This week was almost universally very strong. Dancers I'd come to pretty much despise stepped it up, and it made for a great episode of television. Plus, the top ten is revealed!
Group Performance (Choreographed by Stacey Tookey)
This was eerily similar to Mia's piece from many seasons ago with the angels. I didn't get what it was trying to say with that final image of Ricky. (Do Greek gods bleed gold?) The choreography itself was competent, not overly showy or emotional. Meh.
Bridget and Emilio (Jazz by Ray Leeper)
Ray Leeper, let's be real: there was no story here. You pretty much just explained the lyrics of the song. There was no storytelling in the movement, which is fine... but don't pretend. Having said that, this is one of very few Ray Leeper routines that I didn't hate. His choreography is almost always adequate, if not showstopping. Emilio continues to impress me, growing every week and proving himself to be extremely versatile. I do feel like Bridget could have been stronger, though she was technically proficient. But at this point you need to be outstanding, not proficient.
P.S. - Christina Applegate is the best guest judge. She has the effusiveness people love about guest judges, but she also knows what she's talking about.
Tanisha and Rudy (Contemporary by Mandy Moore)
Can the producers please give Rudy something outside his comfort zone? This was his best performance so far, but he needs to do ballroom and come back to Earth. I've grown to appreciate Tanisha, if not actually like her, and her movement was pretty good here. But her face was completely blank. You're supposed to be seducing the guy, but you looked bored. Mandy Moore hasn't been as good as she used to be for a while now. I liked but didn't love this piece.
Jacque and Zack (Paso Doble by Jean-Marc Genereaux)
If you've read my blog in the past, you know I can't stand the paso doble. Setting one to this heinous Rob Zombie song should've been a disaster. But I really liked this routine, thanks almost entirely to Jacque's and Zack's performances. The choreography was mostly interesting, especially the unexpected lifts (which are not traditional paso doble, and neither was most of the non-partnered dancing), though it totally fell apart toward the end. But Jacque and Zack were really strong in a style really far removed from what they both do. I also really liked the costumes, even though piece of Jacque's started falling off about twenty seconds in.
Emily and Teddy (Broadway by Warren Carlyle)
From the very beginning this felt like something was off: when Teddy slid out, it would've been more natural for his head to snap on the beat, rather than the empty space right after. And from there, this never really worked for me. Teddy had a lot of spaghetti arms, while Emily had the exact opposite problem and was really wooden most of the time. The choreography and performances were really boring (this is Fosse, people, "boring" should never be a word to describe this style).
Jessica and Casey (Contemporary by Travis Wall)
If all of Stacey Tookey's routines look the same with the pastel dresses and men in white shirts with lots of blue lighting, all of Travis's are the same but with the lights in yellow. Seriously... almost every time. This was pretty though. I liked Jessica for the first time ever, and Casey was fine. There were some wobbly moments toward the end, but their performances were spot on. (Jessica's feet during the kiss--stop it.) I think this was kind of overpraised, especially in the grand scheme of all of Travis's best work (including his group routine later in the episode), but that's just me.
Carly and Serge (Quickstep by Jean-Marc Genereaux)
So this was just as much a jive as it was a quickstep. Having said that, this was pretty decent as far as quicksteps go. They were, strangely enough, better in the closed position than in the separate jivey parts. I agree with Mary that Serge's kicks were weak and a little floppy.
Valerie and Ricky (Hip Hop by Pharside & Phoenix)
This choreography was really cool, especially the leg wave Valerie did. I hated the concept in contrast to the music, but that was the only weakness I really saw. Both performed the choreography well and created really good characters. High energy, really fun overall. Though I must say I'm kind of over the whole animator idea on this show... it's been overused, all the way back to season three's mannequin dance.
Top Seven Girls (Choreographed by Mandy Moore)
Boy, that wind machine sure is getting a work tonight, isn't it? I really liked this choreography, which was a much better showing for Mandy. I loved the fluidity going right into sharp stops. Jessica stood out in a good way (what is happening that I actually like her tonight?!), and everyone else was strong. No complaints here.
Top Seven Guys (Choreographed by Travis Wall)
SICK. I love that when Travis choreographs things, he's not afraid to have men touching other men. Touch doesn't always have to be romantic or sexual, it can be strong and supportive and beautiful in a really masculine way, like this was. I got chills in the opening moments. I fucking cried when Emilio flew through the air. THAT ENDING. This will likely go down as my favorite piece of the season, maybe one of the best in the show's entire history.
P.S. - After watching this about a dozen times, I have to say that there are two dancers who stood out in a bad way at times: Serge and Rudy. During the three repeated spins to the floor, Serge looked like he forgot what was coming at first and was at a much higher level than everyone else; in that same sequence, Rudy didn't get all the way to the floor like everyone else did. And, honestly, I think there might really be something wrong with his midsection, because he couldn't swing his arm all the way behind him either.
Bottom Three Guys: Teddy, Serge, Casey
Bottom Three Girls: Emily, Jessica, Carly
I'm not surprised at all to see Jessica moving on after tonight's performance, though judging by breadth of work I would have kept Carly. And of these three guys, I probably would've kept Casey too, though I'm not attached to any of these guys so... no real losses here, I don't think. It's a solid top ten.
My Bottom Two Guys: Rudy, Casey
My Bottom Two Girls: Bridget, Tanisha