Before we get to this week’s dances, a necessary note: I am obsessed with guest-judge Paula Abdul and can’t help if my judgment last night was altered thanks to her presence. She’s PAULA, y’all. Forever your girl in ’88, spellbinding you in ’91, and throttling you with sex appeal and bandleader jackets forever after. And get this, I also love this week’s other guest judge Erin Andrews — one of the underrated smart ladies of broadcasting. Hell yes to this unlikely duo of visitors. Cue up “Opposites Attract” and let these skat kats jam.
Amy and Fik-Shun: I Sense Frik-Shun
If you’re a longtime reader of my
slobbering insightful SYTYCD critiques, you’re aware that I was obsessed with last year’s self-proclaimed ninja Cole Horibe and his partner, miniature Maureen McCormick doll Lindsay Arnold. Their best routine as a red-lit, devious paso doble that transcended melodrama and conjured actual intensity and sexuality. It was hot. From both sides. Amy and Fik-Shun essentially performed a tribute to that moment (complete with black S&M toreador vestments), and frontrunner Amy delivered in her bold throes and motions. Fik-Shun, however, is becoming a problem for me. The judges rightfully laud how well he’s taking to different dance styles and politely chide him for tensing his shoulders, but there are some other obvious issues here. For instance: the dopey smirk he wore the entire performance while his partner dished out grande dame emotionality. Fik-Shun’s blankness took me out of this routine, and thus, Cole is still my sweaty bull-taming tempster of choice.
Jasmine H and Aaron: Hilty Verdict
So weird to hear a Smash soundtrack contribution on this show. I want to see a krump routine performed to the heavy, lacquered swishes of Anjelica Huston’s hair. While Broadway routines usually annoy the hell out of me, I found this performance quite graceful and captivating. I effing love Jasmine H. Luh-huvvvvv. Her legs jolt in perfect vertical splits almost on accident. Anyhow: Lots of flying happened in this adorable number, and we didn’t even need Katharine McPhee’s sulking to understand it. This was some “Rush, Rush” majesty, to put it in Paula terms – – though Aaron looks like he could piledrive Keanu Reeves and jump back into a pirouette without a second thought.
Malece and veteran Marco (replacing Jade): Behind, Next To, And In Front Of The Candelabra
Travis Wall staged a relatively by-the-book contemporary routine here (decked out with candelabras from Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna days), yet somehow, Malece manages to show off a side of her we hadn’t yet seen: true acting ability. The leaps and jetes were lovely, but I felt so much of my attention drift towards her face. Unlike many angelic dancers, Malece is not content to look precious (and be called precious) by the judges. She has a stalwart resolve to emote, and I can see her cringing inside every time the judges use child pageant adjectives to describe her. Here, she was a star. And poor Jade! The charismatic gent suffered an injury and is permanently out of the competition. Luckily for me, I don’t believe I’ll develop Alex Wong-era withdrawal pains this time. And speaking of that season: Can my boyfriend Billy Bell please return? Maybe with Matt Damon’s Behind the Candelabra weave? Thx.
Makenzie and Paul: No Gay But Today
I had my doubts about this routine when new choreographer Lindsay Nelko kept saying things like, “That look was everything” during rehearsals (I hate those dopey cliches; that glib world of “I’m LIVING for that” and “I can’t. I can’t even,” etc.), but my worries subsided upon realizing that Paul is a precious Sal Mineo creature with expensive stuffed animal eyes, and Makenzie was dressed like Vanna White in the beloved TV movie Goddess of Love (’88). Dreamy chemistry throughout, with Paul shedding tears and jumping into a marvelous 720 before our eyes. An Idina Menzel version of “No Day But Today” played, and accordingly, Paul seized the romantic moment and created a big, emotive role for himself. Fabulous.
Jasmine M and Alan: Left of the Middleton
This kooky jazz number about uptight royals letting loose was a boring idea in theory. Everyone on this show is letting loose in humanly unimaginable ways, so why would it delight/shock us to see two people in tiaras up and kicking around? I know and understand unhinged royalty already. I’ve seen W.E., dammit. Why does SYTYCD need to remind me? Anyway: The routine (and a subsequent solo) wasn’t enough to save Jasmine M., this week’s fallen competitor, but she busked for our affection hard here. Big expressions, vaudevillian tea sipping, whatever. She ruled. Alan was slightly more awkward and noticeably less noticeable. I think he’ll be facing doom in a Wallis Simpson-y way soon.
For the hell of it, here’s a picture of Paula with her student (of sorts) Janet Jackson. Fact: Nothing is better than this.
Jenna and Tucker: Clack-o Jacko
Now hear this: I always appreciate a deep cut from Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album, because that is when things started getting unavoidably weird. The slutty, yet sexless “In The Closet” video? The Macaulay Culkin cameos? That horrifying kiss with Iman in “Remember the Time”? I wear those moments like Pepsi-inflicted second-degree burns. And now, Jenna and Tucker’s jumpy, jolty dance to “Dangerous” joins the ranks, since it was pretty unsynchronized and awkward. Ms. Abdul was right to point out that Michael Jackson often borrowed from jazz, but otherwise, Jenna and Ticker’s performance bore no resemblance to the King’s dancing. Didn’t care for the costumes or the general atmosphere. Bottom two time? Maybe, is all I’m saying.
Hayley and Curtis: Samba No. 5
I’ve watched the judges’ critiques a hundred times now, and I cannot get over the freakish web of words Mary Murphy threw at us following this performance. She was talking so fast, she practically scat-sang about “samba walks” and “samba passes” in a way that was incomprehensible to most home viewers (or at least me, pardon). She didn’t even get around to noticing that Hayley’s shock-green dress looked like an exploded tennis ball. Weird. Thankfully, Nigel and Mary did notice how much of a nonentity Curtis was in this sultry routine. He acted like Hayley’s chauffeur when he needed to be her damn lover. I believe there is a Sophie B. Hawkins song about this.
Alexis and Nico: Spellbound
Nico has been one of the most panned contestants since the Top 20 began, and it was refreshing to see him own the cartoonish elements of this dance — since it’s a hypnotist daze fantasy — and sell us on some spooky, woozy characterizations. In fact, it was his thus-far underrated partner Alexis who blew it for me, here. This jazz number was about character, and as Nico’s gleeful hypnotist, Alexis lacked the fiery and necessary sorcery that would’ve made this routine more memorable. But of course, all Nico routines are memorable to me because he looks like a twinky (fetal?) Steve McQueen. Ow, ow. I think.
Mariah and Blu-Print: White Haus Down
How have I glossed over the fact that this plucky hip-hopper’s name is Mariah Spears? It’s the ungodliest pop portmanteau of all time. Yeesh. This week, Mariah and Blu jived and animated in all white jumpsuits, looking something like Mike Teevee at the end of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The dance was designed to keep them popping and convulsing from beginning to end, and while that energy surge was entertaining, the final product felt a little tepid. The moments of sustained static (as the judges put it) hindered the piece’s energy, and Blu-Print essentially forgot to emote for half the routine. Also, I’ll just say it: Something about Mariah’s jocular giddiness is just phony. I loved the look of this piece and some of the individual moments tucked into the choreography, but this was a white party that needed better direction. But remember: No one threw a more exclusive white party than Emily Dickinson. I. Love. That. Joke.