Thursday, July 28, 2011

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

Can you believe we are already at the Top 8 on this season of So You Think You Can Dance? It feels like this season is just starting to kick into full gear as all of the dancers—competitors and All-Stars alike—delivered tremendous performances throughout last night's episode.

Joining in the onslaught of excitement were two fantastic guest judges: director/choreographer Rob Marshall (Chicago, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, etc) and megastar Sgt. Pepper Lady Gaga! Both judges were wonderful, with the perfect mix of effusive praise and constructive, specific, technical critiques. We've a few questionable guest judges this season (hello, Carmen Electra), but overall they have done a great job of picking individuals who bring something useful to the table. And it doesn't hurt when they throw shoes at the stage either.

With 12 rapid-fire dances last night, there is a lot that needs to be judged. So, without further ado, here are last night's performances from worst to first...

12. Jordan and All-Star Ade - Jazz (Tyce Diorio); "Nutbush City Limits" by Tina Turner
You guys, Tyce isn't having a great season, is he? Once again, one of his numbers was the weakest of the evening. There just wasn't much that was memorable, especially against the other performances. Luckily, Jordan and Ade attacked every count—and you know I don't give Ade compliments lightly—even if their chemistry felt a bit forced. Actually, I think I watched Ade more than Jordan—his power and grace, especially when lifting his partner, were mesmerizing.

11. Ricky and All-Star Anya - Jive (Jason Gilkison); "River Deep, Mountain High" by Celine Dion
This was one of the first times that Ricky had to smile during a performance and I actually believed he was happy, though I imagine it's hard not to smile when Anya is your partner. His feet were moving at the speed of light, but unfortunately his free arms were a bit sloppy and the lifts were too clunky. Ricky needed to grounded himself a little bit more instead of leading with his shoulders and chest. Not a terrible showing, but not one I'm likely to remember in a week's time.

10. Sasha and All-Star Pasha - Quickstep (Jonathan Roberts); "Puttin' on the Ritz" by Terry Snyder
The fact that a quickstep isn't in last place is a testament to how much I enjoyed this routine. Sasha may have been a bit too bouncy and loose at the beginning, but soon enough her upper body was locked, loaded and ready to go. I loved when Pasha swung Sasha between his legs, and that the partners were locked in on each other the entire time. Now if someone could figure out a song that wasn't "Puttin' on the Ritz" to use for a quickstep, I would be forever grateful.

9.  Jordan and Jess - Rumba (Jason Gilkinson); "Set Fire to the Rain" by Adele
I have to agree with Lady Gaga that the passion and destructive message of Adele's music was lost in this Rumba. Jordan and Jess were both giving it their all and performing at about 130%, but I didn't feel any connection between them—it was as if they were in two different worlds. Perhaps Jess was offended by Jordan's barely-on string dress and lack of heels? Just speculating.

8. Jess and All-Star Lauren G. - Hip Hop (Napoleon and Tabitha Duomo); "Take a Bow" by Rihanna
From here on out, it became incredibly difficult to rank the performances. I loved watching Jess in this number because it was the most relaxed and loose we've ever seen him. No mugging, just a sincere performance. He and Lauren were an excellent duo, expertly transitioning from a smooth flow to sharp, isolated moments with ease and spontaneity. I agree that the flower was a bit unnecessary, but it didn't detract from the performance either.

7. Caitlynn and Tadd - Foxtrot (Jonathan Roberts); "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" by Ella Fitzgerald
I wouldn't have expected these two to be a great pairing, but Caitlynn and Tadd both looked so elegant and grand, despite being so far out of their wheelhouses. They floated across the stage and made the smooth, jazzy music really come to life. Perhaps not the best ballroom routine of the season, but a respectable showing by these two dancers.

6. Marko and Ricky - Hip Hop (Napoleon and Tabitha Duomo); "Bad Boy for Life" Diddy featuring Black Rob and Mark Curry
This was one of the most hardcore hip hop routines we've seen from Nappy Tabs all season, and it really suited this duo of strong male dancers. Both of them were fully committed to the choreography, getting down and dirty and really selling it. In fact, I'd wager to say that, despite what the judges said, Ricky swept the stage with Marko (ha... get it?!). This was certainly one of his best routines of the season.

5. Caitlynn and All-Star Ivan - Hip Hop (Marty Kudelka); "Let Me Love You" by Mario
Caitlynn's character may have been heartbroken by her man, but she sure did perk up when Ivan came around, huh? Caitlynn was so sassy and I loved every second of it. I was way more impressed by her than the judges—I thought she had a sparkling chemistry with Ivan, she made a solid commitment to keeping her legs constantly bent and bouncing, and her performance was totally believable. Her dancing reminded me a lot of Chelsie Hightower in Season 4's "Bleeding Love," which was a total breakout moment for her.

4. Marko and All-Star Allison - Contemporary (Sonya Tayeh); "I Know It's Over" by Jeff Buckley
So, it's safe to refer to this as Hallelujah 2.0, right? Sonya choreographs Allison and an incredibly talented Asian male dancer to a Jeff Buckley song. Not that I'm complaining because this was pretty incredible. Marko was back to his usual self, delivering a vulnerable and honest performance of anguish and pain. Allison and Marko were a fantastic pairing—they looked like they'd been dancing together for years. I didn't quite have the uncontrollable sobbing reaction that everyone in the studio seemed to have, but that doesn't mean I didn't love this performance.

3. Tadd and All-Star Lauren F. - Jazz (Mandy Moore); "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen
First of all, when did Lauren Froderman change from a young girl to a woman?! She has matured so much since her victory last summer, and she was a great addition to the All-Star team. She and Tadd brought a cocky, cool vibe to the piece and I didn't even notice the dropped hat or Lauren smacking Tadd in the face. It constantly amazes me how easily Tadd dives into each style and masterfully dominates it. If it weren't for those crazy b-boy tricks Mandy Moore incorporated, I would've thought Tadd was a legit jazz dancer.

2. Melanie and All-Star Neil - Contemporary (Mandy Moore); "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler
How is it possible that Mandy Moore waited this long to use "Total Eclipse of the Heart" on SYTYCD? How did we let that happen?! In any case, I'm glad she finally did, because Melanie and Neil danced the crap out of it. Melanie is somehow able to be fierce and athletic while also being light as a feather. In and out of the ground, in and out of lifts and leaps... she does it all with such grace. I loved her huge leap of faith into Neil's arms. And, fine, it didn't hurt that Neil was shirtless. Can you blame me?

1. Sasha and Melanie - Jazz (Sonya Tayeh); "Game On" by District 78
Is there any debate that this was the highlight of the night? Didn't think so. These two came out like a pair of war horses ready for battle, displaying total athleticism, strength and power. Sasha and Melanie were like warriors on that stage, proving that they are forces to be reckoned with in this competition. If anyone is going to take the title, they are going to have to get past these two first. They deserved all the shoe tossing they got from Lady Gaga.

So it was a pretty exciting night that will undoubtedly be followed by a nerve-wracking results show tonight. Allison Holker, William Wingfield, Jason Glover, Janette Manrara and Alex Freakin' Wong are all standout contenders in SYTYCD history... and they all ended up in eighth place in their seasons (Alex's was due to injury, but still). Will there be a surprise elimination tonight? I'm betting on Jordan, Ricky, Caitlynn and Jess ending up in the Bottom 4 with Jordan and Ricky going home, but all bets are off when we are this far into the season.

What did you think of last night's show? Did the female duo blow everyone else out of the water? Did you love the guest judges? And who do you think is going home tonight??

[Image Source: FOX]
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