This week's So You Think You Can Dance dance-off was the most action-packed in the series' history, with 14--count 'em, FOURTEEN--separate routines. Each of the seven remaining couples danced twice, which made the show twice as nice, of course.
Jessica and Will went first doing a swing routine, and once again Jessica dragged the faultless Will down, down, down. Seriously, Will might as well wear a lead ankle bracelet every time he gets on that stage, the way his partner weighs him down. Their routine was solid, sure, but Will clearlyoutshone and outdanced his weaker-link partner, like he does week after weak week. Unsurprisingly, the judges were full of praise for Will and saved their harsher critiques like "not all there" (that was from Mary) and "lazy" (from Nigel) for poor Jessica. You know, maybe it would be a blessing in disguise if Jessica and Will ended up in the bottom again, so the judges could send Jessica home and Will could get matched up with a more suitable dancemate. Don't get me wrong--Jessica is good. But "good" isn't good enough if you're dancing with someone flat-out great. And Will is fricking great.
Comfort and Thayne--the first new couple of this season, after they lost their respective partners Chris and Chelsea during last Thursday's elimination round--went next, hoofing up a storm to a West Side Story Broadway routine. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they pulled it off (especially B-girl Comfort, who's been out of her "Comfort zone" practically since episode 1 but still managing nicely). So far Comfort and Thayne seem like a match made in dance heaven. Mary Murphy dug their number--not enough to hyena-scream, not enough to dole out a couple of first-class tickets on the Hot Tamale Express, but given the stern words she had for these dancers when they competed with their past partners, and given the short amount of time Comfort and Thayne had to get accustomed to each other, a glowing review from Mary is a good thing, even sans shrieking. Nigel didn't like them quite as much...but judging from the resounding round of boos he received when he lambasted Comfort and Thayne, it seemed like the audience was more in agreement with Mary. As was I. Boo, Nigel, boo!
Kourtni and Matt danced third, in costumes seemingly pulled straight off Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" video set, to Mario's slow-jam "How Do I Breathe." And it was all slow and no jam. And it was smooth, but it was criminal how dull it was. Man, I really loved Kourtni last week and in her first audition (I've never been quite so gung-ho about Matt), but she's disappointed me too many times by now. This hip-hop routine just wasn't very hip, and it didn't hop all that much either. Nigel got it right this time when he called this routine "hip-hop on sleeping pills." Zzzzzzz...
Thankfully I was jolted back to wide-eyed alertness by Mark (my favorite male on the show) and Chelsie, whose Mandy Moore-choreographed jazz routine oozed a certain sort of slinky Solid Gold-dancer-esque sexiness. You know, when these two were first paired up at the beginning of this season, I worried that Chelsie's Barbie-blonde cheerleader perkiness would be no match for Mark's Tim Burton-esque quirkiness...but man, it turns out these two have a real yin/yang thing going on that totally works.
Mark and Chelsie are definitely a couple to watch this season, but so are the equally unstoppable, unflappable "Twitchington," aka Twitch and Kherrington. Tonight they danced a passionate paso doble, complete with cape-twirling trickery. And while Kherrington actually came across as the more manly matador (matadoress?) of the two--as guest judge Tabitha worded it, Kherrington was the matador and Twitch was the "calf"--that was actually a real feat for Kherrington, the dancer known (and sometimes criticized) for her everpresent ear-to-ear showgirl smile. She pulled off a convincingly angry killer-queen grimace tonight--she was, quite literally, the definition of "fierce"--and that was impressive.
OK, granted, Mark & Chelsie and Twitchington were both awesome. But tonight, Katie and Joshua redefined the very word "awesome," when they danced a contemporary routine masterminded by SYTYCD's (the possibly the planet's) awesome-est choreographer, Mia Michaels, and set to new British soul diva Adele's "Hometown Glory." Oh, and it was glorious, indeed. I think these two officially became my favorite couple after tonight. The instant these two got onstage, my neck-hairs stood stiffly on end like porcupine quills and my flesh crinkled into goosepimples--and that was before they'd barely even moved, when their routine started off with the simplest and most minimal of gestures. But sometimes the simplest movements can pack the most impact, if they're done correctly. Oh, and Katie and Joshua sure did them correctly, that's for sure. They were pure magic--I'm talking "Park Bench," "Flowers"-style magic, here--to watch, and you could tell they felt the magic too. The way Joshua got all choked up by the routine's climactic conclusion (much like the judges and audience did) proved how much he feels the power of dance deep down in his soul...and everyone watching felt it as well.
Poor Courtney and Gev. How were they supposed to follow that? Well, they tried. They had no choice. They did an East Coast-style hip-hop routine soundtracked by Mr. Cheeks, and Gev should have felt in his element...but unfortunately, East Coast style isn't his strength. He did a'ight. Courtney surprisingly held her own alongside him, although Nigel called her dance style "Cinderella gets ugly." (Was that a compliment in disguise? Probably not.) Anyway, the routine was pretty decent, but these two couldn't help but be a letdown coming right after three amazing couples like Mark & Chelsie, Twitchington, and especially Katie & Joshua.
