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!


So You Think You Can Dance? Season 11 Top 6

Before I even started dancing, I watched SYTYCD. I was in such awe of the dancers, the stage, the production and Cat Deeley. It was where I first connected to ballroom as a style more than that, wanting to be a ballroom dancer. My first season was season 3 with such awesome ballroom representation in Lacey, Anya, Pasha and Faina who collectively demonstrated that ballroom is a difficult style but it makes you into one hell of a dancer. Chelsie Hightower knocked it out of the park in season 4 and I was committed to ballroom. Since then, the more I’ve danced and choreographed the more I see the cracks in SYTYCD ballroom but I’m still in love with the SYTYCD spirit. I’ve never wanted to be on it (cause I’d do horribly) but I always wanted to be a guest judge. And seeing as the ratings aren’t doing great, I’ve decided to do some blogging my thoughts like the mightygodking blogs I used to love and get that judging experience I always wanted.

Top 6 Group: Hip Hop Fun, cool way to start the show. Maybe not the most high energy way to start so I was a little underwhelmed. Also seemed a little bit of a ripoff from last week’s crew performance. (And a repeat of the black light costumes on a blue background making it impossible to see.) Everyone was very much in sync and musical but… It made me miss some of the stronger hip hop folks. Rudy? Emilio? Teddy? Tanisha? Probably would’ve raised the bar. Really a routine created to be filmed, I can’t imagine this was all that great in person.

Valerie & Ricky: Broadway I liked this routine. This might be the best I’ve seem them together. That said, I hate these two as a partnership. Valerie with other folks can have a real leading lady quality. Ricky is always Ricky. And that’s not a bad thing but when dancing a duet, you’ve got to sort of melt into one another and he just doesn’t. The consummate team player that is Ms Rockey dims her light to character actor-status for the presence that is RICKY. But the time apart has lifted her up and simmered him to a much more placid pair. This was lovely.

Jessica & Casey: Disco This warmed my heart. Possibly the best disco in a long, long time. I appreciate Doriana’s restraint—no, I’m serious. She’s done much more, much worse. The hustle elements were well done, the lifts were smartly done. Jessica really shined here as a strong, feminine dancer and Casey did a beautiful job as a man in a partner dance routine in that he supported, complimented and basically disappeared. That’s our lot in life, guys—we’re not the pretty half of the partnership. And that’s ok.

Ricky’s solo totally lived up to that music and became part of it. I’m not a huge Ricky fan but he got me with this.

Jacque & Zack: Foxtrot Ouch. This was a rough one. They tried. Oh god, did they try. This was basically a ballroom-influenced broadway routine that was an odd mish-mash. Not a great representation of American Smooth foxtrot in the creation of different positions and the transitions between. Zack 100% outdanced Jacque and I honestly think she limited him in his efforts. The shapes and lines were alright but the actual ballroom content was too reliant on inaccurate techniques. Sit down into your hipbones and let that absorb the shock of moving across your feet.

Jessica’s solo had feeling but it wasn’t smart or clever. I feel like musically and choreographically she missed some opportunities to make it really sparkle and so it never really became anything more than Jessica on a stage with music. But even that is really astounding, just not incredible.

Valerie and t*Witch: Hip Hop Not the kind of wedding dance I do (I can recommend someone though) but this was great. It was danced excellently and there’s that leading lady quality in Valerie again. I think the actual routine never really exploded like I wanted. Could’ve been a lot more production-wise but the actual dancing tore the roof off the place. Valerie benefits from having a very universal appeal and not taking herself to seriously while clearly committing to what she does 100%. That’s the kind of dancer we should aspire to be.

Casey’s solo was alright. It started really strong but lost my interest. Casey has a real star quality when he’s being choreographed but I don’t think he’s got that same instinct when he’s got a stage to himself and he’s demonstrating his abilities. Which is understandable—he’s got a lot to offer and it’s very hard to edit all that down into something concise. Essentially, he needs to mature.

Valerie’s solo really showed what good tapping is about. Musical. Personality. All-American sweetness…. Why’s she done so early? An hour of more show with no Valerie? Conspiracy?

Jacque and Will: Contemporary Truly excellent. Sean Cheeseman is a genius. This might be Jacque’s Courtney Galiano The Garden moment if she doesn’t go home later tonight. So smooth and sweet and clear. Mature but at ease and approachable and not overwhelmed by the props and production. Definitely a routine that translates live and on screen. Perfection. Jacque at her best reminds us why she’s gotten so far.

Zack’s solo blew me away. Such showmanship, such star quality. Zack has what a lot of winners of this show have: they are empowered when they dance. Zack just standing there is fine but when he dances, he’s electrified. All of a sudden he’s all charm and personality and appeal. He’s what you wanna see when people dance; he’s a superhero.

Jessica and Ade: Jazz Jessica’s only 18? Who knew? I didn’t really care for this. Reminds me of Mark Kanemura’s routines last year but not as… soulful? Maybe this was just soulless. It definitely showed a different side of Jessica but not really Jessica’s strong suits—she’s got elegance and grace and this went in a different direction. I think she brought her A-game to it and it deserves commendations but the choreography kind of cut her off at the knees.

Jacque’s solo really delighted me. I wish she had more than 30 seconds cause I’d like to see where that would’ve gone. More than anything, that was a smart solo; she made ballet really approachable and warm. A little sexy, a little nostalgic, a lot of personality and class. Jacque has done a solid job of branding herself.

Ricky and Anya: Cha Cha This was a lot of production and a lot of Anya and a little Ricky. He did pretty good considering. They tried to butch him up a little and he had some solid sex appeal but he wasn’t grounded all the way through like I would’ve liked. The crossover and grapevine section showed some real weakness as far as separation and isolation. But all and all the show came together to really sell this number to me. And to those of you who know my theory about ballroom girls on this show: See?!

Casey and MacKenzie: Contemporary I always forget who Mackenzie is so I’ve been really surprised when she gets announced as an All-Star. The middle section of this was a knockout but on the whole I was a little let down. It seemed like an exercise in beautiful contemporary dancing but I didn’t connect with it emotionally. The dancing itself was phenomenal but it didn’t necessarily have the heart it should have. I think the issue was more the music and lighting not the dancers and choreography. Someone on YouTube will remix this to get the right feeling and I’ll be destroyed but damn, they tried and that effort should be applauded.

Zack and Fik-shun: Hip Hop Really cool concept, beautifully attempted. I think some of the details could’ve been a little stronger but I don’t think anyone could’ve embodied this like Zack. This did show, I feel, that Zack may not be the best chameleon but that may just be because Fik-shun is so great at that. But Zack brings such quality and personality to all styles, he really is infinitely versatile in a very professional way.


Jacque and Casey are going home. Poor kids. For Jacque in particular because that contemporary dance could’ve took her to the finish line in other seasons and a different format. But it also seemed kind of right given their presence in the bottom thus far. They did great and really lifted the quality of this season. I mean this as a compliment: they deserved to be there and fought hard and unlike some other seasons, weren’t just the last two to be eliminated. They moved themselves up by doing their best.

Finale’s gonna be a battle royale. See you there, y’all!