So You Think You Can Dance? Season 11 Top 4

Working Wednesday night and now I’m watching this episode a day late with high expectations. No idea who might be the winner and last week really reset the preferences I started the season with.

Top 4 Group: Contemporary I think this routine was danced well but suffered from some sizable flaws. Neat concept but the pairings definitely showed an imbalance in a lot of ways and I think the choreography didn’t work to blend the dancers as partners/a group. Very stilted in ways so nobody ended looking that great when all was said and done. The good thing was that you could see real differences and size dancers up against one another. Valerie being more human and Jessica being more ethereal; Ricky being more extroverted and Zack being more introverted. I didn’t care for the musical break in the middle because they all danced it like a separate routine rather than just changing emotional keys. A rocky start.

Valerie & Ricky: African Jazz I may not be the authority on this style but I think it was very good as far as energy and attack. They had different reactions over the course of the routine. Ricky started very tight and wasn’t really finishing his lines. Valerie started with a natural looseness and extension that really gels with African jazz. Over time, Ricky really found a groove and exploded while Valerie lost a lot of steam — which I don’t really mind because it’s narratively appropriate.

Jessica & Zack: Broadway A signature tango song! “Hernando’s Hideaway” is such a classic and I’m in love. Apart from the song I… Didn’t love this. Neither of them really lived up to their characters in my opinion. Jessica didn’t have the maturity for a vixen and I could see the effort but Zack wasn’t bringing all the swagger the role required. They definitely tried very hard and coped with the tricks and choreography well but it lacked the smoothness, the ease, the embodiment that is as much acting as dancing. Faster actions suited them both better because what really failed the routine were the quiet, transitional moments.

Valerie & Zack: Contemporary Why couldn’t they just say she was blind? ‘Cause they sure laid it on real thick with the cane. The dancing was good overall — really fluid and smooth. I think Valerie for once didn’t have an enormous range emotionally which made some things a touch comical to be completely honest. Zack had an easier job that he did beautifully when there was something to do. Some guys on this show do great as forklifts just moving and supporting and orchestrating which is a real valuable skill. I don’t think Zack is one of those guys — he’s more of someone who demonstrates content well. He’s either center stage or completely absent.

Jessica & Ricky: Jazz This show has a rough relationship was jazz routines that don’t have storylines. Jazz doesn’t really translate without an idea behind it. They danced really beautifully with a lot of energy but the moments where the lost sync really stood out like sore thumbs. Ray Leeper kinda just shot Jessica in the foot for the second week in a row. Needed a more deliberate masculine/feminine vibe to really sell it. Edit: I completely forgot about this routine and was only reminded it existed while proofreading. That says something.

What? Jason Mraz? Huh? I mean… Sure, I guess.

Valerie & Jessica: Bollywood For once Jessica wasn’t the plainest girl to walk the earth. She actually really sparkled in an unexpected way. I think Valerie definitely showed a strong musicality and embodiment of the style. When dancing through a lens of joy, Valerie can really pop. That said, I think she slid back a little bit character acting. Be a little selfish, Valerie! You don’t have to let someone else be the star! Especially in a routine about “Bollywood divas”. The catfight would be called for.

Zack & Ricky: Hip Hop Big night for these two as far as partnering. And Ricky keeps getting lifted by everybody! Something tells me he likes it. It’s funny to me to imagine this is the same couple from the opening group routine… just on the weekends. But this was really excellently danced by both of them. Really, hard-hitting. Astoundingly in sync. My eyes kept bouncing back and forth. Ricky probably had more interesting material but Zack made his parts more sharp and powerful.

Valerie & Aaron Tap Absolutely amazing. Could not take my eyes off if this. Wish there was an entire show of these two. Some of the best dancing Valerie has ever done in this stage. So musical and precise and expressive. She has definitely shown an enormous range tonight as well as throughout the whole season. I think she’s got a special kind of charisma — she makes you zoom in and focus on her rather than expanding out and filling up a space. She’s a star.

Ricky’s solo wasn’t as great as last week but still excellent. Ricky needs more calibration — less black/white, fast/slow, big/small. More variety will give him so much more nuance. Luckily, this isn’t a big nuance show.

Ricky & Katherine: Contemporary There was a lot to like about this routine but in the feeling of finales this routine made me wonder if we’ve ever seen Ricky have to be overtly sexy? Because this routine was platonic and a little cold to me. Sometimes Ricky was somewhat frantic to me which I think pulled me out of it but is actually an appropriate for the feeling and the moment when you think about it.

Valerie’s solo had a clever song behind it but took a while to get started. Seemed a little generic, honestly. Femininity sits really well on Valerie and I wish she’d play that up a little more instead of slumping down into tomboy territory.

Zack & Aaron: Tap My first thought seeing this is: that looked so hard! Which is a good and bad thing. They had so much to do and were so challenged but you could see the work they put it in. It was so interesting but a little more light and shade wouldn’t have killed them. The routine itself showed ability and work ethic that you couldn’t find in many (any?) others.

Jessica’s solo was eh. Not her best. If that was a ‘dance for your life’ solo, she’d probably be dead. Jessica needs to either lean into her ethereal, quiet strengths or push herself in entirely the different direction and go really weird ’cause otherwise she’s just the plainest of the plain.

Jessica & Robert: Contemporary Contemporary? I thought she was a jazz dancer. Oh, she already had jazz tonight. But this was excellent. Jessica got to play to her strengths and brought a real depth that made this routine pop. Really mesmerizing and cohesive from moment to moment. She really overtook Robert and stole that show. Christina Applegate might be proven right.

Zack’s solo was an excellent demonstration of tap and Zack’s ability as an entertainer. There’s something special about what he does.

Sooooo… No ballroom tonight? Ouch. Why’d I even bother recapping? Because this show is rad and deserves the attention of all dancers everywhere. Let’s hope someone appreciates the two Emmys they won and renews them for season 12 so I can recap a whole season and not just the last two. Can’t wait for the results! Go everybody!

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