Because there were no results following the Top 6 show, I thought I’d review both the Top 6 and Top 4 together before Wednesday night’s big finale where one of the remaining four contestants will be crowned Season 11’s winner. We’ll get to who I think it will be, but first let’s talk about the first night’s worth of dancing…
Routine 1: Valerie and Ricky (Broadway) – This was a cute routine for this couple to reunite on. When Ricky jumped through the swing (and several times, to boot) my heart stopped but, more than that, I actually enjoyed this routine a lot more than their several previous outings together. Their chemistry felt real, Valerie’s technique had improved to the point that it wasn’t distracting in comparison to Ricky’s uber-perfectionism so, overall, it was a decent start to the night.
Routine 2: Jessica and Casey (Disco) – This felt like a more traditional throwback to the discos of the early SYTYCD seasons. As always, Jessica stood out and Casey seemed to fade into the background, which is the problem I’ve had with him all season. I feel like every other dancer, regardless of skill level, comes out on that stage and stakes a claim for themselves, but Casey hasn’t done that so while this was danced well minus a few sticky moments here and there, I think most of the credit has to go to Jessica.
Routine 3: Jacque and Zack (Foxtrot) – This was another cute routine from a reunited couple. The two of them did a good job with gliding across the stage effortlessly and their playful little movements really suited their style of dancing. Jean-Marc is good as a choreographer at that. He creates routines which compliment the dancers style while still pushing them outside of their comfort zone a little.
Routine 4: Valerie and all-star Twitch (Hip-hop) – When we found out that this was going to be a wedding themed hip-hop, I was fully prepared to hate every second of it. But then Valerie got out there and while some of the movements felt awkward on her, she didn’t hold back on them. She got into it and kept up with Twitch and that’s really all I can ask for from a contestant outside of her style. It was definitely evidence towards her versatility.
Routine 5: Jacque and all-star Will (Contemporary) – Like Jessica the week before, Jacque was lucky to be paired with Will because he just has this ability to turn simple, quiet routines into moments and I think Jacque, in a way, has that ability too. The technique these two displayed combined with the chemistry and emotion in the story definitely touched me and reminded me a lot of Neil and Lacey’s famous father-daughter routine back in Season 3.
Routine 6: Jessica and all-star Ade (Jazz) – I’ve probably said it a couple of times in my reviews, but Ray Leeper is a very hit-or-miss choreographer in my books and this, for me, was a miss. The costumes, besides being ugly, were clunky and made it hard to follow their movements. The worst part of it was that I could tell both Jessica and Ade were giving it their all. They’re both great contestants, but the whole concept of this routine seemed to drag them down.
Routine 7: Ricky and all-star Anya (Cha-cha) – A couple weeks ago, Rudy – a non-ballroom dancer – killed a ballroom routine thanks to a little help from the enigmatic Jenna Johnson. I think the same can be said for Ricky with Anya by his side. I did not at all expect Ricky to come out and give this kind of ballroom performance, but this was a really good step towards him proving that he’s more than just high kicks and contemporary routines, he can handle other styles too and this was great. Anya, like Jenna, just has a knack for showing off her partners despite her own talent.
Routine 8: Casey and all-star Makenzie (Contemporary) – The stars seemed to align here for Casey to have another memorable moment like his contemporary number with Jessica. The song, the routine, the all-star – it was all there. But as I’ve said before, I felt like he was overshadowed by his partner all the way through. Makenzie is a brilliant dancer, so it’s hard to steal any attention from her, let alone enough to stand out but her partner last year, Paul, managed to stay on her level all season. Casey didn’t do that for me and while both of them displayed beautiful technique, all the emotion I felt came from her.
Routine 9: Zack and all-star Fik-shun (Hip-hop) – Who would have thought that a routine about inkblots by an ex-contestant (Season 5’s Phillip Chbeeb) would yield one of the best hip-hop routines all season. Fik-shun, despite all his faults, is an incredible performer. He has that “It” factor that Twitch has and it makes him a great all-star if the person paired with him can keep up and boy did Zack keep up. I did not expect this tapper to be able to handle such intricate choreography, but he was so in sync with Fik-shun that I was lost in the routine and maybe ended up cheering in my living room after it was all said and done.
At the end of the night, we found out that Casey and Jacque were the two contestants denied a spot in the finale. I was surprised by the results but, in an ideal world, I might have had Jacque in there over one of those girls. That said, I personally can’t control the results, so let’s talk about the Top 4 we did get: Ricky, Zack, Valerie and Jessica. One of them will be Season 11’s winner and, to help us decide, we got another night full of some really great routines.
We started the night with a beautiful same-sex group routine that paired Ricky and Zack and Valerie and Jessica. It came, of course, from the openly gay & talented Travis Wall and was set to a cover of Bette Midler’s hit “Wind Beneath My Wings”. It was definitely one of the most mesmerizing and memorable Top 4 group pieces in recent history and I think very brave of Travis and the contestants to put out there. After that, though, the competition truly began.
Routine 1: Valerie and Ricky (Afro Jazz) – As a Canadian, I feel an obligation to love all things Canadian, including choreographer Sean Cheesman’s routines. And I usually do, but something about this routine just didn’t grab me the way his Afro Jazz’s usually do. Ricky was slightly sharper than Valerie, but it seemed to be missing that wild quality to it that makes Afro Jazz so unique and, for that reason, I think this routine might be a little less-than-memorable when it comes time to vote.
