Sigh. A dancer's life is a tough one. You never see stuff like this on "American Idol."
Last week, Curtis went home after landing in the bottom six and not getting the chance to dance for his life due to his injury. It seemed that Tucker would meet the same fate when he was in the bottom six this week, but then, bizarrely, judge Nigel Lythgoe said, "Tucker, I'm led to believe you can dance tonight, is that right?" And Tucker was asked (or forced, depending on how you look at it) to solo for survival, even though he wouldn't be dancing in any partner or group routines later in the night.
This seemed slightly cruel to me. After all, Nigel and his fellow judges (including Michael Jackson choreographer Kenny Ortega, the first actual dance expert to guest-judge on "SYTYCD" in a long time) immediately fast-tracked two other bottom-six contestants, Jenna Johnson and Nico Greetham, to safety, without asking those two to solo…but they made Tucker dance with a knee infection? Not cool. However, Tucker didn't seem to mind. He danced for his life, all right — his solo was a bit rough in spots, understandably, but he never gave up and proved that he deserves to be on that tour.
As for the other contestants rounding out the bottom six, Amy Yakima and Malece Miller went toe-to-toe, and Amy truly gave it her all, with a raw, intense, explosive solo that I don't think anyone saw coming. But it almost seemed like Malece had expected her solo to be shorter, and for the 10-second countdown to kick in a lot sooner…because by the end, she ran out of steps and ran out of steam. The overall effect was unimpressive and underwhelming. Amy clearly won this round and won that spot in the top 10.
And then there was Alan Bersten, a guy who'd landed in the bottom six so many times, I'd lost count. His open-shirted, "Dancing With the Stars"-style solo was a bit cheesy, as ballroom solos often are, but he really sold it, delivering the dance with a ton of personality. Would his partner routine, something Tucker wouldn't get a chance to do, give him the edge over Tucker and help him survive another week? We’d soon find out, but not before all of the top 12 (except Tucker, of course) danced with their partners.
Here's how everyone did this Tuesday:
Hayley Erbert & Nico Greetham – Broadway
This couple, newly formed after Nico's previous partner Alexis Juliano went home last week, had such great chemistry; it's a shame that all of the couples will be dissolved next week. I wish Hayley and Nico had been paired up much sooner. In this outlandish "Kiss of the Spider Woman" number by choreographer Sean Cheesman, Hayley played a gypsy fortune-teller trying to steal Nico's soul, and both of them stole the show. This number was high-energy, high-camp (in the best possible way), and high-drama, full of over-the-top acting and over-the-shoulder advanced flips, and it was a thrill to watch. The audience roared while Nigel silently mouthed the word "wow," and once the applause died down, Nigel said aloud, "Great opening routine, one of the best Broadway routines we've ever had on the series. I absolutely loved it. Magnificently danced." Said Mary Murphy: "Outrageous! Oh my goodness! I loved every second of it. I love this partnership. Instant chemistry. A breakthrough for both of you!" Kenny Ortega praised the "courageous piece" and said, "[Kiss of the Spider Woman stage star] Chita Rivera would be very proud to know that you two danced to that song tonight." And so, the bar was obviously set very high for the other five couples who'd soon have to follow this tour de force.
Malece Miller & Alan Bersten – Jazz
Choreographer Mandy Moore crafted a glamorous, Old Hollywood-inspired routine here, one that required a real connection between Malece and Alan — basically, they needed to come across like two people in love. I had my doubts as to whether young, girlish Malece could pull this off. And she didn't, really; she was too pageanty, even if she looked the part of a classic ingénue. Alan fared better, but this still didn't seem like enough to keep him from going home this week, and he didn't connect with Malece the way Mandy had instructed him to. Kenny told Malece she "sparkled" and compared her to Judy Holiday and Goldie Hawn, but said, "I wish you could have found that melding point just a little bit more. I didn't feel there was a full chemistry there." Nigel was much more unimpressed by the couple's lack of connection, saying, "I thought this was a little uncomfortable to watch. The style wasn't there. The chemistry wasn't there. I was disappointed with you both." Mary was the kindest judge, saying, "It was fun and entertaining, but there were some issues. It didn't seem free and easy." It was looking pretty unlikely that either Malece or Alan would be making the top 10 tour, after this letdown.
