After losing four very amazing dancers last week, "So You Think You Can Dance" easily rebounded this Wednesday, thanks to the 16 also-amazing dancers that remained. But Thursday will be a whole other story. It's going to be another VERY tough call for the judges, and the voters at home, this week.
Here's how everyone did...
Sasha & Alexander - Contemporary
A touching and very original Dee Caspary routine to "Belong" by Cary Brothers, centered on a yellow piano--with Alexander cast as a pensive, lonely musician and Sasha as the long-lost muse who haunts his work--this number required just as intense an emotional connection as the returning-soldier Nappytabs routine they did last week. I think their chemistry was convincing here, just as it was last week--but, just like last week, I think Sasha outshined Alexander. She always does, and as great as he is, I honestly think Alexander was incredibly lucky to pull her name out of Cat Deeley's hat at the start of this season. Sasha is a force of magic, and she always totally throws herself (sometimes literally) into everything she does. As for Alexander, my favorite moment from him was when Sasha crawled into the hollow piano and left him alone, and he sat on the piano bench and stared forlornly at her hands as they slipped out from inside the piano and eerily tickled the keys. That subtle little moment was when I witnessed his actual emoting ability. The judges, for the most part, understandably singled out Sasha for praise. Nigel Lythgoe called Sasha "a beautiful princess of dance," but told Alexander he needed to "work a little harder" on getting into character. Mary Murphy told Alexander he needed to "dig deeper," but told Sasha, "Your stage presence is almost like no other." Guest judge Lil' C told them both, as only he could, that they were "the perfect representation of how mellifluous the piano keys are," but then told Sasha, "You are eight notches above perfection." Only the other guest judge, Kristin Chenoweth, gave Alexander real props for his character development, telling him, "I loved you in this piece. I think you did show the acting part of it." Coming from her, the one actor on the panel, this was a major compliment. But I do think that he has a ways to go before he catches up with his partner.
Caitlynn & Mitchell - Samba
After choreographer Jean-Marc Genereux kind of lecherously urged these two kids to be sexy, sexy, sexy and undulate their hips like vibrating stereo speakers, Caitlynn and Mitchell hit the floor and pumped up the volume to Alicia Keys & Beyonce's "Put It In A Love Song." And they did some pretty bootylicious Beyonce moves that had Lil' C raving, "There was so much bass generating from those hips!" Agreed Mary, "My ears are still ringing! All the speakers are blown out in here by those hips!" Kristin just hollered, "Shut the front door!" about 11 times. And Nigel had the most creative praise of all, calling Mitchell "the Chris Rock of 'So You Think You Can Dance'; you bring a really energy to this whole program," and telling Caitlynn, "Where your put your body leaves us no doubt that it's going in the right places!" Guess her hips were speaking loud and clear.
Miranda & Robert - Broadway
A steamy yet frenetically paced Tyce Diorio number to "It Don't Mean A Thing (If I Ain't Got That Swing)," casting Miranda as an "upper-class working girl" and Robert as the "groovy cat" she seduces, this was a delight. Wasn't Miranda the dancer who claimed she didn't feel comfortable playing sexy roles? Well, she certainly showed no discomfort here. Looking stunning with her Fabulous Baker Boys red dress and come-hither stare, she was a total femme fatale, and she also has some killer advanced moves. Nigel called her "the most changed dancer since the show began"; Mary raved, "This transformation is incredible!"; and Lil' C declared, "Miranda, you leave me in awe every time I see you dance--with legs like that, who needs arms?" Looks like Miranda might be this season's dark horse. But Robert was no slouch either, showing off plenty of fancy footwork, including a seemingly effortless Charleston. "You have the type of personality that one can only receive if the planets are in perfect alignment when you're born," Lil' C told him, while Mary concurred, "Robert, I think you're a star and it's getting a little shinier ever single week."
Melanie & Marko - Lyrical Hip-Hop
It's official: Melanie and Marko are "SYTYCD" 8's cutest couple. They're friggin' adorable. I just love them, in the way I love puppies and kittens and rainbows and unicorns. In this Tabitha & Napoleon routine, Marko played a groom jilted at the altar being comforted by his best friend (Melanie), when he suddenly realizes she's the girl he should have been with all along. It was basically like a final scene in a classic John Hughes film come to life and smushed into three minutes, soundtracked by Leona Lewis's "I Got You" instead of Simple Minds or Psychedelic Furs. Stylistically it was its own thing, but thematically it reminded me of Jason and Jeanine's iconic "locket dance" from Season 5. And when they kissed at the end, I rooted for them, kind of hoping they coule be a couple in real life. (Similar thoughts did NOT cross my mind when Nigel and Mary, and Kristin and Lil' C, pretended to make out during their subsequent critiques. Ick!) "The two of you keep knocking out a special performance every single week!" howled Mary. "All I can tell you, as an actor who sings and dances, is I want to be in your play," said Kristen. "You guys are a power couple...the connection so crispy so clean, so beefy," said Lil' C, bizarrely. And Nigel went as far as saying, "You are, in my opinion, at this stage in the competition, the couple to beat." I have to say, I totally agreed with him. M&M for the win!
