Let me just start by saying that Debbie Reynolds is the most fabulous guest judge this show has ever had, regardless of whether or not she had anything relevant to say. Say it with me, everyone: "living legend."
Ryan and Ricky (Jazz by Mandy Moore)
Well... I didn't exactly get "sexual" out of that routine. It's mostly because I find Ricky to be the most feminine dancer on the show this season, including the girls. And it didn't help that the wardrobe department put him in a freaking corset. To watch Ricky only during this dance, you'd think it was a talent show routine at any performing arts high school in America. He came off more silly than sexual; all I could think of watching him was Frank in The Rocky Horror Show. Ryan did a little bit better portraying maturity and desire, but there's only so much you can do when there's absolutely zero chemistry between the two dancers.
But welcome back, Mandy! I missed you. Mandy Moore is constantly changing styles with her routines, but you always know when it's her by the awesomely bad 80s songs she choreographs to. Love her.
P.S. - Can we talk about how infurating that preview for Footloose was? They turned a classic, cheesy 80s film into a shitty sequel to Step Up. Shoot me now.
Caitlynn and Mitchell (Contemporary by Stacey Tookey)
So now we know why the judges/producers didn't send anyone home last week: it would've been a shame not to see Mitchell dance this piece. Even though Stacey Tookey is a very female-centric choreographer, Mitchell still managed to shine in this routine. The quality of his movement is above and beyond anything the other dancers have demonstrated in these first two weeks, and he's easily the best performer (in terms of character/acting) among the men. Caitlynn matched him in beauty and technique. A truly wonderful and emotional piece.
Missy and Wadi (Cha Cha by Jean Marc Genereaux)
As per usual, I don't like Jean Marc's choice of music. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Kesha enough to listen to, but I hate using thumping pop music for ballroom routines. It immediately creates a disconnect in my mind, and that's something I'll have to learn to get over eventually. But let's talk about how awful Wadi was in this number. Just look at his single pirouet at 0:29, and that's all you need to know. Horrendous technique (expected considering his style is B-Boy) and musicality. Those things that hold your legs together, Wadi? Those are hips. Move them. Those things on the end of your arms? They're wrists! Straighten them. But do it somewhere else, because you should be going home after that.
To be honest, I have nothing to say about Missy. I was so distracted by how bad Wadi was, that it didn't matter what she was doing... whatever it was, it was better than what he was doing.
Iveta and Nick (Bollywood by Nakul Dev Mahajan)
Color me impressed. Iveta is amazing, so I expected her to do well in this style. But I was beyond surprised with Nick, who actually did great. I think Bollywood naturally fed into the energy and musicality it takes to be a tapper, so he did a surprisingly good job. I haven't particularly liked Nick so far, so I suppose my expectations were lowered just enough for me to fully enjoy this routine for what it was: fun entertainment.
Miranda and Robert (Hip Hop by Tabita & Napoleon D'umo)
Just knowning the concept was one woodpecker teaching another to fly, this should have been a disaster. It definitely wasn't. Yes, it was strange. Yes, it was a little off-the-wall. Yes, Miranda totally fell out of her back tuck. But it was an experiment that succeeded on many levels, and that's what's important. If you're going to take a risk, do it like this; make it completely crazy but put in some awesome and intricate choreography so that there are still some redeeming qualities. I am enjoying this couple more than I ever thought I would, so clearly they're doing something right.
And by the way, Debbie Reynolds can stay.
Clarice and Jess (Contemporary by Stacey Tookey)
The concept of "subtly" choreographing the William and Kate relationship was cute. The choreography was decent, but it paled in comparison to Stacey's earlier routine. And I still don't like Jess, but for new reasons now. With this routine, he showed his weaknesses as a dancer. Get those damn legs up! Extend! Be strong for your partner! Stop taking extra little steps! Touch her like you love her! Clarice shined much brighter and seemed more committed. Like Nigel said, when they were dancing individually they were fine but see my critique of Jess above to see why it didn't work when they came together.
Jordan and Tadd (Viennese Waltz by Jean Marc Genereaux)
The Viennese Waltz bores me, and other than the one danced by Kherington and Twitch way back in season four I have never liked it on the show. Sure this was a pretty enough routine, but that's all this style is to me: something nice to look at. I don't care about it, I don't enjoy it, it's just there. It's the entertainment at a corporate event. Blah blah blah.
Melanie and Marko (Jazz by Mandy Moore)
Yes! A Mandy Moore prop dance! This was jazz dance in its purest form: showy entertainment that displays both personality and technique without necessarily needing a story. Melanie and Marko have excellent chemistry and they feed so well off of each other, whether it be romantically like last week or comically and sensually this week. And Tyce, take note. This is more an update of Fosse's style than the crap you pull together. It was danced nearly perfectly and the choreography was great. Definitely one of the night's highlights.
Sasha and Alexander (Hip Hop by Tabita & Napoleon D'umo)
For the love of God, everyone needs to STOP using this concept! This is the third time this type of dance has been featured on the show, and the second time from Nappy Tabs. Back in season four they choreographed a routine with Joshua and Katee where he was going off to war, and now we have him returning. It's getting old. And once again, Sasha was the star of this couple. Alexander just has no personality on stage. His face is lifeless, and it comes across as kind of arrogant. And he didn't dance this style well at all. He was often behind the beat slightly, and he just looked uncomortable doing hip hop. Sasha, on the other hand, was impressive. She reminded me of Chelsie in "Bleeding Love:" a dancer outside of her element completely embracing the style and character, giving it her all despite her discomfort or misgivings.
Ashley and Chris (Broadway by Spencer Liff)
Dear Producers: This is what happens when you hire fresh, young talent to choreograph. You get unique, fantastically realized routines. This is easily the best Broadway number ever featured on the show, from the concept to the execution. Spencer drew something out of this couple that I didn't think they were capable of after last week's lackluster performance, but I'm ready now more than ever to attribute that to bad choreography. Because this was just wonderful. Ashley was perfectly sultry, and Chris showed that he can pick up some real dance technique and execute it well.
I could go on and on about this piece. And just for the record, America: this is theatricality. Character, commitment, presence, storytelling. Not acting over-the-top and drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. There was also a very tangible sense of connection between Ashley and Chris, and this is the kind of sexuality I think Mandy Moore was going for with Ryan and Ricky's piece earlier tonight... but they can only dream of having this type of chemistry. For my money, this was an almost perfect blending of artists. The only thing that could have improved it was if the jailbars had been stronger; the wobbling got a little distracting early in the number, until the dancers took over wholeheartedly and made you forget about it.
My Bottom Three
Missy and Wadi
Clarice and Jess
Jordan and Tadd