E: Well. You know I’m not happy. I’m not the teeniest bit surprised, but I’m not happy.
There were some great routines, though, so thank heaven for that!
Christophe Filippi’s “Last Moment” gives an eerie feeling to the stage, as do the brilliant up lights bathing the dancers in amber and gold. The dancers clump together in small groups, classical statues in friezes, robed in flowing white and accented with gold, gold at their waists, in their hair, in wing-like armor scaling over Jessica’s arms. Everyone, that is, but Ricky, who while dressed in white wears a neat, fitted vest and pants that gives a somewhat more recent (perhaps turn of the 19th century?) effect. Is he an explorer or archaeologist? An academic seeking the ancient Gods? A supplicant seeking wisdom? The other dancers writhe around him, toss him into the air, then wreath about him, until he emerges from the ring of dancers with gold paint on his hands that he smears over his pristine vest, staring up into white light as if receiving a benediction. What an odd and interesting routine, Stacey Tookey. I would love to hear the backstory to that.
After introducing wonderfully passionate guest judge Christina Applegate, and letting us know that Nigel threw his back out on National Dance Day, Cat (who’s wearing a supremely well fitted dress that gives a sort of 80s/Miami Art Deco vibe in hues of pink and turquoise, her hair pulled back) does the dirty deed – she drags the dancers on stage and reveals the 8 who’re already safe in the top ten – Bridget, Emilio, Jacque, Ricky, Tanisha, Scarlett O’Hara (Rudy), Valerie and Zack. Huh. Why she called most people with their partner and gave Valerie and Zack heart attacks, I’m not sure, but there you have it. This means that Teddy and Emily slipped into the bottom with their lackluster salsa and are clearly toast, that Wildabeast’s exercise routine did nothing for Casey, that black widow Jessica finally fox trotted her way into the bottom, and that despite a gorgeous contemporary routine, Carly and Serge slipped as well.
Which, boo. Boo. As I said last week, I think Serge and Carly have been a pretty fantastic partnership, my favorite in the competition. They’ve excelled at every routine presented them. They work beautifully together, and they’re totally committed to character and emotion. I had largely reconciled myself to Serge being toast – he’s been in the bottom often enough, and I didn’t really expect the judges would save him over Zack or Casey should either fall into the endangered positions – but I did think that Carly’s record of excellence could boost her over, say, Jacque. But against precious Jessica? No. The judges love that girl too much to factor her actual performances into their choice. Given how things turned out, I can sort of see picking Casey over Serge, because Casey has been delivering brilliantly too, but Jessica has not delivered. She seems like a sweet kid, and I don’t mean this as anything against her personally, but how many people think that Top Twenty number was truly special enough to keep her safe through three weeks of hammy faces and emotional disconnect?
Sorry. Rant over. It’s obvious what’s going to happen; it just hurts going down.
Bridget & Emilio
What, you might be wondering, will Bridget bring to the Top Ten now that she’s made it? Congeniality, Emilio explains, because she apparently used to do pageants. For his part, Emilio will bring a potty mouth: we get film of him being bleeped. The two have a Ray Leeper jazz routine in which they’re cast as demons looking tempt some unwitting humans into selling their souls. Okay, that idea has legs. Ray’s idea of demon-wear is very jazz inspired: red bowler hats and red fingerless gloves, a red blazer over a black shirt and and devil tail tie for for Emilio, and some red lycra exercise wear that looks like snakes in the front and wings in the back for Bridget, and he’s taken obvious inspiration from an Avicii track, “Long Road to Hell,” which is pretty fantastic. The dance itself is perfectly good. It’s fun and fast and engaging and Emilio’s flipping good at it (Bridget is too, but it’s always more surprising from an untrained dancer) but I don’t think it’s memorable, which is especially problematic because it’s the first routine of the night.
Ray’s the devil, Nigel laughs, and commends Emilio for doing well before telling him to watch his shoulders. I don’t doubt the shoulder pads in that jacket exacerbated that problem! He thought Bridget wasn’t high enough in the pocket. Uh oh. Delighted with the routine, Christina actually asks Ray if they can rent a studio so she can learn it. (Um, yes. I expect you can if you’re serious.) She thinks Emilio’s getting into the range of the show’s transcendent street dancers on the show, like Fik-shun and Cyrus (though Joshua and Russell might be better examples than Cyrus, anyway). Usually so articulate, she goes off on a tear about the importance of clear intentions (a acting term) to one’s facial expressions during a dance, and then muddies the issue by saying Emilio did this perfectly every moment but not. I know the term although not exactly what she’s critiquing; making more sense to me is Mary, who thinks that Ray used the dancers (especially Emilio’s skill set with all the flips and twists) perfectly.
