No matter how I feel about the quality of tonight’s performances, there’s no denying that it’s awesome to see so much dance in two hours of primetime television. These dancers deserve serious praise for surviving this grueling episode, which has the Top 4 dancing routines with each finalist as well as solos and an All-Star number in the style of their choice. That’s five routines each, and the contestants prioritize their dances so that they put their energy where they need it most.
Nigel flat out states that the girls have stolen the show this season; if there was only one winner, Amy and Jasmine would beat out Aaron and Fik-Shun for the title. There are multiple points in tonight’s episode where it seems like it would be a good idea to just ditch the male crown and have two female champions, because these two women reach a level of technical excellence the men can’t touch. The guys have personality, but they’re lacking the polish and passion of the girls, who dominate the stage once again this evening.
Jasmine is a gorgeous dancer, but if I have to pick a favorite to win next week, Amy pulls ahead just barely. Amy doesn’t have a single misstep this week, and while the judges pan her Argentine tango doble, it’s her partner Fik-Shun’s fault. That routine probably would have been smoking if Pasha was up there with Amy, but all the dancers put the least amount of effort into their ballroom routines. Granted, “least amount of effort” still means a whole lot, but if these contestants have to sacrifice a dance, it might as well be the one furthest outside their comfort zone. Fik-Shun has trouble with the footwork and body positioning, but he doesn’t drop Amy during any lifts and doesn’t make any big errors like Aaron during his samba with Jasmine.
Fumbling the skirt unravel is Aaron’s third strike after missing Chelsie’s hand and dropping Melanie, and while he might edge out Fik-Shun technically, his diminutive competition is faring much better under pressure. The severity of Aaron’s shoulder injury is a mystery, but it’s clearly impacted his performance by breaking the confident momentum he had during the first six weeks. He didn’t perform in Mia’s opening number and had a disappointing performance two weeks ago, and he never really recovered from that roadblock despite getting plenty of votes. His performance in his Ray Leeper jazz number with Amy is tepid and by-the-numbers; Aaron is hitting the steps, but he doesn’t have the fire of his partner.
The same can be said of Fik-Shun’s performance in his Travis Wall contemporary routine with Jasmine. He gets through it, but his movement lacks Jasmine’s graceful ease. Fik-Shun has to adjust his feet constantly, but the judges overlook technical things like that because the piece is so far out of his style and he’s figured out how to point his toes. All he’s had to do for the past two months is dance, so he better know how to point his toes.
This Top 4 feels like a combination of former finale showdowns: Aaron and Fik-Shun are tWitch and Joshua, Jasmine and Amy are Sasha and Melanie. Fik-Shun may be called tWitch Jr. tonight, but it’s more likely he’ll follow in Joshua’s footsteps and win it all, especially with last week’s votes factored in. Also, Aaron fits the tWitch profile of auditioning for this show multiple times before making it to the Top 20. Neither finalist matches the strength of his season four counterpart, but that’s not the case with Jasmine and Amy, who could give the season eight women a run for their money. They’re ferocious competitors, and that intense drive really comes through in their magnificent solos, which spotlight each woman’s individual strengths. With Jasmine it’s those endless extensions from her toes to her fingertips, while Amy is skilled with specific rapid movement that is Mia Michaels-esque in the way it teeters on the edge of control.
They’re exquisite performers, and they’re even more beautiful together in their Mark Kanemura jazz number. It’s great to see Mark back so soon after his choreographer debut, and while his “Siamese twins from the jungles of Saturn” routine gets a mixed reception from Nigel, it’s a whole lot of fun and definitely different from the normal SYTYCD fare. Mark is scratching the pop jazz itch left in Wade Robson’s absence, and his piece is an off-kilter take on the clichéd tutu recital piece that still shows off the athleticism and skill of the dancers.
The boys fare well in their Tyce Diorio Broadway number, but beyond a gimmick treadmill track set piece, it’s the usual Tyce choreography. This is Aaron’s wheelhouse, but Fik-Shun’s personality takes over and ultimately pulls most of the focus. His technique isn’t perfect by any means, but so much of Broadway is character and Fik-Shun has no shortage of that. Their solos show Fik-Shun’s advantage in that regard again, and he’s just having so much more fun with his dorky “Gangnam Style” routine than Aaron and his business casual tap to acoustic Jason Mraz. (Also, hearing Fik-Shun acknowledge he’s not the best dancer goes a long way toward making him more appealing.)
Aaron finally gets to dance a partnered tap routine tonight, hitting the stage with All-Star Melinda for an awkward dramatic tap piece that does not work with the slow Bruno Mars jam. Calling Melinda an All-Star is also a stretch considering she was the third person eliminated in her season and only made it to the Top 10 because season seven started with 11 dancers, but there’s a shortage of strong female tappers on this show so there’s not much for the producers to do. The routine would work if the music was just a little more bouncy, but the languorous beat makes the rapid tapping seem especially out of place, like a bird pecking the microphone in the middle of a ballad. I appreciate Anthony Morigerato’s attempt to think outside the box for a tap number, but the tone of his story and the style of the movement are incongruous. That said, Aaron and Melinda do spectacular work, and it’s easily Aaron’s strongest number of the night.
Fik-Shun dances with tWitch for a Luther Brown hip-hop number, and while they look like Will and Jayden Smith performing on stage together, it’s a delightful piece with two charismatic performers. There’s no story, just two men showing off their physical prowess and ebullient personalities, and Jasmine’s NappyTabs number with Comfort has a similar quality. There’s no story except for two badass chicks on bicycles celebrating their feminine strength, and the two women are sexy in their own distinct ways. Comfort’s movement is precise and smooth while Jasmine is more raw and explosive, bringing that extra fight needed at this point in the competition. And it’s one hell of a fight between this season’s final two ladies.
Amy flawlessly dances her Stacey Tookey contemporary routine with All-Star Robert, showing as much vulnerability in her performance as Jasmine shows power in hers. Both female dancers have proven to be outstanding chameleons, effortlessly taking on any role given to them and fully committing to their character choices. Tonight Amy plays a primal jazz dancer, a sultry ballroom seductress, a silver alien, and a tragic lover, and Jasmine’s roles are just as diverse. There are going to be two winners crowned next week, but one race has been far more riveting than the other. It’s been a joy watching these two women dance, and despite the outcome of the voting results, they’re both stars.
- Paula Abdul and Olympic gold medalist gymnast Gabby Douglas are the guest judges this week, continuing the trend of having Paula Abdul on panel with a fellow judge who has no place being there. Gabby’s a national treasure, but she’s useless tonight. Paula confuses Dizzy Feet with Happy Feet and flirts with Nigel. It’s all pretty uncomfortable.
- Paul’s presence was really missed this week, as he would have rocked all of the evening’s more disappointing male routines.
- I love that Cat Deeley is one of the judges that picks who makes the Top 20. She’s such an integral part of this show’s success.
- For more SYTYCD-related reading, check out this For Our Consideration I wrote about the show’s All-Stars.
- Jasmine turned down a spot as one of Ciara’s touring back-up dancers to compete on SYTYCD, and after tonight I have a feeling she’ll be moving up the female recording artist ladder to snag a spot on Beyoncé’s tour. She breaks it down in this video: