So You Think You Can Dance: Spot the all-stars
I do love the all-stars on So You Think You Can Dance, not only because I get to see favourites dance again but because of what they bring out of their partners.
But plenty of the newbies were giving the all-stars a run for their money on Wednesday's show and proving to be their equals.
That was especially true of Sasha, whose hip-hop routine with Twitch was the best performance of the night for me.
In an evening of such high-calibre dancing, it was hard to pick favourites, but I've done my best. I've listed the dancers from most to least favourite based on their couple routines, then graded their solos:
Sasha Mallory: When choreographer Christopher Scott is on, he's really on and that was the case with this hip-hop routine that had Sasha trying to rekindle the flame in lover Twitch. It's lucky that Twitch is such a great hip-hop dancer, because Sasha would have blown him off the stage otherwise. It was more like Twitch having to keep up with Sasha than the other way around. And keep in mind that Sasha is a contemporary dancer. It was sensational from the moment she jumped on that table to the very end. The studio audience was roaring and it took Nigel Lythgoe a while to find his tongue. "Last year, Twitch came and did a most memorable routine with Alex Wong and now he's come back and this is a very memorable routine," Nigel said. "This is the first time I've seen you with chemistry with your partner and it was beautiful to see," he told Sasha. Neil Patrick Harris, who was one of the more articulate celebrity guest judges, said he hopes to see the number in the season finale and on the top 20 tour. "You guys should dance every dance together."
Sasha's solo: A+
Caitlynn Lawson: Last week, Caitlynn was a sexy rock chick, this week she was smouldering as all-star Pasha Kovalev's love interest in an Argentine tango and that's a feat considering how hot Pasha is. But not only did Caitlynn establish a credible connection with Pasha, she matched him technically in what looked like very difficult steps in this routine choreographed by Leonardo Barrionuevo and Miriam Larici. It brought ballroom expert Mary Murphy to her feet. "Caitlynn, you were just breathtaking doing this number ... the passion you showed was more real tonight than in any other number," said Mary. "You just took your dancing to another level. I can't remember when I've enjoyed something more."
Caitlynn's solo: B+
Marko Germar: The show's powerhouse male didn't lose any steam despite being without partner Melanie Moore. He tackled a Jason Gilkison samba with all-star Chelsie Hightower (best known these days as a Dancing With the Stars pro) and he did not disappoint. His hip action was great, his toes well-pointed and, as usual, every move looked effortless. "You dance with such precision, and you're so cool and symetrical, and with such strength. I think you're kind of the guy to beat as far as this show goes," Neil said.
Marko's solo: A+
Clarice Ordaz: Like Neil, I haven't always appreciated Clarice as much as the other female dancers, but I have to give her full credit for this Nakul Dev Mahajan Bollywood routine. It was very fast and very intricate, but Clarice matched all-star Robert Roldan every leap, kick and hand twist, and brought a lot of personality to the performance. Bollywood can be hard to appreciate at times because it doesn't have the gravitas of a serious contemporary number or the swagger of hip hop, but I can say from my limited experience that it's a fiendishly hard style to master. The judges stood up for this one. "It was exhilarating to watch, just really intricate and hard to do," said Mary. "(Nakul) designed this like a well-fitting Chanel suit. It was just perfect for you."
Clarice's solo: A
Jess LeProtto: I'm so pleased that Jess is still around. Neil was right that sometimes he mugs too much for the camera, which can be offputting, but he has a wonderful grace when he moves. His grace and speed were on display in a Stacey Tookey contemporary routine with the lovely Kathryn McCormick, in which Jess was trying to comfort a lonely friend who couldn't see his devotion. Besides moving well, Jess brought a nice emotional believability to the piece and overcame his past difficulties with lifts. The judges were in agreement that it was Jess's best work in the competition so far. "I loved the music, loved the choreography and I just really love you in this piece," Mary said.
Jess's solo: A
Melanie Moore: I actually loved Melanie's solo better than I did her Viennese waltz with Pasha. It's not that she didn't dance it beautifully, and that the choreography by Jason Gilkison wasn't romantic and flowing, but I would have liked to see less lifts and more of Melanie's brilliance. Still, Mary praised her for mastering the timing of the lifts and said she's at the top of the leader board. "You look like you're from the past, like from the '30s and '40s, and you dance like you're from the future," said Neil. "You are so beautiful in every way and it seems like it comes from inside as well as out."
Melanie's solo: A+
Tadd Gadduang: If there's a rival to Marko's combination of skill and cuteness it would probably be Tadd. He did a terrific job matching hip-hop queen Comfort Fedoke in a Chuck Maldonado routine. In fact, Nigel said Tadd outdanced Comfort. (Anybody notice the song, "Look at Me Now" by Chris Brown, was also used for Lauren and Rodrigo's Luther Brown routine on SYTYCD Canada this week?) "It's true, you out hip-hopped Comfort; that's a hard thing to do," agreed Neil. "You have unbelievable musicality, your timing was right on. You have swagger for sure, swagger for days," said Mary.
Tadd's solo: A+
Ricky Jaime: Ricky showed why he made it into top 10 with this Tyce Diorio jazz routine with Allison Holker. He embraced the creepiness of the character, someone who was haunting Allison's dreams, and was sharp and clean in the movement. And he also showed the strength that belies his long, lean frame, lifting Allison at one point with just one arm. "You really brought it tonight, Ricky," Mary said. "It was raw, it was reckless, it was passionate, it was intense."
Ricky's solo: A
Jordan Casanova: I have nothing bad to say about the way Jordan danced a Desmond Richardson/Dwight Rhoden contemporary routine. It's just that I had a hard time taking my eyes off all-star Brandon Bryant. But Jordan definitely held her own, showing off her great lines and conveying emotion. "You are fighting to take this next position (in the competition) and I can see it, and you are dancing solid, sister," Mary said. "Wake up, dance fans, and keep this girl in the competition," said Nigel.
Jordan's solo: B+
Mitchell Kelly: Mitchell was the only dancer who had a bad night as far as the judging went. While I can see the point Nigel was making about inhabiting the small movements in the Fosse-esque jazz choreography by Tyce Diorio, I also thought Mitchell's lines were excellent and his leaps particularly good. But Neil had trouble seeing the airplane theme of the piece (and I agree, the choreography didn't remind me of a plane in any way), and both Mary and Nigel said Mitchell had over-performed the routine.
Mitchell's solo: A
Thursday takes us ever closer to the final with another elimination. You can watch on CTV at 8 p.m. and catch the recap here.