Tanisha & Rudy
Obviously, what Rudy brings is his quiet personality, ha ha. And Tanisha brings constant hiccups? Wow, Rudy, that’s a really awesome detail you picked out. Although I suppose to be fair it was at least something we didn’t know, rather than another comment about her huge family. For their last performance together, the duo has a Mandy Moore contemporary routine about seduction. Mandy hopes it takes our breath away.
And I’m happy to report that it kind of does. Sure, there’s something dated about Celine Dion (and I swear this is why Mandy doesn’t always get the rapturous response that Travis does), but the song “Seduces Me” brings Dion’s typical power, passion and slowly building intensity. “Everything you are, everything you’ll be, touches the current of love so deep in me.” Rudy wears an open white button down over black pants, and Tanisha a diaphanous gown, again Grecian inspired, in either black or navy or both with little red braided accents twisted in, and it whips around her as she floats through the air.
What I love about this piece more than anything – and I really love it – is that neither dancer betrays the smallest awareness that they’re on a stage, that there are other people around, that anything in the universe exists besides the other. It’s such a striking contrast to their fantastic and equally sexy hip hop from last week, not merely because it’s fluid, even viscous where the other was harder hitting, but because there’s no boundary between them when last week was all about flirting with and transgressing boundaries. They melt into each other; it’s so intimate that in writing about it, I feel like I should have been embarrassed to watch. Rudy tosses Tanisha all over the stage (and that one handed lift! awesome!), but I’m struck as ever with her sinuous motion; Ricky’s the only other dancer in the competition with such a supple back, and her flexibility is put to great use here, twisting around and over and under Rudy . Wow.
As Cat gathers them in for the judging, Christina slowly stands to clap for them, and the two dancers fall to their knees. It was as if you were dancing with your eyes closed, she tells Rudy, and then calls Tanisha an anomaly and can’t even express herself more, which is a shame, because Tanisha deserves all the praise. Mary screams for them, and mentions that for the third time they’ve been dressed in black and red; it suits you, she says, strong and sexy. As a ballroom specialist, she talks a little bit about the psychological power of removing the second hand during a lift, how incredibly difficult it is even when you know you can do it. Nigel, too, is caught up in this – he praises Tanisha for knowing how to hold herself so she’s easier to lift, and then Rudy because, as they say, “real men don’t lift weights, they lift women.” I say that all the time, don’t you?
Oh, and he calls Rudy Mary’s love child, based on how quiet they both are. Ha.
Finally, we get to see the endangered dancers solo; I can’t see that this will change anything, but it’s nice to get a final look at some of the people we’re going to lose. Serge is dressed all in black (as befitting his SYT funeral) and dances to a very fun, very latin ballroom cover of “Wicked Games,” a radio edit of Parra For Cuva featuring Anna Naklab. The dynamics of the routine are great – fast, slow, fast, slow. Good footwork, gorgeous shapes. Ah, Serge. Sigh. Cat tells us that Rudy and Tanisha are cheering for him from the wings.
Jacque & Zack
It’s Halloween in July, Cat informs us: the tapper and ballerina have drawn a paso doble as their final dance as a couple, and since Jean-Marc Genereux is their choreographer, there’s an extravagant backstory in which Zack is a vampire biting Jacque and bringing her back from the dead. As another vampire, presumably? He doesn’t say.
Oh, wait. Zack has rapping skills and Jacque used to work at a supermarket that really focuses on customer service. Okay.
Anyway. Down to the nitty gritty, which is those freaking amazing, gothic/Victorian vampire costumes. Zack is all in black with a double buttoned, vaguely military looking vest with lots of what I think are metal accents on the back and a fluffy cravat (no cape, oddly); Jacque’s wearing a bustier and tutu under a cape-like maroon silk skirt with lacy tights dark red roses blooming in her hair. It’s all very Halloween and very striking. They cope with the paso pretty well, considering how outside their styles it is; there are lots of good poses, and lots of Jacque making sexy faces, and Zack macking on her neck. Jean-Marc has them dancing to Rob Zombie’s “Dragula” which has an ear splitting baseline, and so feels very Jean-Marc. When the dancers finish and have congregated under Cat’s arm, they turn to the judges only to spit-take; all three judges have popped in vampire teeth.
