So You Think You Can Dance guest-judge Jenna Elfman must’ve listened to Alanis Morissette’s second album before stepping out onstage, because she could not stop thanking everyone and everything while giving her appraisals. She thanked people for being great. She thanked people for trying. She may have thanked the art of dance itself, for all I remember. She was thisclose to thanking India, terror, and disillusionment. Hell, she thanked the people that Greer Garson forgot to thank. While she wasn’t the most incisive critic I’ve ever seen on the show, I forgive her since most choreography we saw last night was merely adequate, not a terpsichorean miracle like we always get from Sonya Tayeh or Mandy Moore. For the first time ever, SYTYCD gave their all-star dancers the task of choreographing their own routines, and that’s why results were pretty uneven, like Cat Deeley’s misshapen black ensemble. Droopy day on SYTYCD. It happens.
But these eight routines still merit close inspection and unqualified bastardliness. Let’s offer ’em up.
Aaron (with Chelsie Hightower): Whole Lotta Mistakin’ Goin’ On
Two things you might not know about me: I love Jerry Lee Lewis and the jive. So I’m a little biased when it comes to analyzing this routine, which might’ve been the snappiest and secretly most sexual routine of the night. Boogie-woogie piano is such a perfect fit for this dance, and I loved seeing Aaron and the glamorous Chelsie nailing those hard kicks like they were kicking those ivories square in the jaw. Mary was right when she declared that Aaron missed a couple of key transitions, and that truly sucks, because this could’ve been the feel-good routine of the evening without the noticeable hiccups. Still, a ferocious effort by both parties, and I think Aaron deserves to be in the final over Paul. Unless the final has to do with having perfectly beautiful incisors. Then let’s give it to Paul.
Fik-Shun (with Allison Holker): Arabesque Nights
Face it, you watched Allison the whole time. She was killing every move like a coordinated Andrew Cunanan while managing to squeeze some fierce emotionality and conscience into the work too. Flawless job, actually. Fik-Shun is still affable ol’ Fik-Shun, endearing you with his approach to this unfamiliar dance genre and looking more than passable, at least to this amateur’s eyes. Am I psyched to see him in the final over Tucker? Not really, but I can’t deny that his star quality outshines his competitors’ by a country mile.
Tucker (with Courtney Galliano): Clarity With Sincerity
“Clarity” is an overplayed radio single, but the song gained a new power and coolness when matched with the ebullience of Tucker and Courtney’s jazz work. They blasted off skyward so many times, they seemed like human torches to me, shining harder and brighter as the routine went on. I couldn’t get over the insane (and slightly bobbled?) catch Tucker made when Courtney ran up, threw herself at him, and essentially entwined herself on his shoulders, arms, and body with the slithery precision of a black mamba. These two had a connection — perhaps the strongest of the evening — and I’m downright bummed to remember that Tucker is leaving the competition. Ugh, and of course he’s out during the week his dad appears and talks about how supportive he is of his kid. Ugh, I’m crying for over two reasons now, which I guess is better than my usual zero.
Paul (with Comfort Fedoke): Slay It, Don’t Spray It
Ugh, uneventfulness. I like Comfort and her Patrice Rushen-like visage, but this graffiti-themed choreography just wasn’t impressive or novel enough for primetime. Paul certainly jutted and thrusted like a wonderful, angel-eyed b-boy child, but I kind of winced as he beamed Nipsey Russell-style through all this hard, harsh footwork. I was missing a tonal connection between Paul and Comfort, who wanted to convey both lightheartedness and serious commitment to getting down, but they couldn’t agree on which moments to pick which extreme. Plus, first rule of using prop garbage cans: You can’t just have them onstage without doing crazy Stomp moves on/with them.
Jenna (with Mark Kanemura): Gay Man In Ray-Ban
Mark Kanemura. Now that is a gay guy in charge. When he’s not dancing behind Lady Gaga, he’s apparently cooking up kooky, whack-ass routines with lips-shaped couches in the foreground, and chiiiiild, it works. Jenna and Mark flitted like pouty hip-hoppers sponsored by Juicy Couture, and more importantly, Jenna whipped around her braid like a livid Viking maiden played by Fergie. This was certainly the most irreverent routine of the night, and the checkered jumpsuits really plunked this routine in some other, cheekier dimension. Very watchable and fun, and I’m only sorry to say that Mark definitely handled the straight-faced impishness of the routine with more flair than his competing partner, who was (ugh!) eliminated at show’s end.
Hayley (with Dmitry Chaplin): Breakup Breakdown
Dmitry Chaplin is effing devilish, and when I saw that Hayley was outfitted in an oversize men’s shirt and sexy black undies, I rolled my eyes in anticipation of a “naughty” Honey Hornee routine. I was right about the naughtiness, but I was pleasantly surprised by the difficulty of the moves at hand. Hayley’s legs seemed to be always extended in bizarre, near-vertical angles, and I didn’t cry in embarrassment when she threw a ring to the ground at the routine’s climactic moment. It was a saleable breakup routine, and Dmitry didn’t get too much nipple sweat on Hayley, Cat, or the camera. But then Jenna Elfman made a comment about wanting to spend “two and a half minutes ON DMITRY!” and now I’m nervous-sweating into several pails.
Jasmine (with tWitch): Hip-hop with too many stops.
When I saw that Jasmine and tWitch were collaborating, I turned a front-somersault in bed and landed in a perfect headstand, which is something I picture Jenna Elfman doing often. What could be a more ideal pairing of dancers? What could be more of a guaranteed triumph? What could be better? I’m sure you see where this is going, but I found tWitch’s choreography shockingly bland (especially among other hip-hop routines of this season) and his chemistry with Jasmine merely amiable. Ugh, why? Lots of clumsy, un-vivacious vaudeville going on here, first of all, but worse was that the duo’s convulsive energy kept stopping and starting. This was supposed to be the story of a superhero duo, but we mostly watched our un-caped cavorters circle around each other and shuffle. If these are superheroes, then we might as well call up a couple of Newsies to save Gotham. Jasmine’s my favorite dancer in the game, but this is my least favorite choreography she’s performed (admirably, mind you) in weeks.
Amy (with Travis Wall): Wicked Ways
You know, Travis Wall really stacked the odds against my approval by choosing a boringly weepy rendition of “Wicked Game” as his music, but man: This was effective. Sure, Amy Yakima’s acting teetered into Debra Winger histrionics a few times, but the way her body fell into (and around) Travis’ was both fiery and feathery. My instinct is that Travis is a very normal and cool person, and his choreography is always emotional without being annoying. I’m telling you that’s a f*cking feat. This boy gets it. (I might be fawning because my true crush Nico has left the competition, but I swear there’s some sincerity going on here.) These two pirouetted like windblown leaves, and it wasn’t too damn cloying. Fab.