This week, the Top 8 were choreographed by—and partnered with—eight "So You Think You Can Dance" All Stars. I kind of love it when "SYTYCD" throws us a curveball like that. And it's a risky premise: Artists are usually at the top of their game as either dancers or as choreographers, but rarely as both at the same time. So what, I wondered as the show began, would we get? Mediocre dancing of beautiful pieces? Or vice versa? Something in the middle?
Well, a little of all of the above, it turns out. Read on for my Top 5 highlights from last night's episode.
1. Guest judge Jenna Elfman was kind of meh—but hey, she started out as a dancer! I love these kinds of discoveries. According to Wikipedia, she was in a Depeche Mode video and was also a "legs girl" for ZZ Top, whatever that means. We need concrete evidence of all this, STAT. (Wait—is she the girl on the left at 2:33 in this video? Please, please say yes.)
2. Fik-Shun and Allison's contemporary routine. It was based on society's prejudices about interracial couples—a not-so-veiled reference to Allison's relationship with a certain other "SYTYCD" All Star. Was it earth-shattering choreography? No, not really. Was the lantern theme—meant to represent the two of them "being in the dark"—especially effective? Nope. But it was a solid routine with a powerful message, and I like that Allison let Fik-Shun be himself at critical moments, playing to his strengths while carefully hiding his flaws.
3. Hayley and Dmitry's rumba. (Was Aaron's self-unbuttoning shirt earlier on actually Dmitry foreshadowing? Discuss.) There's nothing better than a good ballroom number, and it's rare that we get one that actually tells a story—in this case, the story of a woman who's just discovered her fiancé is cheating on her. The rumba suits Hayley's laser-focused technique well, though I do agree with Jenna that she could loosen up a tad. And I looooove when Mary talks dirty ballroom technique to me: "The international Latin rumba is so difficult, mainly because you can fall off-balance so easily with that type of leg action, but you [Hayley] did it beautifully." Don't stop, Mary! Don't ever stop.
4. Jenna and Mark's jazz number. Direct Mark quotes from the rehearsal footage: "I want to pull inspiration from so many different places that it's just an explosion of my head." "I'm totally not a vegetarian when it comes to dancing. I literally want it bloody. I just want it raw." "So bring out your inner Indian, and let's go to space." Somehow, all that translated to "Rich Man's Frug" by way of Lady Gaga (fitting, since Mark has been a Gaga dancer since forever) with that ineffable Markness layered over the top, and I loved every crazy moment of it. The red carpet/tongue! Amazing. And yes, Jenna looked great, although frankly it took serious effort to tear my eyes away from Mark. (Which is theoretically a problem in a routine that's supposed to be showing off the contestant...but I don't care. I love it.)
5. Amy and Travis' contemporary piece. This was Travis at his best: A classic, not-too-complicated story, with admirable, if not groundbreaking, choreography. I've also missed Travis as a dancer (at least since the end of "All the Right Moves"—R.I.P.!). And Amy is just so ridiculously great. I mean come on, those synchronized triple pirouettes that extended to second—good grief, kids!
In the end, Tucker and Jenna went home. Sad news. But at this point in the competition, every elimination is sad news.
What did you all think of the show? Did the right people go home? Let us know in the comments—and tune in next week, same time, same place for our recap!