Ah, theater people.
It chokes Mary a bit to get those teeth out, but when she does, it’s off with the metaphors. Well one – it was love at first bite! It’s great to have Jean-Marc back! The costumes are great! The energy flagged after the wonderful first half. Nigel natters on about how the show won an Emmy for costumes, which can’t be right because they haven’t announced the winners yet, so far as I can tell, but whatever, we can agree that the costumes are awesome. He likes that the concept didn’t overwhelm the routine. For Christina, the two got it right; Zack was strong and masculine, and Jacque was marvelous.
Oh, my sweetie. She’s so delicate in this frothy little pink ruffled dance costume. There’s an amazing spin, and Birdy’s “Not About Angels” is nice, but it’s all no good, of course. Bye bye, birdy.
Emily & Teddy
Emmy will bring her business degree, of course. Which she’s not using right now but she promises she will eventually. Like, I don’t know, maybe later tonight after she’s kicked off the show and doesn’t make the tour? I hate that they don’t all make the tour. I’m expecting Emily to stick to the well-established line and go with Teddy’s eyebrows (as he’s gone with her business degree) but instead, she talks about his rubbery arms, which are apparently his trademark. Do you feel like we’ve gotten to see those? Ah, Teddy, we hardly knew ye.
The two have drawn a Warren Carlyle Broadway routine – awesome! And that explains Emily’s big floppy bun and amazing beaded subtly peacock-inspired dress. She’s got on elbow length gloves with chunky sparkly bracelets and generally looks divine; Teddy got the short end of the costume stick in a black button down and what’s either jeans or green pants. (Flattering, but not nearly so fun.) The idea is that he’s wrapped around her little finger, but she’s playing with him. She’s super flirty and commanding, and the opening is great, but I’m not sure I believe he’s trying to woo her.
My thighs hurt just watching that, Nigel smiles, but goes on to say that it was tough style they didn’t master. Sigh. As if it needed to be clear that these two weren’t advancing! You need your solos, he says, because by the end it was a total let down. Oh, like the solos could save them! Though Christina enjoyed the routine very much and felt transported by the music, she too feels like they could have benefited from watching films of vintage Fosse choreography to get the style better. She does think that Emily’s amazing, and loves Teddy’s otherworldly arms. For her part, Mary’s grateful to have Warren on the show, but felt they went in and out of the proper style; Emily had a better grasp than Teddy, but even she faltered at the end.
For his solo, Casey wears a tank top and spins for days. Or at least those 30 seconds of Ed Sheeran’s “Kiss Me”. End of story.
I love the black skirted leotard Emily’s wearing with the lace sleeves and shoulders. She’s gorgeous, as are the strings in “Infra 8.” She must know she’s going home, that she can’t possibly help herself, but it’s still a lovely solo. I’m glad I got to see you dance again, Emily, and I’m sorry to see you leave.
Jessica & Casey
For once, we do actually get information we didn’t know. Well, no – Jessica tells us that Casey’s strength is in his spins (duh) – but Casey explains that Jessica’s the most awkward girl in the world. We see a few clips of her being endearingly confused and laughing a lot. They’d have done better to show more of this; the poor girl has been really hamstrung by changing partners every week.
But she’s hamstrung no more, because the producers or the fates have gifted her with a Travis Wall routine. Let’s recall Jeanine Mason, who won the show in no small part due to a game-changing Travis Wall routine. His concept is that they’re so in love the world ceases to exist for them. There’s going to be an actual kiss (a world-stopping kiss), which Casey wants us to know he won’t have any trouble getting in character for.
