Hello, dance fans! Liane is busy doing her thing at Comic-Con so I’ll be filling in for her this week, and what a week I pulled: not only is it the first week for All-Stars, but humankind favorite Neil Patrick Harris guest hosts! (Yes, humankind. It is against the nature of our species to dislike him.)
Neil immediately demonstrates why he’s the most adored man in Hollywood by complimenting Nigel, Mary and the show for bringing dance into America’s living rooms. Neil. We already love you. You don’t need to work so hard. Because there is a lot of dancing to get to – not only will the dancers be paired with an All-Star, but they’ll be performing a solo as well – after the introductions the always impeccable Cat Deeley quickly tosses to the first pair of dancers.
Marko & All-Star Chelsie
Marko and Chelsie are given a Jason Gilkison samba, with Marko portraying a photographer and Chelsie is Kim Kardashian. I think. I don’t watch Dancing with the Stars, and Chelsie & Mark Kanemura were my favorite pairing of all time, so it’s great to see Chelsie again.
Marko has been one of the early favorites and he gives one heck of a performance, but struggles with some of the fast footwork here. He’s still a dynamic performer, and it’s a great routine, but he clearly was a bit out of his depth. After the dance, even pro Chelsie is wiped out so it was obviously a tough one.
Neil compliments the dance and Marko in particular, calling him “the guy to beat.” Mary loved it as well, so considering she’s the ballroom expert I obviously don’t know what I’m talking about. Nigel mentions the lift they were struggling with in practice, and says they pulled it off perfectly tonight. Again, what the heck do I know? Answer: nothing.
Sasha is a dancer easily described as fierce, and her solo fits this description. She attacks every move, and is simply gorgeous. I might like her just a little bit. Cat agrees, calling her a “warrior princess.”
Jordan & All-Star Brandon
Jordan and Brandon draw a contemporary routine about love from Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, which fills my heart with glee. They’re good. Then everyone makes a lot of percussion noises with their mouths, like they’re auditioning to be backup singers on the next Bobby McFerrin album. It’s weird.
The routine is really interesting, with some extensive mirroring and give-and-take, and they both dance it beautifully. It’s not your typical angst/happy/end with a kiss contemporary routine, and both Brandon and Jordan seem to relish the chance to do something different. I certainly relished watching it.
Mary loves it, telling Jordan she’s “fighting to take the next position.” Nigel compliments the choreographers (as he loves to do) and tells Jordan she doesn’t have any weaknesses. Neil says the dance took his breath away, specifically pointing to the great feeling he saw behind the dance.
Jess is incredible because he can jump as high as he is tall. I feel like there should be a way he can market this beyond dance. It’s a very Jess solo, in that it’s Broadway and happy and exactly what you would expect.
Tad & All-Star Comfort
Tad and Comfort get a hard core hip hop routine choreographed by Chuck Maldonado. Chuck’s intention is to put Tad in the limelight, and to do that apparently Comfort has to be “gutter sexy.” Is that like homeless chic? Then everyone talks about swag and I get lost because I don’t know what that is.
For a hard core hip hop routine, it starts out very…not hard core. They struggle with the unison, partly because the energy of the piece is very, very low and the steps are very, very fast. I’m not sure if it was song choice, choreography or dance, but that just didn’t work for me.
Nigel likens the fast pace to Mary talking, and praises Tad for picking up on all kinds of choreography considering he is a b-boy, saying he out-danced his All-Star. Neil loved it as well, and then SPOILS HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, WHAT THE HECK NEIL. It’s a mildly amusing story, though, so I’ll forgive him. Mary says they hit this out of the ballpark, and this is when I know I don’t understand dance because the experts like everything I don’t tonight. Then Mary calls it “ghetto-licious” and I die a little inside.
Melanie’s solo is quirky, controlled, very thoughtful, and gorgeous, if a bit sparse for only a 30 second bit. Still, she’s amazing. There’s no disputing that fact.
Mitchell & All-Star Melody
Mitchell and Melody get a Broadway jazz piece from Tyce DiOrio about the idea of flight. Mitchell calls Tyce’s description skills unique, which is proven when Tyce talks a lot about planes thrusting, which I hope doesn’t have anything to do with the Mile High Club. TMI, Tyce.
I’ve never been a big fan of Tyce’s Broadway routines, and I must say I didn’t quite understand the “flight” feeling he was going for here. Mitchell and Melody to their best and dance it fine, but the routine is honestly kind of awful.
Neil didn’t enjoy the dance or get the theme either, so I feel better because I need validation for my opinions. Mary points out the over-the-top facial expressions and calls the whole thing overdone. Nigel invokes Fosse to explain the feeling the piece should have had, and did not.
Ricky’s solos have been some of my favorite of the season so far, and have showcased him in a way some of the routines he’s had have not. This is another good one, until he tries to leave the stage without the obligatory stop at Cat for the voting numbers. Cat makes the mistake adorable, as she always does.
Confession: when Cat announced Clarice’s name, I had no idea what she looked like. Not a good sign. Her solo is fine, but perhaps not enough to get me to remember her name.
Caitlynn & All-Star Pasha
Caitlynn and Pasha get an Argentinean tango choreographed by Leonardo and Miriam, with a 1930s theme. I can’t concentrate on anything else in the segment because Caitlynn’s hair is gorgeous, y’all.
The entire feel of the dance is incredible, from the costumes to the music to starting the piece using a phonograph prop. I wasn’t a viewer during Pasha’s season, but he has quite the presence, and Caitlynn is very good herself. In a word: stunning.