Routine 2: Jessica and Zack (Broadway) – When Nigel declared, at the end of this routine, that it had been a good season for broadway, I’m not sure I agree. There had been a few great broadway routines this season, but quite a few lackluster ones too. This one was somewhere in the middle. There was some great, traditional broadway choreography and Zack was one of the few men all season to match Jessica in terms of commanding attention, but the concept itself felt a little tired and maybe detracted from what could have been a really mature routine for the both of them.
Routine 3: Valerie and Zack (Contemporary) – If nothing else, Valerie’s acting in this peace convinced me that she’s grown since she started this show. It was the first time she didn’t have that big, girl-next-door grin plastered on her face and, instead, sold the fact that she was blind quite well. Her stumbling movements combined with Zack’s quick saves made me really like a routine that seemed a little underrated by the judges, actually. They praised Zack highly, but I felt like Valerie and Tyce deserved more praise than just a comparison to the infamous Breast Cancer routine of Season 5.
Routine 4: Ricky and Jessica (Jazz) – Remember when I said Ray Leeper was hit-or-miss? Well this was a definite hit. The sharp choreography of this piece, the music, and Ricky and Jessica’s complementing dance style’s made for a memorable jazz routine that didn’t even need a storyline. This piece stood in sharp contrast to their first contemporary number together (Vow) and showed that there is a range amongst the styles that are “in their wheelhouse”.
Routine 5: Valerie and Jessica (Bollywood) – When Bollywood first graced the SYTYCD stage, it was met with high praise, but now the routines don’t garner as much attention. Still, I thought this was a good style for these two girls. They were in sync all the way through, though I think Jessica might get the slight edge, and their personalities shone through which is, like the judges said, what Bollywood is really about.
Routine 6: Ricky and Zack (Hip-hop) – Sorry girls, but the guys got the better same-gender routine tonight. Phoenix and Pharside’s “Duelling Kings” piece was very reminscent of Mia Michaels’ “Two Princes” from Season 3 with Neil and Danny. There was friendly competition but also a desire to win in both boy’s demeanour and the way they were grounded and just ate the choreography up was so impressive. This routine, combined with Ricky’s ballroom from the Top 6 and his phenomenal lyrical routines, has convinced me that he might be the most diverse member of the Top 4.
Routine 7: Valerie and all-star Aaron (Tap) – I’m not shy to say that Aaron was one of my favourite contestants from last season. Watching him dance makes me happy, which is a gift that few dancers possess – Allison Holker, one of the shows veteran all-stars is another one. And so I was completely unsurprised when he turned out to be a phenomenal all-star for Valerie. I have to give a ton of credit to choreographer Anthony Morigerato for being able to create a routine that has so much emotion, feeling and dialogue just with their feet. I loved the way these two almost had an argument on stage but never said a word. It was a great reminder of what Valerie does best.
Routine 8: Ricky and all-star Kathryn (Contemporary) – Stacey chose a beautiful song for a routine with such a touchy subject matter and Kathryn, like Ricky, is simply stellar in her own style. The two of them danced so well together, but I have to add a disclaimer here. I worry that this routine was too “pretty”, something choreographer Mandy Moore said is a bad thing. A good contemporary routine should convey emotion in order to be memorable and I’m worried that this one didn’t do that because, based on the concept, it should have really pulled at the heartstrings. That, combined with the fact that the entire routine was done in the dark so Kathryn, in white, seemed to stand above Ricky, makes me wonder if there was some trickery at play here.
Routine 9: Zack and all-star Aaron (Tap) – I could probably just copy and paste everything I said about Valerie’s routine with Aaron here, but that wouldn’t do this routine justice. Once again, Anthony Morigerato created such a stellar same-sex routine that I actually got really excited about it. The story of Aaron as the bartender and Zack as the patron spilling his woes just worked and the two of them danced it so well to this classic Billy Joel track that I can’t help but feel that this was the perfect routine to compel people to vote for underdog Zack.
Routine 10: Jessica and all-star Robert (Contemporary) – After the brilliance of Travis’s opening number, I was worried his second of the night might not be as good, but it was – of course. Travis gave Jessica a challenge: to be a little more mature and with all-star Robert by her side, it wasn’t hard. The pair had such sizzling chemistry that it was almost embarrassing to watch and the way their bodies moved together made it hard to keep track of who was who, but in a good way. This routine was almost like melted chocolate just oozing onto the stage and when it was done, I was still craving more. Maybe Jessica’s last ditch effort will push her a little further than I thought coming into the night.
With that said, the question now is who will and should win? I think any one but Valerie could, feasibly, take the title. That’s not to say Valerie lacks the talent but I think, it terms of memorable performances on the last night of competition, she faded into the background. The most likely candidate is probably Ricky. He has had a strong fan base all season and has never been in the bottom group, although neither has Valerie. As I said earlier, I also feel like Ricky has proven his diversity most of the remaining four. Zack was great in hip-hop and contemporary, but hasn’t had a standout ballroom routine. Jessica has mostly been good in only lyrical routines and Valerie, while good in hip-hop, hasn’t really stood out in ballroom. Ricky’s routine with Anya and his hip-hop’s with Zack and Valerie convinced me that he has the chops to win and, I think, if the crown comes with a spot on broadway, Ricky is the most likely candidate to sell tickets so I’ll place my money on him. But maybe you feel differently. Let me know by voting for your favourite routines in the polls below, along with who you think should and will win!