Tuesday, August 25, 2015

So You Think You Can Dance S12E12 & 13

We're mere weeks away from the blessed end of this much derided, and probably final, season of So You Think You Can Dance, and I find myself increasingly happy about that. Since that amazing tenth episode, things continued their downward trend for the show; so much so that I honestly had nothing at all to say after last week's episode. It's wasn't overly surprising, and I don't think I'm even capable of being disappointed any longer, it was all just so bland. This week isn't too different, truth be told, so I'm not sure how to go about talking about these last few episodes. If there's one thing I'm kind of surprised over it's just how much the gender dynamics have evened out on this season. There were two guys and two girls on each team this week before Neptune and Derek went home leaving Virgil and Jim as the sole guys in the top six. But that's about all of the surprise I'm capable of mustering. So I think I'm going to do something a little different and talk about the last six contestants left in preparation for what's to come.

Hailee is my favorite dancer left on team Stage. I think she's really pretty, wonderfully talented, with a great personality and a fun spirit. She hasn't really faltered much this season at all, but she also hasn't been challenged much. This is due to the easier choreography and the abundance of Hip Hop and Contemporary (or Jazz) numbers we've seen. I don't think we've really seen Hailee do anything outside of those genres so far in the competition. To her credit, she's done them all well, and I doubt she'd have much trouble with something like Latin Ballroom if she were to ever have to do it, but we also can't know for sure because of how paired down this season has been. Originally, I thought this was due to the Stage vs Street conceit, and I still think that that has a lot to do with it, but after hearing multiple sources saying it was between changing the show or getting cancelled last season, I'm starting to wonder if the elevation of the viewers' favorite styles isn't in an attempt to pull in more eyeballs. Either way, it's to the detriment of the show and the performers.

I was surprised to find her in the bottom this week, but not too much so. We're getting to the point where the people in the bottom and going home might not be about anything they didn't do or don't have in their arsenal but just about the fact that someone has to go. Her dance with FikShun at least was great and worth keeping her around hopefully for another week. She's more than proved what she's capable of doing in Hip Hop over the past few weeks, and watching her keep up with a previous winner was great fun. Much like Virgil, FikShun brings a fun personality and more than enough energy for Hailee to play off of. It's easy to see why she'd deliver such great performances with both of them.

Jaja is my favorite dancer left on team Street, and every week I'm left with the same feeling: She was more than good enough to make it far last season, and while I'm happy to see what all she can do this year, I would have loved to watch her work against the stronger contestants and with the stronger choreography of last season. Her solos are never anything short of strong, hard hitting, and intricate. She's got a control over her body that makes her fun to watch, and she's always so good at choreographing something to each little tick and bass drop in the music.

She's also one of the more versatile dancers on the show, or at least one of the ones who's been put
through her paces a bit more, with Broadway and Bollywood routines thrown at her in just the last two weeks alone. Both of those performances were stellar, and she, like Hailee, was given the task of keeping up with a former winner (last year's Ricky) and she more than holds her own. My default setting is to stare at Ricky when he's on stage, it's an old habit from last year as he just pulls attention so effortlessly, but I couldn't stop my gaze from drifting back to Jaja in this number because she's just so good. I think her personality is every bit as big and impressive as Hailee's, but she's more understated in some ways. She's more than capable of letting her dancing speak for itself and I can't help but to think that no matter what these next few weeks hold for her, she won't have trouble finding work in the years to come.

Megz rounds out my own personal top three at this point. I think she's got a style and a bearing all her own, and there's something refreshing about her uniqueness. I think we've seen a lot of different female contestants over the years, but for the most part they tend to fall closer to the feminine end of the spectrum; at least the ones who make it this far usually do. Megz has a way of flouting that while not having to come across as purely masculine. She's really just herself and that's appealing. I think it has a lot to do with how far she's made it thus far.

Sadly, last night's Paso Doble was the first real test she's had thus far and it came on a night that already saw her in the bottom four. The truth is that she didn't dance it all that well and there aren't really any excuses for that. However, I watched the performance and was left wondering if she'd been able to do a ballroom number or two prior to this point, or had been asked to do it in Vegas maybe, would she have been better prepared for this number? She looked far more out of her depth dancing outside her element this week than contestants tend to look in the top eight performance episode, and I can't help but to wonder if that doesn't have something to do with how coddled she and the rest of the contestants have been with these simple routines all in the same two genres. Sadly, I don't see her making it through next week, but that's got as much to do with the strength of Virgil as it does the weakness of her performance this week.