Mary gives the routine a standing ovation and calls Caitlynn a “complete woman,” saying she took her dancing to another level. Nigel gets gross, calling her a sexy woman and him a voyeur, or something similar. Nigel really can’t pull off calling these ladies sexy, because he immediately looks like a creepy old man. Neil says the piece started slow but turned into great theater, and praises her partnering with Pasha.
After a somewhat disappointing dance earlier, Mitchell really brings it for his solo. I will admit, I don’t quite get the “shirtless male solo” thing dancers seem to espouse. Not that I’m necessarily complaining, mind you.
Sasha & All-Star Twitch
Sasha and Twitch get a Christopher Scott hip hop routine about a dying relationship. It involves props, which always makes for a fun time. Well, unless you almost fall on those props and injure yourself, Sasha.
This is the pairing I was most excited to see and they did not let me down. The dance is set to “Misty Blue,” and the juxtaposition of hip hop, the unexpectedly slow song, and Sasha and Twitch’s personalities makes for an amazingly fun (and unexpectedly sexy!) time. Best of the night, by far.
Nigel is almost speechless, and still manages to be gross. The man has talent! Nigel points out that she had chemistry with a partner for the first time which is true, but ouch for Alexander. Neil calls it spectacular and the best routine so far. Mary says she’s ready to have a “hot attack” from all of the sexy, and tells Sasha she’s the All-Star tonight.
The ladies are so strong this year, and Jordan’s solo shows she’s no exception. Gorgeous, controlled and interesting.
Jess & All-Star Kathryn
Jess and Kathryn get a contemporary piece by Stacey Tookey about not being able to see what’s right in front of your eyes. Jess has struggled with lifts, so of course this routine is chock full of them. Poor Kathryn, taking her life in her hands.
The piece is lovely, and Jess and Kathryn really dance the pants right off if (if dances wore pants, I suppose). Jess momentarily struggles with a few of the lifts but generally acquits himself well, and better than expected. Overall, it is a very strong dance.
Neil compliments the choreography and warns Jess not to mug, but be present and sincere in the dance. He says this was as good as he’s seen him. Mary concurs and says it’s Jess’ best piece since the beginning of the show. Nigel concurs, longwindedly.
Tad’s solo is very handstand-y, and almost takes him right off the edge of the stage. Danger is fun!
Melanie & All-Star Pasha
Melanie and Pasha draw a Viennese waltz from Jason Gilkison. It is the story of a guy who has lost his will to live, which sounds nice and uplifting! Melanie’s job is to make sure he doesn’t kill himself, I think. It’s not subtext. It’s text, which is honestly kind of bizarre.
There is some sort of SYTYCD rule that Viennese waltzes must be lit in blue and costumed it white, and such it is for this dance as well. It’s inherently a breathtakingly beautiful style of dance, and this is no different. Melanie is a joy to watch, and I’m kind of regretting missing Pasha’s original season. He’s great.
Mary says Melanie just floated across the stage and made it look like something she’s been doing her whole life. Nigel calls it beautiful and a master class in lift technique. Neil says Melanie looks like she’s from the past but dances like she’s from the future, which is perhaps my favorite thing any guest judge has said yet this season.
Caitlynn’s solo was perfectly fine, I suppose. There comes a point when all contemporary solos have the tendency to look the same, and this felt a little same-y.
Ricky & All-Star Allison
Ricky and Allison pull a jazz routine from Tyce DiOrio about a bad dream. Must. Not. Make. Bad. Dream. For. Audience. Joke. Oops, too late. Ricky needs to be creepy in this dance and struggles with the notion.
This routine is far and away better than Tyce’s first effort of the evening, with a pleasant amount of weirdness and great energy. Ricky is a bit more polished at points than the piece necessarily calls for, but it’s still a very strong performance.
Nigel compliments Tyce, who always looks like he’s going to throw up when the judges talk about one of his routines. Nigel says Ricky almost out-danced Allison. Neil compliments Ricky on his transformation in the performance. Mary calls Ricky raw, reckless, intense and committed, and then screams a little bit for good measure.
Marko is great, you guys. Just incredible, and he showed the most musicality of any of the solos tonight.
Clarice & All-Star Robert
Clarice and Robert are given a cat-and-mouse Bollywood number choreographed by Nakul Dev Mahajan. Robert wants to make out in the dance, but Clarice isn’t so sure. She’s more worried about the quick pace of the choreography.
Bollywood is consistently one of the most enjoyable styles for me to watch, so I was expecting to love this. Unfortunately, it was just…fine. Not bad, per se, but just fine. The movements weren’t quite sharp enough and despite the fast pace, it lacked a bit of oomph. I’m sure since I didn’t like it, the judges will love it.
And, I’m right. Neil loved the routine, specifically because it allowed him to finally connect with Clarice. Mary says the routine was fit to Clarice like a Chanel suit. Nigel also calls it a perfect fit and says Bollywood just makes him happy.
Overall, this was an impressive and strong night for the dancers, especially for the first time with new partners. Sasha & Twitch had the most praise of the night for their amazing and passionate hip hop routine, and Mitchell & Melody the most criticism for their odd plane-invoking Broadway number. What the routines tonight make clear is that this is a VERY strong season of So You Think You Can Dance, and there will doubtfully be a lot more greatness to come before it’s over.
What was your favorite dance? Least favorite? And is Neil Patrick Harris your favorite human, too?
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