or break for Jose, as he gets to do his b-boy thing. The rehearsal footage made me want to see the crew version with Legacy! But unfortunately for Jose, it was just the two of them -- and Dominic dominated. He was faster in the stepping, he was more extended, he completed the moves and had fluid transitions. Yes, it had some impressive stunts. But Mia is right -- Jose needs more strength to be on top of this game he’s chosen.
Kent & Adechike: This was a neat number and a nice concept with the two guys using the chairs. Both contestants danced it beautifully. I can’t help but compare it as a contemporary number to Travis’s, though. The movement was histrionic, flailing, unearned compared to what Travis, Robert and Courtney gave us. And it wasn’t the worst offender in the realm of contemporary routines on this show, by far. It’s just that the comparison made Wall’s strengths so obvious.
Robert & (All-Star) Kathryn: Disco at last! As soon as Cat let slip that this would be the last routine of the night, I got a goofy smile on my face. That means it’s going to be rockin’. I don’t know if it was the last-minute substitution of Kathryn (does an All-Star understudy at every rehearsal?), but it wasn’t the home run I was looking for. Actually, I do know -- Robert overplayed it. Too much goofiness. Too many faces. Too exaggerated on the hip shakes. And that may have been a reaction to having a new partner and not making that connection, but it’s probably just Robert.
Ashley will be in the bottom three -- possibly from her hospital bed -- and I expect Jose and Billy to be joining her, although I’ve learned never to underestimate America’s lack of interest in Robert. He deserves better this week for his work in the contemporary number, though, whatever his other deficiencies.
- Did Robert injure Ashley with his way-too-enthusiastic hug during the drawing of cards? Is that a new strategy for eliminating your competition?
- New information for your Mia Michaels fan fiction: She loves ducks and keeps one in her backyard.
- You know why we love Cat? Because of that little speech she improvised after the Travis Wall routine, explaining what it meant. How many other hosts could come up with that on the spot?
- I don’t envy the producers trying to come up with a running order for the show in the new format. You can’t front-load and back-load the standing-ovation routines, because the dancers need a cushion to prepare for their next numbers, and what if the best routines were in the All-Star rather than dual-contestant portions? Things sure were a lot simpler for the people who made the show when the contestants were dancing with each other. (Also when they weren’t dropping like flies from rehearsal injuries.)
- Can somebody remix the thirty seconds of Cat saying “sex bomb” into a 12 inch club single?
- Yet more fodder for your Mia Michaels fanfic: She loves boys. (For what end, I’m not sure.)
- Dominic, please, for the love of God, don’t do a penis thing with the sword. You just said it was Jose’s heart, so what are you really saying when you hold it next to your junk?
- ‘Fess up: How many of you were annotating the Robert-Ashley rehearsal footage, MST3K style, with constant cries of “My ribs! Ow! My ribs!”?