Tonight: each couple dances once to live music. Such a simple little innovation, but a genuinely good idea; you probably couldn’t sum up why the Australian version of this show is the best any more easily than that, as well as why Nigel Lythgoe’s desperate flailing to remake the American version is so wrongheaded.
Top three girls: hip-hop. I am deeply, deeply over girl/girl hip-hop routines where the girls are bitchy fabulous divas. I like girls to dance hip-hop and kick ass, not be flirty extras in a Ke$ha video or something. That having been said: the opening with the backlit screen was visually really impressive, and Jessie in particular seemed to me to be underdancing here; if Jess hadn’t clearly had a major misstep right at the end she would have been totally outclassed. Still: this was just kind of boring, like every other Jet Verne hip-hop this season has been.
Ivy and Nick: contemporary and lyrical jazz. I have trouble listening to “The Flower Duet” without thinking of yoghurt commercials. That is my only criticism of this otherwise flawless little piece. Ivy’s feet speak motherfucking volumes, and although I have been critical of Nick quite a few times this season, he definitely pulled it out full stop. And the live vocals really only made the piece even better.
The lyrical jazz was enjoyable, but that was almost all Ivy; Nick’s fuckups were numerous (and worse, obvious), and he just wasn’t dancing up to par when compared to just about everything else tonight. Also, Ivy is slightly miscast as a total innocent because she just, well, isn’t. (She’s got too much cleverness in her face to really pull it off.) But, even with all of that, it was still okay.
Jess Hip-Hop and Robbie: hip-hop and jazz. I love that Jesse Rasmussen has, over the course of a single season, become one of this show’s go-to hip-hop choreographers (mostly because I love the groove and imagination he puts into his routines). This was probably the best hip-hop Robbie has danced all season; it’s been really amazing to just see him get steadily better with every hip-hop routine he’s danced this season, because his first couple of routines were just clumsy and now he’s hitting all his moves so sharply and his freezes are just great and goddamn, did he seriously just do that drop spin better than Jess did? Jess was predictably good in her specialty. This was honestly a lot better than the judges gave it credit for.
The jazz piece was just fucking spellbinding, every single bit of it, the concept (happy clown’s best clown friend is dying), doing it to a live strings duet version of “Heart’s a Mess,” the dancing was just perfect – new pick for me for “best routine of season,” and I am totally eating crow about everything I said about Robbie earlier in season because seriously holy shit guys.
Jessie Contemporary and Philippe: tango and contemporary. Wow, seriously? Everybody else gets to dance in their comfort zone (Nick and Ivy get to do it twice) and Philippe and Jessie get tango, which is probably the second hardest ballroom style to pull off after quickstep? Sometimes, this show is just not a level playing field. That having been said: compared to some of the butcheries that tango has been on SYTYCD, this was fine. It wasn’t Mark/Chelsie from US season 4 or Brandon/Jeanette from US season 5 or even Talia/Ben from last year’s Aussie show, but it was workmanlike, and if they were a bit stiff in the first fifteen seconds or so after a bit they settled into their movements and pulled it off quite respectably. It was still just dancing rather than being a full-on performance, to be sure, but the judges acted like this was a trainwreck and it simply wasn’t.
The contemporary was quite good, and Philippe really deserves full credit for dancing contemporary as well as he has all season: I wouldn’t name another hip-hop dancer in any season ever who’s danced contemporary and jazz as well as Philippe has (not even Joshua). It was excellent; maybe not as showy as some of the other pieces tonight, but just good in all ways, and there’s not much else to say about that, as there so often is not much to say about routines on this show.
Top three guys: contemporary. This seemed designed to be the ultimate “make the teenaged girls scream” piece of choreography ever. Not to say that it wasn’t good; it was really excellent, and all three dancers were just so fucking solid. But it is what it is, you know? (And of course Philippe gets stuck doing all the lifts.)
Should go home: Jess and Nick.
Will go home: Jess and Philippe.