So You Think You Can Dance: “Top 14 Perform/2 Eliminated”
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So You Think You Can Dance: “Top 14 Perform/2 Eliminated”

Season 10 of So You Think You Can Dance is all about the women. Two male contestants have been injured while all of the females have maintained their physical conditions, and after tonight, there are no more weak links even though there are still six girls in dangers. There’s absolutely no way to tell who will be in the bottom next week based on the randomness of America’s voting, and while dancers like Amy and Malece have never been up for elimination, Jasmine’s presence in the bottom this week indicates no one is safe going forward. Once again, judge and choreographer favorite Makenzie is in the bottom along with tapper Alexis, but Makenzie is saved by the judges, leaving only Alexis and Jasmine to dance for their lives. None of the boys are asked to solo, but that’s probably because the judges know they are going to send home the injured Curtis, who can’t perform this week because of a damaged shoulder.

Curtis’ injury means two dances this week feature choreographers on stage, and Leonardo Barrionuevo and Spencer Liff light up their respective routines. Hayley has been consistently overshadowing her partner, and this week she’s paired up with someone who not only matches her sensual power, but exceeds it and forces even more out of her. Hayley has been getting consistent praise by the judges, but this is the first week I see a potential winner in Hayley. Her movement is fluid but deliberate, and her character work is effortlessly strong. She truly blossoms when paired with professionals like Leonardo and Spencer, and she has the benefit of dancing with Spencer during his Broadway group routine later in the episode. That number would have featured the bottom three men (Nico, Alan, and Curtis) dancing alongside four of the toughest women in the competition (Makenzie, Jenna, Hayley, and Malece), and Spencer’s presence on stage forces everyone to up their game. They do, and it’s one of the most joyous routines of the night.

After last week’s abysmal guest judge, it’s great to have Anna Kendrick, who not only has significant performance credentials, but is smart and articulate when she speaks. She’s a huge fan that’s a little flustered to be on panel, but she’s able to give positive criticism that is more than just superlative adjectives. It’s hard to get celebrity guest judges who are going to be intensely critical of the dancers, and while Kendrick does stick to showering praise, she brings an insight into the acting aspect of dance that Nigel and Mary can occasionally overlook. I love that Kendrick brings up the sexy narrative assigned to Hayley and how she’s been able to grow past that, showing an understanding of the way the show works and using that to inform her criticism of the dancers.

While Alexis pulls out all the stops with her tap routine, after watching Jasmine move, it’s clear which dancer is the more versatile instrument for the choreographers. Alexis and Nico land all the steps and subtleties of Sonya Tayeh’s contemporary routine, but there’s a level of artifice in the character work that makes them less natural performers than Jasmine and Aaron working in the same style. Alexis and Nico are showing emotion on their faces, but it doesn’t permeate their entire being the way it does in Jasmine and Aaron’s The Giving Tree-inspired number by Justin Giles. A lot of that is simply due to the maturity level of the dancers. Aaron is seven years older than Nico, and while Jasmine is only a year older than Alexis, she’s far more of a woman in her movement and demeanor than the girlish tapper.

Working with a prop apple and never missing a beat, Aaron and Jasmine add another successful routine to their repertoire, with Giles creating some fantastic tension between the two in his choreography. There’s a beautiful moment when they’re both clutching at the apple and their entire bodies are tensing up, and the release of that pressure when Aaron lets go is truly impressive. Those small moments can be as effective as a series of salsa lifts, and it takes a huge amount of control to make those types of nuanced movements read clearly on stage. This season began with three tappers, all of whom made it further in the competition than any tapper before, but by the end of the night only Aaron remains as Curtis and Alexis are eliminated. He was the one that almost didn't make it to the competition, and now Aaron is one of the season’s major players.

At this point, Amy and Fik-Shun are the only couple that has not had one of its members up for elimination so they’re the frontrunners of the competition. A Christopher Scott hip-hop routine to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” is right in their wheel house, but an accident breaks the momentum of the piece and prevents it from reaching its full potential. Amy loses her footing when Fik-Shun doesn’t throw his napkin far enough and she slips on it; those are the kinds of details Fik-Shun really needs to pay attention to if he’s going to rise above the competition. He overpours a glass of water and spills on one of the menus that he later picks up and waves in Amy’s face, splashing water that could cause either one of them to slip just as easily as that napkin.

I was worried about Amy’s ankle after she fell, but she’s in good enough condition to dance in the bullying-themed group routine from High School Musical choreographer Bonnie Story. Despite an excessively heavy-handed video package in which Story has the dancers listen to one of her bullied friends on speaker phone, the dance itself isn’t overbearing with the message, and it’s very strong when the dancers are in unison. Unfortunately, those are also the moments when Fik-Shun’s lack of technique comes through as he struggles to match the quality of movement of his fellow dancers. He has loads of charisma, but it’s that point in the competition where technique is going to be more and more important, so he needs to spend as much time as possible working on his lines and extensions right now before he ends up having even more routines to learn later.

Alan is a contestant who has failed to impress me even once this season, and I’m shocked he’s made it this close to the top 10. He has a solid showing in his salsa routine with Malece choreographed by season five contestant Jonathan Platero, especially considering the amount of lifting he has to do, but Alan has never been able to put on a convincing character when he dances. He’s always Alan with the same goofy smile. Tucker has a similar problem in his Luther Brown hip-hop routine with Jenna, although he also struggles with the technique whereas Alan has his salsa steps down. Tonight’s hip-hop is Jenna and Tucker’s first big misstep in the competition, with Tucker failing to get low and being far too flouncy in his movement. Nigel says he’ll forget it by the middle of the episode, and it absolutely gets lost in the wave of much stronger numbers that follow.

Nigel thinks America’s young female voters are jealous of Makenzie’s proximity to the adorable Paul and denying her votes, which is as good a reason as any to explain why she keeps ending up in the bottom despite her flawless performance. I keep forgetting that Paul won SYTYCD Armenia, so it’s no wonder he’s able to transition so effortlessly from style to style. His and Makenzie’s Sonya Tayeh jazz routine is a highlight of the night, showcasing the raw dance talent both of these contestants bring each week. Somebody told Makenzie she needs to look humble and grateful when the judges give her praise, and she’s constantly saying “thank you” after each compliment to show how soft and vulnerable she can be. She’s an incredible performer, but she needs to do character rehab fast and make America love her before the voters assume complete power at the top 10. She has one more week, and all her gratitude tonight shows she’s willing to make whatever changes she needs to get to the top.  

Stray observation:

  • Sonya and season two’s Dmitri Chaplin choreograph tonight’s opening group number, which brings out the aerial rig from last week’s Travis routine and generally tries to do way too much. I do like when the choreographers team up, though.
  • Cat, honey, that lipstick is no good for you. But at least you didn’t get any on your face.
  • Anna Kendrick gives a shout out to the steady cam operator. That’s pretty awesome. She also tells Aaron she wants a piggyback ride, which probably made his day.
  • “Dude, if I could have your body for like one day, I feel like I could do anything. Like I could solve world hunger.”

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