Thursday, July 21, 2011

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 8: Top 10

We are now officially in a new stage of So You Think You Can Dance Season 8. We had the auditions, we had Vegas Week, we had Top 20 through Top 12... and now we've reached the point when the competition really heats up. Top 10 week has arrived!

The panel this week was (thankfully) only three: our regular dynamic duo was joined by guest judge Neil Patrick Harris, who proved once again that he can do anything. Singer, dancer, actor, awards show host... SYTYCD guest judge. Check. He didn't always agree with the judges and he wasn't afraid to critique the performers and choreographers alike—go, NPH, go!

I found this week's performances to be particularly difficult to rank. The Top 10 all seemed to have a renewed fire in their dancing last night, and there weren't many routines that I disliked. But such is the burden of an opinionated pop culture blogger, so let's rank the performances from worst to first...

10. Mitchell and All-Star Melody - Broadway (Tyce Diorio); "Take Off With Us" from All That Jazz (Original Soundtrack)
So apparently this was about flight? Luggage and takeoff and first class passengers? You could have fooled me. The whole piece was disjointed with forgettable choreography, earsplitting music and the least inspiring of the All-Stars (sorry, Melody!). I'm not sure I agree with the judges that Mitchell's facial expressions and extensions were too much because they were the only thing I really enjoyed in the piece. I understand that it wasn't particularly "Fosse," but at least it was something fun to watch.

9. Ricky and All-Star Allison - Jazz (Tyce Diorio); "Precious Things" by Tori Amos
I almost feel bad that both of Tyce's pieces ended up in the bottom, but, to be fair, this one was more about execution than design. Ricky is much better at portraying mean and dark emotions than happy ones, so this intense story of a bad dream haunting a girl fit into his wheelhouse. Unfortunately, Allison is a total superstar and stood out way more than her competing partner. Yes, he was there for her in all of the lifts and partnering, but, for me, it wasn't a memorable performance.

8. Marko and All-Star Chelsie - Samba (Jason Gilkison); "Cinema Italiano (The Ron Fair Remix)" by Kate Hudson
Yikes, you guys. I'm pretty sure Marko's never been this low on the list, but this is what the Top 10 is all about, right? On the plus side, he really mastered all of those incredibly difficult lifts which was no small feat. That being said, while I normal praise Marko for having genuine, in-the-moment performances, his expressions felt forced and planned last night. Plus, his suit was too big which got in the way of seeing whether his footwork was as sharp and precise as Chelsie's. She is such a spitfire and he didn't live up to that last night.

7. Jess and All-Star Kathryn - Contemporary (Stacey Tookey); "The Lonely" by Christina Perri
Here's where the ranking really started getting difficult. It's not that I disliked this routine about not seeing the love in front of you—in fact, I really, really enjoyed it—it's just that other performances connected with me more. This is hands down the best we've seen Jess, who has been on quite the upward climb the last few weeks. He looked like a legitimate contemporary dancer. There wasn't any of his usual mugging, he looked strong on the lifts and he managed to have a connection with Kathryn even without looking at her. A wonderful and unexpected showing from one of the most improved dancers of the season.

6. Clarice and All-Star Robert - Bollywood (Nakul Dev Mahajan); "Aila Re Aila" from Khatta Meetha (Soundtrack)
Bollywood is always a high-energy thrill ride, and last night's showing was no different. I have to admit that I couldn't take my eyes off of heartthrob Robert, who was dressed up like a glittery Aladdin, but whenever I took a glance over at Clarice she was definitely keeping up with him. She tends to have a permanent smile glued on her face, but last night I really believed the joy and elation coming out of her.

5. Jordan and All-Star Brandon - Contemporary (Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson); "Who You Are (Live Acoustic Version)" by Jessie J
It's always a treat when Dwight and Desmond choreograph for SYTYCD (remember that amazing pas de deux they did for Katee and Will in Season 4??). Their choreography is unrelenting and unique, full of strong lines and acrobatic feats. The two dancers had a wonderful chemistry together, and even though Brandon is such an amazing dancer and was given spotlight-stealing moves throughout the piece, Jordan always managed to draw the focus back to her. There was a fight and drive in her last night and it was by far the best we've seen her dance.

4. Melanie and All-Star Pasha - Viennese Waltz (Jason Gilkison); "Everybody Hurts" by Tina Arena
Everything about this routine made me smile: the flowing white dress, the starry lighting, the angelic cover of R.E.M.'s classic song and, fine, especially Pasha's billowing unbuttoned shirt and the killer body beneath it (so sue me). I always love when the Viennese Waltz hits the stage! Melanie glowed with a lightness and innocence, and the duo delicately glided across the stage moving effortlessly in and out of lifts.

3. Tadd and All-Star Comfort - Hip Hop (Chuck Maldonado); "Look At Me Now" by Chris Brown featuring Lil' Wayne and Busta Rhymes
I don't often like to channel my inner Lil' C, but this routine was seriously buckkkkkkk. Comfort and Tadd were so perfect together—totally in sync and each individually bringing a cocky "cool as a cucumber" swagger to every second of the number. Comfort is infinitely better now than she was in Season 4 and Tadd is one of the superstars of this season (and let's take a second to think about those killer abs... gracious...). I loved the roll in and out of the back bend on the ground with the lapel pull, and the constantly fast, hard-hitting choreography. Definitely one of the hip hop highlights of the season.  

2. Caitlynn and All-Star Pasha - Argentine Tango (Leonardo Barrionuevo and Miriam Larici); "Malajunta" by Orquesta Color Tango
First of all, try saying Leonardo Barrionuevo 10 times fast. Good luck. Secondly, Caitlynn is such a transformed dancer when her hair is pulled back, isn't she? There was a newly emerged maturity in her performance last night—she was light as a feather while always maintaining an extreme intensity between her and Pasha. The kicks, flicks and footwork were all razor sharp and the stage was alive with the sexual tension between the pair. This wasn't a flashy routine, but it was oh so sexy.  

1. Sasha and All-Star Twitch - Hip Hop (Christopher Scott); "Misty Blue" by Dorothy Moore
I've been awfully critical of Christopher Scott's work on the show this season, but man, oh man did he shut me up last night. This piece was a slow smooth sizzle of sexual chemistry between Sasha Fierce and Twitch, and all the while they were flipping over each other and grinding against each other and... goodness gracious, I'm sweating just thinking about it! Now that she's out of her partnership with Alexander, Sasha can finally emerge as the diva extraordinaire we know her to be. I have a feeling that last night was just the beginning.

For the most part, last night was a strong showing for the Top 10 and has me looking forward to what this group of dancers will be able to achieve over the course of the next few weeks. Unfortunately, two dancers won't be continuing on the journey. It's going to be a tough call, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Ricky, Mitchell, Jordan and Clarice in the bottom, whether or not their performances last night warrant it.

What did you think of last night's show? Are you happy with the Top 10 this season? Who do you think is going to be packing their bags tonight? And were you as impressed by NPH's judging skills as I was?

[Image Source: FOX]

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