Trying to get this up quick before tonight's results show. Lauren couldn't join us this week, so my usual all-star panel of AB Chao and Vance will be joined by Sarah "Bring Back Kellyanne" Blackwood, whose blog is back and Jest-ier than ever!
Kayla and Evan
Viennese Waltz (Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin)
Joe I thought Kayla was incredibly beautiful -- otherworldly in her lines and extensions and whatnot. Evan, I thought, was pretty glaringly the weaker of the two. Strangely enough, it's Mary who had the most insightful commentary on Evan (she does know her ballroom stuff, even after all the botox and screaming). Why am I so irked when Evan dances all smiley-like? I generally really like him!
Vance I don't mind the Evan smiley face but obviously he was the weaker one here but not as weak as I thought he might be. Yah, his steps were a bit clunky and his short stature against Kayla (even with evened shoes) didn't help, but he was still quite strong with his lifts and made Kayla look beautiful. And oh how beautiful did Kayla look!? Considering I'm still always changing my favorite pick, and I picked Kayla as my top pick last week and put it in print, I feel a bit relieved here that she held up and proved why I chose her as my current fave.
Sarah: I generally hate it when Kayla wears long dresses because I want to see her legs! But that series of three turning extensions she did with the dress flowing? Wow. She looked just as good as she usually does, which I think says something about her excess of talent because this pairing was pretty unfortunate. But I think it was mostly unfortunate for Evan, who, on his own, looked okay in this waltz, but next to Kayla really just did not measure up (groan). Like think about how little his stature mattered during his really kind of great solo....and then think about how much it mattered in the paired dance. It kind of seems unfair, but then I think about how Kayla brought it despite the poor luck of the draw and, well, sigh, Evan.
AB I don't think I've sent in a top picks list yet, but if I had, Kayla would be at the top of it. I think I said this last week, but she is definitely this year's Katee for me. Everything she does is beautiful, and this week was no exception. I love her. (YES, I DO!) But poor little Evan. His solo was so good, and if anything can save him this week, that will be it. But he was awkward and nervous and short here. Except for the lifts: the lifts were good. But do we think it's really the "luck of the draw" that the shortest guy/tallest girl AND then the opposite were paired up? Or am I just bad at probability?
Joe: I agree some of the "random" pairings and dance styles have been anything but this season. But of the four dancers Evan could have paired with, he had a 50/50 shot of being towered over (he'd have barely come up to the hem of Melissa's tutu). I was more intrigued/skeptical of the fact that the two strongest pairs, going in (brandon/janette and Melissa/Ade) basically swapped partners, the two weakest pairs swapped partners, and the leftovers (Jeanine and Jason) got each other. Of course, the leftovers did better than anyone. And that's why they DANCE the DANCE.
Janette and Ade
Hip-Hop (Tabitha and Napoleon)
Joe I think we may have found our second great hip-hop routine of the season. At least very, very good. They seemed to snap to the same wavelength pretty quickly, and when Janette did that dead fall and somehow managed to land on her back, soft as a feather and all on her own, I gasped.
Vance There were moments they could have been more in sync, but overall, I loved it and I thought Ade was so strong, while Janette tried hard to hit it and managed through sheer enthusiasm to make it work for her (and us!).
Sarah: Ade was fantastic in this! I had no idea Janette was even shorter than Randi. I kind of disagreed with the judges that the size difference worked here-- there was something off putting to me about it-- but this was a really fun number. How great was it when Debbie Allen pointed out that Ade's character was basically a pimp with a magic hair pick?
AB I was trying really hard to hate this at first, because it is clear that Janette has no hip-hop skillz, but I ended up loving it. Ade was 1-800-Fanfriggingtastic in this, as he is in nearly all things. I'm glad that NapTabs seems to be back on their game, and I do agree with whichever judge said they did a good job working with their disparate heights. And Janette! Damn, girl. She is on FIRE. PS. How many times did this routine make Debbie "Clair Huxtable" Allen say "honey," and/or "chile"? Enough to cement my love for her. She is ridiculous.
Jeanine and Jason
Contemporary (TRAVIS WALL!)
