Opening number choreographed by Christopher Scott Music: “The Gravel Road” — score from The Village.
At first I'm like, "Ugh, THE VILLAGE!." But the track is pretty and haunting so I'll try to suppress my memory of the movie. There are lots of IKEA-style old-style rocking chairs. The dance and rock in and around the chairs in every way imaginable. And it looks like the top 10 are paired with their old partners for one last time, which I enjoy. It's a little hard to tell since there are four petite brunettes in the top five girls, but it's a safe bet the guys and girls are with their old partners. Jenna gets a nice featured lift moment. Also of note - there are actually 10 dancers on stage, which mean there are no injured dancers this week! Thank you, Jeebus!
On the judging panel tonight, along with Nigel and Mary, is the incomparable Debbie "This child is FIERCE!" Allen. FINALLY. Her first appearance all season! She must have been just holding off until she could witness the glory of the All-Star routines, and who can really blame her? She is super excited to be here and to get on with the show. I can't wait to hear what she has to say. Maybe she'll tip her hand to who she thinks are her favorites to win!
We quickly recap last week's awesome routines and it's time for the bottom 4 reveal. Tucker has to be in the bottom because he didn't perform last week, and joining him are Nico, Jenna and Makenzie. This is not surprising as Jenna and Mackenzie have both been in the bottom 3 girls for three of the last five weeks. They are phenomenal dancers who have never had strong voter support. The choreographers love them though. Jenna especially gets a lot of featured moments in the group dances (see picture above). Nigel tells us we've seen all of them dance solos enough so there's no need to go through it again. Has Nico ever actually had to do a dance for your life solo? I don't think so. He's been in the bottom, but he's always been sent to safety. Well, it doesn't matter. Nigel wants to get straight to the All-Star routines, and I'm certainly not going to stand in his way. I think being saved is actually up for grabs at this point. These could go either way.
Amy and all-star Brandon Bryant (season 5): disco choreographed by Doriana Sanchez Music: “I Will Always Love You (Hex Hector Radio Mix)” by Whitney Houston.
A few things before we get to the dance. 1. Doriana will not be satisfied until one of her female dancers is decapitated or ripped clean in two during one of her disco routines. I believe she's seriously looking to kill somebody. 2. This is the WORST SONG CHOICE EVER for a disco. Why didn't she just try to have them dance and smile their way through the dance remix of Adele's "Someone Like You?" It's just not a joyous song. What they are doing is extremely athletic and super fun, but they are fighting against the music with every step. At one point, the song cuts completely out for dramatic effect, but it sucks all the energy out of the routine for a long silent moment. There are insane lifts. Seriously if you were trying to kill someone, make them try one of these lifts. I like Doriana, and I generally like her disco routines on this show, but this comes so close to being juuust too manic in my opinion. It's danced so well, but it's almost stressful to have to watch the tricks unfold. It finishes with Amy hanging centimeters from the ground following a death drop. The judges give her a standing ovation for not dying as much as anything else. Mary agrees with me that the song choice was bonkers, and you KNOW she hated it if she couldn't stop herself from mentioning it (twice!) in her critique. Debbie thought they were well-paired and thinks Amy's a stick of dynamite. And that gold DRESS, honey! You're wearing that little outfit! Nigel loves Amy and thinks she should pay close attention to how Melanie Moore gets it done when she returns later as an All-Star, because he thinks Amy has that kind of potential.
Aaron and all-star Kathryn McCormick (season 6): contemporary by Stacey Tookey Music: “I’m Kissing You” by Des’ree.
OMFG. First of all this is one of my favorite sad love songs. It probably holds that place because it's not overplayed and I rarely hear it. And also because it's just simply a beautiful vocal. Aaron is just KILLING IT here. He's SO strong while being so vulnerable. Kathryn can just fly off him and around him and underneath him. She trusts him completely and her technique is exquisite. They have an INSANE connection. God, it's just gorgeous. An obvious standing ovation. The judges are gobsmacked and tongue-tied. They are trying to think of snappy one-liners but are at a total loss. Debbie gives us a "Child, call the fire department, honey!" She rightfully praises Tookey's great choreo here and she is all teary-eyed and proud in the audience. Debbie is so proud of Aaron. Kathryn is beaming at him too. She says he's raised the bar for the competition tonight, and I'd agree with her there. Nigel thinks it was sensational. All the elements came together. Mary thought it was one of the most beautiful routines she's seen on the show and calls out Aaron's mix of strength and tenderness. This one was a home run. Cat even takes more time to talk to Kathryn about how awesome she thinks Aaron is before she gives the audience his call-in vote info. He's a lock to be safe next week.