Virgil's status as the heir apparent to FikShun should be pretty obvious by now. They're both small Hip Hop dancers with big personalities who work their tails off to bring it each week they dance outside their styles. Virgil admits to his stint on (or was it off) Broadway, so we know he's got experience beyond the Street level. It explains a lot of why he's been so solid in the Broadway and Contemporary routines he's been given thus far. He's another contestant who hasn't danced any Ballroom or anything more extreme like Bollywood or Disco. This week's African Jazz was the closest he's really come to being pushed all that hard, and he actually managed to dance that well if not bring the top notch performance we're used to.

In fact, if there's a question still to be answered about Virgil it's whether or not he can convincibly
perform against type. He's so cute and fun and energetic and bubbly that when he's given a character that's more sinister and stoic, like he was this week, he has to try a lot harder to convey those things. He didn't do as good a job with this one as I think he could have, but he danced it well. So whereas Hailee and Jaja have proven themselves capable of tackling anything that's thrown at them, Virgil seems able to dance whatever they give him, but only tends to be given these same kinds of characters week after week with us unable to tell if he's got a wider range than that. If it's a complaint or a criticism, it's a small one, and one I'd feel better leveling at the choreographers than at Virgil himself. These kinds should have been tested a lot harder than this so far and that failing isn't their own. With that being said, Virgil hasn't found himself in danger once this entire competition, and while I'm not sure if he's got what it takes to win like FikShun did, I do think he's a shoe in for the finale.

Gaby has gone from a contestant I never remembered being on the show until I was watching her dance to someone that I think is another shoe in for the finale. In fact, I think Gaby might have what it takes to win the whole thing. She's crazy talented, and while her personality doesn't stick out as much as Hailee and Jaja's does, she's had a really strong dark horse quality about her these last few weeks which have seen her really vault to the top of the competition. The weakest part of her performances in the last two weeks have been her solos. They haven't been bad, but they've been stock Tap fare that we've seen a lot of in the last couple years. There were two Tappers on the show last year, so I think the bar has been raised on what we expect from a Tap solo, and I don't think Gaby's done anything to make me impressed on that level. She's got a strong rhythm and musicality that you expect from a Tapper, but there's yet to be that wow factor that I think we're used to.

Instead, she seems to save that aspect for her paired dances which have been great. The Hip Hop
number she did with Joshua last week was really strong and at the time I thought it might have been good enough to see it again on the finale, but then I watched her performance with Robert this week and I think that that's actually the number we'll be seeing again in a couple weeks. It wasn't only the best performance of the night, it's one of the better performances of the season. I think the first line of credit goes to Mandy Moore who returns after a too long absence and brings a level of creativity that has been sorely lacking this year. It's another of those dancers embodying abstract ideas kind of numbers that I love so much. And watching Gaby as a person struggling with strong social anxiety was just brilliant. It's also a number where I think Mandy's explanation of what the number was about enhanced the performance and clearly found itself embodied in the movement and both performances. On top of that, it's the sort of number that Robert's been excelling at since his time on the show, so it was great to see him as the all star for it. The judges have been a bit liberal with the standing ovations lately, but this was one performance where it was more than deserved. If Gaby does go on to win, I think we'll be looking back at this night as the one where she put it away.

Jim rounds out the top six and he's got the unenviable position of a dancer with all the technical ability in the world and not nearly enough performance ability or personality. Where Gaby fades into the background in her solos, Jim shines and effortlessly justifies his continued presence on the show. But then the partnered numbers come around and you're left feeling flat. I assumed this would be a problem from him way back when he had to share an interesting fact about himself and the best he could come up with was that he likes baths. Now we see him lacking in any kind of passion or connection to his partners and it's just sad. The All Stars usually serve to elevate the show and the performers to new heights, bringing something out of them that their fellow contestants often can't seem to reach, but in the case of Jim the opposite is true: he was better off dancing with his contemporaries because at least then his technical abilities were able to outshine the competition and justify keeping him around.

