So You Think You Can Dance Review: Dancing Under Pressure

Everything was put on the line this week for So You Think You Can Dance’s Top 12 dancers, as the two dancers who went home were so close to claiming one of the Top 10 spots and the opportunity to shine more as individuals than as a couple. As Cat noted at the top of the show, there was also twice the pressure as each pair tackled two numbers. Big changes are just around the corner since each Top 10 contender will no longer be paired with their current partner, a potential novice, and instead team up with an All-Star. If you thought this season has been good so far, it’s about to get elevated ten folds.

The All-Stars were also revealed (more on that later), as well as the sad news that Alex Wong very recently tore his other tendon and would not be able to take the job. That boy has the worst luck. Back to our current contestants, each pair performed two numbers, and besides one couple, each had at least one piece the judges didn’t like. I’m sure you can guess what couple received two glowing reviews, and it wasn’t…

Broadway | Spencer Liff | “All I Need is the Girl” by Frank Sinatra
I finally get it. When Ryan’s given a piece where endless smiling is actually necessary, it turns from an annoying distraction to the biggest asset. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. Ricky, on the other hand, remained stiff and boring. Sure, there wasn’t a lot going on in the number, but I can now better appreciate Jesse’s ability to really embody a character from head to toe. Nigel agreed with Sonya and Jesse that it underwhelmed. He said, “I think it’s about style, and if you don’t get that complete Broadway style and sit comfortably in it, you lose the flavor of the steps and simplicity of the steps.”

Cha-cha | Louie van Amstel | “Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You” by Enrique Iglesias (feat. DJ Frank E)
Something muy caliente is the last thing I think about when these two come to mind. Ryan certainly never looked sexier. I think her footwork was good but sloppy at times, but her body rolls were great. I wish Ricky had been a stronger partner, though when he was solo, he had a strong upper body and flair. I was definitely scared in some moments. I didn’t believe the connection, but I certainly believed that Ryan felt like she was on fire. Sadly, the judges didn’t see it her way. Nigel said Ricky did well; he was tight and had great hips. On the other hand, he said Ryan was “over egging the pudding.” Mary, at least, commended them for pulling off an extremely fast Cha-cha.

Paso Doble | Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin | “Alley Dash/March of the Trolls” by Taylor Long/Rick Powell
I don’t know much about Paso dobles other than they have to come off as masculine. Cat reminded me that the guy is usually the bull fighter and the girl plays the cape. Tony and Melanie already prefaced that the routine wouldn’t be typical of the style, and it looked fun. Though there was a lot of hard stomping, my unlearned eyes could certainly tell that there was a difference between the Paso dobles of yesteryear. There were more tricks, leaps and less partnering. Maybe these things were meant to make their adjustment easier, but I thought they both looked labored. Every time they needed to connect, they almost missed each other. Yet Nigel praised Sasha’s strength and complimented Alexander for keeping up with it, minus one sloppy moment. Sonya loves a strong woman but doesn’t think Alex is consistent in his partnering. I could have done without the “quasi-planned” kiss at the end, especially since it’s still debatable if it was choreographed or not.

Jazz | Tyce Diorio | “That’s Life” by Aretha Franklin
I really enjoyed this number. Sasha was gorgeous and free. Alexander’s chest and arms felt a tiny bit stiff and controlled but much less so in this piece than usual. I wish there was more masculinity in his movement, but Mary’s right when she says that “there was a freedom,” in his body finally. Okay, I didn’t really get the “That’s Life” connection to the dance, but if it gives me a reason to understand the judges’ adoration of Sasha, I can let it slide. Sonya said that she’d prayed for a piece where Alex could break out of his shell. So sad that he only got an “I was watching you too” from Jesse. Nigel believed that Sasha has been carrying Alexander but not this week.

Hip-hop | Christopher Scott | “Break the Chain” by Lupe Fiasco (feat. Eric Turner & Sway)
This may be the most political hip-hop routine to ever grace the stage, and also one of the biggest hip-hop flops. Chris wanted to focus on Ugandan children who are kidnapped and forced to become soldiers and fight in a senseless war, and he should get a big pat on the back for trying to bring that horror to all of our attention, but there wasn’t a big enough connection between the movement and the theme. Without a story, it just looked like erratic motion performed by two pretty people in “slogan” tanks (Invisible Children). Caitlynn definitely felt it more than Mitchell, who came off as stiff. Sonya said that she had a hard time staying inside the piece because they often fell out of unison. Nigel and Jesse agreed. Mary gave them a little boost by saying that it only fell a little short in her eyes.

Contemporary | Travis Wall | “Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin
Caitlynn popped her face-slap cherry, payback to Mitchell from making her nose bleed. There wasn’t much story to grab hold to again, which will be the sole reason that they land in the bottom three. Viewers like simple stories they can understand and latch onto. They looked like hot badasses though. Mary appreciated the intense naughtiness and commended Mitchell’s partnering. Caitynn’s hotness came out of nowhere. I always thought she was beautiful, but daaaaaamn. Sonya critiqued Mitchell for losing the intention in his face because he’s working so hard as a partner. Essentially, it looks like work. Nigel agreed and stayed away from complimenting Caitlynn so he wouldn’t seem like “a dirty old man.”

Contemporary | Travis Wall | “Brotsjor” by Olafur Arnalds
Travis Wall is just mesmerizing; he makes me think that killing a bird is mesmerizing. Here, Tadd was a wanderer, representing a weak man, and Jordan was the vulture, representing a strong woman. Every time Travis succeeds, I love SYTYCD just a little bit more. The piece was dark and abstract. For once it gave Jordan a chance to show the best of her talent and not have to play silly or sexy. She’s actually not that annoying! Tadd, again, pushed himself to the brink and made it look like it was the most comfortable place he’d ever been. Nigel pointed out a twist-jump flip that only a great b-boy could do, and only someone as smart as Travis would so gracefully incorporate. It was dark and weird and very allegorical, and I adored every minute.

