Despite some great routines up to this point, I think it’s safe to say that most SYTYCD fans wait for the night where the show’s best alumni, the “all-stars”, join the ten remaining contestants for some routines that are just that much better for the involvement of a pro and we definitely had a few of those tonight. In fact, Nigel went so far as to call it his favorite episode of the season so far. I wouldn’t go that far, but I will say that the episode lacked any real clunker routines. But that’s not to say that we can’t still talk about what work and what didn’t in each one of them:
- The night kicked off with the usual group routine as the Top 10 danced a Sonya Tayeh Jazz number to “Earth Intruders” by Bjork. Although the choreography had a bit more of a primitive or tribal feel to it than we’re used to from Sonya, the music was a dead giveaway that the routine was hers, as were the displays of strength from the group of contestants. They were in sync and, while the routine wasn’t as memorable as some of the others this season, it was visually appealing. | Rating: B
- Hailee Payne & Brandon Bryant – “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” (Broadway) – Hailee definitely channeled her inner Liza Minelli or Lady Gaga for this piece and she did a good job of not getting upstaged by all-star Brandon, who has personality to spare. The choreography was quick, but she did a good job of not getting lost in it. That being said, despite good feedback from the judges, it’s possible that the memory of this routine will be swept under the rug by the end of the night. | Rating: B+
- Derek Piquette & Kayla Radomski – “Got It” (Jazz) – The judges were quick to point out that, unlike Hailee, Derek did get upstaged by his all-star Kayla, who showed some incredible extensions in her legs and seemed to steal all the light on the stage. The routine itself was good choreography and was danced well, but while there were moments when Derek seemed to be on Kayla’s level, there were far more moments where I felt compelled to watch his partner instead of him. | Rating: B-
- Virgil Gadson & Comfort Fedoke – “Just My Imagination” (Lyrical Hip-Hop) – I can’t say who in this routine was more likely to get paired with whom. Virgil and Comfort both made this routine look effortless and had the kind of instant chemistry that just sold the storyline without overdoing it. They were both so smooth and clearly moving to the same internal rhythm that felt intimate without isolating the audience. It was like looking in on that perfect, private moment between a couple and feeling warm inside because of it. Christopher Scott did a great job, but he was also lucky to have two great dancers. | Rating: A-
- Megz Alfonso & Marko Germar – “Canned Heat” (Jazz) – Sometimes I feel that Ray Leeper’s choreographer borders on campy and, for me, this routine walked that line. Megz and Marko injected it with as much “fun” as they could have, but at the end of the day, it just wasn’t a very memorable routine. I think he tried to recreate the magic of Season 8’s “Blurred Lines”(also with Marko), but fell short by giving Megz a routine that might just send the dark horse home. | Rating: C+
- Edson Juarez & Jaimie Goodwin – “Your Day Will Come” (Contemporary) – Edson got the draw of the night with all-star Jaimie and his coach Travis behind the reins for this one and, like the judge’s said, it was a breakthrough moment for him. Unlike Derek’s routine, Jaimie was phenomenal in every way possible but Edson commanded the stage in the way that reminded me of Robert Roldan. He was the dark, strong force behind the light gracefulness of his partner and it was one of those routines that kept me breathless and speechless until the last moment. | Rating: A
- Neptune Eskridge & Jasmine Harper – “Milk Was a Bad Choice” (Hip-Hop) – Pharside and Phoenix developed another dark, twisted storyline for a routine that would pair one of the show’s best female hip-hoppers with one of this season’s unexpected surprises. And like Neptune himself, this routine surprised me, making the pair hit hard and accurate and they did it, staying in sync and in character throughout. I think anyone’s lucky to have Jasmine by their side, but Neptune made full use of her in the way Emilio did in last season’s Egyptian Pharaoh number. | Rating: B+
- Jim Nowakowski & Jessica Richens – “Heal” (Contemporary) – The judge’s took the words out of my mouth when they told Jim that his technique is spot-on and beautiful in every lyrical number he’s done, but his personality and connection isn’t always there. This piece was pretty, sure, because Jessica and Jim both danced it beautifully, but I felt no chemistry between them and no connection to the story itself. Dee Caspary’s pieces are always very emotion-driven, but without that, they’re just pretty. | Rating: B-
- Jaja Vaňková & Alex Wong – “Naacho Re” (Bollywood) – As I’ve said a couple times, Bollywood is a great addition to the show, but it doesn’t always help contestants get the votes they need. Perhaps it’s just a harder dance style to digest and get excited about, but Jaja and Alex did a darn good job of tackling this routine in a way that got me excited. Every one of Jaja’s steps were on point and despite her “tough girl” attitude, she brings out her playful side so naturally that this routine was actually one of the better ones of the night, for sure. | Rating: B+
- Gaby Diaz & Joshua Allen – “I’m Really Hot” (Hip-Hop) – Gaby was up against several tough foes in this one: Joshua won the show and is a great dancer in his own right and Pharside and Phoenix did not go easy on her with the choreography, but Gaby’s determination not to fail since her second audition hasn’t failed her yet and it seemed to shine through in this piece. She kept up in ways I wasn’t expecting – her movements were sharp and on point and, honestly, I don’t think I could have asked for anything more from her in this. | Rating: A
After all was said and done, the Bottom 2 consisted of Team Stage dancers Edson and Derek and Team Street dancers Megz and the injured JJ, who unfortunately didn’t get to dance tonight because of a broken rib.
We also got to see solos from each of the dancers, the best of which were Gaby (who surprised with a hip-hop based tap solo), Jaja (who brought it hard as always) and Edson (who gave us the sexy side of his personality for his).
Eventually, Cat revealed that America’s vote had decided to send Edson home after his fabulous routine tonight and JJ home without another chance to dance. It was a heartbreaking elimination, but a blow softened by the fact that they’ll both be on the tour.
Now I turn it over to you: What did you think of the eliminations? Which routines were your favorites? And who, of the remaining dancers, is your favorite? Let me know in the polls and comments below.