I, of course, could not have disagreed more. Kayla is pure "white lightning" every time she hits the stage. Brandon is a "racehorse." Jeanine is a total hot tamale; Ade is an Olympian athlete; Melissa stands out as the all-time oldest SYTYCD contestant and the only traditionally trained ballerina to make it this far on the show. And even Evan, who lately has gotten a lot of flak from both judges and viewers who seem to think it's his time to go, has brought a style and spark and zing to So You Think You Can Dance never seen before. How could Nigel claim none of these dancers are "popping"?
That being said, there were eight awesome routines tonight (not counting solos): six duo numbers, plus a quirky Willy Wonka-inspired boys' routine and a dynamic Aeon Flux-esque superheroine dance for the three girls (bet the fanboys loved that one). The two group dances, both masterminded by Sonya Tayeh, showcased all the dancers at their best, even Evan, who totally kept up--although guest judge Lil' C's typically verbose comment to Evan ("Allow me to commend you for not getting swallowed by the dominant excellence of Ade and Brandon!") seemed like a backhanded "compliment" if ever I'd heard one.
But as excellent as the group routines and solos were (especially Brandon's solo, which Nigel declared one of the best in the series' history), we all know the viewers' votes are always based chiefly on the couples' dances. So this week I have concentrated on those dances, by ranking the three newly configured couples from my favorite to least favorite. Here goes:
Brandon & Kayla
Huzzah! My favorite boy and favorite girl of the top six, together at last! Nigel told them tonight, "I would have liked to see the pair of you dance together sooner," and this was another one of his points I wholeheartedly agreed with. I even kind of agreed with the often indecipherable Lil' C, when he told Kayla: "I felt everyone you were paired with before was at a disadvantage because you're such a beast...this is the first time you were equally matched." (Well, I thought my old favorite Kupono was a good match for Kayla, actually. But I understood what Lil' was trying to say: that these two formed quite a power couple tonight.)
Speaking of being out of breath, this disco dance inspired Lil' C's wordiest speech of the night. "Being out of your comfort zone represents unfamiliarity, and it also represents darkness. And when faced with certain challenges, you have to go and befriend the characteristics of your challenge," he began cryptically. "You have to go and see the music. And you have to see certain pieces of music with your ears. And when you see with your ears, there is no darkness. And I saw no darkness within this routine." Um...I guess that means he liked it, right? I personally preferred Nigel's critique, which got right to the point when he did the UNTHINKABLE: launched into a Mary Murphy impression by jumping out of his chair and screaming as if he was being run over by the Hot Tamale Train! Woooo!
Ade & Jeanine
I did think the judges were unusually harsh on this couple here. Mary criticized Ade's heel-rolls and said the overall routine "looked so novice to me." Lil' C said: "I actually was excited when I heard about this partnership...I was hoping to get an explosion of excellence, but it really fell short for me....Ade, you were frolicking and I didn't want you to frolic, I wanted you to get down." I just thought this was another explosion of words from Lil' C, and I ignored him.
And to further quote Lil' C, he was quite garrulous following this routine, a sure sign that it was superb. (It seems the more Lil' babbles, the more flattered the dancers should be.) Lil' started by saying, "I wish moving was always that fun! I'd relocate every day!" Then he continued: "Ade, you have a real dirty kind of groove about yourself and it's real earthy, but I feel you don't utilize it much of the time [until now]...You pulled Jeanine down to the depths of the dirt with you!" Meanwhile, Mary predicted Ade and Melissa would be in the finale, saying: "I have a feeling that you two will not be getting an eviction notice after that performance!" And Nigel, sounding oh so British, declared, "You got down"! Phrases like that always sound odd coming from Nigel, but hey, it was positive feeback, and no odder than anything Lil' C said.
Evan & Melissa
While there's no one on this show that isn't a formidable talent, and no one that doesn't deserve a place on this program and on the SYTYCD tour, I have to say I think these are the two dancers who should probably go home this week, as amazing as they both are. While both have adapted admirably and unexpectedly well to genres way outside their specialty styles (Broadway for Evan, ballet for Melissa), at this point in the game they're just not as strong, well-rounded, and diverse as the other four. It pains me to say that, as they are both so gifted...but this season has been the stiffest competition yet, and it's especially stiff now, in the all-important pre-finale week.
It was definitely a cute routine, with Evan and Melissa cast as an engaged couple that oversleeps and has to rush in a panic to their wedding. Evan was adorably expressive, facially, throughout--proving once and for all that his "heavy eyelids" do not hinder his dancing in any way. (Take that, Nigel!) But Evan's outfit--boxer shorts and grandfatherly sock suspenders--was distracting and not quite as visually appealing as the hot himbo outfits Ade and Brandon got to wear tonight. ("It's hard for me to take you seriously in your underwear," Mary told him.) Melissa looked a lot lovelier in bridal lingerie, complete with a much sexier type of stocking garter, and more importantly, she totally kept up with Evan every step of the way.
But in the end, as cute as this routine was, it didn't quite have the wow factor of some of the other dances this evening. Said a disappointed Lil' C: "I expected so much because I know how amazing you are, Evan...You could have shot and aimed for excellence." The other judges were a little more enthusiastic. Mary said: "This could be 'Get Me To The Finale On Time'!" Nigel conceded that this wasn't the most technically demanding routine of tonight's episode, and that it all came down to their personalities--but that both dancers completely delivered in that department.
Who knows, indeed. I do think it's Evan and Melissa's time to go--the idea of Ade, Brandon, Kayla, and Jeanine not being in next week's finale is utterly unfathomable to me. But Evan is the only male left on the show who's never been in the bottom before, so clearly he has a devoted fanbase. So there could be an "upset" with either Brandon or Ade going home tomorrow night instead. As for the girls, all three have been in the bottom at one time or another, so that elimination is a real tossup.
But whoever goes home, it's going to be a sad Thursday indeed. Parker out.
- Nigel Lythgoe