I apologize for the unannounced hiatus—Saturday was my birthday (turned the big 2-5!), and I celebrated with a trip to Yankee Stadium with my sister and best friends. Hopefully now that I’m home and caught up on sleep I’ll be able to get back to my normal posting schedule.
There’s something special that happens on So You Think You Can Dance once the All Stars arrive. And I’m not just talking about the special joy of getting to see dancers like Twitch, Neil, and Robert again (a trifecta of handsome, talented, charming men).
What’s special is the way putting new dancers with proven “beasts” (to use a favorite Nigel-ism) allows the audience to see who exactly is worthy of being considered an All Star from this current season. It helps us see how the Top 10 match up with some of the best of the best. And it creates some of the best moments on the show each season.
When I watched this season’s Top 10 dance with their All Stars, the results seemed divided into three categories: those who were overshadowed by their All Star; those who became a unit with their All Star, and (the rarest of them all) those who were flat-out better than their All Star. But who fell into which category?
Before I get to the answer to that question, let’s talk about the elimination for a moment because it was the hardest one yet. I was more than a bit frustrated with Nigel for acting like their solos didn’t matter and couldn’t have helped them. I would have liked to see all of them, especially Nico (who never got to do a solo), show America their talents again—even if it would have been as a swan song.
I was ready for Nico to be eliminated, but I was not prepared for how attached I’d become to Makenzie. I don’t think she’s worlds better than Jenna (I wish she danced with a bit more personality), but she is the better dancer, in my opinion. Jenna is versatile, but she’s yet to have a standout performance—while Makenzie has had a few (both of her contemporary routines and her jazz routine). It’s getting to the point, though, where almost anyone who goes home is going to break my heart, so I can’t be too angry with voters or the judges. Watching Nico cry after his elimination was difficult, as was seeing the remaining dancers crying over their friends’ eliminations. You can say what you want about this show, but I will always believe it’s one of the greatest reality shows on TV because of the genuine camaraderie between the contestants.
Now, on to the routines!
Amy and Brandon: Disco
Sometimes I really love disco on SYTYCD (Neil and Sara, Brandon and Janette), and sometimes it just doesn’t work for me. Sadly, this was closer to the latter category than the former. It was well-executed, and both of them had a ton of energy, which they kept up throughout the routine. However, there were points when I felt Amy was just being moved from trick to trick. She never looked completely comfortable in the style (which is understandable given the lifts she was asked to execute); her perennially adorable smile felt a little less authentic than usual. But my lack of enthusiasm for the routine might have just been a product of a truly horrific song choice. (“I Will Always Love You” for disco? It wasn’t even the right decade!)
Aaron and Kathryn: Contemporary
Romantic contemporary pieces can start to feel repetitive after a while, but every so often a couple is able to breathe new life into the concept with their chemistry. That’s what happened with Aaron and Kathryn. Aaron is so present with his partners—you could feel his tenderness with Jasmine, and it was gorgeously evident with Kathryn in this routine. He dances with strength and a surprising grace, which worked beautifully with Kathryn, who dances with grace and a surprising strength. Their fluidity of movement was incredible and only added to the romance of the piece. It was probably one of the most fluid displays of contemporary partnership I’ve seen on this show, and that speaks to how well Aaron is able to disappear into different styles and stories every week. Could he go from alternate to winner? I don’t think it’s crazy to say it could happen.
Fik-Shun and Melanie: Jazz
This was one of those routines where I think the magnetism of an All Star pulled the focus away from a Top 10 dancer to his detriment. Asking Fik-Shun to keep up with the controlled fire that is Melanie was no easy task, and I think he did an admirable job, especially with his technique. However, Melanie works magic when she dances—especially in a slinky style like this—and I’m not sure Fik-Shun is capable of working that kind of magic. I normally love his boyish charm, but I think it hurt him here.
Paul and Witney: Cha Cha
This was the first example of a contestant out-dancing their All Star this week. Witney looked hot, but Paul was riveting in his style. There was a bit of a drop (or at least a hard landing) out of one of the tricks, and there was definitely a missed hand connection in the middle of the routine. But Paul made up for those wobbles with the smooth style and easy charm that makes him such a fan-favorite. It wasn’t the worst routine of the night by any stretch of the imagination, but I was hoping for more from the routine as a whole.
Haley and Twitch: Hip Hop
Twitch has proven to be one of the best All Stars SYTYCD has ever had on its stage (see his routines with Alex and Sasha and both of his routines with Lauren for examples). He has a way of making his partner shine while still being effortlessly entertaining himself. However, not even he could save this routine. The choreography was a poor showing from Christopher Scott (too cutesy and too reliant on a convoluted story), and Haley never clicked with her character or with Twitch. She danced with a prettiness that felt wrong for the style and certainly wrong for who she was paired with.
Jenna and Neil: Contemporary
First of all, Neil just keeps getting better and better. The way he’s grown and matured into the dancer we saw last night makes me proud to say I’ve met him, taken class from him, and am from the same city as him. He was completely there for Jenna throughout the routine, making her look good and the whole routine look easy. This was the first routine where I really connected with Jenna, but overall, it wasn’t very memorable. It was the same sad story told a hundred times on that stage, and it was missing the spark that Kathryn and Aaron had, which made their contemporary routine so affecting.