In the last two weeks we've seen him dance with Jessica and Comfort, both of whom are just as technically strong in what they do, and it leaves him being overshadowed either in technique (as is the case with Comfort in the Hip Hop number this week) or in performance (as with Jessica last week). Given the results, I'm guessing America saw something in his number with Jessica worth picking up the phone for. I fully expected him to be in the bottom this week with Derek going home, but for some reason he was safe and Hailee was in danger. To his credit, he danced the number as well as he could, but I still think he just looked like a Ballet boy playing at Hip Hop, and gone is all the undeserved praise Nigel heaped on him after his Hip Hop number with Jaja earlier this season.

The voting this week left me feeling unsure about what's coming next week. Either Megz and Hailee's fanbase isn't strong enough to rally and keep them in the competition, or it was just a momentary lapse and Hailee, at least, finds herself beating out Jim for a spot in the finale. I don't think Megz is strong enough to beat out Jaja and Virgil for a spot at the top of team Street, so I have to assume she's going home next week. But if Hailee goes with her, then we'll end up with a Jim, Gaby, Jaja, and Virgil top four which will see the early gender imbalance of the season rectified and give us an even split. I'd be lying if I said I was excited or curious about what was to come, but the fact of the matter is that this season has been so weak that the most interesting storyline to follow thus far has been the shifts in the numbers along gender lines. It's a sign of just how far SYTYCD has fallen that as we gear up for the finale I'm more interested in talking about how many boys and girls there are on the show than I am about the actual dancing.

Random Thoughts:

--One of the good things the show is doing is the video packages at the end as we say good bye to the contestants. The other contestants offering their thoughts and what they'll miss about their fallen friends is very touching, though I have to wonder how they went about getting the segments. Were they specifically asked "Hey, what are you going to miss about Derek when he leaves this week?" or is it something more misleading? If they're being told before hand who's going and who's staying, then I'm not sure what to think anymore.

--On the other hand, the judges comments this week made it so obvious who'd be in trouble and who was safe that they should be ashamed. They need to do a better job of that and tone down the "Your career going forward will be so bright if you just..." talk.

--I enjoyed the idea of the dancers doing their solos to songs from Empire last week. It was a nice piece of cross promotion, though it was obvious who was more comfortable picking a song and who wasn't. Derek's audio-only Drip Drop told me he wasn't sold on it at all. They all picked their own music this week and he went with a about two men in love. I'm happy Derek's been able to wear his sexuality on his sleeve this entire time, so many other performers in the past weren't able to. But I would have liked him to pick a better song last week. There are gay people on Empire too, Derek!

--Same-Sex Speculation Space: One of my very very favorite performances in the history of SYTYCD was done by Mia Michaels (surprise surprise) and it was danced by Billy Bell, Alex Wong, and Ade. Instead of suggesting my own story for a Same-Sex dance this week, I'm just going to refer back to this one and ask for more stuff like that. In fact, now that I think about it, it's odd just how good the show used to be at Same-Sex numbers even when they didn't have to have them like they did this year. Billy Bell and Ade also had another of my all time favorite numbers. And who could forget this Lacey and Sabra number? What the fuck happened, guys?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

So You Think You Can Dance S12E11

I thought, after last week's stellar episode, that maybe I had judged this season too harshly and we were finally getting back into what made this show great. The talent's been culled sufficiently enough that we can believe only the best are left, and we're gearing up for the top 10 which is always an exciting time. And then this episode happened and it became painfully clear that Burim and Asaf weren't season 12's problem; the Street v. Stage conceit and the choreographers are. It's enough to make you see that this show at its best is a well oiled machine of wonderfully working parts. The talented dancers work in tandem with the genius choreographers to bring their vision to life, and then the judges work to bring it all down to earth and give us solid critiques to help us make some level of sense of what we've just seen. At different points of the season, one or more of those cogs weren't spinning properly, and this week I think it's the choreographers.

Though to be fair, when they get it right, they get it very very right. Jim and Yorelis open the night with a number welcoming back a very busy Sonya Tayeh back to the SYTYCD stable of choreographers. And everything about the piece is perfect. It's danced wonderfully, and everything from the concept to the costuming is just pitch perfect. I watched it with my jaw on the ground and my eye bulging and I thought the hot streak of the season would continue. Sadly, it was a bumpy ride from that point on, but we at least started on a serious high note.

