Song selections and the production crew continue to do a lot of heavy lifting, but after dancing no fewer than THREE routines each, our contestants were clearly still the stars of this show.
What's that old phrase, 'it takes a village' or something? I'm pretty sure that originally referred to, like, not letting the neighbor kid's face get chewed off by an ostrich. But today, and specifically in the context of this So You Think You Can Dance recap, the phrase means that A LOT of hard-working professionals make sure that the neighbor kid can safely foxtrot away from that ostrich. One of this show's earliest master-strokes—and I would argue one of the biggest contributors to its enduring appeal—has been the Hall of Superheroes treatment of its choreographers. Not only is recognizing their importance just a factual and accurate representation of the collaboration that goes into almost all entertainment, it also helps foster this celebratory, familial environment that is just so pleasant to return to week after week. Imagine how much better American Idol would be if there were a panel of songwriters who'd help each contestant write and perform new material each week? Like, one week the big-haired country contestant would get paired up with the R&B songwriter and the soul singer would record with indie-pop writer and so on. As SYTYCD has proven for 11 seasons now, collaboration reveals versatility reveals star power.
This week SYTYCD continued its commitment to giving credit where it's due as Nigel not only repeatedly singled out the choreographers for praise (and openly wished Emmys upon them), he even name-checked the director for doing a particularly good job of live-editing a dance routine. In addition to that, the choreographers' song selections were VERY good and in at least one case the camera-work was so incredible I began to wonder if the camera operator had been rehearsing with the dancers as well. Anyway, you know it's a good episode when even the production details are impressive, but if we're just going by dancing alone, this was a killer night. Let's talk about it!
PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT
Bridget & Emilio's contemporary piece, choreographed by Travis Wall. This was sort of what I was talking about earlier: The song alone would have rendered any routine breathtaking ("The Leaving Song" by Chris Garneau), and certainly when it comes to contemporary routines song choice does tend to do a lot of the heavy lifting. But pay attention to how well-filmed it is also! The camera operator was right up in the action the whole time, moving and gliding seamlessly around these kids. Song and production aside, this was just a very stirring and gorgeous piece in general. [EDITOR'S NOTE: This performance sold me on Bridget in an all-at-once way that I haven't experience since Jeanine in season five. —JR]
CHOREOGRAPHY OF THE NIGHT
Jacque & Zack's jazz routine, choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. Just so tense and sinister and sexy. Again, much of that had to do with Sonya's song choice, that creepy Beyoncé/Andre 3000 cover of "Back in Black" from The Great Gatsby soundtrack. But Sonya has always had some of the best music taste of any choreographer, so that was a given. But the lighting people and stylists also did a lot to elevate this piece to next-level status. Sorry to keep pointing out things that weren't the dancers' doing, but I'm just following this show's lead!
Valerie & Ricky's Bollywood routine, choreographed by Nakul Dev Mahajan. Full disclosure: As fun as Bollywood routines on this show can be, they always make me uncomfortable. And here's where I openly criticize the production: Why must the dancers always wear cartoonish, 'traditional' Indian attire? Bollywood is a huge genre, much of it very modernized. This would be like if all the jazz routines required vests, bowties and bowler hats. I don't know, the Bollywood routines on this show just feel sliiightly racially weird to me. That being said, this style of dance is VERY fun, mostly because I like any genre that places an emphasis on arm-dancing. Or when things like this happen:
But yeah, I admit that my discomfort with SYTYCD Bollywood routines is probably just a personal problem on my part. This was a very fun and spirited (and exhausting-looking!) routine otherwise. [EDITOR'S NOTE: This was the least I've liked Ricky all season, and I think Valerie easily out-danced him. Combine that with the routine's early placement in the show and I wonder if this could make for Ricky's mid-season wakeup call. — JR]
Teddy & Emily's salsa routine, choreographed by Oksana & Jonathan. Yes, Emily slipped a little and also Mary Murphy had some pointed critiques of their technical skills (I love whenever Mary gets REAL about ballroom), but between the music and the extremely intricate choreography, this was a very fun one to behold. Teddy is straight-up excellent and his camera-hamminess was not only well-suited to this routine, it might actually be growing on me in general? [EDITOR'S NOTE: No. — JR] The kid's an entertainer and it's hard to fault him when his work is so good. The judges also pointed out that Emily had dislocated her shoulder earlier that day, so despite a few missteps she'd done a "fabulous job, considering." That seemed about right.
