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Andrew is a staff writer at the “The Hudsucker”. He is a 28 year old lawyer living in Ottawa. Besides legal jargon, his brain capacity is taken up by reality show trivia, video game walk-throughs and room escape strategies. Andrew is also happily in a long-term, long-distance relationship. Follow him on Twitter as @sublymonal.

SYTYCD10: Top 18 Performance Show – Starts With A Bang

When I found out about the change of format for the results this season, I was hesitant to pass judgment. Generally, whoever calls the shots on “changes” to the SYTYCD format has been smart than changes to other reality show formats (like Idol). Often, the results (like adding the All-Stars back in Season 7) have improved the quality of the show rather than taken it down a notch. But only a few moments into tonight’s broadcast, I knew these changes were not for the better. Announcing the Bottom 6 at the top of the show, then cutting two of them and forcing them to dance again before being sent home was just too much to handle. It was depressing way to start a show about celebrating the certain magic and wonder that watching these kids dance gives us and, worse, it seemed to completely ignore the possibility that someone wouldn’t dance at their absolute highest calibre after being essentially “fired” from the show, which may drag their partner down. Either way, the endless result was that Nigel Lythgoe quickly revoked this format and, next week, the Bottom 4 will dance their solos at the beginning of the show, but the cuts will wait until after everyone has performed, thus encouraging them to step up their game a little and saving the negative news for the end.

Speaking of results, however, since we started the show with them, I’ll tell you about them now before I talk about the routines. After last week’s show, ballroom dancers Alan & Britanny, hip-hoppers Jade & Mariah and contemporary dancers Carlos & Mackenzie were all facing elimination. The judges saw fit, I agreed, to save Alan and Mackenzie right off the bat because they didn’t deserve to be down there, which left Brittany, Mariah, Jade and Carlos to dance solos. I personally enjoyed all four of their solos, but Nigel felt the need to remind them that they weren’t good enough when one is “dancing for your life”. Maybe he’s trying to light a fire under them, but either way, they still had to make cuts. The judges decided to save our two hip-hoppers: Mariah and Jade, and cut contemporary dancer Carlos and ballroom girl Brittany. I wasn’t surprised by the cuts, but I think after Jade’s proven lack of versatility, they should have saved Carlos and cut him and I think the quality of their routines that night drove this point home further. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s talk about each routine and how our dancers faired in it.

1. Top 20 Group Routine – “The Heroic Weather Conditions of the Universe Part 1 – A Veiled Mist” (Contemporary by Tyce Diorio) – I will be the first to admit that I haven’t been the biggest fan of Tyce lately. I feel like a lot of his choreography, like Mandy Moore’s, feels dated and doesn’t compel me to want to vote in the way that it used to. That being said, his ventures into the world of contemporary have certainly been more success and this piece, while creepy because it’s plot centred around a young girl’s dolls coming to life, was still quite intriguing. The Top 20 moved in sync but also seemed to all know exactly where to go during the chaos of the piece. There were little moments where dancers got to show off their own style, and times where they had to work together to pull off some lifts. I thought, all in all, it was a good way to start the show and another good reminder of the talent and teamwork of this crop of dancers.

  • Rating: A-

Credit: Fox

2. Hayley & Curtis – “Mama Knows Best” (Jazz by Ray Leeper) – I sort of made a prediction that these two would be first up after they got the second last spot last week. I still think they’re fodder and destined to be eliminated early and this routine did nothing to change my opinion. Perhaps I was still in a haze about the eliminations, but this routine seemed way two oversexualized for two dancers who, in my opinion, are more of a “cute” couple than a “mature, sexy” couple. I think this routine might have been better suited for Aaron and Jasmine H., who have demonstrated this kind of maturity, but with Hayley, who’s already been trying to push the “I’m sexy! Really, I swear!” thing on America, I don’t think it did her or her cute, crying tapper partner, Curtis, any favours.

