Didn’t have time to blog last week’s USA show, mostly because I saw it two days late and other than Sasha and Twitch’s UNBELIEVABLE hiphop I was largely apathetic to it. At some point, Nigel is going to realize that the All-Star concept fundamentally hurts his show by making the current group of performers look like the junior league – and the fact that the vast majority of All-Stars are from the earlier seasons doesn’t help. (Hint: the reason Pasha keeps performing all the All-Star ballroom routines is because they’ve only had one other high-quality male ballroom dancer since season 3 – Ryan in 6 – and that’s the same reason Comfort is the only female hip-hop dancer they keep bringing back.)
Anyway. Tonight’s twist: new partners! Your special guest judges are Luther, Nico Archambeault, and Mary Murphy, who has been a special guest judge every week so far. She’s so special!
Jordan and Christian: paso doble. Francis and Natalli are, incidentally, an example of what former dancers on the show should be doing: choreographing to help promote and extend their careers in dance. The choreo was exceptional in this: that last lift was just a complete “holy shit” moment, and the judges were right to applaud it as Jordan and Christian did it perfectly and it was obviously crazy difficult. That having been said, Jordan did bobble a couple of times in her footwork (that double promenade looked particularly shaky), but these were not major flaws and complaining about them is purely minor quibbling. This was an excellent start to the night.
Denitsa and Matt: contemporary. This routine felt very… adolescent. That’s not a criticism of it, really: I’m trying to characterize the emotion that it was danced with and how it was designed, and on that level it was very flaily and aggressive and wild. But it was also exciting and felt honest, so I think on balance Sabrina Matthews (who is having a very good season so far) has a winner here. Denitsa danced this really, really well – she really threw herself into it, and her lack of technique was simply overcome by her passion for the dance. Matt… still not feeling it, to be honest. He’s a Perfectly Acceptable Dancer but I don’t see him winning, you know? But this was good enough that they should be safe.
Carlena and Kevin: hip-hop. Okay, on the one hand Carlena has danced hip-hop or related every single week so far, and it is past time that she danced something other than that. On the other hand, this was a fabulous routine from Sho-Tyme, who was hit this week rather than miss (seriously, with Sho-Tyme it’s almost always a 50/50 chance that the choreo will be amazing or cheeseball), and Carlena danced it perfectly. Kevin did not, but at least his failure wasn’t “I’m going to dance contemporary to hip-hop music,” but instead trying to dance hip-hop properly and only succeeding for about half of the routine, which is much, much more respectable: at times he was carrying the beat in his bones just dead-on, and other times he got a bit lost and needed a second to get back into his groove.
Lindsay and Shane: disco. Melissa Williams breaks her four-year-long streak of mediocrity and delivers choreography that is not half bad! MY WORLD IS COMING APART. Okay, maybe it wasn’t superb, but it was decent and that’s enough for me to applaud. Shane and Lindsay danced this well enough: they were into it and having fun, and if at times they felt a bit flaily and offbeat, they always got themselves back into sync quickly enough. This was surprisingly good! I like being surprised! Probably the best disco on any SYTYCD since season three of the US show (Sara/Neil), which admittedly is not a high bar to pass, but there you go.
Geisha and Adam: jazz/funk. …..ehhhhhhhh. Geisha tried and only partially succeeded. Adam was just sort of there, and Blake’s choreo really requires 100 percent commitment or else it just ends up looking sort of dorky, and that wasn’t there from either dancer tonight. This was not really very good.
Yuliya and Francois: mambo. Two ballroomers in their element – granted, doing street mambo rather than classical competition mambo, but outside of that slightly bobbled last lift you wouldn’t tell – and speaking of dancers being protected, Yuliya has gotten two ballroom routines and a Broadway that was ninety percent jive, so put her on the “time to dance something else” list along with Carlena. But it was fun to see two ballroom dancers doing what they do at peak performance, which is something you practically never get to see on SYTYCD (I think the last time it happened was, what, Benji/Heidi in season two USA?), so that was fun.
Shelaina and JP: Bollywood. I am pretty sure that the choreographer’s full name is “Longinus Fernandes Choreographer Of Slumdog Millionaire” because Leah Miller says that every single time she mentions him. This was perfectly all right. Could it have been better? Yes, a bit: JP in particular was a bit sloppy in his movement. But their unison was dead-on and their performance quality was decent enough.
Teya and Boneless: krump. I can count the number of krump routines I have liked on SYTYCD on the fingers of one hand and have several fingers left over, so this was handicapped going in and didn’t really surpass the handicap, unfortunately. Lil C made the… interesting choice of choosing musical accompaniment where it was actively difficult to find the beat, and that just made the dancing more awkward-looking even when they were on-time (which they were, almost entirely). Neither Boneless nor Teya krumped badly, but krump just doesn’t translate to the SYTYCD stage well, never has, and it’s a bottom-three dance almost by default. Shame.
Melissa and Joey: contemporary. Judges called this the routine of the night, but it didn’t really do anything for me. I concede its technical excellence, certainly, but it felt empty – a bunch of moves for the sake of doing pretty moves. And again: protected dancers, as neither Melissa nor Joey has had to dance once in a style where their technical training was not a specific asset.
Probable bottom three: Teya and Boneless, Geisha and Adam, Carlena and Kevin.
Should go home: Teya and Adam.
Will go home: Teya and Boneless.