Thursday, July 7, 2011

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 8: Top 14

Four judges on the panel, three couples in danger of going home, two exciting group numbers and one host doing an imitation of a tired Chun Li from Street Fighter. Oh my!

After last week's fiery performance night, last night's show felt a bit weak in comparison. To be sure, there were plenty moments of fantastic, awe-inspiring dancing, but we are getting to that point in the season when it's time to get rid of the dancers who have been hanging on for dear life ever since the Top 20. Week after week it becomes more apparent who the weak links are in the cast, and last night was no exception.

Speaking of weak links, how did Carmen Electra end up on the judging panel? Don't get me wrong, I was a huge fan of MTV's Singled Out (who wasn't?), but next to other guest judge Travis Effin' Wall, she was pretty useless. Many kudos to Travis for being the first contestant-turned-choreographer-turned-judge on the show. Is there anything he can't do??

But before this turns into a Travis Wall Fanboy Site, let's take a look at last night's performances, ranked from worst to first...

7. Ashley and Chris - Salsa (Liz Lira); "Mambo Beat" by Tito Puente
This one is pretty obvious, huh? These two were touched by an angel last week when they weren't eliminated and that point was really driven home by this lackluster salsa. Here's a piece choreographed by a Salsa World Champion, and all of the passion and pizazz were just sucked right out of it. The good news is: Chris never dropped Ashley. The bad news is: I spent the entire routine expecting him to because it doesn't look like there is any sense of trust between them. Ashley obviously shows way more potential than her partner, but I'm afraid Chris and his horrifying shimmies are going to take her down with the ship.

6. Sasha and Alexander - Hip Hop (Shaun Evaristo); "To The Moon" by Miguel
Eek! It pains me to put Sasha Fierce this low on this list, but last night's performance gave me no choice. There is just no connection between her and Alexander, who despite loosening up and slapping a smile on his face still isn't coming even close to the ferocity his partner consistently delivers. I didn't hate the routine as much as the judges—Hip Hop for Dummies, really?? I thought it was flirty and bouncy and had a great vibe to it. It was the poor execution that brought this routine down. That and the garage doors the makeup department gave Sasha (RuPaul's Drag Race fans know what I'm talking about).

5. Clarice and Jess - Contemporary (Justin Giles); "Light Through the Branches" by Celeste Lear
I have to wholeheartedly disagree with the judges on this one. I didn't feel an ounce of chemistry or connection between Clarice and Jess. If we're just talking about the dancing—it was fantastic. The choreography felt more like lyrical hip hop than contemporary with so much staccato movement. The pair hit every note, but at this stage of the game I need way more than that from them.

4. Jordan and Tadd - Smooth Waltz (Toni Redpath); "Nocturne" by Secret Garden
I have a feeling people will disagree with Jordan and Tadd being so high on the list, but I loved how romantic and graceful and regal the entire piece felt. Tadd proves every week how masterfully he can adapt to different styles, and his poise during the waltz was mesmerizing. The routine, about a siren slaying an entranced sailor, wasn't particularly memorable, but I am just completely in love with the way these two dance together. 

3. Ryan and Ricky - Jazz (Chucky Klapow); "Fashion" by David Bowie
I got total Laurieann Gibson/Wade Robson vibes from the piece, and I loved it! The cocky, uppity attitude paired with the relentless choreography were perfect for Ryan and Ricky. The aggression and synchronization with such fast paced choreography was certainly not easy, and you could tell they lost a little steam by the end, but overall I really enjoyed their performance (and the pink hair fringe on Ricky's costume).

2. Melanie and Marko - Jazz (Ray Leeper); "Americano" by Lady Gaga
Yes, I am going to ignore the fact that there were several moments when this routine got a little clunky and messy, and it's not just because I adore "Americano" and new choreographer Ray Leeper, the sweatiest man alive. No, I am excusing the messiness because of Melanie and Marko's ability to thrust themselves into each performance. You can tell how much they trust each other and that they are trying push harder and harder with each lift, flip and, yes, pelvic thrust. This felt like a Paso Doble at times, with each dancer egging the other one on. I could just go on and on about what a pleasure these two are to watch. With Sasha floundering a bit because of her partner, Melanie is definitely emerging as the top female this season.

1. Caitlynn and Mitchell - Contemporary (Mandy Moore); "To Love You More" by Celine Dion
Despite Melanie and Marko's contagious energy, Caitlynn and Mitchell grabbed the top spot this week. They have developed a wonderful chemistry with each other, and with each passing week their performances become more charismatic. This is one of those partnerships in which each dancer's abilities and strengths are magnified when they are dancing together. There were so many lifts in this Mandy Moore piece (surprisingly not to a song from the '80s)—the dancers didn't have a single moment to catch their breath and yet still made the whole piece look effortless. I didn't get as choked up as the judges watching this routine, but it was definitely enough to land them as the week's #1 couple.

Group Number #1: The Top 7 Guys (Justin Giles); "Prague" by Damien Rice
I loved this piece about the seven stages of grief—the way the little moments would line up between each guy's individual choreography was so cool and so well planned out. It really is a shame that Chris decided to do completely different choreography in the back right corner throughout the entire middle section. Seriously—what was that??

Group Number #2: The Top 7 Girls (Ray Leeper); "My Discarded Men" by Eartha Kitt with Bronski Beat
All I could think during this piece was "Can't we keep all the girls and eliminate two guys this week?" because, seriously, these ladies are tearing it up this season. They did a tremendous job with this "maneater"-inspired storyline and the choreography felt very "Big Spender" inspired. Loved it.

Unfortunately, I doubt the judges will send two guys home tonight (as much as I want them to). Who do you think is in danger of landing in the Bottom Three? Is it inevitable that Ashley and Chris will finally be sent packing, or are we in for a surprise elimination?

And, as always, have you joined my HitFix SYTYCD Fantasy League?! There's still time to catch up! Click here to go the site, then type in the following information:
Player ID: (whatever username you'd like)
Enter League Name: PWYJudges
Enter League Password: pwyjudges
Then all you need to do is rank the Top 14, making sure you have the dancers you think will be eliminated at the bottom. You can change your rankings week-to-week—check out the full rules on the site and the let the games begin!

[Image Source: FOX]
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