So You Think You Can Dance: Meet the Top Ten, Season 14

E: Ladies and Gentlemen, we are officially underway.  Welcome to the live shows, the high point of the season!  It’s a little odd that we’re just starting this the second week in August, but as long as they don’t short change us on the goodness, then it’s all smiles from here.

You may have noticed that the editors totally snowed me with the last Academy Week episode; I guessed correctly on all the partnerships except the ones that got highlighted, and with those I was 0 for 3.  I’m embarrassed and annoyed with myself, and also a little peeved.  I guess those editors did their jobs well, though, amping up the drama where I hadn’t thought there was any before! Without delay, here are our pairs:

(Sorry, there clearly has been delay!  Hence I’m bringing both pieces the top ten performed in each show, together. Routine 1 is from Show 1, and Routine 2 and the solo are from Show 2.  Dance order comes from the first show.  Spoilery info woven through the whole.) Opening Group Number 1:  Since the first show revealed the contestants one by one, the initial group number (featuring a set of ramps and dramatic uplighting) was danced only by the All Stars.   Because of the dramatic lighting, it was obvious from the start that there were only 9 All Stars, but it took me a while to figure out that it was Allison who was missing, and then Cat (clad in a shimmery long red dress with spaghetti straps) completed our knowledge explaining that the All Star and DWTS pro had injured her shoulder.   The dance itself was not as memorable as the flash mob that began the Academy weeks, but was a perfectly fine effort from Mandy Moore.  It did set up what felt like a mini theme-of-the-week with the use of Raign’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” (yes, a cover of the pop classic): how many different ways can the lighting department bring us stars?  We’re reaching for the stars.  We’re knocking.  We’re bathed in their light.

Opening Group Number 2: This one I flat out adored – Mandy partnered with Val Chmerkovsky on a fantastic disco joyride, using the top twenty to celebrate the 40 year anniversary of Saturday Night Fever.  There were white suits.  There were shimmery jumpsuits.  There was huge hair.  There was falsetto. There was partnering and synchronized footwork.  There were wigs and fake mustaches that rendered the men largely unrecognizable.  They went all in.  (Cat wore silver disco pants, for Pete’s sake.) There was, of course, the Bee Gees reminding us all “You Should Be Dancing.”  It was perfect.

And after the opening numbers, we met the top ten.

Fik-shun and Dassy Lee:

They’re an obvious pair, aren’t they?  Wonderful all around dancers, wonderful popping and flexing, both so winning with their enormous smiles… I’m sorry for Kyle Bennet, but even if he was a girl I don’t think he could have truly competed for this slot.

Routine 1: Poppin’ Pete sets these crazy kids chair dancing in zoot suits to start the first show, and it’s everything crisp, clean, adorable and winning.  “Shake Your Pants” by Cameo backed the fun up, and kept us zipping along.  The only thing I didn’t like about this dance and pairing was the moment Nigel enthused that Fik-shun finally has a partner worthy of him.  Um, hello?  I’m feeling miffed on the behalf of Kids Season winner Kida and Fik-shun’s original cowinner, Amy Yakima?  For a solo artist, Fik-shun has actually been exceptionally graced with great partners.   Will Dassy continue the trend?  I’m not sure.  Actually, there is another thing I didn’t love about this: the super cool hats (which evoked not just zoot suits but also Jack Nicholson’s Joker) hid the dancers’ faces, cutting down a little on performance value.

Routine 2:  Bollywood!  Excellent.  I love seeing Nakul Dev Mahajan in Choregrapher’s Row, because I always know a treat is coming.  For most of the routine the two are flirty and perfectly synched, though I thought their energy flagged a little toward the end.  My kids thought they looked liked Jasmine and Aladdin, probably due to Fik-shun’s super cool jacket and skirt-like pants.  I do kind of wonder if fans will overlook Dassy’s stumble off Fik-Shun’s back or punish her the way they did his original partner Amy, who tripped in “Let’s Get It On.”  I hope not; that felt awful and mean-spirited at the time.  In case you’re wondering about the music, it was “Radha Nachegi” from the Tevar soundtrack.

