Neil Patrick Harris is my new favorite judge from this season for two reasons:
1. He told Tyce Diorio his choreography and concept sucked (in so many words).
2. He told Jess to drop the twatty attitude and stop being so stupid (in so many words).
Marko and Chelsie (Samba by Jason Gilkison)
So I had to watch this piece three times. The first time, I only watched Chelsie; she's my favorite female dancer to ever appear on the show (and actually maybe my favorite overall dancer), so my excitement over seeing her back on the SYTYCD stage was uncontrollable. The second time I tried to force myself to watch Marko, but I still only watched Chelsie. So finally during the third viewing, I really did only watch Marko. I have to say I was not as taken with the performance as the judges were; Marko seemed to have some issues letting go of his contemporary training, and he looked overwhelmed by the speed of the steps. His hips could've moved more quickly and more circularly, and some of the footwork was weak (see 1:21 mark above). He relied too much on the movement of his legs and not enough on the movement of his hips. Overall I think Marko rose to the challenge of the piece but fell just a tiny bit short for me.
Jordan and Brandon (Contemporary by Dwight Rhoden & Desmond Richardson)
Let's be real: this was Brandon's dance. He basically is Desmond Richardson, a dance-descendant of him. And he's amazing. So it's no surprise that Richardson would choreograph a piece catered to his talents. The problem with that is... he's not competing, Jordan is. And this piece didn't show her off all that well. It was technique-heavy, so she got to show off her training, but next to Brandon she just looked amateurish. Sure, she has that really nice right-leg extension. But I counted at least five of them in just this one performance. I'm sick to death of seeing it. Switch it up, bitch, I'm bored.
Tadd and Comfort (Hip Hop by Chuck Maldonado)
Attention Choreographers: This is how you choreograph for a competitor and an all star. Comfort was there to complement Tadd, but he was very obviously the center of attention. He was placed downstage of her, and he got to do the fun crazy stuff. Unlike in the previous two routines of the evening (and in most of the ones from last season), this was designed to showcase Tadd. And I think he did a great job. The B-Boy stuff was okay, since I'm not really a fan of that genre; but the hip hop choreography and Tadd and Comfort's execution of it was really spot-on. The piece itself was refreshing, as it was just a showcase of hip hop movement, not jazz or contemporary masquerading as hip hop like so many pieces on this show.
Mitchell and Melody (Broadway by Tyce Diorio)
This was terrible. There was nothing Broadway about it at all, no theatricality or storytelling. The concept was utterly stupid and never came across onstage. The choreography was stilted and boring, and the performances suffered for it. Melody was totally lost in the shuffle, which was a shame because I was excited to see her dance. And I normally love Mitchell, but he overacted terribly here. I think he knew on some level how bad the piece was and overcompensated by overperforming. A total turd, easily the worst of the evening.
Caitlynn and Pasha (Argentine Tango by Leonardo Barrionuevo & Miriam Larici)
Preface: These are the choreographers who created one of the worst pieces in the show's history, last season's malevos tango featuring Jose and Adechike. Fortunately this piece was much more entertaining and enjoyable; in fact, it was on a whole nother level. The choreography was actually really good, and the performances were even better. Obviously Pasha is a fantastic Latin dancer, but Caitlynn was shockingly good as well. The lifts were wonderful, with Caitlynn looking weightless in Pasha's arms. Her footwork was impressive, especially the section of flicks between Pasha's legs. I often made the criticism last season that very few dancers can stand up to Pasha's talents; he'll make them look good, but he'll always look better. Caitlynn is one of the few who danced with Pasha and looked to be nearly his equal.
Sasha and Twitch (Hip Hop by Christopher Scott)
Get Christopher Scott out of my life, please. His concepts are stupid and never go anywhere. How would kicking breakfast off the table rekindle a dying romance? And what was the point of dancing on the table, other than for a cool visual? Plus the music choice was strange, and I also can't stand Twitch. I know I'm in the minority on that one, but I'll never understand what people see in him. He's a lazy dancer; everything is done just enough so that you can tell what he's going for, but he never goes that extra mile to make the steps look the best they possibly can. And on those rare occasions when he does, he turns every step into a slow groove instead of into something sharp (compare his movement to Tadd's in his earlier routine). Despite all that, I loved Sasha in this piece. Perhaps it's because I hated everything else (concept, partner, music) that I had to love something, and it was her. But this was the moment I was waiting for from her, when she just totally owns and shreds the stage. I don't think it's coincidental this moment came the week after her partner was eliminated.
Jess and Kathryn (Contemporary by Stacey Tookey)
Like last season's "Jar of Hearts" (coincidentally set to music by the same artist as this piece, Christina Perri), Stacey Tookey finetuned this piece to cater to Kathryn. And also like "Jar of Hearts," that's an issue because Kathryn is not competing. Jess was relegated to a supporting role, which I personally enjoyed because I don't like him. But it's not really fair to him that he's shoved to the background when it's his ass on the line. I wasn't much a fan of the choreography or of Jess's performance, and I'm glad that Neil Patrick Harris called Jess out on his constant mugging. You have to have the talent to back it up, and it's possible he does. But I wouldn't know from this piece because he didn't have much to do. The lifts were unremarkable, but that's mostly due to Jess's lack of height than any lack of dance ability (both barefoot, he was about an inch shorter than Kathryn). I'm waiting to see in Jess what everyone else apparently does, but I just can't past the face.
Melanie and Pasha (Viennese Waltz by Jason Gilkison)
Melanie is the one to beat. She has such a regal presence, and when she dances it looks so easy. This piece was absolutely effortless. The choreography flowed beautifully, and the whole thing had an ethereal quality to it. Like Caitlynn, Melanie matched Pasha 100%. The two of them created something magical and dreamlike, as if they were dancing atop clouds or floating on fog. It's a strange night for me: my two favorite pieces are both ballroom. But you just can't deny how good this was.
Ricky and Allison (Jazz by Tyce Diorio)
Ricky is another dancer whose constant praise I just don't understand. Like Neil Patrick Harris, I find him distractingly lanky and unsure of his own body. So pairing him with such an electric performer as Allison is only going to accentuate his shortcomings. He doesn't have the intensity or the abandon that Allison has as a fully committed dancer. And I think he's legitimately overpraised by the judges. Let's look at the one-armed lift they were so impressed with and break it down. 1) It was not a dead lift. Allison was partially supporting herself. 2) It was only one-armed for about a beat, at which point he supported with the other arm. 3) He pretty much threw her to the floor coming out of it. Rewatch that lift and look at Allison's body as she hits the floor; it looks painful. It's things like that which would bother me as a choreographer or dancer. Ricky is being praised for things he's not doing properly, and you don't ever grow, as a dancer or artist or anything else, without someone pointing out what you're doing wrong and how to improve or correct it.
Clarice and Robert (Bollywood by Nakul Dev Mahajan)
Bollywood is entertaining and fun and all, but I'm kind of over it. Clarice did well enough, but after seeing these routines over and over... they all look and feel the same. It was interesting to see this style for the first time back in season four danced by Katee and Joshua, and it was even still exciting to see it the following season in a great routine danced by Caitlin and Jason. But since those two highlights, it's gradually diminished in its luster and excitement. Now I'm just bored with it.
My Bottom Three