Sonya Tayeh's 8-person group number. We're already at the point in the season where simply having one routine per pair is not enough to fill up 2 hours of airtime, so we also got two "mini-group" routines. Because SYTYCD knows exactly what we want, the routines were choreographed by Sonya Tayeh and Travis Wall. And man, were they stunners. Sonya's routine (which she titled "The Village of Broken People") was truly stunning and evocative and seemed to tell an epic tale in the span of 2 minutes. Plus it was set to a Bjork song! (Nigel's statement that he'd never really cared for Bjork was certainly one of the most baffling statements ever made by a human.) [EDITOR'S NOTE: But verrrry Nigel. —JR] It's honestly too bad about the on-the-nose, shatter-effect body makeup, which to me nearly ruined the whole thing. But everything else was perfect and I'm going to think about this routine for a long time.
While suffering in comparison to Sonya's, Travis' piece was fun also! Gotta love color-coordinated villainy.
Marcquet & Brooklyn. This was honestly the right choice, and further, the entire bottom six were the right picks. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Considering that far and away the two best girls this season were in it, no, I cannot agree. The right ones did go home, though. — JR] Much like last week the judges simply honored America's vote and dismissed the lowest vote-getters. America is doing a good job of keeping all my favorites safe lately, so good job, America! I'm sure this streak won't last long.
JUDGING THE GUEST JUDGE
Misty Copeland again! Three weeks in a row? At this point the show's just messing with us, right? Cat even introduced her with the seemingly begrudging line, "And finishing up her three week tour of duty..." Look, Misty Copeland is fine and I stand by my preference for judges with technical expertise. But maybe she's TOO polished? Like, give me a Debbie Allen or Paula Abdul any day. (Although, now that I think about it, it's entirely possible THEY were the last-minute cancellations.) I will say that Misty's biggest highlight of the night was when Nigel called her out for being harder on the girls and she responded simply that the boys were better this year. Ouch! But also yes. [EDITOR'S NOTE: But also it is ~pretty damn rich~ of Nigel to accuse anyone of a gender bias when he is ~notoriously~ easy on the girls, particularly in hip-hop numbers. — JR]
This week the best host of the night was Cat Deeley. If it takes a village to keep this show going, certainly Cat Deeley is the shaman who gathers everyone by the fire to spread mystical powders and chant mysterious hymns. We should be fearful of someone with such great power, yet we're comforted by the fact that she uses it for good. Also, "Shazam."
... Um, this Dave Scott hooker routine was RIDICULOUS. I'm not actually going negative on this one because anything that makes me laugh is automatically a good thing. But just look at Tanisha's outfit and wet-look hair! Or the fact that it's straight-up about a street-walking hooker? Truly insane that this made it on the air. I especially loved when Nigel compared her to Uma Thurman in Batman & Robin. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Second-best routine of the night after Travis/Bridget/bed. Dave Scott 4 President.— JR]
... I am still laughing about Casey and Brooklyn's hip hop dolphin trainer outfits. Not going to lie, a cute boy in a wetsuit is definitely one of my jams, so I was NOT mad about this. But what a weird styling decision!
... Lucy Hale: WHOOPS. Attention actresses, you don't ALSO have to be singers. Just get really good at ONE thing and focus on that. It doesn't matter if music is your "true passion." You are an actor now and that's how people want to see you. Please enjoy your starring roles on major TV shows and stop pursuing record deals on the side, otherwise you'll be mediocre at both things.
... Rudy romance update! Immediately after he danced and the judges critiqued him, Rudy was caught off guard by Cat's sudden inquest into his burgeoning romance with Jacque. What made this moment feel especially off-script was how reluctant Rudy seemed to discuss it, even seeming incredulous that Cat would ask him right then and there. But he DID admit that they'd gone on a date (at the restaurant inside Nordstrom's!), but bristled at the suggestion that they'd kissed. Major points to Cat for pursuing the scoop, though. Does the Pulitzer Committee give journalism awards to reality show hosts?
... We got to see video footage of all the contestants' first-ever performances and it should come as no surprise that Rudy's was very .GIF-able.
... Nigel cryptically referred to some huge new gig Sonya just got. WHAT was it? Is she leaving this franchise? He immediately claimed he couldn't talk about it on the air, but please don't toy with our emotions like that, Nigel!
... Willdabeast's hair is absolutely awesome. Almost as cool as Sonya's even.
... Marcquet was an especially good sport about his dismissal, and the way he wilded out during the closing dance party was amazing. THIS is how you do it.