Solo: Isn’t she just so cute?  I love it when Dassy gets sassy; like Fik-shun, she gives us everything with an endearing wink and smile.  And Edit’s “Battling Go-Go Yubari in Downtown L.A.” provided for her every move.  Girl is so musical!   Is it a little weird that I never want to just call her Dassy?  Dassy Lee just sounds so much fun.

Allison and Logan

Could this have been any more obvious a pairing?  I mean, yeah, it’s a little funny that he’s SO young; it’s going to hard not to consider their relationship as mother/child.  Or at least siblings with a big age difference.  While it was painful to lose such a talented dancer again, I am thrilled, totally thrilled, to hear that Zachary’s taking over the lead role in Cats from Ricky; he gets his well deserved shot too!

Routine 1: Because of Allison’s shoulder injury (boo!) ,  the show recruits Audrey Case to partner Logan, and their Tyce Diorio twisted relationship piece set to Leon Else’s “Protocol” is beautifully danced.  I can’t think why this didn’t resonate with voters, because it was terrific – dramatic uplights casting their rejections and tension and coming together in clear view.  I’m not a huge fan of Tyce, and it took me a sec to remember Audrey, but I enjoyed this very very much. It must not have stood out enough, especially when compared to some of the other routines, especially the other contemporary with flowy neutral clothing we’ll discuss later on.

Routine 2: Finally dancing together, Allison and Logan get the kiss of death – a Brian Friedman jazz routine.  (Not literally, but his routines are odd and don’t tend to connect with viewers.  I worry when he’s on the show.)  As usual, his set up is peculiar: the dancers are on a futuristic blind date where they are made literally blind by heavy face shields.  There’s lots of futuristic costuming (though I confess I don’t get the huge table or wine goblets – it made me think of the Howells on Gilligans Island, sitting too far appart to hear each other) and lots of fast moves and a lot of bright, repetitive disco-jazz-pop in Jaded’s “In the Morning.” (Get her a ring because she sees what she wants?  That’s some blind date!) Logan is all splits and twists and ridiculousness. He does this crazy spin on the floor with one leg over his head that shouldn’t be humanly possible, something that looked outrageous in rehearsal, but his bulky coat masked it during the show.  Should we worry about them for week 3?

Solo: More weird amazing moves set to “Radical Self” by AGF.  I think he’s wow.  I also think it’s smart of him to choose those flowy dance pants without a shirt, because then you can actually see the crazy stuff he does.

I’m honestly stunned that he ended up in the bottom.  Maybe people didn’t connect to the piece because Allison wasn’t in it?  Maybe it’s sort of related to what Mary said in this week’s critique – he moves so damn fast that if you blink, you’ve missed the astonishing things he can do.  If you notice, they show him on slow-mo in rehearsal, a technique which highlights his virtuosity but doesn’t really work in the live shows.

Jenna and Kiki:

Sigh.  This choice was brutal.  I’m happy to see Kiki but also really sorry to lose Kevin Davis. Ballroom dancers don’t have the best track record on this show; it’s more a lengthy audition for Dancing With the Stars (who’ve borrowed liberally from the contestants for both pros and their troupe – think Witney, Chelsie, Lacie, Dmitry, Alan, Britney and yes, Jenna – than it is a competition ballroom dancers are likely to win.  In  13 seasons, Benji Schwimmer is the only ballroom dancer to take the title, and even he isn’t Latin ballroom but that wild off-shoot West Coast Swing.  Which means its never been done.  Of course winning isn’t everything (look at Travis Wall, one of the show’s most storied contestants, who lost to the far less successful Schwimmer), but I really thought Jenna was in it to win it.  Can Kiki take her there?   The judges didn’t seem sold yet.  One thing everyone can agree on, however, is that the show needs more of Jenna’s fantastic choreography.

