After we said goodbye to waacker Lily and ballet dancer Darion last Monday night, the remaining 18 contestants got to work on their new routines. Unlike seasons past, they wouldn’t be dancing with the same partners every week and so, this week, we saw new configurations and new styles that gave some dancers a chance to shine in unexpected places while others looked, like the cliché says, like a fish out of water. But whether those slips would spell the end for them at the end of the night remained to be seen and so, let’s talk about how the Top 18 got along with new partners, new choreographers and new styles:
- The night started, as always, with a group routine. We got to see the Top 18 show their Salsa skills in a routine set to Justin Timberlake’s “Let the Groove In”. The intricate choreograph required the dancers to be in sync and, for that reason, showed off the weaknesses of a few dancers, including our resident b-boys, Asaf and Burim. Others shone, namely Virgil, Jaja, Yorelis and JJ – with their big personalities matching their high energy and giving us a reason to remember them. | Rating: B
- Alexia Mayer, Derek Piquette & Jaja Vaňková – “All Waters” (Contemporary choreographed by Stacey Tookey) – Stacey Tookey gave these dancers some heavy subject matter that required that intricate balance of emotion and technique that a lot of dancers have been lacking so far this season, but not these three. The choreography was simple in places, especially for stage dancers Alexia and Derek, but it was still beautiful and let the three of them give themselves over to the story, which always seem to carry more weight in Stacey’s pieces. I think that will help Jaja, at the very least, stay safe after this routine, given how well she handled herself amongst some stiff competition. | Rating: B+
- Jim Nowakowski, Megz Alfonso & Moises Parra – “Whuteva” (Hip-Hop choreographed by Tovaris Wilson) – The feedback we got from Travis and Twitch in the pre-performance package wasn’t amiss when they said that Megz would have an easy time with this routine. Of the two boys, I thought Jim handled himself a titch better than Moses, who seemed a little frantic rather than sharp, as the routine required. Nigel wasn’t wrong either to point out that Megz seemed to relax a little too much near the end of the routine, but overall, she stole the spotlight for me and should be safe for that reason. | Rating: B
- Edson Juarez, JJ Rabone, Yorelis Apolianrio – “Restart” (Jazz choreographed by Ja’Quel Knight) – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this “different breed of jazz” as advertised before the routine even begin, but the groove of the Sam Smith B-side that was used lent itself to the smooth stylings of JJ and Yorelis well, who seemed quite at home in the routine. And Edson, normally a bit of a wallflower, gave himself over to the routine, displaying some of the sexual maturity that mentor Travis was asking from him. While it wasn’t a routine the audience will remember at the end of the season, I think it gave them all something to work with. | Rating: B+
- Asaf Goren & Marissa Milete – “+1” (Club Cha-cha choreographed by Jean-Marc Généreux) – Choreographer Jean-Marc had his work cut out for him with Asaf in rehearsals and, if So You Think You Can Dance history is to inform us, we know that ballroom can take down even the best dancers. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when poor Marissa, who gave the routine everything she had, was foiled by Asaf’s complete lack of commitment to the piece. He looked lost on stage, as he has since the beginning. The judges, like me, heaped some harsh words on Asaf, but didn’t leave Marissa untouched, saying she could have had more chemistry with him instead of just the audience, but I kind of don’t blame her for that considering she must have known the routine would be a trainwreck in advance. | Rating: C-
- Ariana Crowder, Burim Jusufi & Gaby Diaz – “Gorilla” (Afro Jazz choreographed by Sean Cheesman) – Afro Jazz is a style that was performed a lot on the Canadian version of the show before it ended back in 2011, but during the 4 years it was on, we saw some spectacular routines all choreographed by Canadian Sean Cheesman, just like this one. This routine, however, didn’t have the same wow-factor throughout. There were flashes of brilliance, where the girls gave themselves over to the choreography completely or where Burim shone on his own, but at times it also felt a little scattered and while I don’t think it will be enough to finish fan-favorite Gaby next week, I do think that it might not compel people to vote for perpetual bottom-dweller Ariana like the judges might think. | Rating: B+
- Kate Harpootlian & Neptune Eskridge – “Promise” (Contemporary choreographed by Justin Giles) – I tried not to get my hopes up that Kate would connect to her character in this routine, but I felt like with Neptune by her side (who seems to be emerging as a dark horse in my books), her performance finally started to match her impeccable technique. The choreography still felt a little dumbed down in places, but Neptune handled everything as well as fellow Street dancer Jaja did earlier in the night and he and Kate had me believing the story by the end of the routine and that’s important. | Rating: A-
- Hailee Payne & Virgil Gadson – “Runnin’” (Hip-Hop choreographed by Pharside & Phoenix) – From the word go, stage dancer Hailee and street dancer Virgil were like a chemical reaction. They fed off each other’s energy and seemed to understand each other on a level beyond just the dancing. They added humor to the piece without sacrificing how good it really was and while I expected great things from Virgil, as well as choreographers Pharside and Phoenix, I didn’t expect jazz dancer Hailee’s sharp technique to transition so well into the street world. She definitely emerged as a contender tonight and, for the first time, I’m interested to see what she’ll do next. | Rating: A
After seeing all the performances that the audience would be voting on, we were given the results from a very sympathetic Cat Deeley: Stage dancers Moises (again), Edson, and Kate were up for elimination and Street dancers Ariana (again), and breakers Burim and Asaf would be joining them in the Bottom 3. But before we get to the results, let’s talk about the group routines:
- Team Stage – “For My Help” (Contemporary) – I was worried Team Stage would deliver another routine very similar to the one they did last week, but a new choreographer meant we got to see some sharp, strong and fast movements that are often missing from other contemporary choreographers like Stacey and Travis. We were told that the every moment would depend on the others before it being executed successfully and it really felt that way as we watched the stage dancers tilt, lean and lift each other in ways that had me a little nervous, but it all seemed to go well and left me impressed by them once again. | Rating: A-
- Team Street – “Break Ya Neck” (Hip-Hop) – Marty Kudelka, resident choreographer for Justin Timberlake, gave Team Street a very different style of group routine – instead of fast, intricate, in-sync dancing, we got to see something a little cooler and a little more natural for them. The piece wasn’t without some difficult choreography though and once again we saw the strength in Jaja, JJ, Virgil and others, while dancers like Asaf and Burim seemed to struggle at the back of the stage. Unfortunately, it seemed fitting that the two of them were in the Bottom 3 this week. | Rating: A
Then, the stage cleared once again and only the six dancers in danger were left with Cat, who told us that those voting on twitter had saved contemporary dancer Kate and hip-hop dancer Ariana. That left the fate of our two breakers Asaf and Burim and our two contemporary boys Moises and Edson in the hands of the judges. After much deliberation, Nigel declared that they had decided to save Asaf and Edson. For what it’s worth, I can’t fathom why they saved Asaf after the feedback they gave him following his routine, but they’re the experts so we’ll just have to see how next week plays out for him and the other fifteen remaining dancers.
Anyway, let me know what you thought in the polls and comments below. Which routines were your favorites? Did the judges save the right people? And who will be in danger next week? Until next Tuesday, this is your fellow SYTYCD fan signing off.