The dancers honor the music of Michael Jackson and realizes sometimes being the strongest one in the group can get you sent home.

By Jake Perlman
August 14, 2014 at 03:21 AM EDT
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Before we get carried away by the dancing, let’s take a moment to talk about the music. The night was all about honoring the music of Michael Jackson. And as an inspiration to many dancers, the King of Pop’s well-known tunes were used as a fitting theme and tribute.

[Side note: How stunning did Cat look tonight? Maybe she didn’t want to get shown up by guest judge Jenna Dewan Tatum—who looked pretty good herself at the judges’ table, as did Mary in a more formal look… and Valerie had a nice little makeover, too. Oh heck—all the women looked good tonight.]

Though results were given in the same (annoying) way as last week at the end of each couple’s performance, each dancer also got to dance a brief solo in his or her own style. But if you blinked or had a hiccup attack, you probably missed one or two before going into a commercial break.

Ricky Ubeda (and Jaimie Goodwin)

Style: Contemporary, Choreography by Travis Wall

Music: “Smile” by Michael Jackson

Ricky has had a lot to smile about this season since each week he has continued to wow the judges, basically saying that it’s his competition to lose. Actually, Travis Wall did say exactly that while rehearsing this tender and gentle contemporary piece. Beyond his technical skills, Ricky is the perfect contestant for this show because he loves every minute that he gets to be a part of it. The great thing is that we probably enjoy watching him just as much. There were moments where Jaimie’s dress was a little distracting and you couldn’t really see Ricky or what he was doing, but it didn’t stop his momentum to blow Jenna away (in every way) and solidify his place as Mary noted, on an “upper level ability we haven’t seen in a long time.” Just in case it wasn’t obvious enough already, Ricky is safe.

Valerie Rockey (and Ryan Di Lello)

Style: Samba, Choreography by Jean-Marc Genereux

Music: “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” by Michael Jackson

Going without Ricky last week resulted in a rocky performance for Valerie that she was looking to erase with a hot samba routine. The tapper doesn’t scream sex appeal, so the wardrobe department gave her an appropriate (yes slight inappropriate) makeover to fit into the style of music and routine better. It was better than last week, but something is still missingFor someone who usually doesn’t dance in high heels, she had good footwork, though movement in her upper body felt incomplete at times. The judges liked the piece; unfortunately, Nigel was worried Valerie’s performance last week had already done her in. Oh wait—just kidding! Valerie is surprisingly safe as well.

Casey Askew (and Comfort Fedoke)

Style: Hip-Hop, Choreography by Pharside and Phoenix

Music: “Xscape” by Michael Jackson

After almost not making the top 10, Casey has suddenly come out of nowhere to emerge as a strong contender. This week’s routine was definitely his biggest challenge yet; an explosive and theatrical hip-hop routine for the internal contemporary dancer. Mary and I agree that it’s a little hard not to watch Comfort, but it’s really a disservice by the choreographers to create a dance around the all star and not the contestant. But Casey was still able to break through at moments with bursts of energy and extreme passion, both for the dance and the fatal attraction of Comfort’s spider character. He proved that he could handle the style and swag well, but maybe it was only because he was slightly in the background the whole time. Being uncomfortable last week in his Broadway routine however resulted in Casey being the first male placed in the bottom two. 

Tanisha Belnap (and Nick Lazzarini)

Style: Contemporary, Choreography by Stacey Tookey

Music: “She’s Out of My Life” by Michael Jackson

Tanisha is one strong woman and this week she was able to use her strength to show how easy she can make things look. Paired with season 1 winner Nick, Tanisha’s routine was hauntingly beautiful. Her core has been her best friend all season and her leg extensions proved that it’s still as strong as ever. The dance was both fluid and striking at the same time even if it did seem a little one note after awhile. The judges want something else from Tanisha… and that’s vulnerability, the ability to show that she isn’t as strong as she seems. If she wants to win, Tanisha can’t be so one-note-good, she needs to be all-over-the-place great. For now, her place is in the bottom two (SHOCKING to Cat).

