Perhaps executive producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe heard the cries of fans for more pairs routines, as they’ve produced some of the season’s most memorable moments thus far, or maybe it was always in the plans, but last night’s show was arguably the season’s best yet as some of the night’s duos had some tricks up their sleeves with much improved choreography and chemistry between the dancers. But before I spoil the ending, let’s delve a little deeper into a discussion about each routine and which one’s will hopefully keep those dancing them safe during next week’s double elimination:
- The Top 16 opened the night in a Jazz number choreographed to “Love Is Free” (Robyn and La Bagetelle Magique). Even though the choreographers were new, the piece definitely had the feel of a Brian Friedman or Sonya Tayeh routine. It wasn’t as clean or impressive as some of this season’s opening routines have been thus far, but I feel like there are too many people on stage and not all of the choreographers no how to handle them all. For that reason, I’ve preferred the smaller team-based routines but this wasn’t bad. | Rating: B-
- Hailee Payne & Jaja Vaňková – “Endangered Species” (Jazz) – I expected great things with two girls who are their respective team’s female front-runners at this point and what we got was fairly good. The judges pointed out the routine’s only major flaw: that Jaja doesn’t quite have the extensions of her Stage counterparts yet, but both girls know how to work the stage and they had good chemistry which made the half-decent, frantic choreography a little bit better. | Rating: B
- Alexia Mayer & Neptune Eskridge – “Flex (Ooo Ooo Oooh)” (Hip-Hop) – I expected Neptune to own this routine, but after watching it, I found that I preferred him in his Jazz and Contemporary routines from the past two weeks. The same goes for Alexia. The “asylum” concept of this routine turned what could have been seriously strong choreography into a watered-down version of Dave Scott’s vision. Neither of them danced it poorly by any means and Alexia kept up with Neptune for the most part, but it just wasn’t memorable at the end of the night. | Rating: B-
- JJ Rabone – “Duo De Armor” (Argentine Tango) – The last time a female contestant was forced to dance with Leonardo after her partner (in this case, Derek) was injured it was Hayley Erbert back in Season 10 and it produced a breathtaking Argentine Tango. JJ, like Hayley, delivered in spades last night with a pro by her side. As the judge’s pointed out, having Leonardo certainly helped, but JJ also had the emotional aspects of the routine down to a science and her technique actually didn’t feel forced or awkward. I can’t even blame the judges for giving her a Standing O after and hopefully America rewards her next week for her hard work. | Rating: A-
- Ariana Crowder & Jim Nowakowski – “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (Contemporary) – Jim and a good Contemporary number is a match made in heaven and, based on her record thus far, Ariana would also be capable of pointing her toes and blending in with Team Stage. Sure enough, the pair gave us a heavy, strong and emotional routine that really was mesmerizing. Jim’s strength, as always, brought the piece to another level, but the two of them really worked together without outshining one another and I think that was what really sold the piece. | Rating: A-
- Gaby Diaz & Virgil Gadson – “Where or When” (Broadway) – As I’ve said before, I love a good broadway routine and these two were made to do broadway. They had personality to spare and both made everything look so effortless in this routine that they captured the intended Old Hollywood vibe with ease. It was one of those routines that was so good, it almost didn’t even need a story. It’s numbers like this that make me miss the old days of SYTYCD when Broadway was such a staple. | Rating: A
- Asaf Goren & Kate Harpootlian – “Braveheart” (Jazz) – The moment we’d all been dreading since last week, when Asaf would get back up on the stage, finally came but much to my relief, he wasn’t as bad as last week. I still had pity for Kate who, like Marissa, was giving it her all to try and sell the choreography, but Asaf just isn’t capable of much outside of his style so a fast-paced jazz number like this felt disjointed. A for effort and improvement, but not for everything else. | Rating: C-
- Marissa Milele & Yorelis Apolinario – “Let Go” (Hip-Hop) – Marissa, like her fellow Stage dancer Alexia, surprised me when she was called on to do hip-hop. Yes, a lot of it felt a little forced compared to Yorelis’s smooth stylings, but I’m convinced no one dances like Yorelis. Still, the two girls kept pace with each other, but the routine itself just wasn’t nearly as hypnotizing as the choreographer was hoping. Hopefully Yorelis’ enimagtic quality will be what gets her by next week. | Rating: B
- Edson Juarez & Megz Alfonso – “You There” (Contemporary) – With a new choreographer in tow, Edson rebounded from his Bottom 3 appearance last week and showed that he is capable of connecting with his partner and the audience on an emotional level. Megz, similarly, has risen from an almost-unknown figure in the crowd to one to watch and her performance in this and the way her and Edson connected leads me to believe that they might both be locks for the Top 10 next week. | Rating: A
Once the eight pairs routines were done for the next, the audience knew the Bottom 6: contemporary dancers Kate, Marissa and the injured Derek for Team Stage and JJ, Ariana and b-boy Asaf for Team Street. America was then asked to vote to save one from each team, but not before the teams performed their respective group routines:
- Team Street – “Commas” (Hip-Hop) – Team Street was led this week by Yorelis who was front and centre and seemed to be giving directions to her team mates as the eight of them went hard to the steps of yet another new choreographer. I have to admit, I was hoping for a true hard-hitting routine this week because I feel like a lot of the routines have played into Team Street’s freestyling and varying skills. That said, this was a good routine, just not an overly memorable one. | Rating: B
- Team Stage – “Beautiful Friends” (Contemporary) – Travis’s group routine, on the other hand, gave me chills. The story about leaving a light on so any ghosts haunting the theatre could dance at night instead of disturbing the performances by day was a perfect set up for the routine, where the seven healthy Stage dancers were armed only with hand held lights that added to the creep-factor and made them glow as they danced and haunted the stage in the most believable way. I almost didn’t want it to end and will definitely rewatch this one. | Rating: A+
Then, it was time for results. America gave Derek another day to dance, despite his injury, and extended the same courtesy to JJ after her stunning Tango, leaving the judges to choose between Kate and Marissa and Ariana and Asaf. This week, the judges made the right choice and sent Asaf home while choosing his partner from last week, Marissa, to join him.
So now, I ask you to share your thoughts with me. Which routines did you like best? Let me know in the polls below and leave me a comment to tell me what you thought of the night’s proceedings, including the two eliminees. Tune in next week when I break down the night’s double elimination and the Top 10 that are left standing to face the all-stars!