  • Rating: C

Credit: Fox

3. Jasmine H. & Aaron – “Tears Always Win” (Lyrical Hip-hop by Nappytabs) – Now, normally, lyrical hip-hop is hard to pull off without it feeling cheesy and, while, there were definitely moments of that in this piece, I thought Aaron and Jasmine H. were a believable couple and they danced this piece with a lot of unexpected strength. Aaron, in particular, has been surprising me from week to week. He went from the after-thought add-on, to a serious contender. Will he win? Probably not, but does he have a good shot at becoming the first tapper to break the top ten on the American version of the show? He certainly does. Jasmine too, while still a little forgettable, is definitely trying to move out of the shadow of the other, more memorable Jasmine this season and, perhaps, avoid being compared stylistically and looks-wise to Season 8’s Runner-Up Sasha.

  • Rating: B

Credit: Fox

4. Malece & Jade – “Radha” (Bollywood by Nakul Dev Mahajan) – I love a good Bollywood routine. I feel like it’s extra challenging because it’s unlikely that any of these dancers have ever had to pull off such intricate choreography and act out a story like this at the same time. That being said, this was not a good bollywood routine. Nigel said it best when he said that he wasn’t sure who Jade offended by flubbing his choreography multiple times, but I’ll tell you who: the voters. I don’t think this routine is going to make people suddenly start voting for Jade and dig him out of the bottom three and, worse, I think Malece might be in trouble considering she didn’t feel all together that comfortable in this number either. I mean, I know the judges see the dress rehearsals, but after this routine I still have to wonder if they were questioning saving Jade over Carlos.

  • Rating: C

Credit: Fox

5. Nico & Alexis – “Old Skin” (Contemporary by Stacey Tookey) – I have to laugh because I knew from the word go that Nico & Alexis would be safe even after they received some terrible choreography in their hip-hop routine from last week. I knew this because Nico has a strong fanbase and I’m sure some of his fans helped Alexis out too, so when both of them were safe, I was waiting to see what kind of dramatic about-face the judges would make this week on them and sure enough, the pair got a contemporary number and feedback from the judges that seemed to backtrack, as if to say they had always liked Nico & Alexis and thought they had potential. Funny how that happened. Anyway, let’s talk about the routine. Stacey drew inspiration from a routine back in Season 7 featuring contemporary dancer Robert and all-star Kathryn about the woman going off to war. This routine was meant to continue off that when she comes back and reunites with her man. The music in this routine was undeniably beautiful and definitely was part of what made this piece so good. Nico also delivered a strong show of talent in the first half a minute of the routine, but when he and Alexis finally connected, I didn’t feel the chemistry as much as I wanted to. Alexis wasn’t bad in this style by any means, but their connection needed to be strong, I think, to tell such a compelling story with dance alone. Was it good? Sure. Will it get them votes? Yeah. But will it be a routine that you’ll remember at the end of the season as a standout? Probably not.

  • Rating: B+

Credit: Fox

6. Bluprint and eliminated partner Brittany – “It’s Oh So Quiet” (Broadway by Spencer Liff) – Again, I think Brittany out performed her partner in this and yet, is the one going home. I thought Bluprint was a little stiff and I didn’t once feel like the pair was a flirty pair of students in the library. The whole routine just felt heavy, harsh and rushed and wasn’t helped along by the music which almost seemed grating at times. As I said, the one bright spot was Brittany, who seemed to float and glide through her movements, never once revealing that she was a ballroom dancer or that she might have been crying a few minutes early backstage over her elimination, so good on her.

  • Rating: C

Credit: Fox

7. Alan & Jasmine M. – “Escape from Slavery” (Tango by Mariah & Leonardo) – Last week these two had Jasmine M’s style, so it was good this week to see them in Alan’s style and I think Alan proved his worth. I’m throughly convinced now that the judges no longer want him to just be background to better boys this season. I think they’re hoping he’ll break the Top 10, at the very least, because both his contemporary and this routine seemed to prove he has what it takes, even if he landed in the Bottom 3 last week. Like Nigel said, this piece came to a great climax where Alan lifted Jasmine in a lift that could have easily gone wrong if they got tangled, but both of them made it look easy, even if Jasmine wasn’t quite technically on point throughout the piece. Still, she pulled it off well for a contemporary dancer and, really, this week was about make Alan shine, I think.

