Dance fans, we did it. I thought we’d never make it out of the rejected Divergent set that was the Academy, but here we are at the first round of live performances, and everything is as it should be. Our Host Cat Deeley is dressed like Sydney Bristow in the Alias pilot (SHE’S A SPY), “all-around good egg” Vanessa Hudgens got a good-egg haircut, Mary’s yellin’, and the stage has STAIRS AGAIN. THE STAGE HAS STAIRS. I love this new stage! The lighting is everywhere.
The All-Stars open the show with a gloriously well-lit routine choreographed by Mandy Moore, but someone is missing: Allison hurt her shoulder. She’s in the audience tonight with her arm in a sling and tWitch by her side; there are worse places to be, but I hope she heals like the wind, especially if Wade comes back.
Yes, that’s THE Wade. Tonight’s final group routine was choreographed by Wade and Amanda Robson and Tony Testa, and Cat wastes absolutely no time breaking the news that the genius behind “Ramalama (Bang Bang)” is in the house. (Cat on “Ramalama”: “That’s me on my average Friday night out.”) It’s like they know we’re uneasy about this All-Star-heavy format in a season that was supposed to be all about getting back to basics, and they’re trying to bribe us with new stages and Wade Robson. It’s working.
Anyway, shall we meet the top 10?
Dassy (Team Fik-Shun): We flash back to the Academy to find Fik-Shun seated in front of his final two, and may I just say that runner-up Kyle seems like such a good egg? Just as Fik-Shun is about to reveal his choice, the camera cuts back to the live stage, where Dassy jumps out from the wings. This is how every dancer in the top 10 will be introduced, and it’s jarring. Don’t deny Kyle his goodbye! After so much e-mo-tion in the Academy, we can’t start glossing over the tears now.
Logan (Team Allison): Nigel will later tell Allison that she doesn’t need to worry about Zachary; he’s in the cast of Cats now. Nige, since when did we not need to worry about the cast of Cats?
Kiki (Team Jenna): This was a SURPRISE. Jenna tore her team in half to get Kevin, and after their hot duet last week, I thought he had this in the bag. But as sad as I am for Kevin, I’m not sad to see Kiki stick around, and neither is Mary. Mary is not sad at all.
Kaylee (Team Cyrus): Torn between the man in his style and the woman not in his style, Cyrus takes a leap, sticks with his blue-haired “contemporary fusion” dancer, and sends Havoc home. Is it the right choice? [Slow, ominous zoom in on Nigel.]
Lex (Team Gaby): Evan, we hardly knew ye, but I liked ye. It was inevitable that Gaby would pick Lex, but please enjoy her attempts to lower our expectations anyway: She actually says she went with her Shaping Sound teammate in part because he “needs her more.” Ouch?
Mark (Team Comfort): Looking fine in some glittery green lipstick, Comfort sends Deja home, which isn’t much of a surprise given that I had to look up how to spell Deja’s name tonight. Sometimes bad edits happen to good dancers.
Sydney (Team Paul): I didn’t know how badly I wanted Paul to pick Sydney until he did. It’s nice that she and Sofia were so close, though.
Taylor (Team Robert): You never forget the first dancer who deigned to be on your team. Robert sends Jonathan home and sticks with his one and only, and it’s the right choice. [Gentle zoom in on Travis Wall.]
Robert (Team Jasmine): I’m going to let Howard finish (that poor guy is sobbing before Jasmine has even made her announcement), but Robert gets one of the BEST INTROS OF ALL TIME. I love this dancing sandwich.
So let’s dance already.
Dassy and All-Star Fik-Shun
Choreographer: Popin’ Pete, Hip-Hop
“Shake Your Pants” by Cameo
This routine is a cool blast of ’80s fun — it’s like vintage Michael Jackson clad in the costume of MC Skat Kat. Dassy and Fik-Shun are a perfect stylistic match; they’re sharp as tacks. “You are my poppin’ favorite, and you’re poppin’ into my heart,” Mary tells Dassy. Then Nigel makes a soul/Seoul pun and waits for his Emmy. (Dassy might just deserve an Emmy for acting like he’s the first dude in America to come up with that joke.)
Logan and All-Star Audrey
Choreographer: Tyce Diorio, Contemporary
“Protocol” by Leon Else
Since Allison is injured, season 9’s Audrey steps up to the plate, and she is…amazing? Our gal’s never been better. I couldn’t keep my eyes off Audrey, which isn’t great news for Logan, but he’s still a solid presence in this “Wicked Games”-esque routine, playing the toxic force in a relationship. Probably. There are no rehearsal segments tonight, which means there’s no time to hear The Story behind each piece. It feels like biking without training wheels. If Tyce gave Logan a character (and it’s Tyce, so he did!), I can’t say I saw him disappear into that space emotionally, but he’s good. I don’t have any other hot takes on Logan yet. He’s good, okay?! We’re just getting started!
I do, however, think we need to retire the “you’re so young; you’re only 18!” critique, like, yesterday. After last year’s little ones, 18 feels ancient.
Kiki and All-Star Jenna
Choreographer: Dmitry Chaplin, Ballroom
“There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” by Shawn Mendes
Our ballroom boy is in the house, and he and Jenna look great together. The concept of this routine, in my head, is “bar at Jay Gatsby’s mansion,” and I am very into Kiki in his starring role as the bartender who’s unfamiliar with buttons. But again, I’m mainly just happy for Mary, who’s making train-chugging arms in the corner of the screen. “We’ve been waiting for a Kiki on this show!” Mary yells. I especially love when she yells at Jenna about how centered she is: “THERE IS NOT A MORE GROUNDED WOMAN I HAVE EVER SEEN.”
Kaylee and All-Star Cyrus
Choreographer: Tessandra Chavez, Contemporary
“Clown” by Emeli Sandé
You have to hand it to Cyrus: He picked a contemporary fusion dancer, so he’s dancing contemporary fusion, even though it’s really not his strong point. (Mary: “You did a noble job.”) The benefit of his decision to step outside his comfort zone is that this routine is mainly designed to showcase Kaylee; the drawback is that he doesn’t elevate her. Despite all the warm-fuzzy ’90s prom flashbacks Kaylee’s velvet dress is sure to induce, this routine flounders compared to what everyone else is doing. Kaylee is, to quote Vanessa, honest and fascinating, but she doesn’t bring enough grace. Vanessa says she needs more “weightlessness and breath.” Nigel then gives Kaylee the awkward pause: “I need more from you…good luck.”
Let’s go back to Vanessa for just a sec. She threw a shoe in a fight once! Vanessa Hudgens, you zebra-printed enigma.
(Recap continues on page 2)