Jenna Johnson with allstar Alex Wong – Paso Doble
With Tucker on the sidelines, Jenna got an allstar partner for this passionate, pirate-themed Jean-Marc Genereux number, and this may have been a blessing in disguise (for her, not for Tucker, obviously). Jenna got to do what she does best — play a feisty little hot tamale — without her regular partner, the lovably dorky Tucker, trying to match her energy and be all cocky and macho. The pirate role was much better suited to Alex, and together with Jenna, he brought pure fire to the stage. This was awesome, and it made me excited for next week, when all of the top 10 contestants will start to dance with allstars regularly. "I LOVED IT! That number was blazing across that stage with passion and intensity! Everything you did in this piece was with such intention behind it. Jenna, I wish I was you right now," said Mary. "Jenna, Jenna, Jenna, te quiero mucho y mucho mas. You attacked every single move with such confidence. I was so impressed. Now you're at the top for me," raved Kenny. "Alex, you've brought Jenna into the world of the allstars. Really tremendous. Darling, congratulations," said Nigel. I guess those judges knew what they were doing when they saved Jenna and put her straight through to the top 10.
Makenzie Dustman & Paul Kamyrian - Contemporary
For the first time in like, ever, Makenzie, one of the judges' favorites, was not in the bottom six this week, and I think that gave her extra confidence going into this lovely Mandy Moore routine. The fact that she got to dance in her own style helped, too. This dance, about a good girl in love with a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks, featured Makenzie at her best. The star-crossed-lovers number, set to the stripped-down piano version of Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory," was exquisite, a true show-stopper, featuring all the palpable chemistry that'd been missing from Malece and Alan's stiff routine. I believed these two were a real loved-up couple. At the end of the routine, all three judges gave Makenzie and Paul a standing ovation, and Mandy, sitting in the audience, looked much more pleased than she had after she'd watched Malece and Alan do her other piece of the night. "You made it seem effortless. You melted and blended and oozed all the way across the stage," sighed a delighted Mary. "You are two of my favorite dancers in this competition, and you have been for a while. The soulful connection that you shared with one another was so powerful," praised Kenny, adding, "Paul, you have a fire burning in your soul, young man. Every move you make has something so alive beneath it." These two definitely seemed on the edge of "SYTYCD" glory with this.
Amy Yakima & DuShaunt "Fik-Shun" Stegall – Viennese Waltz
For their last hurrah as partners before all the couples are split up next week, America's sweetheart duo, Amy and Fik-Shun, were cast as their adorable selves in this simple Jean-Marc number. The whole routine was just meant to be a tribute to their crowd-pleasing partnership. But that didn't mean that these two didn't have a challenge before them: The Viennese waltz is all about elegance, while most choreographers this season have played to Amy and Fik-Shun's innate plucky cuteness (plus, Amy is a self-proclaimed klutz, who only last week accidentally knocked over a chair during one routine). But Amy and Fik-Shun pulled this off. I may have teared up a little; I admit it, I'm going to miss Season 10's cutest couple. "You're just so precious together. Yeah, there are some technical issues going on, but there's something really special that comes out of you guys that gets ya. I'm not really sure what that is," mused Mary, her voice quivering slightly. "It's been a wonderful love story, watching the two of you dance every single week," said Kenny, adding, "Fik-Shun, I believe if a choreographer asked you to fly, you'd figure out a way to do it. And Amy, you are like a dancer in a music box." Nigel told the pair, "Somehow I got transported there with you tonight. Amy, I will be really disappointed if you leave us tonight; that's all I can say." Things were looking even worse for poor Malece now.
Jasmine Harper & Aaron Turner – Hip-Hop
Hot. Damn. This Tabitha & Napoleon number was just fan-friggin'-tastic. I think Jasmine and Aaron are actually the couple I'll miss most of all, and they certainly went out with a bang this week. Playing a bank robber and a gold-digging saloon floozy, these two were pure money — especially Jasmine. I knew she was good, but I didn't know she could get down like that. She revealed earlier in the night that she has a dance alter ego named Monae, but this was more like some Sasha Fierce-level stuff, with all her sexy hip-popping. She was werking it. This earned another standing ovation from the judges, as Nigel howled, "Jasmine, you killed it tonight. I've not seen hips move like that since Elvis the Pelvis. To quote the great Ellen DeGeneres, you must be a carpenter, because you nailed it!" (Oh, Nigel. Must you mention that fateful night when Ellen guest-judged on "SYTYCD," the night that set into motion a chain of horrific events that led to her doomed judging stint on "American Idol"? I'm still trying to forget about all that.) "You were so into it. We were all feeling it from here. Money! Money!" shouted Mary. And Kenny told the dynamic duo, "After this show, choreographers in this nation are going to have to hold a lottery to see who gets to work with you first."
As for next week's elimination, it'll be just a bottom four, and the votes will probably just follow the pattern of past weeks, regardless of how well anyone danced this Tuesday; by now, fans have their favorites, plain and simple. So that means the bottom four will likely be Jenna, Makenzie, Tucker, and Nico, despite their strong showings across the board this week.
Next Tuesday is going to be tough, but at least we'll see all these amazing dancers on the "SYTYCD" tour, which kicks off October 1. But until then, see you next week.
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