Fik-Shun and all-star Melanie Moore (season 8): jazz by Mandy Moore Music: “Feeling Good” by Jennifer Hudson.
I sometimes wonder if I oversell Melanie in my memory as being so amazing as The Beast of Season 8, but then she takes the stage as an All-Star and I'm like, "Nope. She's legit amazing." I can't take my eyes off her the entire time. I think Fik-shun keeps up just fine, but she is just on another level. It's really the danger of having her as a partner in this type of situation. She's not trying to steal focus but she cannot help but command audience attention. Hot hot hot. They get a standing O as well, but Melanie really got them on their feet more than Fik-shun. Nigel calls out some moves Fik-shun biffed in the group number and Fik-Shun's eyes go wide in a "are you really calling me out for the group number? DAMN." kind of way. I went back and watched the opening number and it's true. There's a moment where he and Amy mess up a lift and that leads Fik-shun to do a pretty sloppy cartwheel right afterwards. Still, Nigel thinks Fik-shun's been having a great journey on the show. Mary agrees about the poor lines AND the great journey. Debbie lets us know that Fik-shun is REAL! But she can't honestly show up this late in the season and expect that line to be fresh, even with her particular flair. Cat lets Fik-shun give Melanie her props and he's really gracious and charming. I love him, but I think he got really outshone here.There's so little room for error with this few contestants left!
Paul and all-star Witney Carson (season 9): cha cha by Jean-Marc Genereux Music: “Live It Up” by Jennifer Lopez.
First time through, this was a little underwhelming for me. Whitney's hair - but more importantly her energy - seemed to be flying around all over the place. The dancing was so sharp, but it still felt like it could spin out of control at any second. I watched it a second time and decided I liked it a lot better than what I got from a first impression. But I don't know if this was really a great moment for Paul. He's really perfect in the style, but was this enough to keep him safe with two more performances to go from the two guys in the bottom this week? I'm skeptical. I think that has to be mind set of all the choreographers from this week out: Is this routine going to give them enough that they stand out from the crowd? Is there a moment you're going to remember as a high point of the night? If not, then they should dig deeper. Also, I need to note Paul and Witney totally missed one hand connection after a long spin. A very quick flash of disbelief crosses Witney's face but they keep going strong. Tey finish and the judges give another standing O. Mary doesn't mention the missed connection. She loved it. She's so proud of Paul and of Witney. They are on the hot tamale train! Debbie is calling the police for Witney's outfit (which, in truth, is amazing and barely there.) Nigel thinks Paul is going to make it a very interesting race to win the show. Also it's his BIRTHDAY! He's 22. So young and healthy. And he's got so many charms.
Hayley and all-star Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss (season 4): hip hop by Christopher Scott Music: “Locked Out Of Heaven (District 78 Remix)” by Bruno Mars.
Concept: Hayley is a loan officer and tWitch wants a loan... I feel like maybe Christopher didn't have a lot of brain space for this routine on top of his stellar group number. Parts of it don't feel very thought out. There's not enough flash to anything. It's fun, but nothing memorable happens. As I mentioned before, the choreographers have to be focused on highlighting the contestant as much as possible, and nothing about this routine really does that. Plus I didn't think this style fit Hayley well at all. It looked awkward on her. I didn't get her relationship with tWitch here either. They seem chummy, but there's no heat. Were they supposed to like each other? I didn't feel the chemistry. They do NOT get a standing ovation from the judges. First time tonight! Hmm. Debbie felt tWitch overpowered Hayley. Nigel thinks she's a dark horse here and he thinks she epitomizes the commercial dancer. Mary fauns over tWitch and then things get weird when she starts talking about pancakes and hands and her new diet and then she's kinda like "ME WANT FOOD!" Nigel checks to see if she's drinking alcohol on set, but no, that's just how she is.
