For weeks, the near constant refrain on this season of So You Think You Can Dance has been: Solid dancers, boring dancing. Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but last night it just! got! interesting! At least three Routines For The Ages. The return of Melanie LaBetteMidler. Another sighting of Kayla’s adorable grandparents. The (slight) redemption of the Chbeeb. A fabulously flapper-tastic Cat Deeley. And while the judges practically handed Caitlin and Jason their walking papers, the duo steadfastly refused to go quietly into the night, putting (slightly) into doubt the fate of Randi, Evan, Melissa, Ade, Kayla and Kupono. Even guest judge Tyce Diorio managed to not be irredeemably obnoxious — although that had more to do with the second routine for the top six couples cutting down the screen time for all the judges than anything actually uttered by Tyce, who squeezed his own rhetorical orange dry so he could offer such pulpy insights as ”push it further” and ”you need to find more” and ”take it further.” Snaps to you, Tyce, snaps to you.
So let’s do it to it, shall we, breaking down each couple’s two routines in order of when they first appeared.
Melissa and Ade
If this had been the first disco we’d seen this season, I think I’d be a bit more enthused about Melissa & Ade spin-cycle hoofing, but, alas, it felt instead like a watered down version of Janette and Brandon’s scorched-floor disco on Top 18 week. Still, that’s some strong ’70s juice those two were serving, between Ade’s sweaty strength and Melissa’s trick-jointed hips. Unfortunately, the easy rhythm Ade brought to the disco escaped him for their waltz, which fell instead within Melissa’s elegant comfort zone. While I’m not sure if anyone’s ever done a waltz to Mary J. Blige before, I worry that the combination of that low-impact routine and their first-in-the-show performance slot will end up sliding this immensely likable couple into their very first bottom three berth.
Kayla and Kupono
Last week, Mia Michaels chided Vitolio’s unpredictability; this week, I’d have to leave that note at Kupono’s feet. In the first half of the show, the in-his-own-world Hawaiian finally connected, nakedly revealing just how wrenching it was for him to embody addiction in Mia Michaels’ staggeringly contemporary routine, and then delivering by far his best, most stunning and haunting work of the season. (That smirk of his alone will linger with me for days.) But when it came time for the guy to be a New York street-tough finding love-at-first-sight in one of the most well-known dance sequences of the 20th century — i.e. the gym scene from West Side Story — Kupono came off instead like a Connecticut tennis club pro who kinda sorta has a crush on the girl playing in the court next to his. Consistency, sir.
Kayla, meanwhile, did not deserve Nigel’s knock about her hair obscuring her face during Mia’s routine. If anything, the fact that at times we only got brief, aching glimpses of her make-up free face made the routine all the more powerful. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen two dancers throw themselves so deeply into a SYTYCD routine, let alone a SYTYCD routine that so expertly explored a subject as unrelentingly hard as addiction, and I suspect it was that very rawness that muted the judges from their usual paroxysms of praise. Because, really, this was one humdinger of a performance all way ’round, lifted as much by Kayla’s commitment as Kupono’s. Unlike Kupono, however, Kayla still had enough left to give her second performance at least a semblance of sparkle and authentic feeling. Still, if there’s any justice, the strength of their first routine, one of the absolute best this season, should keep these two safe, but last week their best-of-the-night routine was half as dark and they got bottom three’d, so who knows?
NEXT: The Chbeeb steps it up