  • Rating: B+

Credit: Fox

8. Makenzie & Paul – “Mannequin” (Jazz by Sean Cheesman) – These two are probably one of the most appropriate pairings in my book and this piece showed that. Sean Cheesman is a master of a good storyline that doesn’t go so over the top as to lose the audience. Makenzie played the powerhouse technician fembot well while Paul followed her around in a geeky, stiff guy who let her loose and doesn’t know what to do. Sure, Paul felt a bit less comfortable in this style than his partner, but then again, last week they got ballroom, which was closer to his style, so this week, like Alan, it was her turn to shine after the Bottom 3. Still, I thought this quirky piece suited them well after their waltz and I think good chemistry will be what hopefully keeps them both around for a bit longer.

  • Rating: B

Credit: Fox

9. Mariah and eliminated partner Carlos – “Dead In the Water” (Contemporary by Stacey Tookey) – Well, what a sad bit of irony that Carlos would get his style on the night he gets sent home. And worse is that he delivered this routine so beautiful that I was ready to get out of my chair and shake the judges for sending him home. Thankfully, Mariah was spared because this routine proved that she isn’t just this grimy hip-hopper, but that she has the emotional maturity to be a beautiful, elegant woman in a piece like this as well. I felt their connection and the story certainly broke my heart so I’m glad they got this piece because it should, hopefully, keep Mariah out of danger next week like she deserves to be.

  • Rating: B+

Credit: Fox

10. Fik-shun & Amy – “After Party” (Hip-hop by Nappytabs) – Well, once again, I think these two got one of the better bits of choreography for the night. It’s hard to dislike them when they’re so cute and they dance so well together. This piece had them flying through the bellhop cart in ways that made me worry it would fall, but they both pulled it off. Amy dropped her cute exterior pretty quickly and got just as down and dirty as Fik-shun, who proved he can do hip-hop choreography, not just solos in his style. I was happy to see them succeed, and I think the judges are right that if they keep performing like this, they’re both guaranteed spots in the finale. That said, I like a bit of unpredictability, so here’s hoping another guy and girl can swoop in like last season and give them a run for their money.

  • Rating: A-

Credit: Fox

11. Jenna & Tucker – “I Like It Like That” (Cha-cha by Dmitry Chaplin) – I will start by saying Nigel was spot on with his critique of this routine and as hard as it probably was for Dmitry to here, this piece really didn’t have a lot of “Cha-cha” flavour to it. This show needs routines which are clearly distinguishable by genre. We can’t have hip-hops that look like jazz pieces and cha-cha’s that feel more like contemporary, we need to test the dancers skills and that’s why this piece wasn’t as successful as it could of been. That said, I thought Jenna held her own in it. She’s a fantastic ballroom dancer and, even though this piece didn’t give her the chance to show that, I think the audience will still like her for it. Tucker, on the other hand, had a bit of Chehon (from last season) syndrome in this. The ballroom choreography felt awkward and stiff on him and Jenna kind of made him look like an amateur. I think, if he’s going to pull a Chehon and overcome his weakness, he’s going to need a bit more practice and a bit better choreography next time. That said, they went last, so they’ll likely be safe next week.

  • Rating: B-

And now, for my predictions… I got 4 of the Bottom 6 right last week, but my eliminees were completely wrong, so let’s see if I can do one better this week.

  • Bottom 3 Girls: Hayley, Malece, Jasmine H. – eliminated: Hayley
  • Bottom 3 Guys: Curtis, Jade, Paul – eliminated: Curtis

Like I said during my comments on their piece, they went first and their routine wasn’t very good, so I think their clock is ticking and, if I’m right about the judges preferring others to them, then maybe my premonitions will come true. As for my power rankings, I maintain my feelings about Amy & Fik-shun at the top, but I’ll rerank all of them at the Top 10.

Now, take the polls below and tell me who you think will be in the bottom 3, what your favourite pieces were, and what you think of the format changes…

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