Routine 1: Dmitry Chaplin puts Jenna and Kiki at a glowing pink bar in this fast and furious showcase of fleet feet and sultry hips.  Kiki’s in black pants and a short sleeve white shirt with a bow tie sewn down, untied, on it.  I can’t decide if he’s a guest who loosened the tie at the end of a party, or if spangled up Jenna’s going after the bartender, but who cares?  They’re spicy, they speedy, they’re fun.  The dancers clearly take their no holds barred attitude from Shawn Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.”  Nigel thinks that Jenna is far more interesting than Kiki (he would), and cautions him that while his job as a ballroom partner is to present the girl, he has to make his presence felt too; while she’s generally thrilled with him, Mary notes that he’s flown under her radar in the competitive ballroom world.  Ouch!  So I don’t know exactly how to interpret the judges responses; it felt like a lot of backhanded compliments.

Routine 2: I just changed my mind about Jenna’s choice. I adored Kiki’s lit hip hop redemption, and I found Kiki pretty damn likable in the rehearsal package, too, not least because he worked so hard after failing so miserably at hip hop in the Academy.  He and Jenna have a nice energy together, and the fact that he kept trying to dance with his glasses on, which kept flying off at the staccato movements of Luther Brown’s Joker/Harley Quinn dance of greedy joy?  Really entertaining.  Both dancers fully transformed into their characters, manic and sexy and fierce, all thrusting hips and loose arms.  Loved the look (green hair, white make up, long striped sleeveless coat for Kiki over a nude undershirt that gives the suggestion of tattoos, striped corset over a plether bodysuit of Jenna), loved the sound, loved the dancers and their attitudes.  Like Cat and the judges, I particularly loved the moment when Kiki shot a fur swathed Jenna with a money gun, producing a flurry of faux-hundred dollar bills bearing Nigel’s face; I had a quick second where I thought he was going to actually shot her with something serious, which is just the creepy romantic weird line this routine treads.  They’re imperfectly perfect for each other! As the head judge said, the dance gods really did answer Luther’s prayer for swagger; Jenna and Kiki killed it.  Might be my favorite routine of the night, from the costumes to the attitude to Anime’s “Caroline” on the soundtrack.  (“Oh ma gahd, it’s mah bay-by!”) Just don’t play the whole song in front of your kids, okay?

Solo: It’s not easy to do a ballroom solo, but that was also pretty fast and furious.  Alessandro Olivato Orchestra’s “The Drummer” was the backing track.

Cyrus and Kaylee:

I”m not going to lie, I kind of thought that Cyrus might pick up Konkrete after Jenna dissed him.  Nope!  These two are a visually stunning pair and sport matched genuine smiles.  I’m hopeful and so pleased my first favorite made the live shows.

Routine 1: I’m so mad at the way the judges reacted to this (though I cracked up hearing Vanessa confess to throwing her high heels at a romantic partner a few years back).  I’m also mad that the routine wasn’t better fitted to show off these two; I don’t think the problem had anything to do with dancing (at least not on Kaylee’s part).   Was it Emile Sande’s “Clown” being a little overwrought?  (No, it’s a cool song.) The whole piece containing too much anger for two cheerful sweeties? Too much of her being mad and him being clueless? Heck, I’m mad that they put Kaylee in that awkward dress that fought so viciously against her earthy, tomboy style, and Cyrus is a suit that wasn’t sufficiently dressed up to match it.  Costume department and Tessandra Chavez, what were you thinking?  It felt like a sabotage, honestly.  She’s one of my favorite dancers here, and I want her to stay, darn it.  I felt like Cyrus mostly disappeared (minus that cool roll) and Kaylee spent too much time miming yelling at him – but again, I will say the dancing wasn’t the disaster Nigel made it out to be.

Routine 2: After last week’s attempt at contemporay/hip hop fusion, this pair got a Pharside and Phoenix piece about aliens experimenting with their new human forms, and it was just delightful.  I suppose any time choreographers bring Missy Elliot (here featuring Lamb on “I’m Better”) it’s a good day.  The weird and off-kilter movement fit them not merely far better, but perfectly.  They put them in fun, flattering clothes, which helped – a 50s vibe, which is neat because the set up is 50s B movie.  I believed them as unhuman. There was a sort of Doctor Whovian delight between the two as they tried to find balance; think Matt Smith’s Doctor and Amelia Pond.  You know the scene where they tear up her kitchen to figure out what the long lived Doctor (in his newest incarnation) likes to eat?  This piece had that energy to it and that unbridled joy, 100%.  Am I right? Anybody?  Anyway, they get much better feedback from the judges this time, and it’s a relief.  Particular stand out moves are the point where Cyrus moonwalks with Kaylee’s head on the ground and her feet tucked under his arms – and also when Kaylee perches on his back and holds her legs up off the ground.  So cool.