Joe I won't pretend to be in any way objective about Travis. He's probably my #1 favorite dancer I've ever seen on this show. (P.S. How great was Cat wiggling her eyebrows at him as she intro'd the dance?) So I was already rooting for this routine. But I wasn't expecting something this ... passionate. That was some hotness, for real. It reminded me a bit of that Courtney/Gev contemporary from early last season, but with the heat turned up. I KNEW I saw something great in Jeanine back when Phillip was hiding her light under a bushel. And Jason was really the best partner for her -- their styles mesh so well, and they got some real chemistry going on there. I've already watched this routine three times, and if there's anything this week that's going to join last week's contemporary and jazz numbers as the season's best, this would be it.
Vance Travis is MY favorite dancer I've ever seen on this show. OMG I want to have his babies. The dance was great. I think a bit TOO full. Seemed like Travis got all excited to finally choreograph that he put in everything he could into those few minutes but whatever, it was a great peak at the great choreo he has in him. Jeanine danced it awesomely and even though I wanted Jason out last week, I thought he finally did good here! Well done Jason!
Sarah: Oh, this was just remarkable. I loved how the choreography repeated certain themes-- Jason cradling/grabbing Jeanine by her neck a few times, for example. And they really did dance it so well. I had been feeling grumbly about the pairings up until this number, but this was a revelation. Both of these dancers were suffering with their previous partners (Caitlin was like an interest-killer for me, and Philip, well, he was just one-note). And, seriously you guys-- were they actually making out at the end of this routine? This was hot right here.
AB NO, Travis is MY favorite dancer I've ever seen on the show. This whole situation (I mean, "conversation") was just unbelievable. The choreography, the tears, the journey, THE DANCE! It made me so proud of him, like he was my BABY. And I agree that Jeanine and Jason were the perfect pair to dance it; they had some crazy chemistry happening even before the hot kiss. I've always loved Jeanine, but this is the week Jason stood out for me, in any way. He was amazing. Love. Tears. Etc. I want Travis on every week.
Randi and Kupono
Paso Doble (Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
Vance I actually agreed with the judges that the choreo was actually pretty good. But the costumes? The Wig? Were they trying to handicap arguably the weakest team? Well, it worked. Randi just looked heavy (in appearance and in dancing ability) and Kupono just wasn't strong enough here.
Joe: I said even before I saw the pairings that if Kupono and Randi were paired together, and they didn't absolutely KILL the routine, they'd both be gone. They were. They didn't. They will be. The whole thing was just so choppy, and they had absolutely no idea what to do with each other. You know I love Kupono like crazy, but it's probably time for him to go.
Sarah: Oh God. Paso abomination. This hurt my heart to watch. I heart Unitard Girl, but she really let me down here; I think there's an assumption that this kind of dance would look better with long lines-- but think about the power she could have brought. You know how they are always tell Randi and Evan to dance like they're 9 feet tall? I think it would be better if they tried to dance in the body that they have, because different bodies can really bring so much to the floor. Again with the sighing.
AB Hee! Paso Abomination, indeed. This was awful. What in the Sam Hill was with the WIG? I ask you. Randi looked like Elly Mae Clampett's dowdy cousin. And the dancing wasn't any better. Whichever judge said they didn't have any trust in each other as a pairing was right on, I think. Obviously, since Kupono totally dropped Randi on her ass at the end of the routine. It makes me sad about Kupono, because I do love him and his weirdo neckwear (did anyone notice his kee-razy vest during the intros?), but I agree that is might be his time to go. As much as it will make me cry.
Brandon and Melissa
Broadway (Emmy-nominated (oy) Tyce Diorio)
Vance Brandon and Melissa danced it beautifully. Okay, now that THAT'S out of the way. HAIR!!! (People, if you haven't seen it yet, GO SEE IT ON BROADWAY. IT'S AMAZING!!!) But WTF was that choreography? It looked like it was for something completely different and then they just overlaid "Aquarius" on top. Did it even match ANYTHING? Did it make ANY sense to what the song is actually about? I f@#ken HATE Emmy nominated Tyce Diorio. Oy. What a joke.
Joe: Okay, allow me a smidge of speculation, but Melissa didn't seem entirely thrilled to have drawn Brandon as a partner. Personality clash? You wouldn't be able to tell from the routine, which was energetic and let Melissa stretch out all over the place. But how awkward was Nigel talking about how symbolic it was for black Brandon and white Melissa to be dancing together? Hey Nigel, a while back, we Americans pushed you Brits out of here at the pointy end of our bayonettes. And now we let you sit and talk and stick pencils in your hair. That's significant, right?
Vance Ouch! As the Canadian in the group, the one that's basically part British (we still spell it colour) and part American (we love our ABC, NBC,CBS and FOX TV), am I going to have to play mediator here?