Jaja and Edson turn out a good but not great (by any means) performance that left me thinking more about Jaja's skill level at giving a great performance than it did anything else. It was enough to make me think, and not for the first time I might add, that she would have been a welcome addition to the program last year if she'd made it. The girls from  last year were never very strong and none of them really stood out at any given time. Jaja would have been the one to really carry the girls through the performances, and she would have been quite a character amongst those other contestants. I don't think she could have challenged Ricky for the win, but it would have been nice to watch anyway. I will say that watching the judges disagree at the end of the performance was a lot of fun. Maybe they do all have real opinions after all.

Virgil and Hailee are paired together again for a Tyce routine. Tyce is one of my least favorite choreographers, or at least I find him to be one of the more hit or miss choreographers in the bunch.
You never know one week to the next what you're going to get from him, though recently I think we've seen a lot more bad than good. This number isn't one of his worst, but I did think it was oddly choreographed. It was a story about a possessive woman who refuses to let her man leave her, and the guy who is trying to do just that. And yet there were multiple moments in the piece where Virgil seemed to go towards Hailee and pick her up off the ground instead of taking his shot and just leaving. I've had this problem with Tyce before where I think his idea is solid but then I watch the performance and can't help but to think that I can't see it being translated into the specific movement. At the very least, Virgil and Hailee danced it well and presented yet another strong performance from the pair of them, this time more in Hailee's comfort zone than Virgil's. If they'd been paired together this whole time, they'd be a force to be reckoned with heading into the top 10. And collectively they've got personality for days.

If the first three performances of the night ranged from great to good, the Jazz number between Alexia and Ariana started the overall doom of the episode. It's interesting that the two worst numbers came from same-sex pairings. I've been clamoring for more of these kinds of pairs for the duration of time that I've been watching the show, but what I really wanted were good same-sex dances. I should have been clearer. Instead, the two same-sex numbers of the night have the girls portraying burlesque dancers and pinup models.  Don't get me wrong, there's nothing at all wrong with being a burlesque dancer or a pinup model, but it does expose just how limited the choreographers are when it comes to thinking up stories for female dancers. Any all girl performance thus far this season has either been sexy for sexiness' sake, or some bland blanket level "girl power" concept. The judges aren't shy about ripping the girls in both of these dances (Alexia and Ariana in this one, and then JJ and Kate a bit later on) a new one for their performance, but no one thinks to acknowledge the fact that they never should have been asked to do this in the first place? Remember a few seasons back when two of the guys performed some weird Russian jumping dance and Nigel was quick to point out that it wasn't them it was the style, and we've never seen that style on the show again? Where was that same level of concern for these girls? Instead the judges say things like they clearly didn't commit to doing what they were told, and they should just fake it till they make it when put in a position to perform something they don't believe in or that makes them uncomfortable. The extent of how problematic all of this is would break my brain if I tried to parse it all out. Suffice it to say I'm way more disappointed in the choreographers of these pieces than I am the dancers.

The other two performances of the night aren't much better. Megz and Derek's hip hop number is painful to watch. Megz is at least OK and seems to do just about all she can with a significantly inferior dancer in Derek. He's back from missing last week and clearly needs to knock his performance out of the park since his lack of performing automatically put him in the bottom three this week. And yet at no point does he show even a hint of an ability to dance Hip Hop. He dances too high, in his shoulders, and with too much control to hit his pops at all hard enough. It was bad enough to show that had he been asked to dance outside of his style during Vegas week, he probably wouldn't even have made it to the top 20. Unless my notes deceive me, or I missed something, it's his first time dancing a hip hop number, and it comes right before the formation of the top 10. Pathetic. Neptune and Gaby's dancing isn't horrible, but it's a routine in which Stacey Tookey has decided to tackle racism. And of course it looks and feels like just about every conversation I've ever heard about racism from the point of view of a white person. In short, she's not the person to tackle this subject, and she clearly should have left well enough alone.

