Your guest judges this week are Jesse Tyler Ferguson of Modern Family and Sonya Tayeh. Ferguson is verbose and actually occasionally helpful, and makes the long-overdue point that Cat Deeley really deserves an Emmy nomination for her work as host. Sonya is a neverending stream of celebratory nothing.
Sasha and Alexander: paso doble and Broadway.. Alexander says his character is “ready to go” in the gentlest, most boyish way possible, which tells you a great deal about Alexander. Tony-N-Melanie choreographed a paso here where apparently both dancers were playing the male role, and Sasha was better at it than Alexander, which also tells you a lot about Alexander. Anyway, this was your standard mediocre two-contemporary-dancers-do-ballroom paso on SYTYCD, but there have been far worse.
Tasty gives another Broadway, which was unfocused but not bad. Sasha slips up at the end, but covers for it well. Alexander is Alexander and that is all you need to know: Nigel gives him props for being strong for once, which… he was okay and in any proper season of this show would have lasted three weeks (or get Kameronned in top 10, which is what looks to happen).
Jordan and Tadd: contemporary and Broadway. I really liked Travis’ choreo on the contemporary: it was like what he was trying to do with that Legacy contemporary in season 6 – use a B-boy to make violent choreo more emphatic – except this time it worked properly and wasn’t a mess. Tadd was excellent. Jordan was… well, she was perfectly adequate, which is what I expected from her at this point. Jordan doesn’t really engage me as a dancer yet: whereas Tadd has demonstrated some really exciting work, Jordan has just never screwed up anything and is competent all the time. But, unfortunately, also kind of boring.
The Broadway was cute (Spencer Liff going two-for-two) but very, very basic, and it looks like they took everything Jordan couldn’t do out of the routine? I don’t know. The judges act very disappointed, thus giving the audience permission to not vote for these two so they can eliminate the only non-technically-trained dancer remaining. Oh, wait, that’s just my running conspiracy theory.
Ryan and Ricky: Broadway and cha-cha. Spencer Liff put together a really engaging and impressive bit of choreography for the Broadway, and Ricky and Ryan did not really carry it. Ryan danced heavily like she always does (but, on the bright side, got to dance in a style where her constant smiling is an asset rather than a hindrance); Ricky made the mistake of trying to match unison with Mollee 2.0 instead of simply outdancing her, which is both gentlemanly and stupid. Nigel again praises last week’s lousy “fashion zombie” routine, which – shut up, Nigel.
The cha-cha was… oh my god so bad. SO GODDAMNED BAD. Ricky was okay and I think with more practice could be quite decent at this. Ryan was terrible. I mean, there was nothing good about that performance: every second of it was awkward, her footwork was a mess, she didn’t have anything resembling a decent Latin carriage… I could go on at length. The judges soft-sold their criticism. Mary calls it the “fastest darn cha-cha I’ve ever seen,” which – not even remotely close. This was horrendous, arguably worse than Missy and Wadi’s cha-cha three weeks back.
Caitlyn and Mitchell: hip-hop and contemporary. Christopher Smith says this routine is about child soldiers, which… sure, whatever, anything to distract me from what was one of the most godawful hip-hop performances I’ve ever seen on this show. No unison, almost completely absent of hip-hop technique, no flavour or attitude whatsoever. Both Caitlyn and Mitchell were completely lousy in this, and it was already a routine that had quite a few points where they weren’t doing anything but running around so I’m not inclined to be generous with them. Judges give them the “it sucked but you’re still awesome” judging.
Travis’ contemporary choreo was mostly a miss for me: some interesting lifts, but nothing else that really impressed me. (One of the dangers of constantly tossing out and celebrating contemporary choreography is that it all starts to run together – such as, for example, when in a single night you have four contemporary routines and three Broadway routines with SYTYCD’s standard contempo-focus.) Mitchell and Caitlyn were perfectly okay in it, however.
Melanie and Marko: tango and contemporary. Louis Van Amstel! Woo! And the tango was… okay. Their execution was not perfect, but it had some great bits of choreo (the portion by the stage’s edge, the final lift) and they executed those bits quite nicely, and I can’t really call a routine where they hit the high points dead-on “bad” per se. It was okay! But only okay, and thus the judges’ overpraising of it was really irritating. Coincidentally, this is the only time in the first five weeks that Melanie and Marko have had to dance out of their genre (I refuse to count their “lyrical hip-hop” as being anything other than contemporary set to a beat).
Dee Caspary’s choreo was lovely and they danced it perfectly, which is not surprising, and the constant pimping of Melanie and Marko as a power couple when they’ve danced in their genre effectively five times out of six (and have had their weakest moments when they strayed away from their comfort zone) drives me batty, but it was a good routine and danced well.
Clarice and Jess: hip-hop and jive. On Twitter I was asked “Jess performing hip hop: Horrible farce or insult to all dance?” and the answer is: a-ha, false premise, because they were dancing a contemporary piece with beats in, just as Melanie and Marko did a couple weeks ago. Which they did quite well, given that they weren’t dancing a hip-hop routine: ignore what it says on the tin, as Christopher Scott has learned well that this show is not interested in actual hip-hop choreography any more. And for that, their unison was good and their chemistry excellent (and it is worth noting that their chemistry was initially terrible and they have worked hard to rectify that).
The jive was… laboured, is the word I think to use here. I think this is another one of those pieces where with more practice it would have been much better, but as it was I could see them mentally preparing for the big tricks. Judges praise it to high heaven, because I guess this is what constitutes “good” ballroom on the American show these days. Sorry if I sound bitter, but the Canadian show this week was so much better in just about every possible way and such a reminder of what the show can be that seeing what the American show has become is endlessly frustrating.
Probable bottom three: Ryan and Ricky, Caitlyn and Mitchell, Jordan and Tadd.
Should go home: Ryan and Mitchell.
Will go home: Caitlyn and Tadd.