This week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance was a tough one to break down because so much of it boiled down to the politics of the show, which I dislike to the point that I actually stopped watching the show for a time because of it. I understand why Emilio and Bridget when home, so it didn’t come as much of a disappointment, despite the fact that they were one of my favorite pairings to develop this season. However, their elimination still frustrated me because it was telegraphed from the moment the show started last week: They were given a boring routine with uninspired choreography, ugly costumes that hid their expressive faces, and the unfortunate position of dancing first. I like when shows surprise me, and there was nothing surprising about this elimination.
This season appears to be yet another where the powers that be have anointed their favorites and will do anything to keep those favorites in the competition, including telling them over and over again just how much they hope they make it to the finale. Don’t get me wrong; Ricky is clearly on another planet in terms of his talent, but sometimes I wish the judges would just let us see that for ourselves.
It was also a bit of a bummer to see which contestants ended up in something close to their style of dance and which ones were thrown to the wolves. Thankfully, those results were a lot more surprising than I thought they’d be.
Bridget and Brandon: Bollywood Disco
If you need a clear-cut example of a contestant being thrown under the bus (and then run over by said bus), look no further than Bridget. Not only did she get stuck with last week’s forgettable jazz routine and first-dancer position, she also had to go first this week with a style that’s a made-up fusion of two types of dance that aren’t known to bring in voters. If Bridget wouldn’t have gone home this week, they certainly seemed to make sure she would go home next week. Her performance was bright and energetic, but I couldn’t pay much attention because I was so frustrated with the blatant fact that they clearly wanted her to go home.
Tanisha and Ryan: Argentine Tango
This routine was one of the most pleasant surprises of the night. I knew Tanisha would be good at the Argentine Tango, but I had no idea she would be so breathtaking. Ryan is such a phenomenal partner because he does exactly what great male ballroom dancers are trained to do: create chemistry but never let the audience focus on you instead of your female partner. I couldn’t take my eyes off Tansiha, and I’m glad for that (not that Ryan wasn’t equally great, I’m sure). Tanisha makes everything look effortless. She never feels like she’s trying to be sexy or alluring, which happens a lot in this competition; she exudes quiet confidence and power onstage. I’d even go so far as to call her my dark horse at this point, and she’s probably my favorite female dancer left in the group.
Emilio and Jasmine: Hip Hop
If you read my SYTYCD recaps last season, you know I love Jasmine Harper, so it was incredibly fun to see her again. I thought Emilio definitely held his own opposite her, but it was hard for me to watch anyone else. I also think she got a little lower and danced a little grittier than he did throughout the routine, which doesn’t necessarily mean she was better, but it did make some sections of the dance look a little off because their styles were so different. All in all, though, this was a much better swan song for Emilio than Bridget had earlier in the show.
Valerie and Ade: Jazz
Oh Tyce, please stop talking. More specifically, please stop talking about how your perfectly lovely dancer is just “too nice” to dance your piece properly. It puts her at a disadvantage before anyone even sees the routine. I’ll admit that Valerie definitely didn’t attack the routine with the depth of emotion it seemed to warrant, but her technique was lovely. And I think some of the blame lies with Tyce. The music choice didn’t give her much to work with in terms of finding a hard side to her movements; it was a very soft song. Also, Tyce needs to remember that choreographers are also teachers. Valerie is a young dancer who probably felt very uncomfortable with the style, and then she was also asked to be mean, when it appears that she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She should have been directed to be “fierce” instead because that would have given her something deeper to do with her eyes. The best dancers probably don’t need that specific direction, but Valerie is so young. I bristle whenever people are told they’re too nice to be successful. This whole routine was uncomfortable for me to watch because it was a girl being asked to be something she’s not and then getting ripped apart for having trouble with that. And not all dancers have to have a mean side to be successful; look at Gene Kelly, who made a career by making people feel good. I know I’m probably being way too protective of her, but, like I said, I just really dislike people being told they’re “too nice.“
Rudy and Jenna: Cha-Cha
This was a typically fun cha-cha, and that’s about all I can say about it. Rudy is made for this style of dance; it plays to his strengths with his huge personality. Nigel’s criticism of his pointing and winking made me roll my eyes because that’s what ballroom dancers do; that’s part of the style. And for some reason with Rudy, I never feel like it’s an act. He really does feel like a person who genuinely loves dance and lets that enthusiasm shine whenever he’s onstage. And it makes all of his routines enjoyable to watch.
Jacque and Chehon: Contemporary Ballet
I think I would have loved this dance so much more if the lighting had been better. I wanted to scream when the judges were complimenting the shadows because those shadows kept me from seeing almost all of Jacque’s work en pointe. How is anyone supposed to accurately critique a ballet routine if they can’t see the dancers’ feet? The flow of movement was lovely, and both dancers were stunningly graceful. However, I can’t really form a valid opinion of this piece since I couldn’t see what should have been the most important thing about it.
Ricky and Lauren: Jazz
I liked this routine well enough, but it wasn’t the magic I was expecting with this combination of incredible dancers. It was tons of fun and showed off their gorgeous technique really well, but it felt a little too cheesy and gimmicky for two dancers who don’t need that. That being said, though, there’s no denying that Ricky’s precision is leaps and bounds ahead of his fellow competitors and on par with Lauren, who is one of the most precise dancers they’ve ever had (which is one of the many reasons why she’s my favorite female dancer in the show’s history).
Casey and Kathryn: Broadway
This routine keeps growing on me. At first, I was so taken by Kathryn’s grace and fluidity that I barely watched Casey. However, repeated viewings have shown him to be her equal in terms of both style and technique. The song choice was beautiful (Who doesn’t love “Maybe This Time” sung by Liza herself?), and I loved the way the choreography built with the music. It was the perfect song for these two dancers in this genre because it allowed them to use their natural poise and contemporary dance skills with great results.
Jessica and tWitch: Hip Hop
If I ignore the creepy storyline for this dance (which just made tWitch look like a lecherous old man chasing a young girl), I really enjoyed it. I was surprised by how well Jessica worked with SYTYCD’s resident natural-born showman and hip hop master. Last week’s success seemed to give her the confidence boost she needed to perform without forced facial expressions, letting her dancing and her relaxed smile do the talking for her. She seemed like she was having fun, and that’s always great to watch.
Zack and Amy: Contemporary
Last season, Amy had her “moment” when she danced with an All Star. It seems fitting that her presence as an All Star gave a dancer their “moment,” too, and that’s exactly what happened with Zack. I know Zack has lovely technique, so that didn’t surprise me. (Although I was left more impressed than ever with his impeccable musicality, shown in his reactions to the thunder as if it were beats in a song.) What did surprise me was the depth behind each movement and moment in the routine. Zack danced with a maturity beyond his years. I think Sonya should take some credit for bringing something special out of him (and Amy). Her support for her dancers allows them to reach inside themselves and deliver emotional performances grounded in something very visceral and real. Zack made me believe every emotion. And that kind of commitment is what it takes to be not just a great SYTYCD contestant but a great dancer in general. Zack is so much more than just a small-town tapper. He’s a versatile, incredible dancer who continues to impress me, but, even more importantly, he just showed me that he can also make me feel in a way no single dancer this season had done until that performance.
Standout Performers: Zack, Tanisha, Casey
Bottom Four Prediction: Valerie, Tanisha, Casey, and Rudy
Favorite Routine: Zack and Amy’s Sonya Contemporary