Jasmine and Marko: Jazz
I loved everything about this: the costumes, the style, the performance factor, and the way Jasmine clearly out-danced Marko (who was pretty gosh-darn great himself). This routine was her way of throwing down the gauntlet and separating herself from the other girls that are left. Jasmine is so much more than just a great pair of legs; she’s the total package. She moves with a confidence that seems so different from the reserved girl we see in the pre-performance clips. Whenever she’s onstage, I can’t take my eyes off of her because she looks like she’s truly born to be up there and is loving every second—and that’s the kind of dancer I will vote for.
Makenzie and Jakob: Broadway
This was like a master class in creating great lines. It was nice to see Jakob and his ungodly extension again, and he was the perfect match for Makenzie. The two of them together were a tag-team of beautiful feet and legs. The only thing missing in this routine was a little more vibrancy from Makenzie’s face. She’s a beautiful technician, but even in her partnership with Paul it always felt like he was the one creating most of the onstage chemistry. She never quite leapt off the screen the way some of the other girls (especially Jasmine and Amy) have.
Nico and Comfort: Hip Hop
Poor Nico. I thought he did a really solid job opposite one of the best in the genre, but he’s just not a hip hop dancer. He didn’t have the same feel for the music that Comfort had, and he just seemed so young next to her and her ferocity. I do think he stayed in-character well throughout the routine, but I kept focusing on Comfort and forgetting he was even there at some points.
Tucker and Robert: Contemporary
This was almost unfair. As soon as I discovered that Tucker would be doing a Travis Wall contemporary piece, I knew he was safe. I knew the dance would make everyone cry and make it impossible for the judges to accurately rate Tucker against Nico. But as soon as the dance started, I stopped caring about all of those things and got completely swept up in it. There’s something so moving about using dance to express feelings that are too strong for words, and that’s what this was for all three men involved with it. Tucker came alive for me in this routine—he was so graceful but also so strong and supportive of Robert. And Robert took my breath away with his vulnerability. I love when Travis steps away from the props and heavy theming and instead creates from the heart. He brings something special out of his dancers, and that moment when Tucker and Robert embraced at the end—art and life crashing into one another—was something special. Their synchronicity wasn’t always there, but what really mattered was their emotional commitment to the movement—and that never faltered.
Standout Performers: Aaron, Tucker, Jasmine
Bottom Four Prediction: Amy and Jenna; Paul and Fik-Shun
Favorite Routine: Tucker and Robert’s Contemporary
I loved this episode and it’s the first one of the season I kept on my DVR. Debbie Allen made me realize how much I missed the presence of both her and Adam Shankman at the judges table. I liked your categories for breaking down the dances based against the all-stars. It’s a great litmus test to how far dancers have come when they are broken apart from partners they’ve known for these past 5 weeks. I have to say, Aaron and Katherine were it for me. I watched that routine three times before moving onto the next routine that night. That one leg lift he did of her into the turn and forward lift around his waist was astonishingly beautiful to me. It’s the first time I thought about doing a Vine, that’s how much that moment wowed me. It was as Adam Shankman often says – the perfect combination of skill, character and performance. Aaron reminds me so much of what I adored about Twitch when he was competing. He was a born star who just soaked up all the training and mentoring and rose to the occasion of whatever dance style he was given and combined it with an uncanny ability to change partners and make it look as though they had been dancing together forever, which was Aaron’s true standout this week. He was the only contestant to do it. The others were outmatched, outperformed or overshadowed.
I could obviously go on and on. Standouts for me, like you were Tucker and Robert as well as Mackensie and Jakob . You are so right about Travis. When he taps into truth with his choreography and steps away from gimmick his dances are just exquisite. This was one of those moments. Mackensie made me sad and I don’t get the insistence of the choreographers regarding Jenna. But I have come to conclusion what they are seeing in rehearsal and the studio is simply not translating on television. Even in a dance that I thought she did a great job with Neil, I felt like she wasn’t fully connected emotionally.
We pause for a moment of abject jealousy regarding your personal Neil encounters. Moving on…
I love Jasmine, but I think she should be worried. I found her routine with Marko to be awkward and while powerful, her lack of ‘partner connection’ was obvious without Aaron and I believe it could disservice her. For as strong as Paul was last night outshining his all-star, he is going to get dinged for those two glaring missed connections you mentioned.
Team most affected by the all-stars (not for the better) – Amy and Fik-Shun. The combination of taking on challenges outside of what they’ve been given and then putting them next to a) a partner who won and b) a dance that rarely comes off well really exposed weaknesses in both dancers. And I think it potentially lands them in the bottom next week.
Speaking of bottom, my picks are Paul, Fik Shun, Jenna and Amy – simply by virtue of the fact that Amy danced disco and she danced it first. I still think Jasmine might replace Amy in the bottom. If Jenna is in the bottom again with either of those girls and they don’t send her home I think the fandom is going to lose their minds.
Oh and finally my favorite tweet of the night – “I don’t like @Dance10Aaron – Said no one ever.”
Aaron reminds me so much of Twitch in the best possible way. He’s effortlessly charming and you can tell he’s such a hard worker and a great student as well as a wonderful dancer. His love for dance is infectious, and he makes me proud to call myself a tap dancer. I cannot wait until he gets to show off his style (hopefully with Season Eight’s Nick Young—my favorite tapper the show has had besides Aaron).
I also completely agree with you about Jenna. She’s just not connecting well, but I can appreciate the fact that so many of the choreographers seem to like her (as evidenced by her place in the front of most group numbers). She must be doing something right.
I’m so excited to see the All Stars act as choreographers this week, especially Allison because I love her choreography so much.