Our Top 10 becomes our Top 8, joined by the All Stars, as 2 dancers are eliminated and the rest dance for votes.
Cat update...long and straight hair, which I like almost as much as the loose and flowing. The dress is gorgeous.
These choreographers keep one upping each other every week with these extraordinary group numbers. This one was made by Christopher Scott.
Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy are joined on the panel by the glorious Debbie Allen.
Our bottom two gals are...Makenzie and Jenna
Our bottom two guys are...Tucker (because of last week's injury) and Nico
That bottom four proves again that this is about America's Favorite, not The Best Dancer. Nigel says no solos from these four. This is going to be a very tough decision for the judges, particularly between Jenna and Makenzie because the judges have saved both of them multiple times already.
Amy Yakima, a 19 year old Contemporary dancer, is paired with All Star Brandon Bryant from Season 5, for Disco choreographed by Doriana Sanchez. The disco routines Doriana puts together for this show are typically really fast and really full of lifts. This one wasn't nearly as fast as in the past, but the lifts and tricks were many and difficult. Brandon provides such a solid base for those lifts with his incredible strength. Amy was fearless. Plus she had tremendous control. The routine was deceptively fast. These two dancers made it look so easy and seamless. Amy has the ability to combine precise technique with character and performance. She maintained her energy and stamina throughout the routine. The thing I like about Amy is that she becomes whatever is required by the style.
Aaron Turner, a 25 year old Tap dancer, is paired with All Star Kathryn McCormick from Season 6, choreographed by Stacey Tookey. Aaron has already impressed me with his mature approach to everything he does. Kathryn brings that out even more strongly with her elegance and grace. I really liked that routine, because it was about the raw movement rather than refining and polishing. That raw emotion and the edginess in the movement commanded the eye. Aaron and Kathryn both understand how to interpret music and movement. There was no difference in the level of performance between the competitor and the All Star, and that's what I look for in these partnerships. Whatever career Aaron makes, he's going to be a star.
Du-Shaunt "Fik-Shun" Stegall, an 18 year old Hip Hop dancer, is paired with All Star Melanie Moore, Season 8 champion, for Jazz choreographed by Mandy Moore. It's the rare dancer who can pull my focus from Melanie. Fik-Shun is that rare dancer. What he lacks in technique, he makes up in just pure and raw star quality. The kid is a mega watt talent. He can do pretty much anything, and he did it on that stage with a former champion. The choreography was so challenging. But there's really only so much that a choreographer can give to a pair of dancers. At some point, those dancers have to take the movement and infuse it with life. Fik-Shun figured out not only how to do that, but to perform it at the level required when dancing with such a refined dancer as Melanie. He matched power to power, and finesse to finesse.
Paul Kamiryan, a 22 year old Latin Ballroom dancer, is paired with All Star Witney Carson from Season 9, for Cha Cha Cha choreographed by Jean Marc Genereux. Happy Birthday Paul! These are two Latin ballroom champions, so I'm not really concerned about technique. I am concerned with Paul's ability to manage Witney, because she is one of those stars that can hold my focus. There were some awkward transitions in the middle of the routine, and I thought Paul lost a bit of energy toward the end. I've actually liked him more in other styles than his own specialty. I don't think he commands the spotlight as much in a Latin set piece because it's not really the male job to do that. The male role is to provide frame and context. I thought Paul did that quite well, but for me I thought Witney provided all of the spark. I did enjoy the performance as a whole, and anyone who understands Latin ballroom should agree that Paul did his job.
Hayley Erbert, an 18 year old Contemporary dancer, is paired All Star Stephen "tWitch" Boss from Season 4, for Hip Hop choreographed by Christopher Scott. Hayley scores...one of the finest choreographers and one of the great Hip Hop dancers. tWitch makes everything look so good, damn the man, because he pulls my focus. I love how much personality Hayley let loose in this piece. Christopher Scott typically comes up with a concept and then works it around the talents of the dancers. There was so much theatre in this piece, which worked to Hayley's advantage. She didn't have to worry so much about hitting and thumping and getting down into the floor. It was much more jazz flavored, which helped her quite a bit. Also, tWitch is such a generous partner as an All Star. His goal is to bring attention to the whole to allow the competitor to shine, which he did very well in this routine.