The concept might be similar to “Seduces Me” but the particulars are nothing like. Side by side, Casey and Jessica lie on the ground, a soft yellow light dappled around them as if they’d taken shelter beneath a shady tree, Jessica looking innocent and sweet in a pretty yellow chiffon dress. From the gentle guitar-picking opening, I love Hozier’s “Life Real People Do” – the tender build to it is perfectly Travis. Casey turns and rolls over Jessica, and the two of them flirt and cavort around the stage until she stops in the center of the stage, and the pull is too much for Casey, who carefully places his hands on her face and kisses her. When he does, it’s as if an electric current courses through Jessica, and she convulses, her knees curling and her arms flashing out.
It’s all very, very pretty. I particularly like the move where Casey holds Jessica up and swings her side to side. My husband was stunned by the unison spins, but I have say this; they were perfectly in sync, but somehow Casey just looks like he’s moving faster. I don’t even know how that’s possible, but I’ve noticed it in the group dances and with Brooklyn, and it’s still true. What I get out of the piece as a whole is more first love than Travis’s stated goal – the person who centers you – but I still like it a lot, though probably not more than “Seduces Me” because either the choreography or acting doesn’t tell as clear a story.
That’s not the judges reaction, though; they’re standing. It takes a moment for the dancers to notice this, and then they do, Jessica promptly bursts into tears. Why are you crying, Cat wonders. That was so beautiful! Didn’t you know it was beautiful? The question is genuine, but it’s a useless question: clearly Jessica’s lost confidence in herself (or at the least in her ability to please the judges) after being called a disappointment for three straight weeks. Who wouldn’t? When you add the emotional strain of them both being in danger, of course she’s crying.
“Travis Wall, shut your face,” Christina begins, giving him the hand (which makes him burst out laughing). She said it before and she’ll say it again; she still thinks Jessica could win. Really? Why on earth would you think that? I’m feeling a bit warmer to Jessica now, after that burst of emotion, but I’m still resentful that she’s going to be saved. Anyway. Just listening to Jessica breathe slays Christina, and the kiss (and electric reaction) made her tingle, and all in all, if these two ever end up in the bottom again she’s coming for the audience.
Gee. Don’t give it away or anything. Can you imagine being Serge and Carly waiting to perform backstage hearing that?
Just for good measure Mary repeats Christina’s threat, and says she’s going to go home and watch the routine again and again. They’re a perfect partnership, she says, and the piece was honest and organic. She loved the shock wave of the kiss, and feels that Jessica has finally figured out how to control her face. Wondering whether Casey had been frightened of dancing with Jessica because of her partner-killing ways, Nigel tells the pair they called something brilliant out of each other. It was magical.
It’s crazy, but we’ve never actually seen Teddy’s solo. I think I’d have be much more disposed toward him if we had; it’s playful and clever, and of course features lots of those rubber-arms moves we’re belatedly hearing so much about. Poor Teddy. He looks good, anyway, in his modern tux, and he acquits himself well. Plus Shaj’s a capella version of “If I Ever Fall In Love Again” is snazzy and interesting.
Carly & Serge
Carly, it seems, is a big crier, and gets very emotional about everything. Banner night for her, then, huh? Serge has this tendency to put the floppy hair on the very top of his skull into a tiny ponytail, which Carly dubs the Bronytail. Aw! It’s ridiculous, but I want to cry a little.
And oh, my poor darlings. You got the quickstep? The quickstep? The dance of death? The trickiest genre in the SYT arsenal? It’s a bit difficult for me to quell my inner conspiracy theorist at this news. Jean-Marc’s doing the honors again, and makes the pair dance with plastic cups full of water in their linked hands, the better to see if their top halves are still. All things considered, the fact that most of the water stays in those flimsy disposable cups impresses me.
They may be toast, but damn it if they aren’t going to give this routine ever ounce of passion they have. That’s why I love you two! Beautifully in character, the pair smile and bounce through every step. Serge’s looking dapper in a black vest over a shirt with white cuffs and a white collar – or maybe it’s just the spats I love. Because you know I love me some spats! There’s no question Carly looks divine in her full length aqua gown with its halter neck and cut outs and beads and stunning frothy skirt that flares out as she moves. “A Cool Cat in Town” (Acrophon Mix) by Tape Five featuring Brenda Boykin is again a total Jean-Marc song. There’s great symmetry, and verve, and it’s really well done considering that the only time someone actually rocked the quickstep on this show it was two time world champion Iveta Lukosiute. Honestly, what I take away from this routine the most is the pair’s fierce determination to sell it, their cheer smiling faces that don’t betray the tiniest acknowledgement of impending doom. Hats off to your professionalism, guys.
