Yesterday's episode was the all-important final step before the live TV episodes begin. Last Monday night, Vanessa, Mary, and Nigel cut half of the remaining ladies after seeing them perform a duet outside their style with a male All-Star. And last night, it was (finally!) the men's turn. Here's what went down.
The ballroom dancer (and Harry Connick Jr. doppelgänger, just saying) was paired with Jaimie Goodwin for a gorgeous partnering-filled contemporary routine choreographed by Travis Wall. The judges basically awarded Cole the unofficial "Most Improved" award, with Nigel commenting, "There have been occasions when I thought you were a bit disingenuous. I did not feel that in this routine." Mary added that she's never seen a trajectory of improvement like the one he's had on the show thus far. Cole's reward? A spot in the Top 5!
Jay Jay Dixonbey
Cha-cha-Chelsie [Hightower] for Jay Jay! The contemporary dancer rose to the challenge of Elena Samodanova's explosively musical choreo, conquering it with his strong hits and body rolls for days. Vanessa gushed, "Your performance was so captivating. You're such a powerhouse! I love watching you dance." Nigel was less convinced, pointing out that Jay Jay consistently breaks the line of his arms. In the end, though, Jay Jay got a chance to prove himself to America with a slot in the Top 5.
Slavik, obviously an incredibly talented hip-hopper, faces a bit of an uphill climb in a competition like "SYTYCD." In his own words, "Choreography is still not my strong point." Luckily, Slavik ran with this week's assignment—in a big way. Paired with Allison Holker for a jazz number choreographed by Tyce Diorio, his intense presence made Mary squeal, "It was SO DARN BELIEVABLE! You're blowing my mind a little bit right now." Last night's eliminations took every performance from The Academy into account, but Slavik was able to tip the scales in his favor, netting a place in the Top 5.
Justin, please join our pham any time! This contemporary pham-omenon (nope, still not sorry) was endearingly energetic and articulate throughout his hip-hop number with Comfort Fedoke, but the judges wanted him to bring more weight into his dancing. Sadly, Justin went home this week, with Nigel saying that "What we'd all like to see is for you to be a little more grounded."
Peyton struggled somewhat with contemporary—his own style—previously in The Academy, not meeting the judges' high expectations from the judges. But he had a chance to redeem himself last night in a cha-cha with Chelsie Hightower. As Nigel noted, "All the things I expected you to be good at you were perfect at," but Mary thought that the chemistry wasn't there, and that Peyton wasn't dancing his best overall. At the end of the night, Peyton went home with the suggestion to work on personality before auditioning next season.
Kyle Bennett Jr.
Kyle must've been feeling some serious déjà vu: Last year, he was cut right before the live shows started. Dancing Travis Wall choreo with past winner Lauren Froderman, Kyle drew mixed reactions from the panel. Mary said, "What you lack in training you give with your heart." (Wait, is that a compliment or—?) And after Kyle left the stage, Nigel cryptically said "He's on my list." WHAT LIST, NIGEL? In the end-of-ep eliminations, it was Slavik vs. Kyle—and Slavik's outstanding performance earned him the spot. But we're rooting for you in Season 16, Kyle!
Another contestant who struggled in the ballroom round, Evan proved why he made it all the way to the Green Mile last season with his Brian Friedman-created contemporary routine alongside Allison Holker. Nigel acknowledged how he'd stepped up to the plate in a big way, and Mary "felt like I went through something with you. You gave it everything you could." What this tap dancer didn't realize until the end of the night is that he also gave himself a place in the Top 5!
This one broke our hearts—and Nigel's, too, surprising as that may sound. Though the animator turned in a stunning contemporary performance with Jaimie Goodwin, and Mary told him "You just went up another rung on the ladder for me," it wasn't quite enough. Though Dustin was encouraged to return next year, he was unclear on what went wrong: "I'm not sure what happened. I guess I'm just not what they're looking for at this particular time." Please come back next season, Dustin!
Tasked with Brian Friedman's piping-hot jazz choreography and paired with Lauren Froderman, Allen certainly had his moments last night, but it wasn't consistent enough for Mary, who noticed that "some of your dancing came from a really honest, organic place and some of it didn't." At the end of the night, Allen went home, with Nigel citing how Allen "started losing it around the jive," though he'd stunned during the first couple of days in the Academy.
Talk about a dramatic comeback! Both Darius and the judges noted that every solo he'd performed on the show was, well, sad. Last night, choreographer Luther Brown let another side of this contemporary dancer shine in a playfully comedic hip-hop routine with Comfort Fedoke. The effect on the judges was immediate: All three were literally dancing in their seats. Darius's breakthrough was (duh) rewarded with a spot in the Top 5.
Next week: The first live show of Season 15—and the first time the Top 10 get to dance with each other! Let the real games begin.