The group numbers at least brought a high level of skill and concept to the close of the show. Sonya
having two numbers on the night was exactly the right way to go as her number for Team Stage about the immediate moment when you get heartbreakingly bad news is really perfect. And the weird carnival sideshow number for Team Street was a lot of fun too. At this point, it feels like Team Street's group numbers have been been more about team work and pulling together than Stage's have. This one sees all the members of the circus together, dancing, and celebrating their differences. It's both very straight forward and very rewarding all at once.

In the end, the judges can't save anyone, it's fully up to America's twitter voting to decide which one dancer from each team's bottom three will go on to join the top 10. Therefore, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Neptune and Derek (the only two guys in the bottom at all) get saved. Derek's rewarded for his horrid Hip Hop number by being allowed to stick around for awhile, and Neptune stays in spite of Yorelis' significantly superior performance on the night. It's not that Neptune doesn't deserve it. To me, he shouldn't have been in the bottom in the first place. It's just that if this is the week he ended up in the bottom and we were basing who to save on the performances of the episode, Yorelis is a the keeper for sure. But it's just another lackluster result from this lackluster season, so what more can we even expect?

Random Thoughts:

--Shout out to Megz’s Celebrity Man Crush question to Derek during their video package. Acknowledging our guys sexuality is important and something this show has always shied away from in the past.

--One of the things I noticed in this episode was just how undiverse the dance forms all were. In the episode to decide the top 10, every sing performance was either Jazz, Contemporary, or Hip-Hop. No ballroom, broadway, disco, or Bollywood in the entire hour? What the fuck is up with that?

--Same-Sex Speculation Space: In spite of the show's obvious lack of interest in presenting any good same-sex stories, I've decided to keep this going. This week, the guys. Imagine a routine about two guys who are best friends. One of them has a kid, the other doesn't, and the guy with a kid has recently found out that his wife has died and he's going to be left to raise their baby on his own. His friend comes over to offer his support in the matter, but the guy in a pure macho man fashion refuses to show his weakness to his buddy. In my head, I'm seeing something where one of the contestants puts on a bravado and brave face each time the two of them are facing each other, but every time his friend's back is turned, he breaks down and his true pain, fear, and despair shines through. Until the end when he clearly asks for help and allows his friend to see just how vulnerable he is. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

So You Think You Can Dance S12E10

Last year around this time, SYTYCD was shaping its Top 10 in an episode that I had nothing but glowing praise for. This year, the show isn't as good, the talent isn't as strong, and we're still one week away from finalizing the Top 10, but this was just as strong of an hour of dance as that one was. I didn't think I'd find myself in a position to say it again but this is why I watch this show. This episode served as a reminder about all the good this series has to offer the world, and if they'd been bringing it at this level for the entire season, I think I'd be lamenting the show's probable cancellation a lot more than I have been. But on the other hand, if each episode had featured such a group of stunning performances by now, maybe the effect would have warn off and this episode would have paled in comparison. I don't want to recommend mediocrity as a course of action, but I do think that the fact of the matter is that this episode sores as high as it does in some small part because of just how bad and boring the episodes before it were. The routines were also original, challenging, and well thought out in a way that they haven't been this season, and they were danced with a fire and passion we haven't seen so far, but I still think the low bar set by the earlier episodes made it easier for this episode to be so rejoiced.

This, I think, rings truer for the first paired performance of the night, Jaja and Hailee in a jazz routine. I loved it when I watched it taking place. Hailee and Jaja are easily my two favorite performers on the show so far (with Megz rounding out my own personal top three), and I've been hoping for more same-sex dancing on this season as the gulf between the girls and guys gets wider and wider. The general "Girl Power" theme of the number is so played out on the show that I wanted to gouge my eyes out when I heard it, but Hailee and Jaja bring a fun and playfulness, but also a strength and fire to it that it made the routine worth my momentary cringe. So the point is that I enjoyed the number very much and I thought it was a great way to kick off the episode, and then as things went on I totally forgot it had even existed in the face of the better routines that followed it. This isn't meant to be a mark against these two, but I wonder if they won't find themselves in the bottom next week based simply on how forgettable the number was in the grand scheme of the rest of the episode. I wouldn't be surprised if their fanbase was strong enough to vote them through, but I also wouldn't be surprised if they found themselves in danger (though still pushed through to the top 10) next week.

