So You Think You Can Dance recap: Partnering Is Such Sweet Sorrow
You’ve got to hand it to Jessica. After five weeks of the near-relentless drumbeat of ”you’re not good enough, you’re not as great as Will, you’re not good enough,” she makes it to this season’s So You Think You Can Dance final 10 — only to be felled by some busted ribs. Then not only did Jessica have to sit in the audience and watch Comfort — a.k.a. her replacement, a.k.a. the dancer with at least five lives — give her best performance of the season; she also had to witness the judges rhapsodize over her former partner’s two numbers with by far the best female dancer on the show. If it were me, I’d probably run screaming from the studio — well, maybe not run, given the broken ribs and skintight dress that may have been a medical necessity to hold in her torso. But certainly scurry. Instead, she stood her ground and smiled, giving all of us who secretly felt a twinge of bliss when we first heard she’d left the show an even bigger twinge of guilt for ever twinging in the first place. Erm, right.
But it was kind of a weird night, wasn’t it, dear readers? Last week, my sister read me the riot act for praising Cat’s ”Dress Barn” ensemble from the top 12 performance show (her words), but even she’s got to admit that Ms. Deeley’s gold Saran Wrap number last night was pretty smashing (and a serendipitous nod to last night’s Project Runway supermarket challenge). Yeah, Nigel was dressed like my middle school shop teacher, and Mary coined some real doozies: ”Happy’s kind of a way station between too little and too much”; ”Dancing doesn’t build character, it just reveals it”; ”I’m hopping on the Love Boat with this number!” (The hot tamale train! It’s been forsaken!) But for the most part, the judges went easy on the grating obnoxiousness, and krumper Lil’ C proved himself as insightful a guest judge as the show’s had this season, even if his syntactical style could get a wee bit convoluted. (A man after my own heart, really.)
Nope, it was some of the dancers and choreographers who irked me the most last night. Not a week after I fingered Mark as the dancer to beat this season, he delivered two lackluster numbers and a solo that was just a B+ when he really needed a solid A to stay out of the bottom four. Not that it’s his fault entirely; Kherington did him no favors during their country two-step, dropping their spins and giving off the vibe that she never fully trusted him to be as physically strong a partner as Twitch. Indeed, the partnering charm I praised in Mark last week certainly didn’t endear him to Kherington, which seems to be half the battle with the paired numbers. Meanwhile, they both ran out of gas as they entered the second half of Tyce Diorio’s jazz number, but in fairness, so did the routine itself. Tyce has created eight dances for the show this season (including one group number), more than I believe any other choreographer, and his idea fatigue is starting to show, from the by-the-numbers steps to the choice of Jamiroquai’s too-on-the-nose ”Canned Heat” as the song.
NEXT: Tyce doesn’t float our boat
Even Tyce’s Broadway number for Will and Katee didn’t exactly live up to the choreographer’s promise to blow the roof off the joint. It was fun, sure, and definitely well executed by the dancers; it just spent way too much time literally and figuratively trapped in the ”boat” of that Guys and Dolls song to really take off. I wanted to like the number far more than I actually did, a feeling that was even more potent after their second routine of the night. Yep, unlike the judges, I didn’t loooooove that pas de deux; the song choice, David Archuleta’s ”Imagine,” felt totally disconnected from the movement, both in form and in content. That remixed echo tacked on to the middle of the song? Yeah, but no; Nigel should know better than anyone that Archie doesn’t really do existential angst. Again, Katee and Will danced it to near perfection, but with due respect to choreographer Desmond Richardson (and I mean that; YouTube his name and you’ll quickly see why), it simply didn’t connect for me. Thank goodness both Will’s and Katee’s solos were so rich, effortless, and expressive.
Which is more than I can say for Chelsie and Gev. It’s a good thing Chels never had to dance for her life, because, like so many SYTYCD ballroom dancers before her, she hasn’t a clue how to do a solo in her style that looks like anything other than a tryout for a position in the Ministry of Silly Walks. Gev simply bricked it, letting his missed first trick throw off his game for the rest of the number. But they both wholly redeemed themselves by committing from tip to toe to their paired routines. By now, Chelsie’s technique has shown her to be, along with Katee and Will, one of this season’s true ”serious” dancers, but I was also duly impressed with how, by sheer force of will, Gev got me to ignore his comparable lack of technical finesse. I had no idea that Gev’s ”bounce” was off in the jive until Lil’ C (!) told me so, but when Mary and Nigel then piled on, it made me wonder if perhaps we’d seen the last of this Kazakh-American B-boy. (Side note: If you looked closely enough, I’m pretty sure you could see Nigel’s butt clench after Mary critiqued the jive by referencing Dancing With the Stars.)
Gev’s old partner Courtney fared better last night, though her new B-boy has far more skill that her last one and, it seems, is much more the man. She may have been overshadowed by Joshua in their Bride of Frankenstein hip-hop routine, but her solo was pretty spectacular, and that rumba would not have worked had Courtney not given as much heat as she was getting from Josh. (The choreographers, though, really need to get more creative with their song choices. ”Hero”? Seriously? I mean, do we really need to be encouraging the Swaybots, who were out in force last night?) But how hilarious was Joshua during the judging, when he, um, joshed Twitch and Will for going shirtless so often? And how skeevy was it of Cat to start poking around for Josh’s nipple afterwards? It was a real treat, though, to finally see Joshua do his thing in his solo, and I especially liked how he started an underground dance-off between him and Twitch by duplicating the same solo-ending chest thrusts Twitch used in his. (I’d give round 1 to Joshua purely because he didn’t then pose with a giant J shield on his T-shirt.)
NEXT: Twitch’s brick waltz
Speaking of Twitch, I winced when Cat announced that his and Comfort’s first number would be a smooth waltz, and I winced again when they danced it. The genre just outright stymies Twitch, and doesn’t exactly help Comfort’s chance at becoming the Chris March of SYTYCD. (Two! Two Project Runway references! Ah ha ha!) (One! One oblique allusion to Nigel’s comparison of SYTYCD to the Muppets! Ah ha ha!) Fortunately for both of them, I don’t think anyone’s going to remember that ballroom number after they demolished Dave Scott’s futuristic hip-hop routine saddled with costumes that belonged on a 1950s sci-fi series. On public access. In England. (By the by, I’m guessing that hand-on-the-shoulder bit between Nigel, Twitch, and Comfort was a continuation of the ”IV REAL” in-joke among the dancers, since they were all forming a numeral 4 with their bodies.) Alas, Comfort’s triumph also just reinforced why she doesn’t really belong in the top 10: It was in her own genre, with a partner also well versed in that genre, and a choreographer who played right into her strengths — a pretty wide target for her to hit. Given how small Comfort’s voter base has been for so long, I still don’t think it was enough to keep her out of the bottom four.
Many of you have already weighed in on PopWatch about Comfort’s routine, but do you think she earned it last night? Who do you think is going to be in the inaugural season 4 bottom four? Were you all agog at how spry the very pregnant two-step choreographer was? And are you as stoked as I am to see the group Bollywood number tonight?
Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.