Solo: Kaylee’s solo does not disappoint.  Female contemporary solos tend to look the same, but there is nothing about Kaylee’s movement that’s the same as anyone else’s.  I did notice a trick she may have pulled from last week’s contemporary routine where she bucked up off Cyrus’ back; this time, she didn’t jump off anyone else.  Excellent.  LVNDVN’s “Dragon” made it clear that this was not another flowy contemporary solo.

I have to admit, I fully expected them to be in the bottom three.  I’m glad folks out there love Kaylee as much as I do and are giving her the chance to excel that she deserves.

Gaby and Lex

Okay, so.  Lex is obviously an awesome dancer and he come made with a handy storyline that the judges are pushing.  Mary said it straight out: we were after Chehon from the start to be less serious, to become an emotional as well as technical performer, and he went on to win the show!  No doubt they have Lex pegged as a possible winner for his amazing virtuosity in many styles.  But I can’t help it; I miss Evan, with his open, eager face, and his obvious chemistry with Gaby.

Routine 1: I was further snowed by the presence of Anthony Morigerato in Choreographer’s Row, which I erroneously presumed to be a clear sign of Evan’s presence.  But no!  Lex is no slouch in what’s perhaps my favorite performance of the night.  He carries off the Fred and Ginger glamor of this old school piece, and looks smashing in his white tux just as Gaby glows in her feathers and fringe.  They were pretty near perfect; the thing about this kind of old school dance is that it entertains you, it makes you feel good, it lifts you up, and they did that.  It’s a style that requires a ton of work, but has to look like the participants are having the time of their lives – and because they’re enjoying it, we do.  And we did.  I wanted to throw something at Nigel for mocking the utter lack of emotion with which Lex told us Gaby had helped him up his stage presence and personality, even if I completely agreed with the sentiment.  I wonder if Nigel presented his comment that way – so rudely – so we would see Lex as the underdog and victim in need of our pity votes?

Routine 2: We have a Miriam and Leonardo Argentine tango to “Red and Black (Rojo y Negro)” by Ryota Kimatsu.  This one is tricky.  I adore the Argentine tango.  It’s usually one of the highlights of the season for me.  I thought the seriousness of it would really suit Lex, but he’s not quite able to emote enough even for this.  I feel so disloyal saying it, but Gaby outside of her style even floundered a tiny bit; there were times when her flicks (ganchos?) lacked the necessary sharpness and speed.  When you compare this piece to great tangos we’ve seen on SYT in the past – Chehon and Anya, Brandon and Janette, Hayley and Leonardo, Caitlynn and Pasha, ) it comes up short. Heck, it can’t even come close to Paul and Ruby’s brother/sister tango from last season.  And while there were moments of real tension (I love that thing where the guy puts the heels of his hands on the girl but doesn’t bring his fingers into contact with her body) I still can’t help thinking how much more sexy a routine we would have seen if she was paired with Evan.  We did see a far more human Lex in the rehearsal package, though, so that’s a plus.

Solo: Is it weird to say that you can tell Lex is just a year or two older than Logan?  They’re really similar stylistically – impossibly bendy and gymnastic, innovative in their fusion of contemporary dance with hip hop – but Lex feels that tiny bit more mature, and I think it’s going to work in his favor.  The soundtrack is “Rollin” by Shakka Featuring Frisco, and as with Logan, it’s wow.

Comfort and Mark:

As we barely knew anything about Deja, this felt like a foregone conclusion.  But it also feels great, because Mark and Comfort feel so right and natural together.