You coped well with that, Mary tells them, especially considering how far outside your style it was. (She notes that Serge, like Marcquet, is a latin ballroom specialist and so wouldn’t be trained in the standard dances.) Carly went for it; Mary approves the top line and back shape for both. It was a good routine, Nigel tells them, which made great use of the full stage. After that tepid compliment, he takes the opportunity to tell the soon-to-be departing contestants that they’ve performed brilliantly every week, and congratulates them on doing everything that the judges asked of them. (Uuuuuuugh! This kills me.) I love a good quickstep, Christina tells them, “but I saw a lift…” Serge cracks up, because as the roommate of Dancing With The Stars pros, he recognizes the reference to Carrie Anne Inaba. She goes off on a meaningless tangent about how important it is to really study the films of great dancers like Cyd Charisse and Anne Miller before saying that they were both fabulous.
In a bright red spaghetti-strapped dress, Jessica spins to Beyonce’s “Fever.” Like Casey, she’s a master at perfect turns; fast, preposterously slow, perfectly straight. It’s really excellent.
Valerie & Ricky
FYI, Valerie is a tomboy; she might appear cute and sweet, but she also climbs trees and skips stones. Cause those things are mutually exclusive? For his part, Ricky has gotten the rest of the house addicted to his Cuban coffee, without which a hard day of rehearsal would be impossible.
Since Pharside and Phoenix are in the house to perform, they’ve also kindly consented to do a little choreography, too. Not that I’m complaining, because these guys rule, but where are Tabitha and Napoleon this season? Anyway, it’s clear that the Academy of Villains duo got the Halloween in July memo (or maybe it’s just that everyone else adjusted their styles to this?) because in this routine, Ricky’s a witch doctor, and Valerie’s his voodoo doll. I’m super-excited to see these two do hip hop.
It’s perfect from the start; Ricky’s wearing a bright blue shirt under a vest and hat decorated with bones, and Valerie’s this magical Raggedy Anne doll with striped stockings, a burlap dress with puffed sleeves and a large heart stuck with over-sized pins, her hair in ponytails and her face painted with stitches. As befits the theme, the stage is adorned with clumps of candles and an archway lit in green. Per her promise, Valerie walks the line between being limp and doll like without becoming a lump; she’s pleasantly floppy, but still hard-hitting, which doesn’t feel like it ought to be possible but is. And Ricky’s just everything you’d expect as well; nicely menacing and deep down in the pocket. They both stomp the heck out of DJ Snake and Lil’ Jon’s “Turn Down For What?” which we’ve heard at least once during the season already (Courtney Barnes audition at least). The highlight is Valerie plopping down into a split and then, as Ricky waves his hands above her, essentially does the waves with her legs. NUTS.
Need I even say that the judges adore every little bit of it? Nigel can’t believe she performed the leg wave in side split. (It took lots of practice, she reports). The characters were great, Nigel proclaims before going off on his usual spiel about how Ricky’s one of the greatest technical dancers they’ve ever had on the show, finishing by saying that they were both outstanding outside their genres. Christina tells them that she’s been super excited to come on the show so she could meet them; I’m going to hold you to that, a stunned and flattered Ricky crows. That was the best number of the night, Mary announces (so, wait, why didn’t you stand for it?). She praises the piece’s musicality, says they got their get down down, and that they murdered it.
Top Seven Girls
Before seven becomes five, Mandy Moore has a contemporary routine for the girls. Her vision is of strong women dancing together, and she does not want it to be pretty, damn it.
My first thought when I see the dancers take the stage, their bare backs to the audience, draped in various shades of purple silk that trails the floor, was that this is the wrong image. You don’t want them to look pretty, why did you dress them like this? But as the dance progresses – to Evanescence’s haunting “My Immortal” – and the girls have leaned on each other, one at a time, and the music takes off, I can see what she was aiming for. It’s nothing so paltry and small as pretty. It’s like the famous description in The Hunger Games: “I am not pretty. I am not beautiful. I am as radiant as the sun.” When they dance in unison, they’re tough and strong without relinquishing their extravagantly obvious femininity or their individual vulnerability, which impresses me. Really, the more that I think about what she did, the more I love it.