Jenna and all-star Neil Haskell (season 3): contemporary by Mandy Moore Music: “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Mark Masri.
Mandy Moore and Neil are always a good combo. It's a story about breaking up! One partner is ready to let go and one person is not. Such a story has never been examined on this stage before! Or maybe it's explored at least once a week. There are a million candles spread around the stage which must have really annoyed the stage hands. So Jenna is the partner who's ready to let go and I think her movement is really simple and elegant and her energy is present and lovely. Neil is a great partner. He does not outshine her here. The focus is kept on her. Judges give a standing O. Nigel makes a joke that with all the candles on stage he didn't realize it was Mary's birthday as well as Paul's. Debbie and Cat are like "what did you just say??" But Mary just swipes at his shoulder and laughs. "I'd hit him harder but he'd like it too much!" Nigel thinks Jenna is the most versatile ballroom girl they've ever had on the show, and notes how it's not easy to continually find yourself in the bottom but keep delivering your very best. And I'd say that's true for Makenzie as well. It's gotta suck to always be in danger. Who doesn't want to sail through? But you never feel any sense of inevitable defeat in their dancing. That takes strength. Mary agrees, but then once again falls into a "ME WANT FOOD!" narrative. Debbie mentions that Neil was on the show when she first started judging and how she loved him then and loves him now. OH, how his face lights up at that news! It's so cute. Debbie loves Jenna and said she found mastery in the choreography. Is she being saved or sent home? No clue.
Jasmine and all-star Marko Germar (season 8): jazz by Ray Leeper Music: “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke feat. Pharrell.
I wish Ray had not said in the rehearsal footage that they should look EXACTLY like the same person because... they just don't! And first time through, that's how I watched it, and it took away from the joy for me because while they are both gorgeous humans, there are times they're not doing exactly the same movement exactly the same way. But they compliment each other very well and viewed as a partner dance, I think it's great. I love the style of the choreo. This is a very fun piece! Marko is not drawing focus, while still being incredible. He does this one spinning vertical split kick thing that is truly insane and worth the price of admission alone, but then after that the focus is back on Jasmine. She is so slick and has so much personality. The judges give another standing O. Debbie and Mary thought it was all eyes on Jasmine the whole time and loved the routine. Nigel loved the routine and thought it pulled from all sorts of jazz styles. He wasn't sure if he was looking at one All-Star on stage... or two! Jasmine seems thrilled and relieved.
Makenzie and all-star Jakob Karr (season 6): Broadway by Spencer Liff Music: “Too Darn Hot (RAC Mix)” by Ella Fitzgerald.
Ooh, Makenzie and Jakob! This is a perfect pairing. They both have those insane feet. Spencer makes sure you know it with some well showcased développé. This number has a classic, smoky, sexy feel. Mackenzie is gorgeous. Jakob is stellar. Everything is working for them in this number. The non-Tyce Broadway numbers have really been on fire this season! There's this moment where Makenzie is walking away from Jakob with her back to him and her face goes from smoldering to just busting open with this wonderful smile in only a few steps. I love it! Great final pose too. ANOTHER standing ovation from the judges! Debbie loved it and makes the Cyd Charisse reference to Makenzie again. Nigel thinks these two have the best pairs of feet in the business and that Makenzie is one of the best dancers they've ever had on the show. Mary loved that Makenzie matched Jakob and thought it was mesmerizing. Is she being saved or sent home? Still no clue. Total toss up on our hands since both girls are amazing and nailed their routines.