Jenna Johnson, an 18 year old Ballroom dancer, is paired with All Star Neil Haskell from Season 3, for Contemporary choreographed by Mandy Moore. I know this is about the kids competing, but I love to see how far the dancers have come from previous seasons. Neil has developed the promise he showed in Season 3 to become such a brilliantly expressive dancer. And Jenna...spectacular. She moved so seamlessly with Neil. They danced effortlessly as one. She was not on my radar early, and she is not getting the public's attention. That's a shame, because she is so versatile. I've learned this...breathing through phrases. I understand what that means through study, and it's wonderful to see it and realize that's what elevates a routine and adds so much emotion to it. This piece was really beautiful. Jenna shouldn't worry about whether she makes it to the finale. She should concern herself with the flood of offers she's going to get to join companies as soon as she's done here.
Jasmine Harper, a 19 year old Contemporary dancer, is paired with All Star Marko Germar from Season 8, for Jazz choreographed by Ray Leeper. I love this style of Jazz. There is a casualness to it, combined with precise staccato music. I thought this was clean. It had to be because of the size difference between them. Jasmine had to dance to her size and her best feature, which is her leg extension. When she was dancing with Aaron, size didn't matter. But she is so long, and Marko is not. So it was very difficult to make the whole greater than the parts. They managed it with those little performance details I've told you about...the pauses and personality and connection between them.
Makenzie Dustman, an 18 year old Contemporary dancer, is paired with All Star Jakob Karr from Season 6, for Broadway choreographed by Spencer Liff. This is grown up work, gang. Jacob has a thorough Broadway style. Makenzie has an old style elegance that matched very well to Jacob. This was a truly impressive effort. Spencer Liff designed a piece that took great advantage of the wonderful lines and extensions these two dancers possess. From the toe points to the high kicks, to that terrific breathing and phrasing. Nigel mentioned Rita Hayworth, and I do agree that there was that glamorous quality in Makenzie in that piece. She's not Rita Hayworth, but she brought that kind of sensuality to the performance.
Nico Greetham, an 18 year old Contemporary dancer, is paired with All Star Comfort Fedoke from Season 4, for Hip Hop choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon D'Umo. Nico has learned a thing or two about working in Hip Hop. I'm not really a fan of this particular style or music. I think the reptilian movement was reasonably effective for Nico. The quirkiness of the choreography and the movement allowed him to relax into it and be credible, without having to worry too much about the strong hits and sharp edges. I think it also gave him a chance to act through the routine, a skill at which he has proven quite adept. This was a tough style for Nico to get when he's up for elimination against Tucker. I don't know if he saved himself, but I didn't think he did badly.
Tucker Knox, a 22 year old Contemporary dancer, is paired with All Star Robert Roldan from Season 7, for Contemporary choreographed by Travis Wall. It certainly must be comforting to dance your own discipline when you are up for elimination, and to get such a personal piece from an Emmy nominated choreographer. This piece is about second chances and it is amazingly powerful. That's another performance that has left me without words to describe it. The emotion on that stage. I didn't have a near death car accident like these two had. But it did take me back to the devastation of knee injuries that sent my life into a path I didn't choose but conquered any way. That's what brilliant dance can do. And that's all that really needs to be said about this piece.
It's never right that we have eliminations after such wonderful performances, but this is what we have.
Jenna is safe...that means Makenzie is eliminated.
Tucker is safe...that means Nico is eliminated.
Tough deal. That's going to happen 7 more times though, because there's only one America's Favorite Dancer this season.
I did not really know what to expect from this group of dancers for Season 10. Few really stood out or indicated what they might do, at least in my mind. But now we're down to the last three weeks. We've got All Stars bringing even more out of these competitors than they have shown so far. We've got choreographers raising the bar.
So at this point, heading into our last three weeks, I can say that this group compares favorably to the talent we've seen in previous seasons.
Tune in next week for a twist. The All Stars not only dance, but they'll be choreographing the routines.