So You Think You Can Dance is a physically grueling competition, and it makes sense that contestants would get tired as the pressure builds each week. The fatigue is starting to show in tonight’s Top 6 dancers, who each perform four routines with varying degrees of success. The bland African jazz opening group number from Sean Cheesman sets the tone for the episode, which primarily suffers from uninspired choreography. There’s no excuse for the choreography to be this tired, and the solos are more entertaining than much of what the professionals give these dancers.
For some reason, the group opening is saved until after the introduction of the judges, and changing the usual pattern starts the show off with a strange vibe. By no fault of the All-Stars, their dances are the weakest of the night, particularly with the male contestants. Tyce Diorio thinks his jazz piece is going to be a major spotlight for Paul, but it’s a clunky Mandy Moore-lite routine that peaks with a static image at the very beginning. Kathryn looks gorgeous as she recreates the end of Wicked’s first act on top of a ladder, but once she comes down from that set piece, it never gets used again. Paul dances the piece exquisitely, and he’s the only male that matches his All-Star’s level of quality, but it’s a piece we’ve seen a lot of times before, from Tyce as well as the other jazz choreographers.
The choreography is better in Tyce’s contemporary number for Jasmine and Neil, but the concept is so heavy-handed and Tyce is so pleased with himself that it ruins some of the magic. The number addresses the loss and suffering experienced by victims of natural disasters, and that would be fine if Tyce didn’t record an inane voiceover. Jasmine and Neil have a beautiful connection and are strong actors—they don’t need Tyce spouting facts for extra punch. (It’s especially amusing because he uses a news clip at the start but records his own voiceover at the end, presumably because he couldn’t find a broadcast clip that worked.) Tyce always has an extremely smug look on his face after one of his issue dances, and there’s a sense that he’s more interested in his own success than the dancers’. That might be how most of the choreographers feel, but they don’t let it show on their faces as blatantly as Tyce.
Though not nearly as bad as Tyce’s audio, the vocal work in Spencer Liff’s Broadway routine for Aaron and Melanie is completely unnecessary. The two play a fighting couple, and they start the number with awkward ad-lib yelling that stops so they can dance. The whole point of this competition is evoking the emotion of words through movement, and while dialogue in a musical often transitions into dance, dialogue in a two-minute standalone number is just odd. Aaron does well until he misses a hand connection and drops his partner, making his second big error in two weeks. It turns out Aaron has a shoulder injury he’s kept off the air, which explains his absence from last week’s opening number. He tries to shift conversation away from his injury during the judging, but there’s no denying that it affected his performance.
Fik-Shun doesn’t make any huge mistakes in his Jonathan Roberts foxtrot with Witney, but like his other ballroom performances, it’s a labored affair. It’s clear he’s still thinking about the steps and getting the technique right, and focusing his attention in that direction prevents him from making a strong connection with his partner. While Fik-Shun struggles outside of his style, his hip-hop work is so much fun that it’s easy to forgive his lack of versatility. He gives the evening’s strongest solo, working the crowd like no one else showcasing his full arsenal of body-bending tricks. Aaron and Paul have never had to solo on this show, and they deliver outstanding routines in their own right. Paul’s flips are incredible, and Aaron’s feet move at astonishing speed; the men have been consistently overshadowed by the women this season, but they have the advantage in the solo department. (That’s largely because there’s more diversity in the male hip-hop, ballroom, tap combo than the contemporary and jazz females.)
Hayley gives the night’s weakest solo, and after last week’s lackluster routine, she’s lucky she’s only had to dance for her life once on this show. Her solos lack the passion of Amy and Jasmine, failing to leave much of an impression when put beside those more spiritual dancers. Hayley hits hard in her NappyTabs hip-hop routine with Joshua as she serves up Hilary Swank realness, but there’s a visible effort to look hard and nasty rather than letting it come naturally from the choreography. It’s important to give some stank face in a hip-hop routine, but Hayley goes overboard with the facial expressions.
Amy is the last person to dance with an All-Star, and she redeems the first half of the episode with her jubilant Bollywood routine with Alex Wong. This is the best Bollywood routine since Katee and Joshua brought the genre to SYTYCD for the first time, performed with boundless energy and intense precision by Amy and Alex. Amy dominates this episode, reteaming with her old partner Fik-Shun for a wonderful “women be shoppin’” Dave Scott hip-hop number that has the couple showing how they’ve matured over the course of the competition. They used to only play young, cute characters, but there’s a maturity to their character work here that accentuates the sexuality of the choreography.
Aaron and Jasmine’s reunion doesn’t fare as well, as Cheesman recycles two old routines with disappointing results. Combining his “Hide U” jazz number for Lauren and Ade with Tyce Diorio’s “Fool Of Me” contemporary piece for Sasha and Neil, Cheeseman uses a sparkly jumpsuit and a semi-reflective wall to tell a story about a living mirror. Aaron and Jasmine don’t have the electricity found in their earlier collaborations, and the generic choreography plus their loss of energy leads to a mediocre routine.
Hayley and Paul’s Dee Caspery contemporary routine is another piece that is similar to former works on this show, a piece about a supportive male figure that looks a lot like Stacey Tookey’s marriage piece for Aaron and Kathryn two weeks ago. Caspery’s works are a lot like Hayley’s solos; they’re smooth and pretty but lack the extra spark needed to make them truly memorable. Hayley and Paul are two of the audience’s favorites, so it’s a huge surprise when they’re both sent home tonight in the first elimination controlled completely by the voters. Any female cut is a shocker at this point, but Paul gave a stronger performance than both his male competitors last week and has been consistently excellent throughout the competition. He’s also already won SYTYCD in Armenia, so it’s hard to feel bad for the guy.
Aaron and Fik-Shun have stronger stories than Paul, and the win will be more dramatic if it doesn’t go to someone who has already accomplished it before. Aaron is a tapper who originally wasn’t picked for the Top 20 and has now become the only dancer in his style to not only make the Top 10, but go all the way to the finale. Fik-Shun is a street dancer with minimal training who has vastly grown over the course of the competition. Aaron’s story edges out Fik-Shun’s, especially with the added injury obstacle, and he’s shown far more versatility despite a dip in recent episodes. It will be interesting to see how Aaron’s injury and Fik-Shun’s technical handicap affect their performances in the finale, but at this point, it’s anyone’s game to win. Now they just need some better dances to perform.
- Jesse Tyler Ferguson is this week’s guest judge, and it’s always nice to have someone come on this show and actually acknowledge the existence of homosexuality by talking about his husband and his crush on Aaron.
- I love the idea that there’s a stage run crew worker backstage throwing garbage in front of a fan during Tyce’s natural disaster piece.
- Apparently someone told Mary that tearing up is like seeing rainbows in your soul. Did she seem even loopier than usual tonight?
- “Good golly Miss Bollywood.”
- “You can borrow the jumpsuit if you like.”