Routine 1:  Luther Brown is super into Anime right now – two weeks of live shows, two routines, two Anime songs.  This one, “Redmercedes,” is compulsively twitchy just like “Caroline,” and lends itself well to these two getting madcap in the hubcaps.  They’re so in synch, I love it!  Their black and white leather outfits are fun and flirty, as is their relationship.  I’m not going to lie, I thought he might be in trouble when his little super enthusiastic gushing after the positive judging devolved into profanity.  I guess people aren’t as touchy as they used to be (remember Justin Guarini landing in the bottom after talking back to the judges on American Idol?  Not the same thing but still).  I find him pretty darn likeable,  and I’m really excited to see what this two crazy kids do this season.

Routine 2: Ray Leeper gives the pair a sexy jazz routine about a couple that fights for domination.  As with much of Ray’s work, the choreography doesn’t really tell the story he suggests (at least usually I don’t see it) but here I don’t really care.  It was steamy and athletic and fun and I enjoyed it.  Now, do I believe them as lovers?  I don’t know.  I didn’t find it quite as steamy as Mary clearly did, but I enjoyed all the crawling over chairs, and I enjoyed them, and I enjoyed seeing Mark pull off a serious style.  Various Productions “Hater” maybe was my least favorite part of the piece.  I could see this one being an issue, partly because it started the show and wasn’t the most memorable.  Sometimes starting things off just okay can be the unfortunate kiss of death.

Solo:  Forgive me for bring up American Idol again, but I love that he took a slow song (Sade’s “Is It A Crime”) and attacked it from a more street dance perspective.  That’s just smart, and really fun.  Very suave, and so controlled.  I dig it.

Marko and Koine:

I guessed Marko’s partner wrong, and I’m glad I was wrong; I didn’t see it in Academy week, but Koine is a spectacular fit for Marko.

Routine 1: Malibu bride Barbie and Ken!  Now, I actually thought the Stacey Tookey piece centered on Koine reliving memories of a lost love, but I guess it’s not mutually exclusive to see it as a wedding.  She did have that crown of flowers that looked appropriate to a boho beach wedding.  It seems like Nigel thinks the dancers should get married because they’re both Asian (sigh) and because of the favorable size comparison (teeny Koine makes Marko look more manly?) which is a little awkward.  Oh Nigel.  Am I judging  you too harshly?  They do have bang up chemistry, and their movements fit together beautifully.   Altogether lovely and flowing and emotional and one of my favorite routines of the night.  Yay Marko!  Alex Somers’ “Memories” brought the dancers together, holding each other in a framed view; we end with Koine gazing longingly at a polaroid of Marko holding her as he did in the beginning of the piece.  She’s literally holding on to a beautiful moment.

Routine 2: Sean Cheeseman, African jazz and insects.  Interesting.  I gotta say, I loved the costumes and the movement even if the I was pleased with Nigel for calling out the true international set of cast and crew that put this together – Americans from Guam and Japan along with a Afro-Canadian choreographer using the music of a British group featuring an (Asian) Indian singer.   I did find this more musical than the other a capella piece we heard (“Speaking in Tongues II” by Sheila Chandra – I mean, wow, how does she speak-sing so quickly and with such clear sound? masterful), and I can see where Sean got the whole insect feeling from it.  I’m a huge fan of the those shredded bodysuits, which conveyed exoskeletal ridging without actually being silly or rigid, and the amazing feathered headpiece that Cat couldn’t resist wearing through half the critique.  Splendid.

Solo:  It was certainly well danced, and I liked her maroon bodysuit, but I’d like to see her with more original choreography.   She tried – there was a little hip hop flavor, which suited her – but she could kick it up even more.

Paul and Sydney

It came as no surprise that Paul picked Sydney rather than Kristina.  I don’t mean to say that Sydney’s a better dancer, but he’s seemed connected to her from the start.