Ashley & Chris - Jazz
When I heard that genius Sonya Tayeh had come up with a Beetlejuice-inspired creepy graveyard routine, complete with half-human/half-zombie makeup, for these two, I was elated. This was going to be some classic Sonya. But I was a little disappointed--this was good, but hardly her greatest work. Something just fell a little flat, although the duo had technical skills up the wazoo and Ashley did some crazy contortionist stuff with her legs that seemed half-human in a whole other way. Nigel expressed some dissatisfaction himself, sighing, "I wanted you to be more overt with the characters; it just came across to me as two people in weird makeup." However, somewhat unfairly, he blamed the routine's lack of excitement mainly on the song, Telepathe's "Lights Go Down," which wasn't exactly Ashley and Chris's fault. ("I'm sorry, Telepathe," Nigel added sheepishly.) Mary agreed that the pair needed to get "a little more into the crazy," but praised their technical prowess, calling them "very clean, very sharp." And Lil' C called Ashley a "silent assassin," the kind of sleeper contestant people forget about, but then are suddenly surprised by. I just hope voters don't forget about her this week, after this slight misfire.
Clarice & Jess - Foxtrot
Choreographer Jean-Marc Genereux crafted the perfect routine for Broadway boy Jess, casting him as a smooth Sinatra-style crooner who literally sweeps nightclub girl Clarice off her fancy feet to "Fly Me To The Moon." This was pure elegance, and Jess had a real moment here. "There isn't a single other dancer on this show that could have done what you just did just now," Mary told him. (She also called Clarice, who gracefully kept up with Jess, "beautiful.") Nigel called Jess "a master in this style." Lil' C ranted, "Your physical artistic expression is the definition of sophistication." And Kristin was the most gushing of all, declaring this her favorite performance of the night and even comparing the duo to the almighty Fred and Ginger. (Whoa.) I still don't have any idea how Jess will handle it the week he's assigned, say, krump or Bollywood, but as long as he keeps getting dances like this, it may be a while before he's in the bottom three again.
Ryan & Ricky - Contemporary
Ricky was in the bottom last week and convinced the judges to save him with his astounding solo, and I am sure the judges realize they made the right decision. So much "SYTYCD" hype has surrounded golden girl Ryan, who is clearly one of Nigel's pets, but after this Robyn-soundtracked Sonya Tayeh routine about love coming to an end, even Nigel admitted, "Ricky, I couldn't take my eyes off you." Both Ricky and Ryan had a tough task depicting an unraveling relationship by working with a literally unraveling scarf (dancing with props is always a unique challenge), plus they both confessed to not having much personal romantic life experience to draw from. But they both did fabulously here, with the exception of a hint of inappropriate smiling on Ryan's part. (She's got to work on that bad habit, although she's greatly improved.) "You both conveyed the message of [Sonya's piece] to me; it was beautiful," said Kristin. "Sonya gives you the language, but you as dancers have to speak the language, and you did," agreed Nigel. "It was gorgeous. You both are really strong dancers and I loved every second this," raved Mary. And Lil' C summed it up with, "You guys are also a power couple in this competition, murdering every week." R&R are no M&M yet, in my opinion, but they are a couple to watch, for sure.
Jordan & Tadd - Hip-Hop
This sassy routine required the young duo to portray two hungover college students who wake up in bed together to face the fallout of a one-night stand. And I was surprised by how uncomfortable Jordan was with the whole storyline. ("I don't wake up with guys in my bed; I sleep with Pillow Pets!" she cringed.) Jordan is one of the most overtly sexy dancers on this show and has openly expressed her desire to join the Pussycat Dolls, but apparently she, like Ryan, isn't drawing on personal experience for dance inspiration. But once she hit the stage, she got into full sexpot mode (to David Guetta and Kid Cudi's "Memories"), and she seemed completely at ease. She's just that good. Tadd was wonderful too, and he really got to showcase his B-boy skills (and his unique way of putting on pants in a hurry). Lil' C was surprisingly critical, advising them, "When you get into certain grooves, you gotta get down with your whole body" (I actually thought they did), and Nigel mildly griped that "the story overwhelmed the dance." But Nigel did admit that "it was great fun" and they are in no danger of going home this week. The other two judges appreciated the routine more: Kristen purred, "Shut the front door! That was a dessert, and I liked every bite," and Mary exclaimed, "You guys put the whammy on us just now." I'm just glad that, after Melanie and Marko's onstage kiss inspired the judges to make out with each other, none of the judges got any more bright ideas after watching Jordan and Tadd in bed! That could have been messy.
So now it is prediction time. Like I said, this one's going to be tough. I think Caitlynn and Mitchell might be in danger, only because they did a less popular genre of dance, the samba, and performed so early in the night. And Nigel's negative comments probably will hurt Ashley and Chris. As for the other couple, I honestly can't figure out who it might be. Whoever it is, as Ricky's survival proved last week, it's all going to come down to the solos, so I hope all the dancers are ready to bring it on Thursday.
Maybe we could just shut the front door, and lock it, so that none of the top 16 will be able to leave.