Apparently I was confused on the process of bringing back the All-Stars. I had previously written that this week contestants would be randomly paired with a fellow contestant and would also be dancing paired with an ‘All-Star’ from a previous season. The dancers were in fact paired with All-Stars tonight, but their second performance was a solo, allowing viewers to focus on each one as an individual before voting.
The guest judge tonight was Neil Patrick Harris, who pulled no punches in giving his feedback both positive and negative. Whereas guest judges in the past have taken a more lighthearted and humorous approach to the judges’ table, Neil took his role seriously and provided some solid critiques even of the dances he enjoyed. I have to imagine that the contestants enjoy that type of specific criticism, as it gives them tangible things to work on or emphasize in future weeks. Although I will say that the serious tone was not nearly as entertaining as Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s clever quips last week!
The All-Stars were flawless, as was to be expected, but they’ve already had their moment in the spotlight, so let’s focus on this season’s contestants:
- Marko didn’t have the favorite performance by any means, but he started off the show with a good performance of the Samba. There was something slightly cheesy about his individual moments in the dance, but the partner work was strong, and the lifts were challenging. His solo was, for me, the more interesting of the two dances (particularly from :23-:27 of this clip), but viewers don’t have to worry about Marko going home any time soon.
- It’s no secret that Jordan has not been my favorite dancer in recent weeks. She has had weak technique in a number of dances outside of her genre, yet her charisma onstage has seemingly kept the votes coming regardless. This week she was fortunate to dance contemporary, and even more fortunate to be given some incredible choreography and one of the best contemporary partners a dancer could ask for (Brandon). It all worked together for a great routine. Her solo finally branched out from her usual signature moves, which was refreshing to see from her.
- Tadd was matched with Comfort for a fast-paced hip hop dance, and as with Jordan he just seemed to be in his element. Yes, ‘B-Boy’ style is not exactly hip hop, as Nigel pointed out, but the feel and the attitude is similar, and the choreographers did work in a fair amount of Tadd’s B-Boy tricks to let him shine. His solo was a great display of athleticism, but didn’t quite stack up to some of the others of the night.
- I’ve come to expect more of Mitchell than he offered in his Broadway routine. The choreography itself wasn’t as bad as Neil Patrick Harris expressed, but Mitchell’s performance was way too over the top. After a surprisingly weak solo, especially compared with his remarkably powerful “Dance for Your Life” solo this past Thursday, Mitchell is my prediction for leaving the show tomorrow. He is capable of much more than he gave viewers tonight.
- Mary Murphy commented that tonight was the first time Caitlynn showed passion that seemed real, but I could not disagree more. Regularly I have written that Caitlynn’s ability to convey emotion and intensity in every dance she has taken on is what sets her apart from the other contestants. Tonight was no different, and she played her part in the Argentine Tango perfectly. Her solo was nothing extraordinarily unique, but it was good.
- There are three performances from tonight that deserve a youtube lookup, and Sasha’s hip hop performance with Twitch is one of them. The uniquely perfect pairing of Dorothy Moore’s soulful 1976 R&B ballad Misty Blue with contemporary and sensual hip hop choreography was the ideal setting for what Sasha and Twitch were able to execute both in dance and theatricality. The piece was a highlight of the night. Sasha’s solo was equally as engaging – performed dramatically low to the ground and with her characteristic strength and grace.
- The second performance worthy of a youtube viewing is Jess’ contemporary performance. Although his facial expressions were once again a bit of a distraction (simply closing his mouth during routines would likely make a world of difference), the whole performance was incredibly moving. The choreography needed no explanation, which is always a sign of something special. One thing I’ve grown to love about Jess is his wholehearted commitment to every dance and style, and it was exactly that commitment that allowed him to execute this contemporary piece with credibility. Tonight was Jess’ night – his solo was full of a Dick Van Dyke style charm while at the same time technically strong as always.
- Ricky is the dark horse of the competition – his partnership with Ryan kept him under the radar for a while, and even landed him in the bottom a few times, but he is rapidly showing himself to be a top competitor. During his jazz performance for the first time I couldn’t take my eyes off of him – his portrayal as the driving force behind a nightmare was mesmerizing. The choreography of this piece (the third that deserves a youtube viewing) was possibly my favorite of the entire season thus far, and there has been a lot of great choreography to compare it to. For a choreographer to so strikingly capture the feeling of what is experienced in a nightmare with movements is amazing to me, and demonstrates exactly what is so wonderful about the medium of dance.
- I will spare readers another love-fest on Melanie, but will say only this: anyone else dancing the Viennese Waltz with Pasha would have either irritated me or bored me, but Melanie has a way of dancing every style in a way that keeps viewers attention riveted. Her solo included some unique elements (like at the :25-27 mark of this clip).
- Clarise’s solos was actually one of my favorites of the night. Her Bollywood performance surprised me – I’ve realized in recent episodes that I enjoy Bollywood as a group number but that it loses some of the energy when performed with only a pair of dancers. However, the choreographer tonight made it work, and Clarise and Robert gave it an endearing charisma. We’ll see if it was enough to overcome the Bollywood curse with viewers’ votes.
Although seeing the contestants dance with All-Stars allowed them to shine a bit more as individuals, I personally am looking forward to seeing how they deal with the challenge of being paired with new partners from among their fellow dancers from this season.
Qu.O.T.E.: “There was no time to think! … It was like a sentence that ran on and on – it was like listening to Mary Murphy talking!” – Nigel commenting on the speed of Tadd and Comfort’s hip hop routine