Over the past few weeks, we've gone from 10 to six couples. I hadn't realized until last night that six really, when you think about it is not that many, and I figured we might get finished an hour early.
Of course, the network was one step ahead of me, and each couple performed two routines instead of one. This makes absolutely no sense, especially after the caliber of the performances. Most of the couples did well in one routine and kind of meh in the other, and this probably means "America" will get all confused and end up voting for its favorite couples rather than the best ones. Of course, who's to say it hasn't been doing that up until now?
The best part of last night's show wasn't the dancing, but guest judge Jesse Michael Ferguson (Modern Family), who bragged about his experience on Broadway and the theme park circuit. He was just as funny in real life as he is on his sitcom, and nearly everything that came out of his mouth was pure gold.
Sasha and Alexander: Alexander broke through his previous connection problems with the audience in an intense, postmodern paso doble choreographed by Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin. It was kind of hot, actually, and it culminated in a kiss. When Nigel asks if the kiss was choreographed, Sasha replies "I don't know." Hmmmmm. Mary goes kind of crazy for this dance.
The couple's second dance is a Tyce Diorio Broadway routine in which the choreographer tells them to be themselves. It ends up being a very smooth piece, and Alexander, with his high leaps, really shines, and this isn't lost on the judges. Nigel says it's good to see him carrying himself rather than relying on Sasha, Jesse tells Sasha to tell her sister he said "hi."
Tadd and Jordan:Tadd and Jordan take on a Travis Wall routine in which Jordan plays a vulture preying on a weakened man. There's a metaphor in there somewhere about women being evil and taking advantage of men, but we'll stick with the vulture, mostly because it's a really cool costume. Their routine is dark, sinewy and powerful. Mary calls it magnificent, guest judge Sonya Tayeh calls the couple unstoppable, Nigel calls it remarkable and compliments Tadd's flip-jumps and Jesse quips "It's that old boy-meets-vulture, boy-kills-vulture story we all know."
The judges are less enthusiastic about their next routine, which is a retelling of the prince-kisses-a-girl-to-bring-her-back-to-life story. The lifts were a big challenge here, but the couple pulls it off and their execution is spot-on. But Sonya says she was underwhelmed by it and called it a jumble of things. Nigel thinks it could have been "quirkier," since a fairy-tale story should be told in over-the-top fashion. Mary thinks it just wasn't strong enough. Jesse agrees with Sonya that it was a grab-bag, but consoles them by saying "the hungry vulture dance was one of my faves."
Ryan and Ricky: Ryan and Ricky dance a Spencer Liff jazz routine, in which Ryan plays a movie-poster-model come to life. The routine is very smooth and sophisticated, but I felt like it kept building up to something we never saw. Jesse thinks he felt like there was a glass ceiling that didn't let them use their full abilities, Sonya thought it was just OK, Nigel tells them they need to sit comfortably in the style and Mary says she loved the first half of it.
They more or less nail their second dance, or at least Ricky does. Nigel says Ricky brought style and class to the cha-cha routine, but Ryan was overdoing it a little bit, which allowed her to get sloppy. Mary says that was the "fastest darn cha-cha" she's ever seen and lets them aboard the hot tamale train, Jesse chides Ricky for flirting with him and Sonya tells Ryan that her pressure and conviction might cause her to get mixed up and to just "embrace how wonderful you are."
Caitlynn and Mitchell: Poor kids get a routine that's supposed to symbolize the plight of abducted children in the Congo. Or be a tribute to them. Or something. Point is, that was in our heads the moment they started dancing, and I couldn't make a connection between the medium and the message. Neither could the judges. Nigel thinks it lacked clarity and unison. Mary understands the lack of disconnect and called it respectable, but it fell a little short.
The two made up with a sexy jazz routine involving lots of leather and lace. Caitlynn finally let her guard down, and we've never seen Mitchell so masculine. Mary loves it, Sonya thinks it's really, really hot, Nigel doesn't want to incriminate himself as a dirty old man, so he just reminds Caitlynn not to break the fourth wall.
Melanie and Marko: Can't believe I'm about to say this about Melanie and Marko, but I thought their Louie van Amstel tango was just a bit lacking. Yeah, it ended with that crazy Marko-pulling-Melanie-between-his-legs thing, but the buildup just wasn't worth it. It was pretty conventional and looked more or less like Dancing With The Stars. Still, Nigel thinks it's tremendous, Mary commends them for mastering so many different styles of tango (apparently Louie put it all in there), Jesse calls Mary the lost Osmond and says the couple has a certain spark about them and Sonya tells them they made her lose her breath.
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Their second dance of the night (which Jesse called "the moth dance) was the kind of weird, abstract routine the couple excels at, involving a light bulb the two moved around. Nigel is amazed that it looks like it isn't choreographed, but the two move effortlessly and flowingly around the bulb.
Clarice and Jess: The storyline in this first routine was a little saccharine for my taste, plus Jess looked ridiculous in that hat, but who knew the Broadway boy could dance hip hop so well? Clarice matches his technique as well, and as far as choreography and execution goes, this was probably my favorite from the night. Mary commends the "swag" the couple inexplicably has. Jesse says he didn't care much for it..."Happy opposite day! I loved it!"
Their next routine is a rock and roll jive, which is always fun to watch, but these two really bring it home with high kicks and pointed execution. Sonya loves it times 20, Nigel thinks the lifts are a little unbalanced (Jess is kind of diminutive), Mary thinks the execution was fabulous but missed seeing the joy of the dance come through in Clarice's face and Jesse says he's going to email Neil Patrick Harris and make him give Jess the keys to Broadway.
Tonight: Two more couples go home, and we find out which All-Stars the top 10 will dance with.