NEXT: A flawless Zack-attack 

Rudy Abreu (and Allison Holker)

Style: Jazz, Choreography by Ray Leeper

Music: “Dirty Diana” by Michael Jackson

To say that Rudy is an energetic person would be an understatement. To say that Rudy is an energetic dancer would be a compliment. For this dark jazz routine about obsession, Rudy the same advice as Tanisha about showing more vulnerability because his strength can sometimes result in aggression, which is not the same thing. It seemed like he was finally able to find a balance between his mind and his routine with all-star Allison (who will be a DWTS pro next season!) was the first real showstopper of the night. Usually one to overdo it, Rudy kept his face under control in a routine that was able to showcase a lot of his dancing skills, which may have actually been a problem for Nigel, who cited “great pirouettes” that were out of character. But after Rudy’s incredible lift and catch of Allison at the end, how could he go home? Oh right, this week’s dance didn’t matter so unfortunately his performance from last week had him Cha-Cha into the bottom two.

Zack Everhart (and Makenzie Dustman)

Style: Broadway, Choreography by Spencer Liff

Music: “The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson 

Last week, Zach was the only guy who had to dance already knowing that he was in the bottom two. This week, he got to reverse that and be the only guy who got to dance already knowing that he was safe. And he sure deserved it. Broadway is arguably the closest in styles to tap, as Nigel said, so Zack took the the theatrical style quite well especially with his ability to really tell the story of the dance. Completely in sync with the music and Makenzie, Zack is both a great individual dancer and partner at the same time. He commands but doesn’t demand attention on stage and has just the perfect amount of showmanship. You can’t help but love this guy. He works hard every week to prove to the audience and to himself that he is a real pro.

Jacque LeWarne (and Stephen “tWitch” Boss)

Style: Hip-Hop, Choreography by Dave Scott

Music: “Slave to the Rhythm” by Michael Jackson 

Jessica was nervous to dance with tWitch last week so naturally, Jacque felt the same way. Though the ballerina has already performed a hip-hop routine before, this was definitely a little more “street.” After a very bizarre beginning (oh good, you’re alive too? Let’s hug it out and then… let’s dance!) Jacque was able to keep up with tWitch and the two did look good as a couple. But I disagree with the judges—that entire routine looked exactly like what it was: a ballerina trying to do hip-hop. Well, a great ballerina doing good hip-hop at least. Jacque’s contemporary ballet piece was mesmerizing last week; this was a little more confusing. Nigel said that Jacque definitely had the swag up there, but once again she was also put in the bottom two.

Jessica Richens (and Will Wingfield)

Style: Contemporary, Choreography by Mandy Moore

Music: “Earth Song” by Michael Jackson

Jessica must have a friend in production somewhere because for the second week in a row, she was able to dance with the comfort of already knowing she was safe and would be here next week. Considering how the voting works logistically, that added bit of confidence could really make a difference in the competition. Not like Jessica needs any more confidence. When Mary is asked by reporters what it takes to win, she may as well just show them a picture of Jessica. The contemporary routine was vibrant and sharp and full of some impressive tricks that will give Tanisha a run for her money in the strength competition. But the reason Jessica is a favorite to so many (including Nigel and Jenna) is because of the passion she brings and the extraordinary journey she has taken to get there. Making Jessica dance for her life back in Vegas was ridiculous then, and it seems Nigel is able to see that now. Jessica, on the other hand, can definitely see the finish line.

The night ended with a real shock as Tanisha and Rudy were sent home. No offense to Casey and Jacque for being saved, but since they had both been in the bottom before, it seemed they were the likely ones leaving. Instead it was two of the strongest dancers of the season who didn’t quite make the cut because of their own strength getting in the way.

Follow me on Twitter: @JDPerlman

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