Photo courtesy of FOX
Though normally I'm a believer in the "deja vu means you're on the right path" mantra, the second week of having a Top 6 on So You Think You Can Dance felt a bit off last night. Certainly we can argue all day long about the judges' decision last week to not send anyone home and push the decision to this week and eliminate two dancers, but I think that poor dead horse has been beaten enough. Let's just get on with last night's dancing...
Wonder boy Kent and All-Star Anya were up first with a puzzling and slightly disturbing cha-cha from Canadian coo-coo Jean-Marc Généreux and his trusty fire-haired sidekick France. Most of this puzzlement and disturbance had nothing to do with the dancing (though we'll get to that) - it had almost everything to do with Anya's appearance. She is an incredibly attractive girl (I even compared her to Scarlett Johannson last night), and yet the hair and make-up department somehow made her look like Hatchet-Face from Cry-Baby. And that flowy white button-up oxford over the black lingerie was wrong in every way. Gross. But beyond the heinous costume, there was a dance to be danced! Which, unfortunately wasn't very interesting either. First of all, using 3OH!3 and Ke$ha's "My First Kiss" was an attempt by the choreographers to keep the piece somewhat "relevant" but ended up being as lame as the artists' names (seriously... the $ drives me insane). And on top of that, Kent lost total control of his face once again. Even though he'll fight Mia to the death that those faces are "who he is," they had no place in this routine and distracted from the masculinity he was supposed to project.
On a better note, Stacey Tookey continued her climb to the top of the SYTYCD choreographer heap last night with two fantastic contemporary routines, the first one with Robert and Kathryn to a slow version of "Heaven is a Place on Earth" (do you think she stole that song from Mandy Moore...?). Reminiscent of Nappy Tab's Season 4 "No Air" routine with Joshua and Katee, the duo told the story of a couple being torn apart by war and danced it brilliantly. This was Robert and Kathryn's third routine together and you can certainly see the chemistry that has built between them, although Kathryn's "I honestly can't remember the last few days" comment was a bit of a headscratcher (just let her). Loved the twist at the end when (spoiler alert) Kathryn was the one who ended up going off to the army. An inspired piece that proved why Robert should have never been in the Bottom Three last week - did you notice that last Thursday Nigel told Robert he wasn't growing and last night he praised the dancer for all of his growth? Strange.
The next routine was shocking on several levels. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy a Tyce Diorio jazz routine, but it was performed by Courtney and [gasp] Adechike! I know... I was surprised, too. Set to a fast-paced Dizzy Gillespie song, the routine had me hooked from the very beginning as Adechike launched off of a ramp and landed on the other side of the stage (seriously, how did he do that?). It was high energy and displayed some serious skills. No storyline, just dancing. I agree that Adechike could've let go a little bit more - his lines were sometimes too rigid for the style - but it was overall the best I've enjoyed Cheeky Cheeks (yes, I am found of that nickname) since his hip hop routine weeks ago.
And then there was Jose. Poor Jose who tried so hard and smiled his adorable smile and breathed a sigh of relief upon picking hip hop... all for nothing. No, the judges are officially over Jose and would rather watch paint dry, which is sad because I actually enjoyed his routine with Comfort. New choreographers Marty Kudelka (who looked like a rabbi) and Dana Wilson melded hard-hitting hip hop with a smooth 1960s soul version of "Try a Little Tenderness" in a way that felt fresh and light. Watching Comfort improve every time she takes the stage has been so wonderful this season and last night was no exception. And while Jose's time is certainly coming to a close here on SYTYCD, I think he did a perfectly respectable job and had a lot more "swag" than Mia gave him credit for. Poor thing.
The judges summed up Lauren and Allison's Broadway routine to Damn Yankees' "Who's Got the Pain?" best when they said it wasn't memorable. Certainly not a slight on the two dancers, who brought strength and grace to the first female duet of the season. It might actually be one of the greatest compliments to give a dancer - despite forgettable choreography (sorry, Tyce) and the weird lack of character shoes in a Broadway routine, I can still remember how fantastically it was danced. What a long way Lauren has come since that first week (and that terrible Mandy Moore routine with Ade to "Oh Yeah")!
A routine that was anything but forgettable was Stacey Tookey's second routine of the evening performed by Billy Bell and Ade. Telling the story of an upper-class business man and a homeless man and set to the ever-haunting "Mad World," the routine was mesmerizing from start to finish. I have been anti-Billy Bell for a while around these parts (and I have always been anti-Ade), but I cannot deny the brilliance of that performance. Everything felt organic and motivated - I never once felt like I was watching steps on a stage. The moment when the characters "recognized" each other was chilling and heartbreaking, and would have probably been the same even if we hadn't been told the story beforehand. It's no surprise Stacey Tookey is now an Emmy nominee and why the judges did not want to kick off Billy Bell last week (even if I disagree).
After saying goodbye to the All-Stars, Kent and Jose took on a Spencer Liff Broadway routine to "From This Moment On" from Kiss Me Kate. This 1940s/Gene Kelly style fit Kent like a glove and he truly shined. And though the judges tried to give Jose a little bit of credit, he was obviously the weak link in the duo. The whole routine had a few too many flips and tumbles for my taste - though Kent would definitely be a fabulous rhythmic gymnast - but it's hard for me to not tap my toe and smile during a Kiss Me Kate performance.
It just wouldn't be a dance show without using "Fever," huh? This latest variation of the jazz standard came at us from a Jean-Marc and France fox trot performed by odd couple Adechike and Lauren. The entire routine was fairly uninteresting and, though they did an admirable attempt for two contemporary dancers, the technique just did not hold up. As guest judge Toni Redpath pointed out, this would've been a completely different (read: better) routine had two ballroom dancers been on stage (and how great was it to have Toni there to critique ballroom technique?).
Finishing the night in the pimp spot were Billy Bell and Robert with a Nakul Dev Mahajan Bollywood routine... because apparently there are no other Bollywood choreographers in the world. Not to take away from the guy - he produced another exciting routine for sure, but it would just be nice to see some other variations on the style. Anyways, this routine was amazingly fantastic for Robert - he looked the part, brought a strong masculinity to the stage and was emotionally invested the entire time. And while Billy Bell danced it well, he just looked like he was playing Aladdin on the Adventureland stage in Disney World. It just felt cheesy and weak. Of course, it could've been that his knees had to bent the entire time and he is dealing with a busted knee, but he just wasn't my favorite in this routine.
Each of the dancers also performed a solo last night. Definite kudos to Jose, Robert and Lauren for brilliant performances (I especially love Lauren's continual use of older songs). Billy Bell's solo was a little too "robotic" for me, especially since the judges keep telling him to connect with the audience. And if one more person wears jeans during a contemporary solo, I am going to scream. There is no way those are helping you dance at all. Yes, Kent and Adechike, I'm talking to you.
So here we are, once again voting for the Top 6. Since two people are being eliminated tonight, I decided it was finally time to get in on the calling - you can't complain if you don't vote! And, fine, I voted for Robert 50 times. My ideal Bottom Three is Jose, Adechike and Billy Bell - Jose is definitely leaving and I'd prefer to get rid of Adechike before Billy Bell, though I am always fearful of a Robert elimination. Kent is obviously safe, as is Lauren despite her injury at the end of the night (she was brought to the hospital with dehydration, but Nigel has said she will not have to dance in the Bottom Three unless the votes put her there).
What do you think, fellow judgers? Are you prepared to say goodbye to Jose tonight? Have you started voting yet? Were you digging Shanks' blazer/shirt combo last night as much as I was? And were you sad that Mark, Twitch and Neil were not performing? Sound off in the comments!