Sarah: I agree that this choreography was a mess but they performed it well, but I think the judges oversold it a bit. How about that weird 10 seconds at the end when they got lost in the smoke machine even though they were clearly still dancing? Nice work, art direction! And, Nigel wasn't the only Brit hit with strange racial tics this evening; did you guys notice how often Cat blurted "chile" when talking with Debbie Allen? But, she's Cat. So actually she can "chile" as much as she wants. I think Debbie Allen probably agrees.
AB It's like this: I hate Melissa. She's a great dancer, yes, but she is just so earnest and squeaky. Right, and whatevs, Tyce Diorio, Emmy Nominee. He is his own mess. But I grudgingly admit that they danced it well, although I could have done with a lot less of Melissa's "I'm Sooooo High" face. Brandon: back to "eh" on him this week. I did not notice Cat's racial transformation, but maybe she'll do better tonight.
The Bollywood and African Group Dances
Vance: Both Bollywood and African were SO FUN! I don't really have anything bad to say about them as a whole. Usually it's fun to see who pulls your eye in these group dances but almost everyone got my attention in the girls group, save Randi who was probably the only one I couldn't remember as I was watching. In the boys, obviously Evan stood out but not for not being able to keep up.
Joe: I don't really have a ton to say about the groups, except that it was hilarious watching Evan continue to do Broadway moves even through the live performance; and I really thought Kupono looked the best out of everyone out there.
Vance After repeat viewings, I will have to agree, I think I started realizing Kupono actually danced that best.
Sarah:: I agree that Kupono was a silent assassin in the African number. Ade was surprisingly not that good; he looked like he was holding back and not dancing from his core. And Evan, wow, what a thankless night for him as far as the choreographed numbers went. The girls Bollywood number looked so freaking hard. Talk about dancing from your core-- all those quick motions snapping in and out. I noticed Randi's hips during this number-- they were really divine-- and then also Kayla's arms and hands were gorgeous, but otherwise agree that this was a solid group effort, no real scene-stealers.
AB The group dances were so awesome to watch. This is my favorite part of the season, when everything starts getting switched around and there are separate group dances and whatnot. The girls edged out the guys, but just by a little. A little Evan, I mean. (Sorry!) Poor thing. He was struggling. Agreed on Kupono stealing the show.
Vance: Finally, I thought the guys did better than the girls overall. Loved Jason's, but for best Male Solo, it was a close match between Evan and Ade but after re-watching it several times, I give Evan's the win by a jazz hand. It had class and style, an emotional and comedic story arc and felt like a whole dance piece on its own. The girls, I was sort of down between Jeanine, Janette and Kayla's but all the contemp's are starting to look the same so I give it to Janette.
Joe: Great solos overall, but the ones that really popped for me were Evan (yowza! Perfect use of Rufus this time, too), Brandon, and Jeanine. Kupono did that thing he does where he choreographs something weird and insular and doesn't understand why nobody's that impressed. Sad. He's toast.
Vance But Mark's were weird and insular but we got it (or at least I did). Brandon's seemed part awesome and part seizure to me so I'm still debating if I loved it or not.
Sarah:: So, I have a problem with the solos generally, week to week. Who choreographs them? For most of them, it seems like a joint effort between the dancer and their po-dunk teacher from back home. I'd love to see more sophisticated choreography in the solos. In general, they tend to look like meth-heads shot out of a cannon, all rushed and seizure-y. I'd say this applied to Brandon, Ade, Kayla (I know!), Randi, and Janette. Evan's solo was fantastic, he's such a great combo of power (those leaps) and grace (his feet and hands are always SO precise). Besides his, I thought Jeanine's and Jason's solos were the only ones where the moves had time to breathe. I really loved Jeanine tonight, but I do wish she could get a little more air in her leaps. Her lines are fabulous, but her power off the ground isn't quite there for me.
AB At this point, I am barely paying attention to the solos, so I have little to say about them. Evan's was stellar, though. And it will probably be the reason he stays over Kupono (sniff!).
Vance: Jeanine/Jason; Janette/Ade; Melissa/Brandon
Joe: Top 3: Jeanine/Jason; Janette/Ade; Melissa/Brandon
Sarah: Jeanine/Jason, Ade/Janette, Melissa/Brandon
AB: Jeanine/Jason; Janette/Ade; Melissa/Brandon