Part of this is because the Alexia and Neptune number that follows them is just so much fun and so great to watch. I don't know that Alexia brought out the very best Hip Hop performance we've ever seen from a Contemporary girl (in fact I know she hasn't since this routine from Lauren and tWitch still exists), but I do know that there was something phenomenal about this number. First off, Neptune brings yet another high level of chemistry to a "romantic" performance. Last week he was vibeing with Kate on a level I didn't think possible for a mismatched pair who hadn't ever danced together, and this week it's Alexia. Both performances were real and believable, but this one was also fun and intriguing. I think we've seen all kinds of relationships on this show over the years, but this has to be the first time we've seen one between two mental patients. It was genius, and cute, and so much fun, and wonderfully danced, and everything you hope a performance on this show will be. Alexia's face went through a range of expressions and emotions throughout it that I think really sold the character, and both of them just preformed it wonderfully.

After two stellar performances and news of Derek's injury, I was expecting a less than impressive Ballroom number from JJ, and then I was wrong. It would be easy to attribute the skill and effectiveness of this number on the presence of the choreographer dancing with JJ. If anyone's going to know how to dance the number, it's the person that created it. But the fact of the matter is that JJ was honestly the star in this pairing; I couldn't take my eyes off of her. I don't want to down play the amount of that which is due to his partnering in the first place. One of the things I find fascinating about a lot of ballroom numbers is the fact that the male partner is often there to simply present and be there for the female partner. He often has more to do than just lift and pose, but in a lot of these kinds of numbers the guy is meant to be an afterthought really. And that's what happened here. Who knows if the number would have been as remarkable had Derek been well enough to perform it with her. Given that his injury came while practicing the lifts, it seems like he's lacking the upper body and core strength needed to pull this routine off. But whatever the case could have been had he been in there, we know what it was without him, and it was great. If I have one complaint, it's that the sexiness of the routine seemed to come from the costuming and the choreography more so than from any actual connection between the two dancers, but that's to be expected in some ways.

Everything up until this point in the night was good, but the number of the evening was Jim and Ariana's Contemporary piece about a man's struggle with depression. I'll admit my bias here; I love the performances on this show that have a dancer embodying more of an abstract concept than an actual person. Mia Michaels' Addiction piece will forever be a standout for doing just that. So as soon as Cheeseman said the word depression I was hooked. But then Jim (towards whom I'm decidedly indifferent) and Ariana (whom I actually like but haven't committed to memory until now) danced it and it was even more brilliant than I originally expected. Nigel mentioned that Hailee and Virgil's performance from last week would be remembered from here on out, but I think this will be the number that comes out of this season and lives on in SYTYCD history as maybe one of the top three or five best things to ever come out of the show. There was a strange indifference and detachment to Ariana's performance that I loved. While Kupono's stint as Addiction was more malevolent, Ariana's Depression just kind of was. There was a matter of fact quality to it that I thought worked wonders because depression isn't malevolent, it isn't malicious, it just kind of is. And Jim's struggle to get out of it was believable. I thought at the time that he could have shown a bit more sadness in his face, but now I think it's possible that his character was maybe past any sadness and had moved on to just a sheer force of will to break out. And if that's the case, I think it worked. Either way, I loved this from start to finish and I'll be shocked if either of them find themselves in the bottom next week.

I could go number by number like this, but the fact is that the rest of the episode ran apace of what came before. Virgil and Gaby had a really fun and cute broadway number that had me grinning and laughing out loud for a lot of it. And Marissa and Yorelis' hip hop number was good, though not great. The lowest point of the night came from Asaf and Kate's number, but that was no surprise. To his credit, Asaf was better than he was in that horrendous waste of time last week, but he still showed why he shouldn't have been kept around. The best moment was during the video package when Kate confirmed what I said last week: his being her partner made her fearful of her own safety. It's an eye opening moment of honesty. She cries because on the one hand she wants to help him get better and carry him through the performance, but on the other hand she can't really relax into any of the lifts because she's constantly scared he'll drop her. These contestants put their bodies, careers, and lives in one another's hands each week, and to keep someone around who isn't up to the task of taking care of his partner is negligent. And the judges' thin and pathetic justifications for keeping him felt like a slap in the face of everything this show has stood for over the last 12 seasons. This wasn't a case of America simply failing to see the greatness within a dancer (like Billy Bell for example) and constantly letting him fall into the bottom for the judges to save him and try to impress upon everyone how great he really is. It was simply about them pushing their own agenda in hopes of getting the best story. But it's over now, America put him in the bottom again and the judges did what they should have done last week and sent him home.

