Recap: Choreography lets some dancers down on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’

This is the last week for power couples, as the pairs will be split apart next week. While I”m looking forward to the All-Stars (and there are a few people who”ve been coasting on the strength of their partners, ahem, Alexander), I”ll be a little sad to see Melanie and Marko forced to dance with other people. It just feels like one of those romantic comedies in which the couple who”s really perfect for one another starts dating other people. But hey, it”s a dance competition. I”ll get over it.

Well, it”s time to introduce our latest guest judge. This has been a pretty mixed bag so far, but I remain hopeful. Stop breaking my heart, “SYTYCD”! Hey, look, it”s Jesse Tyler Ferguson from “Modern Family”! Love him! I”ve never thought of him as a dancer, but I”m confident he”ll be funny. Also on the panel are Sonya Tayeh, Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy. I can”t imagine what it would be like to actually work with some of these dancers and then have to eviscerate them before a national audience, but I think that explains why the guest judge/choreographers tend to go mushy in their critiques.
Jesse explains that he did Broadway and some theme park dancing, so he knows him some dancing. I”m trying to imagine Jesse in the Disneyland Electric Light Parade. I keep thinking of David Sedaris” “SantaLand Diaries,” but while I”m sure Jesse probably has stories that are just as funny, I doubt they”re as bitter.
Sasha and Alexander
They”ll be doing a paso doble by Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin. They paso doble is a difficult dance, blah blah blah. Sorry, but the rehearsal segments aren”t always compelling.
And neither is this dance, sorry to say. Where”s that Sasha snap and ferocity? They clasp hands as if the other has contagious strep and, while the movements seem accurate, they lack intensity and precision. I have just one word to describe Alexander: floppy. It”s not terrible, but it”s not great.
Nigel thought it was much stronger than previous performances. Well, that”s faint praise given that previous performances included Hip Hop 101. Mary said the routine was hot. She says Sasha is fierce and Alexander wasn”t bad. Oh, and it got sloppy toward the end. Jesse points out that Sasha”s bra kept falling off in rehearsal, but they fixed it. He gives Alexander props for keeping up. Sonya says Sasha rocks her socks. She doesn”t always trust Alexander”s partnering, but she wants to. In short, everyone loves Sasha and Alexander can”t be eliminated as long as she”s safe.
Jordan and Tadd
They”ll be doing a Travis Wall routine about a woman who takes advantage of men. She is a black vulture beast. I didn”t make that up. Travis actually calls her a black vulture beast.
I guess a black vulture beast is a black swan, but maybe that movie”s been out of theaters too long so they had to come up with the vulture beat thing to describe her costume. Anyway, I see a lot of Sonya in the choreography, and that”s a compliment. This is the best performance I”ve seen from Jordan, and Tadd matches her. Good, good stuff. I”ve been disappointed with Jordan in the past (too often she seems like she”d be more comfortable working the pole), but increasingly she”s bringing nuance and sophistication to the floor. And Tadd is just friggin” amazing. Can”t believe he”s a hip-hop guy. Just can”t.
Mary thought it was magnificent. She said she”s no longer surprised by how strong Tadd is. I guess I”m not either, come to think of it – he”s really just a strong all-around performer. She says Jordan demolished the whole thing. Jesse says Tadd and the rest of the guys are in it to win it. Sonya said the conviction and belief made her want to cry. And swear. Nigel declares it the story of Thanksgiving (because of the dead vulture beast, ha ha) and thought it was remarkable. He thought they were tremendous.
Ryan and Ricky
They”ll be doing a Broadway routine by Spencer Liff. Ricky is a little worried because his style is goofy, not smooth. Hmm.
Well, if Sasha and Alexander danced Hip Hop 101, this is Broadway 101. And I can”t blame Ryan and Ricky too much. Though they walk through it without any of the joy and panache I associate with old school Broadway (or even Fred and Ginger), there”s not a lot for them to do. This is just a disappointment. What”s really unfortunate, though, is that the choreography lets Ryan and Ricky down more than anything else.
Jesse felt like there was a glass ceiling on the performance. It didn”t sparkle for him. Wow, when the guest judge says it was subpar, Sonya felt they questioned it too much and let it simmer. Nigel said that they didn”t sit comfortably in Broadway style. He thinks they didn”t make the connection they needed to make. Mary thinks they lost it after the first thirty seconds.
