Your guest judges for episode 99 are Mia Michaels and Ellen Degeneres, for reasons which totally escape me. But at least Ellen can tell jokes that go somewhere. Take note, Nigel.
Group number: contemporary/hip-hop thingie. This was substandard by any yardstick. Yes, yes, they’re all proud of Travis, but this was so boring – dull, predictable group choreography that felt like recital-lite with brief moments of interest when individual dancers were allowed to show off their particular stunts. (Except for Evan, because he is short and all he does that the others don’t is jump high and be charming.) Standard (and wholly undeserved) judge blowjob for Travis. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Janette and Shorty: jazz and rumba. Janette blew me away in Sonya’s jazz piece, but I can’t help but feel Shorty was terribly hard done by as regards Sonya’s choreo; the piece, I think, focused a lot more on Janette doing these awesome things and Shorty, well, carrying her around so she could do the awesome things. Which he did fine, but. Mary Murphy comments that this piece is way outside of Shorty’s area; Shorty is specifically a jazz dancer and this was a jazz dance routine. Shut up, Mary. Mia comments that Shorty is too nice to dance in one of Sonya’s Tim Burton imitations, because Sonya is dark and writes poetry in coffee houses and stuff. Shut up, Mia.
The rumba… look, we know Shorty is a white boy, but making him dance a rumba to Kris Allen is just cruel. Tony and Melanie’s slow routines almost always bore the crap out of me and this was no exception. (Where the hell is Jason Gilkison or Jean-Marc? Or Dmitri or Pasha and Anya? Where did Louis Amstel go? When did Tony and Melanie become the Tabitha and Napoleon of ballroom?) Janette was predictably excellent as this and balanced out Shorty’s boringtude; I actually think he had the attitude but didn’t quite show up with the ability. Nigel says Shorty has “heavy eyebrows,” which… what?
Janette’s solo: Well, if you use up all your ballroom tricks in one solo, I guess you go for mock-contemporary. Which wasn’t bad, albeit technically not all there.
Shorty’s solo: The air he gets on his leaps just staggers me. At some point, maybe a choreographer will actually, like, use it.
Jeanine and Brandon: waltz and pop/jazz. Jeanine was better in the waltz than Brandon, who I think was pretty obviously uncomfortable with it. Her rise and fall was quite good; his was intermittent at best, sometimes there, sometimes not. The footwork was solid; nothing amazing, but no major mistakes. They had very good chemistry, though, and the lifts were predictably good. This was perfectly acceptable ballroom by the standard of top 8 on SYTYCD.
The pop/jazz (pazz? Jop?) was sensational. I was amazed that they performed it so well that the crowd (which, let us admit, can frequently be a bit dumb) was actually able to get engaged in a dance with almost no major lifts or “hey lookit” drama bits – and then threw in those parts right at the end anyway. This was just fucking great dancing – energetic, strong, exciting – and LaurieAnn Gibson can come back anytime she likes in my book. It didn’t hurt that Brandon and Jeanine are easily the two physically strongest dancers left; they looked like they could tear shit up, and then did. (Also: Kris Allen AND Jordin Sparks in one night? HELLO WE ARE NINETEEN ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCING THIS SHOW.)
Jeanine’s solo: Just fucking great. That opening progression, with the movements paired to the stuttering piano notes? Holeeeeee shit. Jeanine is simply in a whole other league above the other girls left on this show.
Brandon’s solo: Not up to his usual standard for artistry, but insanely physical; I suspect he got a bit spooked by the Tasty Oreo contemporary piece immediately before and decided to go for stunts.
Melissa and Ade: cha cha and contemporary. Ade could probably be a pretty damn good Latin dancer with more training, but he does need more training; he’s got the natural feel for the Latin body waves but he doesn’t quite commit to them; I suspect his earlier rumba was benefited by its slow pace. Melissa made me feel like I was watching them dance this at half speed; she looked slow and cumbersome in the dance, and the routine itself had so many poses and stops that it demanded full commitment from Melissa and I just didn’t get that at all. This was extremely bad for top 8 and frankly probably would have gotten them eliminated earlier.
That having been said, I think they’re safe, because the contemporary was very good. I was prepared to loathe it because breast cancer is such an Obviously Special And Important Topic (and because, come on, Tasty Oreo), but Melissa and Ade danced it very, very well and really brought the emotions through, and I remembered that Tasty can really deliver when he leaves the Broadway area which he supposedly dominates. Don’t get me wrong; I think on terms of overall ability Melissa definitely deserves to go home before the other three, and I think Ade doesn’t necessarily deserve to make top 4 as others do. But I don’t see it happening when they made the judges cry and had the Very Important Message.
Ade’s solo: Rock solid.
Melissa’s solo: She always picks these awesome, distinctive pieces of music and then dithers around en-pointlessly and I’m really, really sick of it.
Kayla and Jason: Broadway and hip-hop. I know I mock Tasty Oreo’s Broadway on a routine basis, but this one was genuinely great: it was sultry and smooth and clever and charming, and actually felt like what “Broadway” should be, rather than just being a slightly modified jazz dance as per usual Tasty. If one needed any proof that it was Jason’s lack of chemistry that was holding him back, I think this week and last demonstrate that this was the case; with new partners he’s simply blossomed. Kayla was excellent and actually demonstrated real character for the first time in pretty much ever. Mary has a wooden steamwhistle. Shut up, Mary.
The hip-hop could have been great – that was pretty goddamned brilliant choreo from Shane Sparks, with a great concept. I can’t quite call it “great.” Maybe “good.” Jason and Kayla hit their moves cleanly enough that I can’t complain there, but the “heavy” character I wanted to see out of zombies dancing – that they were specifically instructed to include – just wasn’t there. Jason was stronger than Kayla was. Still, given how shit the hip-hop has mostly been this season, I have to admit that “okay” is a step up. But I would have preferred to see Philipchbeeb -or motherfucking TWITCH – rock this one.
Kayla’s solo: Much better than I am used to from her; actually worked very well with the music and wasn’t just a collection of stunts and tricks.
Jason’s solo: More frenetic than last week, but not as frenetic as previously and had a bit of a sense of build. Decent.
Should go home: Melissa and Shorty.
Will go home: Kayla and Shorty.