The Hunger Games
Guest judge Anna Kendrick relished in the opportunity to watch the So You Think You Can Dance top 14 dance for America’s votes in this week’s episode full of unique routines, lots of props, and a fall.
Anna Kendrick proved herself to be a massive improvement over recent guest judges. Her critiques hinted at her dance know-how (a result of her years spent on the broadway stage before her film career took off), but most importantly, she filled the role the show is looking for the guest judges to deliver: entertainment.
As America’s spirit animal, Anna totally geeked out for the entire show, with a slew of hilarious comments ranging from “If I could have your body for one day, I could do anything…I could solve world hunger!” to “I feel like you two should make a baby.” She was funny and entertaining, while also providing worthwhile criticism about the contestants’ routines. It left this writer wondering what number to dial to get Anna Kendrick to stick around for next week’s show.
Host Cat Deeley started the night with bad news: tapper Curtis Holland injured his shoulder in rehearsals this week, and was unable to dance this week, on doctor’s orders. It was a tough break for Curtis, who only barely made it through last week by the skin of his teeth, and this week didn’t have another chance to show off for the judges.
The bottom six dancers were revealed at the top of the show: Nico Greetham, Alan Bersten, and Curtis Holland for the guys, and Alexis Juliano, Makenzie Dustman, and Jasmine Harper for the girls.
The judges decided not to have any of the guys dance for their lives. None of them were safe, but the judges felt they knew how well they could dance. This was not a good sign for Curtis, as it seemed unlikely that they would send Nico or Alan home over someone who couldn’t dance at all this week.
Makenzie’s and Jasmine’s appearance in the bottom three girls was a big shock. They have been two of the strongest dancers throughout the competition, and both girls received raves for their performances last week. Makenzie, in particular, stole the show with her retro hip-hop performance. This seems to be another case of voters being overconfident that their favorite contestants are safe.
The judges chose to save Makenzie, and have Alexis and Jasmine dance for their lives. Both girls’ solos were strong, but Jasmine’s stunning routine outshone Alexis’.
The eliminations were quick, but probably not painless for Alexis Juliano and Curtis Holland, the two contestants sent home this week. Judge Nigel Lythgoe, a tapper himself, said the elimination “kills me this week, because we’re losing two tappers.” Curtis’ fate seemed inevitable from the beginning, and Alexis had some very stiff competition, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that the judges were unanimous in their decision.
Jenna and Tucker kicked off the competition with a Luther Brown hip-hop routine. Coming from the worlds of ballroom and contemporary, respectively, hip-hop was a little bit out of their comfort zone. They dove into it and gave it their best effort, but it came across looking a little nerdy.
Tucker’s role in particular required an awful lot of swag, and he fell a bit short. Nigel was pretty harsh, saying the routine was unconvincing and unmemorable. He felt Tucker was too upright, and Jenna was too sweet.
Both in danger this week, Alexis and Nico had a lot to prove with their Sonya Tayeh contemporary routine. The concept of the routine was that at the end of their relationship, Nico is trying to slip away quietly, but Alexis is still madly in love with him and doesn’t want to let him go.
It was a good showing from both Alexis and Nico, as both dancers showed a lot of intensity and emotion. The most memorable part of the routine was Alexis’ super-intense running in place, which was either stunning or hilarious, or maybe a little of both.
Hayley was left without partner Curtis for their Leonardo Barrionuevo and Miriam Larici Argentine tango, due to his injury, so Leonardo joined her in Curtis’ place. While it might be a challenge for other amateur dancers to perform with a professional in a genre outside of their own, Hayley rose to the challenge, and then some.
She was absolutely stunning, and sexy, and sold the entire routine with just her expressions. There were some beautiful lifts (especially the one where Hayley was frozen in mid-air for a moment), and technical work that brought ballroom expert Mary Murphy to her feet.
Makenzie and Paul were given a doozy of a jazz routine this week by Sonya Tayeh. She started off the rehearsals by having Paul take his shirt off, and the sexiness just escalated from there. It was a very sexy and sultry routine, and very aggressive as well.
