Your guest hosts are Mary Murphy and Rex “FEEL THE GLAM” Harrington.
Tara-Jean and Vincent: salsa and contemporary. The salsa was probably the strongest single ballroom performance Tara-Jean’s done, which makes it… pretty good. Seriously, I’m glad Tara-Jean improved and all, but she was oversold hella strong during the first half of the season with mediocre dance after mediocre dance being praised to the moon for reasons that completely escape me. That having been said, the judges’ unending hardon for TJ was at least merited this week, because this was a damn good salsa; TJ’s performance was decent enough on the fundamentals that it didn’t detract from the big tricks (which were ABSOLUTELY FUCKING INSANE and Gustavo Vargas deserves a couple of slots’ worth of choreo on the American show at this point) and Vincent was as predictably excellent at this as you would expect.
The contemporary was just excellent. Stacey Tookey is fantastic. Other than a bit of a weak slow vault for Vincent at the beginning (I thought his extension was a bit… not there), I thought this was just about perfect.
Tara-Jean’s solo: Interesting choice in that she eschewed tricks and went for a more character-based performance instead. I thought this was good.
Vincent’s solo: They really need to let ballroom dancers “solo” with a partner somehow, because watching someone as good as Vincent have to half-ass a “ballroom solo” is just dumb.
Melanie and Everett: jazz/rock and hip-hop. Oh, god, it’s the return of “rock” as a category. It was bad last season and it was bad this time around too. Melissa Williams is at this point actively my least favorite choreographer on any SYTYCD anywhere; her routines seem to top out at “tolerable,” when she has a couple of good ideas (I thought the stage-dive end was actually a pretty clever ending; unfortunately a lot of the rest of the choreo was pretty boring) and frequently are just awkward. Performancewise, Melanie was pretty good and Everett was just terrible in this: he was seriously behind the beat for large chunks of the piece and visibly struggled with a couple of the lifts.
The hip-hop exposed Luther Brown’s major weakness as a choreographer: he’s not good at working down to dancers’ levels if they’re not strong hip-hop dancers already. (Much like Shane Sparks, for that matter.) Hence this routine, which featured Melanie killing it and Everett… kind of standing around a lot. Well, maybe I do Everett a bit of a disservice here; he wasn’t as bad as, say, most of the male contemporary dancers trying to dance hip-hop on the fifth American season. But he wasn’t anywhere near as good as Melanie is at hip-hop.
Melanie’s solo: Probably the weakest and least defined solo of her entire tenure, and Melanie is one of my favorites and it kills me to say that.
Everett’s solo: Tapping en pointe, check. Ankle crossover, check. Desperate attempt to cover up lack of any other significant tricks and the fact that he practically dances the same solo every time, check.
Jayme-Rae and Emanuel: quickstep and jazz/funk. I kind of get the feeling Pierre Allaire tries to dumb down the quickstep for the non-ballroom-trained dancers, either intentionally or subconsciously when he works with them, because large parts of this felt like they were being danced at half-speed, and I don’t mean in terms of performance but in terms of choreography. (It’s not called “average step.”) This wasn’t good enough: Emanuel was better than Jayme-Rae, to be sure (and what a pleasant surprise Emanuel’s ballroom abilities have generally been), but even so.
Blake McGrath’s jazz/funk felt like an attempt to recapture the glory of his infamously, gloriously dirty Lisa/Nico routine from last season, but the problem is that Jayme-Rae and Emanuel don’t have particularly good chemistry together (well, that and the fact that “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas is like poison to the soul and not a sexy grindy song either). Jayme-Rae did her best and I thought she sold it as much as possible: Emanuel just felt like he’s done.
Jayme-Rae’s solo: Not her best, although I thought that ending spin was brutally awesome.
Emanuel’s solo: Better than anything else he did tonight, although licking the stage was perhaps a bit of overkill.
Top three girls, contemporary: I thought this was lovely and definitely very classical in feeling, which for Mia Michaels is a bit of a departure. Nothing else to say, really, other than I agree with Tre’s assertion that Melanie was the strongest of the three.
Top three boys, “suavo funk”: This was fun, and it’s nice to see that Gustavo can choreo more than just ballroom. The judges really talked up Everett in this piece, which is fair because he was great, but I honestly think Vincent was even better. Emanuel, on the other hand, was weak and tentative; maybe that’s because he’s not comfortable bringin da funk, or maybe it’s because his foot is injured, but either way he wasn’t on par with the other two.
Should go home: Jayme-Rae and Everett.
Will go home: Melanie and Emanuel.