And so it begins…
This week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance was the first of what I’m sure will be many times this season that I was disappointed with at least half of the duo that was sent home. I wasn’t heartbroken to see Jourdan leave—I didn’t connect with her in her pieces, and I think, out of the two ballerinas on the show, Jacque seems to be more versatile and energetic as a performer. But I loved Stanley. He wasn’t given the best material to work with (that boring telephone Broadway routine last week and this week’s Tyce Diorio flop), but I saw so much potential in him. His leaps were a thing of beauty, and he had a quality of movement that was truly unique. The good thing about SYTYCD is that I usually like all of the dancers that make the Top 20. The bad thing is that it makes watching eliminations difficult from the beginning, and it’s only going to get harder from now on.
One thing that wasn’t hard for me to watch at all was another fabulous week of Misty Copeland commentary from the judges’ table. Her critiques are always so direct and constructive, and I loved that she called Nigel out for his comments about Serge and Carly’s hip hop. She’s right; a judge’s job on this show is to educate the audience about the difficulty inherent in different routines—because a dancer’s job is to make the difficult look easy, so a judge’s job is to explain just how challenging a routine really was. Nigel doesn’t do that enough, and I am so happy he got taken to task even a little bit for it.
Misty was also on-point with her comments about the dancers’ performances this week. Technique is important, but so is stage presence. My favorite routines of the night were ones that had that X-factor in terms of the overall performance of a piece, while the routines I can barely remember were ones that missed the mark when it came to facial expressions. Everyone on this show is a good dancer; the ones who will separate themselves from the pack will be ones who stand out as strong performers and commanding presences on the stage (see last season’s entire Top Four).
Part of me wonders if Jessica and Stanley were choreographed by Tyce to make the facial expressions they made because they matched his over-the-top style perfectly. They both felt like they were trying a bit too hard to sell the routine, which is never a good sign. On the other end of the spectrum were Marcquet and Jourdan, whose contemporary was missing the facial expressions that can make or break that style of dance. I never believed their connection, and I’m hopeful that a new partnership can bring something better out of Marcquet. Their contemporary looked especially uninspired in terms of performance next to Teddy and Emily’s piece. I may not have loved Tyce’s song choice, but I loved the commitment that both dancers expressed in their movement and their faces. This was a moment of redemption for Emily, whom I found grating last week in her hip hop.
With this many dancers still in the competition, it’s easy for at least one routine to fall through the cracks. This week, that was Brooklyn and Casey’s jazz. Their connection isn’t just struggling; it’s nonexistent. That piece looked like two dancers doing similar solos onstage at the same time, and it made Brooklyn’s discomfort very noticeable. They just didn’t look like they were having fun out there, which is shame—because that’s all I ever want to see on that stage.
Thankfully, there was no shortage of fun from a few couples. I loved the playful, genuinely happy dynamic between Jacque and Zack in their hip hop. I couldn’t stop smiling during the entirety of Bridget and Emilio’s jive. I thought Rudy and Tanisha’s Broadway was one of the best that’s been performed on the show in ages, mainly because they looked like they were truly enjoying themselves and the routine. And I may not have thought Valerie’s Viennese waltz technique was perfect (her upper body needs some serious attention), but her radiant joy at getting to play Cinderella for an evening was infectious. Dance makes me happy and has for 20 years, and it’s lovely to see that kind of happiness echoed on the face of a contestant who truly embodies the idea that she’s just happy to be there.
Standout Performers: Bridget, Emilio, Rudy, Tanisha, Valerie, Teddy, and Emily
Favorite Routine: Sometimes I just love a good reminder that dance can make people happy. Bridget and Emilio gave me that reminder with their thoroughly entertaining jive to a song I somehow still haven’t grown tired of: Pharrell’s “Happy.” The whole routine started off on the right foot when we saw that Pasha and Anya would be choreographing it. They are two of my all-time SYTYCD favorites, and the best (and most entertaining) ballroom dancers to ever set foot on that stage. They also never disappoint as choreographers (or as All Stars). This jive had their style written all over it—it was sassy and fun while still having a surprising amount of jive technique in there. They played to their dancers’ strengths, and they created a routine that both Emilio and Bridget seemed to obviously love. Emilio’s ability to keep up with such a highly precise style was impressive, but I have to admit that I barely watched him. Bridget was too captivating to look away from. Her facial expressions never looked forced; she simply looked like she was having the time of her life. She glowed with a confidence that’s rare for someone dancing outside of their genre, and I think it was my favorite individual performance so far this season.