Can there actually be too much of a good thing when it comes to dance?
For me, the answer will always be “no,” but even I have to admit that last night’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance sacrificed a little bit of quality for a lot more in terms of quantity. And while I was happy to see so much dancing on two hours of primetime network television, it was clear that some of the routines suffered from a lack of energy and focus from a group of dancers who should all be given awards for making it through those two hours without collapsing onstage.
I won’t waste my time talking about guest judge Gabby Douglas because, although I adore her, she was on the same level as Carly Rae Jepsen in terms of her clichéd, generic responses. They should have just kept the panel to Nigel, Mary, and Paul Abdul, whose heartfelt (if sometimes spacey) critiques and compliments can grace my ears any day.
But enough about the judges, we have approximately 5000 dances to recap (and I’m only half-joking)!
Jasmine: Remember when we all thought Jasmine’s relationship with Cyrus was going to be a major storyline this season? I cannot say enough about how thrilled I am that this was the only time since Vegas Week that her heartbreak was mentioned, because her narrative became all about her dancing as soon as she stepped on the SYTYCD stage. Jasmine has an incredibly believable duality to her personality: the humble, shy girl who comes alive and finds her confidence when she dances. Her solo this week was another lesson in projecting passion to an audience while never sacrificing technique. And watching both Jasmine and Cat get emotional when it was revealed that Cat got her into the Top 20 was my favorite moment of the whole show last night.
Amy: Amy is a beautiful soloist in terms of pure technique. Her legs are so strong, and her core strength blows my mind. However, sometimes her movements can feel a little choppy and rushed, with too much manufactured angst rather than pure emotion. I think she’s a brilliant technical dancer, and this was my favorite of her solos so far. But I just don’t connect with her solos emotionally in the same way I did with the best SYTYCD female dancers.
Aaron: Aaron makes me happy; it’s as simple as that. When he dances—especially when he taps—he exudes this infectious sense of joy that makes you want to get up and dance, too. I love a good Jason Mraz tap solo, and Aaron worked the rhythms in that song like he’s been dancing to it his whole life. He makes tap look easy, and I can assure you that’s as far from the case as humanly possible. But more than that, he makes tap look like fun—and I’m so grateful to see him as an ambassador for such an under-appreciated style of dance.
Fik-Shun: Fik-Shun knows how to craft solos that are the perfect combination of technical ability, musicality, and humor. I couldn’t stop smiling throughout this entire solo, and I loved that. Like Aaron, he’s a reminder that dance is meant to make people happy. This boy is a born entertainer, and he’s also one of the best hip hop dancers SYTYCD has ever seen.
Amy and Aaron (Jazz): I’m going to be honest here: I forgot about this number almost immediately after I saw it. It wasn’t danced poorly at all. In fact, I thought Aaron and Amy were both very strong in and sold their performances well. I just thought it wasn’t an attention-grabbing dance for a finale show. It was energetic and technically sound, but for some reason it didn’t wow me. Maybe it was because Amy looked way too young next to Aaron to be wearing such a revealing costume. I would have rather seen Jasmine in this piece, because the extra something that was missing might have been a more adult, sexy kind of chemistry.
Jasmine and Fik-Shun (Contemporary): This was a work of art. Travis’s choreography was incredibly creative, and, more importantly, it played to the strengths of his dancers. The underwater theme made use of Fik-Shun’s smooth quality of movement and masked some of his technical flaws, and it showcased Jasmine’s ability to somehow appear both powerful and graceful at the same time.
Amy and Fik-Shun (Paso Doble/Tango Fusion): This dance was where I really started to see the strain on the contestants. I know the Top Four needed to be tested in terms of their versatility, but I’m not so sure introducing them to new ballroom styles is a smart plan when they’re learning so many other dances, too. I thought Amy was powerful and poised in this piece, but it was clear that Fik-Shun was uncomfortable. The lifts looked really labored, and there were more than a few wobbles (I actually got really nervous more than once). Both Fik-Shun and Amy looked like they were thinking really hard about the dance, and that kept them from letting the heat of the dance radiate off of them the way it should have.