Next, for round 2, Jessica and Will finally showed some chemistry dancing to Heart's "Alone." Funny how dancing in their PJs brought that out, huh? Jessica wore little more than a silky nightie, and Will was shirtless for most of the number...and they were so smokin' tonight, it was easy to imagine them heading for the bedroom and sliding in between some satin sheets immediately following this routine. The judges once again praised Will more generously than they did Jessica--and rightfully so--but at least Jessica didn't fade into the background this time. However, I'm sure many of the female dancers in this competition--after seeing what Will's Greek-god torso looks like with shirtless--are still hoping that Will and Jessica are in the bottom tomorrow night, so that Jessica will get axed and one of them will get a chance to dance with him instead. In fact, when Nigel asked the audience, "Who wants to dance with Will?," every girl in the theater hooted and hollered. As did a few of the male audience members, too! And can you blame them?
Comfort and Thayne returned for dance # 2 with a smooth waltz, and it was another impressive showing. I am continually amazed at how well Comfort--who started off this show as the least girly of the girls--has adapted to so many graceful dance styles that have absolutely nothing to do with her specialty genre, hip-hop. I think Comfort ought to get comfortable on this show, because she's probably not going anywhere this week. She did good.
Next up, Kourtni and Matt attempted to redeem themselves with a mambo. Well, it certainly was more entertaining and more high-energy than their earlier hip-hop attempt--but that had more to do with the choreography and uptempo music than the dancers themselves. It was a tough, athletic routine, so I give the couple props for handling the moves given them...BUT, Kourtni seemed uncomfortable playing the red-hot Latin sex-queen role, and Matt was waaaay too smiley and dorky. Together, these two had zero chemistry. Zip, zero, zilch. I'm afraid the Hot Tamale Train has pulled out of the station and left without them, in this case. And these two might be taking the Cold Taco Greyhound Bus back home tomorrow night.
Chelsie, a ballroom dancer by trade, must have been happy to get assigned a foxtrot for her second routine of the night, but her edgy partner Mark was definitely dancing on unfamiliar ground here. Well, at least their routine was set to a Paul Anka cover of Bon Jovi's "It's My Life," which added a twinge of needed quirkiness. As did the amusing fact that Chelsie was forced to dance most of the routine with a stray feather from her costume stuck in her mouth. But Chelsie didn't let this unexpected feather-dusting throw her off, and Mark was almost completely unrecognizable, totally trnaformed with his slicked-back matinee-idol hairdo and Fred Astaire moves. Kudos to them for pulling this number off.
Twitchington went next, and they unbelievably outsexed and out-pajama'd Jessica and Will. Or maybe not so unbelievably, considering that Mia Michaels was behind this fantastical dream-sequence routine. I am beginning to think that anyone who gets to work for that woman has a real unfair advantage. Anyway, much like Mia's legendary "Park Bench" routine, Twitchington's second number of the night was centered totally around a piece of furniture--in this case a slanted, rose-petal-strewn bed--and it was FRIGGIN' AMAZING. It was quite literally a dream come true, sprung full-force from Mia Michaels' terrifically twisted mind. Twitch was totally convincing as a man haunted by the ghost of a lost love, thrashdancing amid the sheets, and Kherrington was equally compelling as his crazy-eyed, bedheaded love interest--without the slightest crack of her signature smile throughout the routine. But Kherrington was still sexy--I bet her crushboy, last season's dancer Dominic, wishes he'd been her partner for this particular bed routine. As guest judge Napolean put it, "How can you go wrong with a good-looking guy, a beautiful girl, a bed, and flowers?" Add Mia Michael to that mix and well, you can't go wrong.
Katie and Joshua followed, and their West Coast swing number--though expertly choreographed by past SYTYCD champ Benji Schwimmer--was a little underwhelming after the utter amazingness of both their round 1 routine and the Twitchington round 2 routine they had to follow. But there was a whole lot of entertaining badonkadonk-shaking going on, and they really looked like they were having fun. The jovial mood of this number was the polar opposite of their dark round 1 dance, so it was nice to see how versatile they can be.
And finally, there was Courtney and Gev, doing a Broadway routine complete with preppy-dork costumes as they pretended to be naïve small-town tourists lost amid the bustle of New York City. I was surprised at what a convincing geek Gev was, considering he's a supposed B-boy. Nigel even told Gev tha he'd found his niche, and that Broadway should be his new speciality. A comment like that will probably get Gev a lot of grief back in the 'hood, but if he dances this well he won't be leaving the show and going back to the 'hood any time soon, anyway.
OK, prediction time: Sadly, I think it might curtains for Kourtni & Matt and Jessica & Will. I wish that weren't the case, but everyone else was so strong tonight. My prediction will be that the judges will save Kourtni and Will ONE more time, send Jessica and Matt home, and Will and Kourtni will be newly coupled off. Which ought to be interesting, if it actually happens...
Tune in tomorrow to see if I'm right!