The judges, unsurprisingly, stand. I can’t even breathe right now, Christina gasps. This was such a gift from Mandy. She calls out tapper Valerie for keeping up all the contemporary girls (what, like Tanisha and Jacque?) and Jessica again for breathing, but then shushes herself because they were all perfect together and she wants them to know they were equally fantastic. Mary chokes up talking about sisterhood, the way the girls all leaned on each other as we need to do in real life. It is a gift, Nigel agrees, and the show is a gift, this place to make Art on television, and Misty was wrong to call out the boys as being better.
Guest Crew – Academy of Villains
Hey, don’t worry about it! You’re still a super hot female! Or so Gwen Stefani sings in “What You Waiting For” while the group dances. It’s fun enough – they’re in white suits and wearing face masks or something with skulls drawn roughly in neon green day glo paint, with more day glo paint smeared on their torsos and pant legs, and they make use of four glow in the dark rectangles that resemble door frames. There’s a little breaking and a basket toss. It’s all good, although oddly it’s not as exciting as the chess routine.
Top Seven Boys
The boys get Travis, and Travis gets to go last, again. This week’s quite different from his group number for last week, though there’s still a lot of flying through the air – the men are the lost souls of the sea, and he thinks it could be one of his favorite routines ever.
The opening is start and dramatic, with six dancers rising out of the edges stage and one kingly in the middle (Rudy?), all wearing slim pants underneath gray braided cummerbunds topping flowy fabric that basically looks like someone cut fabric for pants in several panels but then didn’t actually sew the panels together, so that the fabric creates large arcs when the dancers wheel and spin. They’re like, I don’t know, ninja chaps. Beck’s “Wave” fits the tone – it’s far more eerie than I think of Beck being – everyone moves as if under water. Eerie seems to be my word for this episode, doesn’t it? Ah well, Halloween in July. I love the lift where they hoist Ricky up and pass him down a line of dancers, his legs flaring out and them swinging around in front of him, and of course the huge amount of air that Emilio catches in the basket toss. The men link arms in a line, waving as one being, and I notice that they all have blue paint daubed onto one arm and part of their chest. To finish the piece, each man falls off the stage, one by one, presumably into a bank of cushions.
Again the judges are on their feet. That was memorable, smart and important, Mary trills. What a leap of fate that was, especially the spectacular Emilio catapult. It reminded Nigel of scuba diving in a reef; it was another gift, and maybe Misty was a little right about the guys after all. Truly emotional, Christina praises Travis’s musical choices. Do you know why I come here, she asks them. “I come here cause I get to have that, and I don’t get to have this every day.” No, it’s definitely not like taking your child to preschool. Then to cut the tension, she leans into her mike, puts up a hand, and whispers “I don’t know if you know this, but your boobs are showing, so you might want to pull up your tube tops.” Ha! The boys bust a gut, and Cat cracks a joke about Simon Cowell.
And that brings us to the ugly and the inevitable – the four dancers going home. All six dancers in danger assemble, and ever emotional Carly has tears in her eyes already, because she knows. Before saying that the judges are unanimous in their decision, he reminds everyone that a dancer’s lot in life is to face more rejection than acceptance, and all three of the judges have had to face it many times even in successful careers. With that, he asks Casey and Jessica to stay; this time they both burst into tears. Of the six ballroom dancers in the top ten, only one remains.
Now for the good news: Cat tells us which All Stars will pair with the dancers for next week. Rudy has Jenna (and as such, presumably ballroom), Zack has Amy (jazz or contemporary), Jacque nearly falls over at the news she has Chehon (ballet, whoa!), Ricky has Lauren (could be jazz, contemporary or even Broadway), Bridget has Brandon (contemporary or disco), Emilio has Jasmine (hip hop or contemporary, probably the former), Tanisha has Ryan (ballroom!), Casey has Kathryn (contemporary, disco or Bollywood), Valerie has Ade (contemporary) and Jessica has tWitch (hip hop, her nemesis from Call Backs).
And that’s it! This is how such shows goes, so I’m trying not to be so bitter about Serge and Carly; they were nothing but wonderful the entire season, never putting a foot wrong! But they just didn’t get the votes, and what can you do about that? I notice, however, there was no self-justification this week suggesting that Casey and Jessica had the most votes and Nigel was letting America decide.