Routine 1: Dancing With the Stars‘ Val Chmerkovsky delivered the pair a routine to Martin Solveig’s “All Stars,” continuing the celestial theme of the week.  Yet another starry backdrop (this time of tiny pinpricks of light) spin midway through to reveal enormously, brightly colored panels.  The whole look was sparkly, but Sydney seemed terrified from the moment she ran out onto the stage, and it showed in her dancing, particularly a few unsteady lifts.  For me this was the weakest of the bunch – just not memorable – and I was really surprised by that considering how she excelled through all of Academy Week.

Routine 2: Okay, that made up for it.  Choreographer Jaci Royal spoke to Sydney’s soul, the story of a girl who has ambitions bigger than her small town which require her to leave her first love behind.  And wouldn’t you know, that’s the story of Sydney’s life!  Within the last year she left a tiny town in Utah for L.A. with dreams to make it big.  Her emotional investment couldn’t be clearer as she lives each moment of “The Letting Go” (oh, Melissa Etheridge, few voices carry heart ache the way yours does).  They seem to be walking through a forest, dressed in regular clothes. That dance run in the middle!  It’s wonderful.  Paul is right there with her; when her grabs a hold of her wrist, I can feel his passion and longing and heartbreak.  It’s a lovely piece, which ultimately saves her from elimination (or perhaps it’s Mary’s love of ballroom, since we know that Vanessa was in Robert’s camp) and the more I watch it, the more I appreciate how each little flicker of Sydney’s eyelashes conveys her ambivalence and pain.  It’s probably even more moving to me because Sydney looks like one of the dance assistants at my daughters’ studio who just left for college, and I can imagine her doing this routine.

Solo:  Hmm.  The square fringe on her dress is a little odd – I think my girls and I were looking more at the outfit than the first part of the routine, anyway – but the split and ending pose are great.  Ballroom doesn’t really lend itself to solos, but she did well considering that. “Swish Swish” by Katy Perry Feat. Nicki Minaj is certainly a perfect ballroom choice!

Robert and Taylor

Oh my gosh, this pair. I love them love them love them.  They make me gush with hearts and flowers and sparkly unicorns. Which makes what I’m about to say a little weird.

Routine 1: The music (Son Lux’s “Change is Everything”) killed this routine for me: the repetitive spoken word just annoyed me. I get it!  This moment does change everything!  I get it!  You could have said other things and I would still have gotten it.  No, sorry, I take that back: is Lux singing “this moment changes everything” or “this moment, change is everything,” as the title is written, because those are actually two totally different things.  Too semantic a distinction?  I may be alone in this, but though the dancing was wonderful (so wonderful) I wasn’t remotely tempted to cry.  Music matters to me, and between the repetitive lines and the not very musical a cappella singing, it did not present enough of an actual picture to let me know what was going on.   Why are the bones glowing as they break?  Is Taylor a ghost?  Is Robert breaking her bones?  Is she breaking away from him?  I don’t get it.  Am I a philistine?  I’m sorry (and yet not really sorry).  Maybe if there was a rehearsal package I’d have had more of an idea of what the great Travis Wall intended, and that would have put the piece in enough context to make it work for me.  The drop off Robert’s shoulders into a roll?  Amazing.  All those lifts?  Glorious.   The lines?  Be still my beating heart.  But I don’t get it.  (Oh, and either Taylor or Robert has an incorrect idea of their own height, because there’s no way there’s the difference between them Cat insisted.)

Routine 2: Al Blackstone’s insistence on calling this a Film Noir inspiration confused me; I kept expecting Taylor to be a femme fatale instead of an ingenue.  Or Robert to be more evil, or somebody to show up with poison or a tommy gun.  But after a few viewings I was able to just accept the routine for what it was, which was amazing.  Judy Garland’s “The Man Who Got Away” certainly gave us that melancholy Hollywood glam feel, anyway.  These two are so well matched, and they bring so much emotion to what they do. They soar!  And those lines!  I will say that Taylor’s outfit was in my opinion one of the few sartorial missteps of a generally gorgeous evening; I adored the open back of her blue dress, but found the front overly complicated with a deep v sandwiched between a white Peter Pan collar and a ruched waist with a glittery broach that gave the effect of a giant paw reaching around her midsection.  Too much!   Way, way too much! Robert was of course matinee idol handsome in shirtsleeves and suspenders.    Nigel called them the couple to beat, and if it’s really about dance, I believe it.