Jasmine and Aaron (Samba): This is another example of why introducing a couple to a ballroom style on finale night is not a good idea. Jasmine and Aaron were the opposite of Amy and Fik-Shun: While the latter looked like they were thinking too hard, Jasmine and Aaron seemed to be trying to make up for a lack of technical ability by throwing themselves into the dance with reckless abandon. Personally, I enjoyed this tactic more than Amy and Fik-Shun’s approach. I know it wasn’t technically perfect (or maybe even technically good), but it looked like a heck of a lot of fun. And it was a delight to watch this couple show off their chemistry one last time. The skirt mishap is something that has happened to every dancer at some point, so I won’t blame them for it. Honestly, I don’t think they deserved as much criticism from the judges as they got. It wasn’t their best dance, but they performed the heck out of it.
Fik-Shun and Aaron (Broadway): This style was a perfect fit for the two best male performers to grace the SYTYCD stage this season. They were magnetic without pulling faces or looking like they were trying too hard. Aaron stood out a little bit more to me because I think his stage presence is a little more dynamic, but this was a great showcase for both men.
Amy and Jasmine (Jazz): Oh Mark, how I love you and your insanity. I thought the concept was fun, and it was danced well. However, I think the girls needed a little more time and focus to really get the essence of Mark’s style the way Jenna did. And the twin concept didn’t do them any favors: The wigs covered their expressive faces, and I kept sensing that Jasmine was dancing smaller and more contained than usual to match Amy’s style. With two dancers as talented as these women, I was expecting a little more, to be quite honest.
ALL STAR ROUTINES
Aaron and Melinda (Tap): I’m still not sure how I felt about this routine. I loved the rhythms put on display, the degree of difficulty, and the concept of two tappers having a conversation onstage with their feet. However, I didn’t like the song choice at all. I don’t mind tapping to slow songs, but this song is so sad and angst-ridden—and I love Aaron’s tapping because he captures the Old Hollywood easy grace and joy of tap dancing so well. I don’t need our one tap duet experiment to look like all the contemporary and lyrical hip hop dances this show produces every season. I can appreciate the skill involved from all parties, and I think this was danced as well as it could be danced. I just wasn’t crazy about the interpretation of the style.
Jasmine and Comfort (Hip Hop): This should be the dance that wins Jasmine the competition. First of all, she should be rewarded for choosing something different and for wanting to be challenged. Dancing hip hop alongside Comfort could have showed off Jasmine’s weaknesses, but it only ended up making her look stronger. Both of these women elevated each other and projected a ferocity that left me in awe of them. Jasmine looked like a star, and her confidence in this routine was as inspiring as it was entertaining. Who run the world (besides Beyoncé, of course)? Jasmine and Comfort.
Fik-Shun and Twitch (Hip Hop): Watching these two dance together definitely made my life awesome. Watching this routine was like being at a party you never want to leave; I wished it could have gone on all night. Yes, Fik-Shun looked like Twitch’s little brother, but he danced like his equal. These two are both master entertainers, and it was a true joy watching them share the stage (the “old man” gliding across the stage might be one of my favorite moments of the season).
Amy and Robert (Contemporary): Amy is insanely good at what she does. When she’s given choreography and a partner that are on her level, the result is magic (see her duet with Travis for another example). She moves with such strength, but what really impressed me in this routine was her emotional maturity. You could feel her giving herself over to Robert and to the story they were telling together, and it was so beautiful to watch. This was one of those dances where I held my breath while it was happening because I didn’t want to break the spell. It was—all hyperbole aside—simply gorgeous.
Prediction for Season 10’s Winners: Jasmine and Fik-Shun (but I honestly think it could go either way for both the men and women)
Favorite Routine: Jasmine and Comfort’s Hip Hop