We’re down to the top eight (the finale is just three weeks away) and it’s getting harder and harder to see some of these dancers go. But go they must. The good news? With the herd having been thinned, we get to see a little more about each dancer — and a little more dancing, too. Best news? Superfan Jesse Tyler Ferguson of “Modern Family” is back at the judges’ table, and he’s both funny AND a good judge. Good times!
Between dancing with all-stars, we spend a little time getting background on each dancer, then they dance a solo. Tiffany is up first. She’s from Florida, she loves to dance and she loves her sister. Her solo is pretty strong, but about what I’d expect. She’s been solid throughout the competition, though I think most of the girls are in Eliana’s shadow.
The Background: Witney will join all-star Twitch for an East Coast hip-hop routine by Luther Brown. They are going to ratchet. Witney doesn’t know what that means, and Luther doesn’t seem able to explain it to her. Stop being mean to the Mormon girl, you guys!
The Dance: Witney’s fierce! She seems comfortable, she looks like she’s having fun. She’s not Twitch, but she doesn’t need to be. I could nitpick and fault her for not having the right snap in some places, but this is so much about attitude — and hers is just right.
The Judges: Nigel wants to know if all 18-year-old Mormon girls dance like this. He thinks she brings it, and he’s so glad they’ve saved her from elimination a few times. They describe ratchet. Ah! It’s a dance move that looks like everything we associate with hip hop anyway. Mary says she was buck and everything. Jesse doesn’t know how she did what she did in her diaper pants. He called them diaper pants, not me. I thought they were Hammer pants.
Time for another solo. Will was a chubby, awkward kid with a lot of energy, so his mom put him in dance class. Will told his mom that dance saved his life, because he was able to channel his energy the right way. Is his middle name Simba? One of his family members is holding up a sign. That’s cute, although I’m glad his parents picked it for a middle name and not a first name.
The Background: He’ll be dancing with all-star Allison in a Sonya Tayeh number. Cole will be playing a sadist, while Allison will be the desperate woman begging for his heart. But he doesn’t have a heart! Get it?
The Dance: Oh, I just love Sonya’s stuff. Levitation lift! Cole is very good at playing an evil bastard. He was also a good nerd, but the evil bastard thing may be what sticks with people — people who vote, more precisely. I hope he gets something friendlier next week, just so he stays in the competition. Because man, he is good.
The Judges: Jesse thinks Sonya is a sick, demented woman and he loves it. He thought it was insane, like an “American Horror Story” promo. He’s shaking and needs a cocktail. Mary gushes over Allison. Mary thinks Cole will be in the finale if he keeps dancing like that. Nigel thought it was powerful, dramatic and slightly scary. And Cole brings that to the season anyway. He’s unique to himself. He notes it’s hard to notice Cole when Allison is there, but he adds that Sonya said Cole was her best partner for the season.
Time for a plug! The top ten tour will start in San Diego October 23, and tickets are on sale now.
Lindsey is our next solo. She is from Provo, Utah and she used to dance with her three sisters at her mom’s dance studio. She’s worked with Mark Ballas from “Dancing with the Stars.” Her solo is very good ballroom. But I can’t say Lindsay’s one of the strongest girls left.
The Background: Eliana will be dancing with all-star Ryan. They’ll be doing a quick step, which is hard, according to Cat. I think it’s also something that can look dry and dated, which is the bigger danger.
The Dance: I think she could win this thing. She makes everything look effortless.
The Judges: Mary thought the quick step might throw her, but nailed it with the exception of some leg and arm placement. Jesse talks about her number last week, and he can’t get over her range of emotion. He feels like he knows her, but he’s not a stalker. I’m half expecting Jesse to run onto the stage and start hugging people, which is actually kind of charming and not scary, though it should be. Nigel was shocked by the technicality of it. He thought her top line was the best he’d seen a non-ballroom dancer do. He thinks she turns herself into whatever style of dancer she needs to be.
Time for Chehon’s solo. Chehon grew up in Switzerland but he was born in Chicago. He was adopted. He joined the Royal Ballet School of London at 14. His solo is, of course, incredible. I still don’t get quite why he ends up in the bottom three all the time. He almost cries when Cat mentions his mom is in the audience.
The Background: She and all-star Alex will be dancing to a Sonya Tayeh routine. It’s going to have a lot of sexual tension. Lindsay doesn’t exactly scream sexual tension to me, I have to say. I don’t think she’s a good fit for a Sonya routine.
The Dance: Hey, haven’t heard that Gotye song all summer. Still, Sonya makes it feel fresh. I hate to say it, but I’m not feeling it. Lindsay seems a little too graceful. There’s no power, no emotion. It’s hard not to just watch Alex.
The Judges: Nigel thought the technique was tremendous, but he didn’t feel the sexual tension. Mary thought it was a “no” in the chemistry department. Jesse thinks Lindsay is ding-dong-dorable. But he thought the chemistry wasn’t all there, either.
The Background: He and Lauren will be doing a Christopher Scott hip-hop routine. Will will be in pain, and Lauren will be part of his mind that dances the pain away. I suspect this will not be a lot of fun, which is unfortunate for Will, who’s all about the fun.