Solo:  Again, I’ll say it: the lines!  Taylor is breath-taking.  I appreciated listing to a little Brandi Carlisle (“Tragedy”) and wasn’t even offended that Taylor performed the dance in her very pretty gray lace underwear.  If you’re going to do the standard contemporary girl stuff, you do it like this.  I mean, damn.

Jasmine and Robert

Despite his unfortunate moniker, Howard Johnson seemed like a really cool dude and a good fit for Jasmine, but you have to love Robert.  How could we not have Robert on the show?  Good luck in the future, Howard.

Routine 1: Unlike the rest of the contestants, who run out onto the stage after the “moment of decision/green mile” clip, we find out who Jasmine’s picked when she turns around a barber chair with Robert in it.  Christopher Scott’s come up with a very unusual hair salon set routine to Burno Mars’ effervescent, omnipresent “Perm” which involves quite a lot of hairspray, jaunty 80s flavored clothes, and good feelings. “Nobody light a match,” Cat cautions, and I defy you not to wince when Jasmine sprays right into Robert’s face.  It’s bouncy and flouncy and fun and felt like a wonderful upbeat end to a pretty decent first show.

Routine 2: Stacey Tookey has Robert as a broken down man in a 50s hotel where Jasmine works, wearing a yellow dress that looks perhaps like a housekeeping outfit.  They’re drawn together by their mutual despair, and find comfort in that.  They’ve hung a hotel sign and use Perfume Genius’s “Other Side” and in a way, this downtrodden pair feels far more Film Noir than Al Blackstone’s glossy offering.  Frankly I think Robert’s an amazing contemporary dancer – his reach and extension are wonderful, and he’s so invested in the emotion.  The two sit and curl around a long bench.  It’s maybe not one of Stacey’s best pieces (there are so many great ones!), but I quite liked it, and I definitely thought both dancers seemed worn down and desperate.   I wanted more from you, Nigel says, which baffles me utterly.  What more could he give? Mary and Vanessa said they disagreed, but when it came down to it, the first week’s bravura performance wasn’t enough to keep him when paired with this step outside his style.  I don’t even know what to say about that.

Solo: Oh, how I love Robert’s jiggles and curls and smiles and impossible back bends.  I don’t love Chris Brown, but “Look @ Me Now” works well here.  And those bright yellow pants with the silver zip up sweatshirt!  I so wish he had more time to discuss fashion with Cat.

When there are only ten contestants, every cut is going to sting – but I might think that judges messed up here.  In sum I thought that Robert’s two dancers were better than Sydney’s, and his solo work is far more interesting.  And he’s a lot more theatrical and vivacious, though to counterbalance that Jasmine has been either incredibly quiet or totally ignored by the editors.  I thought Sydney admirably moved past the nerves of the first show and connected deeply with this week’s routine (so good!  so good!), so hopefully her performances will just keep improving.  I certainly wish her well; I’m just sad that Robert’s journey wasn’t longer.

Ending notes:

Stepping, the Leapful Ladies of Baltimore with the All Stars.  Cool.  I love that there’s a documentary about this group.  Go ladies!  I can’t decide, though, if it minimizes the uniqueness of what they do to have the All Stars join then, or if it’s a celebration.  Let’s go with the latter, hmm?

Group Routine:

Wade and Amanda Robson work with Tony Tesla to take Son Lux’s “This Time” to a literal garden, where green and gray garbed All Stars tend the blooming flowers Nigel told them to pick back in the start of Academy Week.  The top ten have gauzy skirts over their heads at first, turning them into closed buds in pink and maroon.  It’s a bit too literal for me, but still pretty cool.   It’s nice to have Wade and Amanda around, anyway.

Sorry I made you wait for so long for it!  What did you think?  Were you comfortable with Robert going home? Do you think it should have been Sydney or Robert going home, or would this not have been your bottom three at all?   Now to watch today’s show and find out who’s brought us down to eight.

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