Anna Kendrick wisely pointed out that this was a different role for Makenzie to play, as often she is very beautiful and ethereal, but this time she was more powerful, and “the power wasn’t coming from your beauty, it was coming from your ability.” These last two weeks, Makenzie has certainly proved herself to be more than just a pretty face: now if only she can get America on board.
Jasmine and Aaron were given a very unique Justin Giles contemporary routine, based on Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. Jasmine played the part of the tree, and Aaron the part of the boy trying to steal her last apple. They danced with a real apple, tossing it up and down and back and forth, with everyone holding their breath each time the apple was in the air, hoping Aaron or Jasmine would catch it. But they always did.
The dancing itself was wonderful. Nigel put it best when he said that The Giving Tree is about unconditional love, and “that’s what you two have as a couple.” Jasmine and Aaron are beautiful dancers, but they are also beautiful partners: supporting each other and interacting with one another in such a genuine, loving way. It’s a joy to watch.
Amy and Fik-shun took us to “Café So You Think You Can Dance” with their Christopher Scott hip-hop routine. In this routine, Amy was a waitress finishing up a long day of work, and Fik-shun was a regular customer with a big crush on Amy, who’s waited for the last customer to leave so he can put the moves on.
With the routine set to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” the ultimate seduction song, combined with Fik-shun’s contagious smile, Amy was putty in his hands in no time. Amy was maybe too putty-like, however, as she tripped over a chair at one point and fell, but she was back up in a blink with a smile on her face, so you’d never know it happened. The judges commended her recovery.
The two of them are so ridiculously charming, it’s a delight to watch them in every single routine. Nigel pointed out, however, that their most memorable routines are all silly happy dances like this one, they have yet to shine in a more dramatic role.
Alan and Malece closed out the duets with a roller coaster ride of a salsa routine choreographed by season 5 contestant Jonathan Pletero. There were a lot of lifts and death drops which made Malece a little nervous, (given that her partner in the jazz round in Vegas dropped her on her head) but Alan was confident in his own style, and wouldn’t let Malece fall.
It was a very strong routine, with Alan showing off in his own style, and Malece rising to the occasion. She was a little winded towards the end, but understandably so, given the energy level required for the fast-paced routine.
The top 14 (sans Curtis) danced a very intense group jazz routine, choreographed by Dmitry Chaplin and Sonya Tayeh. The beginning pose was stunning, with Malece Miller hanging from a trapeze bar, and the other dancers creating a giant wave of bodies down to the floor. The music and mood were very intense, incorporating the best of Dmitry’s ballroom holds and Sonya’s jazz attitude.
It was a different sort of routine, from Malece swinging from the rafters, and Nico Greetham flipping his way across the stage and climbing the scaffolding. The dancers were bursting at the seems with energy and the result was outstanding.
This week’s first mini group routine featured Makenzie, Alan, Nico, Hayley, and Malece in a Spencer Liff broadway routine. Curtis was originally involved as well, but in light of his injury, Spencer Liff himself stepped in to fill his absence.
They were all cool, well-dressed hipster kids in a smokey pool hall, rocking out to Joe Cocker’s “Come Together” from Across The Universe. It was a funky routine, but the judges felt that the inclusion of Spencer in the routine didn’t do the contestants any favors, because everyone’s eye was drawn to the professional dancer onstage.
Newcomer Bonnie Story choreographed an emotional routine for Fik-shun, Amy, Paul, Tucker, Jasmine, Aaron, and Alexis, dealing with the topic of bullying. She set out to prove that those that turn a blind eye are just as dangerous as the bullies themselves. Her friend was a victim of a beating, and she actually called him and had him tell the contestants his story, moving many of them to tears.
It was a great message, but was not executed as well as it could be in the hands of another choreographer. The routine didn’t grab you as much as other emotional and topical routines have in the past, but it also wasn’t the best performance by any of the dancers. They seemed a bit out of sync at times, and the judges pointed out Fik-shun in particular for his lack of technique. Nigel did say, however, that if he can sharpen his technique he will be unstoppable.