This week gave me a couple of things I’ve been waiting for since the live shows began: a breakout moment for more than one contestant and a bottom six that I actually really felt really invested in. I’m still sad that no one dancer has stepped up to the point of becoming my favorite yet, but some are starting to separate themselves from the pack. And I think seeing some dancers I really enjoy in the bottom six had something to do with that separation. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s (almost) gone.
Seeing Tanisha, Bridget, Serge, and Zack face elimination made me see how much I’d come to really enjoy all four of them. It’s never easy to watch people on this show go home, but the outcome of this elimination—with Marcquet and Brooklyn leaving—turned out as well as I could have hoped for. I appreciate both of them as dancers, but they never really had that spark that makes a great So You Think You Can Dance contestant. If people had to go home, I was okay with it being them.
Despite giving me a scare right away with the bottom six, this was an entertaining episode, and I think a lot of that entertainment came from watching a series of dancers have their first shining moments on the SYTYCD stage. Yes, there were some blasé routines. I couldn’t believe Dmitry tried to pass off that mess as a foxtrot; Brooklyn and Casey’s hip hop was boring at best; I appreciated Zack and Jacque’s technique but found their routine a pretty uninspired Sonya effort; and I’ve decided I’m just not a fan of trying to make these dancers learn Bollywood. (They always look like they’re trying, when dance should always seem effortless.)
However, there were more standout moments than we’ve had yet this season. Serge continued to prove himself as an outstanding partner for Carly, and her final move displayed a strength that was astounding. Emilio and Bridget followed up their adorable jive from last week with a very grounded and beautiful contemporary piece that allowed both of them to really compliment each other as dancers, and it allowed Emilio to show some serious growth (pointed feet!). Tanisha wowed everyone with her very unforced sexy stage presence in her hip hop with Rudy. And Ricky blew me away in Travis’s small group routine with both his technique and his style.
I may not have a dedicated favorite yet, but the list is narrowing down. And I love that I’m starting to really get invested in these dancers and their journeys.
Standout Performers: Carly, Tanisha, Bridget, Emilio, Serge, and Ricky
Favorite Routine: I love a good group routine, and this week had two of them. Don’t get me wrong; the small group contemporary piece was pretty, but we’ve seen all of that before. The Top 16 Mandy Moore routine was a wonderful exercise in synchronicity. It’s always a brave thing to show these dancers doing the same thing side-by-side because it highlights strengths and weaknesses, but when it works, it works so well. The same thing happened with Travis’s small group routine, which was my favorite routine of the night.
This was the first routine of the season where I know I’ll think of the dance whenever I hear the song (in this case, “Love Runs Out” by OneRepublic). The song has a great beat and wonderful dynamics; it was made for routines like this one. And Travis’s choreography pushed a lot of his dancers out of their comfort zones to great effect. Like Mandy Moore, he didn’t shy away from big choreography sections done by the whole group, which can have a very powerful impact. It was fun to watch each dancer really embrace the style of the dance, and it was a unique style that didn’t look like the same kinds of dances we watch every week. The lifts were creative, and the movement was fresh. And it seemed like a dance tailor-made for a contestant like Ricky. It was fun to watch him shine technically, but it was even more fun to watch him so clearly enjoying performing this routine. It was the perfect marriage of dancer and dance, and I could watch him in this piece all day long.