This was such a strange episode. To start with, all but one of the choreographers was doing their first routine of the season; many of those choreographers were doing their first routines ever on the show. And what was with the styles? Six of the seven couples got a style that they had previously danced this season... and it's only the fourth week of competition. I smell a fix.
Top Seven Guys Performance (Choreographed by Justin Giles)
So apparently this was supposed to be about the seven stages of grieving, but it all looked like "denial" to me, except maybe for Chris being "anger." Speaking of Chris, he was half a beat behind everyone else in the synchronized portions. Oh, and Jess came off as more of a twat than ever in the introduction. Not a fan.
Melanie and Marko (Jazz by Ray Leeper)
Boy, this show is off to a piss-poor start for me. It takes a truly off performance for me to dislike this couple, but somehow the combination of uninspired choreography, bad musical editing (and bad choice to begin with - "Americano" is about a lesbian relationship), cliche concept and hideous costuming did it for me. There was no storytelling here, despite what the choreographer was going for. At best, it was a bad competition dance. Melanie got stuck to the floor before she was supposed to be dragged by Marko, so it was totally awkward that her right leg was just kind of hanging out in midair (1:15 above). And then Marko skidded a few steps at the very end coming out of the aerial (1:42). So yeah, this was mostly a mess in my eyes. They did not deserve the heaps of praise they received; and I think they only received it because they're both judge favorites.
Sasha and Alexander (Hip Hop by Shaun Evaristo)
Wow, and we're three for three with the boring routines so far. Alexander just infuriates me. He has no personality whatsoever, not on stage or off. He looked like a Ken doll doing hip hop. Sasha fared slightly better, but the choreography was so elementary that it just made her look worse than she is. But a good dancer will sell bad choreography, and Alexander just doesn't know how to do that (and Sasha didn't seem to want to try). And once again, there was no storytelling here; perhaps that's Alexander's dead face's fault, but who knows. Bad ending too; would a guy with "swag" ever get that excited about a kiss on the cheek? Stupid.
Jordan and Tadd (Smooth Waltz by Toni Redpath)
Finally, a routine I can kind of get behind. I enjoyed the concept and the choreography, especially the beginning. The fog not only set the scene for the story of the siren and the sailor, but it also gave the performanc an ethereal dreaminess, like a memory being told. Jordan was slightly awkward at times, like coming out of the barrell turn over Tadd's back (1:06 in the clip). It all felt a little heavy, not airy the way a waltz should. But overall I was impressed, especially coming out of three bad performances.
Clarice and Jess (Contemporary by Justin Giles)
I was so glad to finally see Clarice come alive. I had to watch this twice because the first time I didn't pay attention to Jess, not even for a beat. And I actually liked Jess too, as much as I hate to admit. The choreography was very good, and if we hadn't been told it was Justin Giles then I would have assumed it was Sonya. The musicality was fantastic, the movement precise and carefully plotted. They got the opportunity to both dance and perform, but not in the over-the-top way that usually is Jess's downfall. He was surprisingly sedate, but Clarice just stole the whole performance; it was fearless and honest, and technically great.
Ashley and Chris (Salsa by Liz Lira)
Liz Lira choreographed one of the many unfortunate ballroom routines, a salsa between Adechike and Anya that made Adechike look like a pathetic amateur. Thankfully this wasn't nearly that awful. I still didn't like it, but that's because of the dancers and not necessarily the choreography. The lifts were impressive and well executed. But Chris was almost-horrifyingly bad. His energy was nearly nonexistant, and Ashley just couldn't compensate enough. I agree with Travis, in that when they weren't dancing together it was like watching empty space; there was no push-and-pull between them, no chemistry. It wasn't really sexy or dirty enough. Chris wasn't strong enough in posture or confident in the movement; Ashley could've brought more flavor.
Ryan and Ricky (Jazz by Chucky Klapow)
I just don't even know what to say about this one. I mean... it was fun. The choreography was actually really good. But what the hell was it? I mean... they were good. The performances were really strong. But what the hell was going on? The movement was really cheeky (loved the little "off to see the Wizard" moment), but why the hell were they zombie-like? Where did the fashion element come in? I guess I'm overthinking it all, and I should just go with it. Because I really did enjoy the routine a lot; there was a great mix of technicality and character. I'll just go with it: I liked it, but don't let me think about it anymore.
Caitlynn and Mitchell (Contemporary by Mandy Moore)
I just need to say this. Last week during the dance for your life, Caitlynn fell out of her turns. This week during the episode's introduction, Caitlynn fell out of her turns. Word to the wise, Caitlyn: when on live television it is better to do one less turn and remain standing than to add an extra turn and fall out of it.
Back to the routine at hand: I absolutely loved it. There was no out-there concept, no props, nothing. Just a couples dance. And it was stunning. The chemistry and intensity between these two dancers was what everyone on this show should aspire to. The energy was unmatched, the reckless abandon was gorgeous. Caitlynn just flung herself around that stage, knowing Mitchell would be there (and of course he always was). And everything just felt so epic, constantly building and growing and ebbing. It was just unbelievably emotional without being gimmicky. It was lovely and flowing and breathtaking and just great.
Top Seven Girls Performance (Choreographed by Ray Leeper)
Get. Over. It. Stop with the maneater routines. We get it, the girls are great this season and they're dominating the men. Move on. I don't have much to say about this one; it had a nice burlesque feel to it, but it wasn't at all exciting.
My Bottom Three
Melanie and Marko
Sasha and Alexander
Ashley and Chris