The Dance: I wanted more snap to this. He looks very chill, which isn’t bad, but he doesn’t mesh perfectly with Lauren. But it’s nice to see his serious side.
The Judges: Mary loves the musicality. She thinks his movement was articulate and precise. She thought it was really tight tonight. She thinks he just needs to believe in himself to stay in the competition. Jesse thinks Will is an adorable puppy. Nigel thought it was a tough routine, but thought it was great that he contained his cheesiness.
Witney is from Utah and has a huge family. She took dance lessons because she had so much energy. Her dad finds it tough to watch her dance and doesn’t like her sluttier costumes. Her solo is, of course, good and, of course, a little similar to her other solos.
Cole was shy and awkward growing up in Hawaii. He was bullied, so his parents put him into martial arts. Then, he got into dancing because he wanted to be an actor. His solo is a fusion of martial arts and contemporary and it’s kind of like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” It’s pretty awesome, even though he’s wearing unfortunate three-quarter length pants.
The Background: He partners with last season’s winner Melanie for a Mandy Moore jazz routine. It’s a fast jazz routine. Cyrus had no idea jazz was so athletic!
The Dance: At the very beginning there are some synch issues. But man, this is a cute routine. Cyrus is clearly having fun. But the same complaint still holds. Do I even need to say it at this point?
The Judges: Jesse thinks Cyrus’ spirit and charisma helped him keep his eyes on him. And he thinks like Twitch and Legacy, he’s synonymous with the show forever. Nigel thinks Cyrus is a little people magnet, as America must love him. He’s never been in the bottom three, after all. Oh, and he’s improved tremendously. He won’t be the best dancer, but who cares? This is a competition for most popular dancer. Does he know he was doing Fosse moves? He has no idea who Bob Fosse is. Sigh. Mary is glad Melanie is back. Was everything completely perfect? No, but she’s amazed he can do it at all. He’s an animator! Cyrus must be getting sick of this critique. But hey, it’s still true.
Eliana is from a big family in Florida. Her parents got divorced when she was 11 and she was on her own with her mom. She moved to New York at 16 to go to Joffrey Ballet School. She does a ballet solo. It is, of course, beautiful. She’s gonna win this thing. I wonder if she and Chehon have bonded over their ballet school experiences.
The Background: Chehon is going to tango with Anya.
The Dance: I just don’t get why Chehon keeps ending up in the bottom three. He’s so good. He’s cute. He has a fun accent. What’s the problem, voters? This is amazing. I could believe he was strictly a tango dancer.
The Judges: They give him a standing ovation, so I think he’s going to get, you know, good comments. Mary thought there was something really special about the moment. The hair went up on her arms. She thought the lift was amazing. Her favorite number of the night! She puts him on the hot tamale train. Chehon looks thrilled. Jesse thinks it’s been an insane night of performances. He’s totally stressed out about two dancers going home! He invites Chehon on his hot jalepeno bus. Nigel thinks his breadth and strength came into play, and the connection was amazing. He must feel proud.
Cyrus is from Texas and he used to have to visit his dad over the summer, but he died when Cyrus was ten. His mom showed him his first wave. Not ocean wave, but the dance move. He animates for his solo, and it does kind of drive home the fact that yeah, animation has nothing to do with ninety percent of what he has to do on the show. The crowd goes wild and won’t shut up. Cat informs Cyrus he’s laughing like a girl.
The Background: Tiffany will join all-star Ade and for a Mandy Moore routine. She likes to sing along to “The Power of Love” while they’re practicing. I can’t tell if Tiffany is joking, but I’m hoping she is.
The Dance: I hate Celine Dion, so maybe that’s dampening my enthusiasm for this performance. But it’s really very good and I can’t let the song color that too much. Beautiful lift at the end, beautiful lifts throughout.
The Judges: Another standing ovation from the judges. Ade hugs Tiffany. Jesse thought the partner work was insane. Jesse doesn’t want anyone to go home. Mary thinks Tiffany is extraordinary. She declares this Tiffany’s best performance of the season. Nigel knew it was going to be fantastic. He thinks there’s such a humbleness about her. Her dancing is focused and beautifully done.
Time for the elimination. Wah-wah. First, we have the girls. My bet is on Lindsay going home. Lindsay and Witney must step forward. They are the bottom two. Eliana and Tiffany are safe.
We move on to the guys. Chehon may not survive this week. Cyrus and Chehon step forward. They are safe. Whoa! Amazing. Okay, so Will and Cole are in the bottom. I think Will’s gone.
Time for the judges to speak. He notes that Lindsay and Witney have been best friends since they were five. Mary is thrilled two ballroom dancers have made it so far. But tonight, someone is staying… and that person is Witney. So, Lindsay is gone. I totally blame last week’s routine, which was blah. Lindsay laughs and cries.
Next, the guys. Nigel says they’re very different dancers. And next week, America votes and judges have no say. So, tonight is the tough decision. Tonight they’re keeping… Cole. Poor big puppy dog. Big puppy dog who is taller than Cat. She must be so thrilled he was on the show and so sad to see him go. He laughs but doesn’t cry, because he’s just that kind of guy.
Do you think Lindsay and Will deserved to go? Who do you think will win? Do you think Cyrus will make it to the end?