Broadway | Spencer Liff | “Out Tonight” from Rent (Original Broadway Cast)
Jordan isn’t the best flipper, so I think Spencer was at a disadvantage from the moment he was assigned this two. I have to believe he could have done more with this expressive pair. It was plain weird, and both were back to the silly faces, but this time the faces weren’t silly enough. I also didn’t get the story. Was there a story? I felt so confused. It lacked energy, which felt easily disrupted by the jarring music/movement clash. The original “Out Tonight” number on the Rent stage…now, that is completely entertaining and actually works with the music. Putting on leather and a tutu does not a connection make. Nigel wished it was quirkier and thought they could have gotten even sillier. They each could have brought more character. Sonya swears she actually likes Spencer Liff’s routine but you wouldn’t know it from the last two critiques of his pieces.

Lyrical Hip-hop | Christopher Scott | “Just the Way You Are” by Boyce Avenue
“Intriguing,” was my first thought when the rehearsal clips started rolling. Adorable was what I got. Jess was the loving man who helped Clarice to believe she was truly beautiful. I believed every moment of Clarice discovering that beauty, even with a cheesy mirror in her hand. What the hell was that whole painting thing at the end? That was no master piece. Was Jess even painting in the first place? Did I miss that somewhere? Jess did some adorable floorwork, like a miniature b-boy. Mary said they both got the “swag” of the piece. Jesse wants to marry Clarice. They can still have their boyfriend’s on the side of course. Nigel liked that the story “was simply told and simply danced.” Then, he told Christopher to stop trying to save the world. Sorry again, Uganda.

Jive | Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin | “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” by Robert Randolph & The Family Band
This was not the best jive or most difficult or the most fun jive ever danced on the SYTYCD stage, but at the end of the night, it was a fantastic pick-up. They both looked light on their feet, quick on them too, and appeared to actually enjoy the number and not fear it. Nigel thought the footwork was good but worried during the lifts. Jess will never be as strong as other men when it comes to that kind of partnering skill, but he didn’t drop her, at least. He had enough pizzazz that, in the end, Jesse said that he would force Neil Patrick Harris to give Jess the “keys to Broadway.”

Tango | Louie Van Amstel | “Triptico” by Gotan Project
This was pure dance, not a touch of story, just the expectation of sex and longing and desire. As a pair, they by far have the strongest and most comfortable connection so I felt the sizzle, but the steps felt a little uneasy. This is probably the most out of their style they’ve been yet, and it was definitely about time. Nigel noted that this was their most challenging number yet. The end had a drastic pull back with an under the legs lift that they pulled off. It was utterly fantastic. Mary said it was a tough routine and that their running promenades and pivots looked a little uncomfortable. At least it was “night and day” from the dress rehearsal. Sonya said they were “timeless dancers,” and they made her shiver.

Contemporary | Dee Caspery | “Skin & Bones” by David J. Roch
Of course, the two got another emotional and deep Contemporary number. This time Marko represented dark while Melanie was light. Both wanted the other to exist in their world, even though light was still the better place to be. Jesse’s arms were turned to braille. Sonya thinks these two are the dancers of the future. Nigel didn’t feel like it was choreography but instead their own movement. This is definitely one pair the judges, along with myself, will be sad to see broken up, but can you imagine what these two can do fighting for their own, solo place?

A day later, I watched the panic-filled result show where each dancer seemed extremely nervous and floppy while performing their solos. That would include Sasha, Caitlynn, Ryan, Alexander and Mitchell. Everyone except Ricky, who turned in his best solo yet, seemed visibly sad, scared, unsure or all of the above, leading Ryan and Alexander to their final nights. At least Ms. Nicole “Sing-Off Judge turned X-Factor Judge” Scherzinger commanded the stage during the lackluster “Right There” and the tapping group Jason Samuels Smith & Anybody Can Get It (including last season’s Melinda Sullivan) fused rap and tap in a fresh, fun way. Maybe the tappers would get to stick around if they added spoken word to all of their Bottom Three solos.

As promised, here’s a peak at the All-Stars list.
-  Melody Lacayanga – Contemporary/Jazz – Season 1
-  Allison Holker – Contemporary/Jazz – Season 2
-  Pasha Kovalev – Ballroom/Latin – Season 3
-  Chelsie Hightower – Ballroom/Latin – Season 4
-  Comfort Fedoke – Hip-hop/Krump – Season 4
-  Stephen “Twitch” Boss – Popping/Locking/Krump – Season 4
-  Brandon Bryant – Contemporary/Jazz – Season 5
-  Kathryn McCormick – Contemporary/Jazz – Season 6
-  Robert Roldan – Contemporary/Jazz – Season 7

I’m personally looking forward to Allison, Pasha, Chelsie, Twitch, and Kathryn, though I don’t see few weak links in the selected All-stars.

Sound off below! What you think of this week’s performances and results? Did the judges get the axing right? Who’s your favorite All-Star? I love me some Sonya, but she’ll never be able to fill Mia’s judging shoes. True or false? How fabulous was super fan Jesse Tyler Ferguson? And, can I get an AMEN for Cat Deeley who finally got an Emmy nomination for hosting this year? Can’t wait to see all the changes next week brings!

For more on this week’s episodes, check out Meet Your Top 10, America by Trisha Leigh.

Season 8, Episodes 14 and 15: “Top 12 Perform” and “Two of 12 Voted Off” (originally aired July 13 and 14, 2011)

So You Think You Can Dance airs Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8/7c on Fox.

Pictures Courtesy of Adam Rose and Fox.

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