But instead of ending on that sour note, I think it's worth mentioning the other standout performance of the night. I was hard on the judges for keeping Edson instead of Moises last week, but given his performance with Megz this week, I think it's clear that they made the right choice. I don't think Moises had the strength to pull of that number as well as Edson did, so this was a situation of a more optimal pairing. Plus this new choreographer, Talia, is really quite wonderful. It's another number where a dancer embodies something abstract instead of a character, this time with Edson performing as Temptation and Megz as the tempted party, and it's just brilliant. The stuff with the shirts, and the hiding, and the lifts, and the eventual acceptance at the end, it was all wonderful. A great end to the best string of performances the season has seen.

The group numbers were fun too, but I'm starting to think they've run their course. Marissa goes home from team stage which will at least stop the bleeding of male contestants for awhile. During the team stage group number, I had a moment of shock when I thought Edson and Jim were the last two guys on the team altogether before I remembered that Derek was just hurt for the week. The girls are clearly better, I've said it a number of times by now, and I can't help but to wonder if we aren't in for an all female top six or five. After all, the street team is officially down to just Virgil and Neptune for the guys. But whatever the ultimate gender breakdown of the show when we reach the end, if they keep having episodes like this one, I can at least say it'll be worth the ride to find out.


--Same-Sex Speculation Space: given the continued shift towards an all girl group by the last few weeks of the show, and also given my continued urging for the show to embrace same-sex pairings for their dances, I've decided to create a space where I can posit stories for same-sex numbers in the future which have nothing to do with romance since I think the show tends to shy away from these pairings because they don't want the romantic implications. Let's start with the girls: imagine a number, maybe a Broadway or a Jazz number, about an older dancer who's time is running out and a young girl who reminds her a lot of herself at that age. The young girl is all sex appeal and easy talent which makes her not want to put in the hard work to be as great as she could be, and instead of being jealous and catty about it, the older woman tries to take the young girl under her wing and inspire her to be the great dancer she's meant to be. Nothing romantic about it, and not the typical "women fighting and being jealous" storyline we're used to seeing. But also not the general "girl power" rubber stamp the choreographers tend to roll out in these situations. You're welcome, SYTYCD, I'll let you have that one for free.

--My mention of Virgil and Gaby's performance was brief, but I really have to say that I was laughing for a couple minutes when they pulled out those glasses. Those two have personality for days and it's so worth it.

--I complained last week about how the lack of pairs stops us from having the "learn more about this dancer" segments that the show usually has, and then they rolled out the "one thing America doesn't know about me" segment this week. Kudoes to Kate (almost kidnapped? wtf?!), Virgil (awesome Jazz band), and Derek (cute adoption story) for actually picking interesting and worthwhile facts. Everyone else either bored me to tears or at least were pretty simple and straight forward as if they hadn't put any real thought into it.

--I think one part of why this episode's performances were so much better was that the choreographers finally took off the kid gloves and started putting the contestants through their paces with these routines. It looked like there were a few lifts in the video package for Asaf and Kate that were edited out of the final number, but that doesn't seem like it's for lack of trying on Cheeseman's part to get them in there in the first place.

--I really liked Nigel's Nigel’s point about Yorelis looking like she hasn’t been choreographed but just feels the music and lets it move through her. She's not my favorite, but she's certainly got that particular quality, and I never could have found the words for it without Nigel pointing it out.

--What're the chances Burim could have danced with Kate in that number better than Asaf did? I know it's not a strict one-to-one trade off since the pairs aren't set. If Burim had stayed, he could have just as easily been with Gaby instead of Kate this week. but since he was gotten rid of instead of Asaf, I just felt the need to compare the two, and I can't help but to think he would have turned out a better performance to show why he deserved to be kept around than Asaf did.

--Is it just me or is Derulo actually getting more helpful and more palatable as the show goes on?