Oof. Nico gets hip hop and Tucker gets the boy-on-boy dance to close the show? Well let's just say someone didn't get dealt a hand with a lot of trump cards, but we still play the had we're dealt, right? So they are playing giant reptiles to one of my favorite Missy songs. I think Nico does better than he did in that first hip hop routine with Alexis. He's sharp with the movement and strong with the character. He's kind of a sweet innocent lizard. Maybe not quite a freak lizard, but it's good. Comfort is amazing as always. I thought this happened to be a really good routine on a night that's already featured maybe five amazing ones. This one does not get a standing O from the judges. BAD SIGN. Nigel didn't really love it, but he thought Nico really nailed the style. He thought he held the character even in the transitions, which has been something Nico's been told to work on a lot. Mary thought Comfort and Nico both got their freak on. She liked the routine more than Nigel, and found them both oddly freaky and enjoyable. Debbie felt like she was in Jurassic Park, honey! She reminds Nico that everyone is here to win and that he did himself proud. When Comfort leaves the stage she crab walks (crab sprints?) all the way across the stage. Seriously she moves so fast and it looks effortless. She's crazy! I love her.
Tucker and all-star Robert Roldan (season 3): contemporary by Travis Wall Music: “Medicine” by Daughter.
Well, if you have a contestant who survived a nearly-fatal accident and an All-Star who has survived an even more recent nearly-fatal accident, clearly you have to put them in a Travis routine about one brother saving another from Darkness. I mean, this pairing makes more sense than even Makenzie and Jakob's perfectly pointed feet. The routine is very emotional and the movement is gorgeous. But the whole here is greater than the sum of its parts. It's a very personal piece to Travis and if you have a history with the show (as I assume most of us do) it touches a deep place for these dancers that we've cared about for years now. So it's special. The judges of course give it a standing O. Mary cries and asks the boys if they see and feel the love from everyone in the room. OMG THE TEARS. TEARS FROM EVERYBODY. Mary can't even talk anymore. Debbie calls out how the piece is really about Travis and his own brother Danny Tidwell. The mention of Danny's name makes Travis's face crumble and makes me furiously google "Danny Tidwell" to make sure he's not dead, or being held in a room across the hall from Amanda Bynes in some posh LA sanitarium. But no, he's doing great. He's performing as a soloist with the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet which is why he's never around as an All-Star. So HE'S FINE. They're ALL FINE and I'm NOT CRYING! Nigel thinks all of the right elements came together for this piece and that it will always be remembered on the show. SO... Tucker is not going home this week. I mean, obvs.
Elimination time. Nigel lets us know there was a panel of 15 votes tonight. That seems like a lot of people! For the boys, it was unanimous among the voters who would go. He stresses that they really love them both and it's not a matter of one of them being bad, but clearly Tucker just had that MOMENT and Nico didn't, and that's that. Still going on tour though! For the girls it was 9-6 with Nigel in the minority. So Jenna survives and Makenzie is leaving tonight as well. Aww. Jenna is in disbelief that she got through AGAIN. Nico hugs Makenzie oh-so-tight and cries. They are adorable. Nico's reptile makeup gets sweated off onto Makenzie's face. Aww again.
List of tonight's dances in order of my personal preference:
Aaron and Kathryn's contempo
Tucker and Robert's contempo
Jasmine and Marko's Jazz
Jenna and Neil's contempo
Paul and Whitney's Cha Cha
Fik-shun and Melanie's Jazz
Amy and Brandon's Disco
Hayley and tWitch's hip hop
Next Week - It's all All-Stars - as Partners AND Choreographers! Pulling double duty next week, we'll get tWitch (Season Four), Dmitry Chaplin (Season Two), Comfort Fedoke (Season Four), Courtney Galiano (Season Four), Chelsie Hightower (Season Four), Allison Holker (Season Two), Mark Kanemura (Season Four), and Travis Wall (Season Two). SO if you're a HUGE season 2 or 4 fan, next week is pretty much made for you! I'm really excited to see what they bring to the choreo. Predictions for Bottom 4? I just can't believe Aaron or Tucker are going to be in the bottom next week. By default it has to be Paul and Fik-Shun. For the girls? I don't know. Amy... and finally Hayley? Jenna seems like the consistently lower finisher, but I thought she had a better night than the other two. This was a top notch night of routines, though. Really. It makes me want to go and watch it all again and again. Which I'll have to do anyway to write this recap. See you next week!!
I believe I can guarantee you won't like who goes home next week either. Goodnight everybody.
— Nigel Lythgoe (@dizzyfeet) August 14, 2013