Well, now what? Where do we go from here?
Last night’s performance show, hands-down the best of this season, showed that the judges aren’t just blowing smoke up our asses when they talk about this being the best group of dancers in SYTYCD history. This is the earliest in the competition where I feel comfortable saying any of the remaining eight dancers could walk away with the title and it would be deserved. The two remaining weak links, Kupono and Randi—whose weaknesses had more to do with personality than technical ability—are gone, and I literally get a knot in my stomach when I think of next week’s elimination. There is no one left whom I want to see go. And that includes Jason and Kayla, both of whom I placed toward the bottom of the pack in last week’s write-up. They shone in their new partnerships with, respectively, Jeanine and Evan, whom I also underestimated last week.
Admittedly, much of the appeal of Evan and Kayla’s performance came from how well they managed their height difference. As a rather tall woman who’s experienced the awkwardness of dancing with a much shorter man, I was delighted—to the point of giggling and clapping—at how self-assured and graceful they looked together during their not-quite-Viennese Waltz. (Shutup, Nigel.) Mary can poo-poo Evan’s clomping feet all she wants, but he handled his big woman, as guest judge Debbie Allen put it, and Kayla shone brighter in his arms than she ever did in Kupono’s. Evan is maybe still skating by a bit in terms of technical proficiency (in certain genres), but his ongoing amnesty from the bottom two/three—tonight beating out Ade, of all people—shows that the cutie-pie factor goes far. Not to mention a kick-ass solo, which he certainly had.
(I never pay too much attention to the solos, but the fact that Melissa and Ade, who had two of the less audience-friendly solos last night, wound up in the bottom two makes me wonder if the voting audience places more stock in them. Because there’s no way those two deserve to be at the bottom after their partner routines.)
Ade made me a believer once more in hip-hop on SYTYCD last night, imbuing his and Janette’s NapTab routine with more style and personality than we’ve seen from anyone this season. Brandon pulled off his hip-hop pretty well, but Ade actually looked comfortable in the style—which, judging by his solo from last week, he has a least some training in—something most of this horde of contempo/ballet/modern dancers have’t been able to quite pull off yet. And despite rehearsal footage that focused on her lack of funk, Janette proved once again she can take whatever’s thrown at her and make it look like she’s been doing it all her life. Seriously, how is it possible this girl has had no formal training? And chiiiild (sorry, echoes of Debbie Allen), don’t even get me started on her solo: I think I grew a penis and got a boner just by watching her.
Similarly, Melissa and Brandon made me a believer once more in Tasty Oreo. (Kudos to whichever commenter coined that, I’m stealing it.) Tyce’s Hair routine didn’t feel that Broadway-y, but that’s okay—it’s not a really strictly defined style anyway. But Melissa and Brandon adopted his characters brilliantly, and they were just straight-up fun to watch from beginning to patchouli-scented end. (Though I wish the smoke effect hadn’t obscured the final moments of the dance.) These two complement each other well—in fact, nearly all of tonight’s new pairings were improvements on the old ones.
And nowhere is that more true than in the case of Jason and Jeanine. Holy smokes did these two come out of nowhere with their breathtaking Travis Wall routine. (Travis! Choreographing! With tattoos!) Both of them were apparently just in bad partnerships, Jeanine falling victim to Phillip’s lack of technical skills, and Jason to an obvious lack of chemistry with Caitlin. But J&J clearly have no such issues, as they seem to be perfectly matched in terms of ability and chemistry—that kiss! Not to mention Travis’ captivating choreography, which I’d say stands up next to some of the best Mia Michaels routines we’ve seen, and I don’t think that’s just lingering affection for one of my season two favorites talking.
Depending on how you feel about them, Randi and Kupono’s partnering was either disastrous or serendipitous. As someone who’s been ready for Kupono to leave for a while now—based mostly on his outfits and overall smarminess—and ambivalent to mildly put off by Randi, I wasn’t that sorry to see them implode during their paso doble. I think the meeting of Kupono’s, erm, unique personality with Randi’s somewhat frigid nature—combined with extremely difficult choreography and unfortunate music/styling choices—made for an uncomfortable pairing that resulted in a very awkward, fumbling take on what should have been a smoldering, intense number. At the moment halfway though when Kupono spun the bewigged, rag-doll-like Randi around by her arms, a move she stumbled out of, it was obvious who needed to be sent home tonight. The voters got it right, but what will they do next week?
Barring a disastrous performance, it’s hard to call this one. Based on his critiques this week and his being the weakest—just barely—of the all-male group African dance number, I’d say Evan might be the right choice, but as mentioned above, I think his fan base is too solid. Speaking of, how fun was that African dance? Nigel’s comment that Evan looked like a “dancing milkshake” was a tad mean, but also funny and, more importantly, a valid critique. Granted, I think Nigel was referring to skin color more than dancing, but Evan did look a little soft around the edges compared to the rest of the guys. The all-girl group Bollywood routine was a delight, and the first sign of the night that maybe I had been wrong about Kayla, who was luminous. I can’t begin to speculate which of the girls should or will go home.
Nigel usually takes care of all the back-patting about SYTYCD bringing different styles of dance to America—not to mention Debbie Allen’s “evangelizing dance” speech—but you gotta love a show that blows you away with Bollywood and African dance in the same night. Then tonight we get perhaps the best Wade Robson routine in the show’s history—and that’s including personal fave “Ramalama Bang Bang,” which I’m ecstatic will be reprised during next week’s 100th episode. The set. The costumes. The staging. The FANS. I never wanted it to end, and went back and rewatched it three times before doing this writeup. Look for that routine to join the show’s ever-growing list of Emmy-nominated numbers next year.
• My roommate, while watching tonight: “What the fuck is Kupono wearing? What an asshole!” Amen. Call it superficial, but man am I looking forward to not having to avert my eyes from whatever monstrosity Kupono has draped over himself each week. And to not have to listen to the constant “whoo!”-ing.
• That said, Kupono gets points for picking one of my favorite songs for his weak-ass solo: Bonde Do Role’s “Marina Gasolina.” Check it out, it’s a good jam if you like the baile-funk sound at all.
• Nice miniature baton, Fergie. Go away now. (Ah, I kid… by SYTYCD standards, the Black Eyed Peas’ performance was pretty damn fun, even though that song is ridiculous.)
• Did Mary say, “This is for you, Conan!” before doing that silent scream? Is she talking about Conan O’Brien? Does anyone know the backstory here?
• Also, what was Cat teasing Ade about after his solo when she was like, “I saw what you did there”? (And really, “Unchained Melody”? With that choreography? I love you Ade, but that was… weird.)
• Nigel and Mary’s icky, aggressive flirting is getting out of hand. Can they just hatefuck already?
• What was with the repeat solos tonight? No likey.