Caitlynn and Mitchell
They face a hip-hop number by Christopher Scott. And it will be representing the children of Northern Uganda and Congo who are kidnapped and forced to do battle. Oh, no. This sounds like a parody on “Saturday Night Live.” Not that this isn”t sad or a real issue or something that Christopher Scott cares deeply about, but this is just too much pathos to squeeze into one little routine meant to be squeezed in between commercial breaks.  
And, guess what? Even though Caitlynn and Mitchell are looking appropriately tortured, this kinda blows. They aren”t dancing with one another as much as shadowing one another and it only serves to make it abundantly clear when they aren”t in synch, which is most of the time. I love Caitlynn and Mitchell, but I don”t think this is their fault so much. What is with the crap choreography tonight?
Sonya said she wasn”t able to connect with the intention. She said the details got jumbled. Nigel felt they weren”t dancing together, and he didn”t get the message. Mary felt it was respectable but not all there. Jesse felt they dance with the power of a Mack truck but he didn”t get the message. But some of this is the choreography, isn”t it?
Melanie and Marko
The ultimate power couple will be doing a Louie van Amstel tango. I have no doubt it will be hot. How can anything Melanie and Marko do not be hot?
Wow. That”s all I can say. Wow. That lift at the ending? Defied gravity. Love, love, love them. His posture really struck me as dead-on, which takes some doing. Guys often look so stiff during this dance, and he just looked like he was in charge.
Nigel says van Amstel challenged them but he thinks they”ve taken a limitless pill. He says it was tremendous. Mary walks us through the different tangos too quickly for me to write all of it down, but it was useful information if you want to learn about the tango. And don”t have access to the Internet. This is the American style tango, and it”s the combination of all the other tangos. She says some professionals can”t make that stuff look good. It could have been better, sure, but it was great. Jesse thinks Mary is the lost Osmond. Okay, Jesse should come back. He actually offers insightful advice, knows the show and he says things like Mary is the last Osmond. He thinks they have a spark. Spark is good. Sonya says they took her breath away. She says they”re sick. Sick is good. It”s all good. It”s Melanie and Marko, why wouldn”t it be?
Clarice and Jess
They”ll be doing a Christopher Scott hip hop. Uh-oh. I”ve long expected hip-hop to be the great destroyer of Clarice and Jess, to be honest. They”re both a little too refined and graceful to get in touch with their inner angry adolescents, so I”m expecting a train wreck.
Huh. No train wreck. In fact, Jess was not bad. At all. I actually kinda bought him in hip-hop mode. No, clearly not his genre, but I was expecting a real mess. Clarice is, again, a little too graceful for a dance so urban, but she”s good. She really is a dark horse in this competition – sweet, shy and yet (like all of the other girls) a beast.
Mary Murphy thought they were amazing. She thought they had the pulse and swag. Jesse thought it was fantastic. He thinks he and Clarice should get married even though they both have boyfriends. I love that Jesse isn”t just a fan, but a geeky, goofy fan of the show. Really, come back again, Jesse! Nigel felt there wasn”t resistance at the beginning but they found their swag. He tells Christopher he prefers these simple stories instead of Ugandan child soldier stuff. Hint, hint. I”m glad he gave Christopher a rap on the knuckles.
Sasha and Alexander
It”s a Tyce Diorio Broadway routine that tells their story to “That”s Life.” Well, that”s certainly true.
Sasha is clearly so much more connected to this routine. She”s back! And Alexander is pretty damn good this time. And at the very end he”s a lot better than Sasha simply because she takes a header. It also looks a bit like she almost dragged Alexander onto the floor with her. Maybe not – we only got the low, long shot which wasn”t very helpful. But either way, a good number and a nice return to form for Sasha. Give or take a face plant.
Jesse tells them he thought this was beyond and it”s his favorite number of the night. Sonya says Tyce is the boop. Which is the sound she makes when she wants to swear. She says they broke it and they killed it. So violent, Sonya, really. Nigel points out that Sasha has carried Alexander in past routines, but not tonight. He says the only shaky thing on the stage was the lamppost. Mary declares it a breakthough night.
Jordan and Tadd
It”s a Spencer Liff Broadway routine. The theme seems to be the Princess and the Pea, which sounds cute but also hokey. Keep your fingers crossed.
And this is, alas, hokey. Jordan really does sell it, though. I”ve really been enjoying her more as a performer week after week, especially when she doesn”t seem like she should be working a pole. But this a weird, retro 80s sort of thing that certainly doesn”t say Broadway to me. More high school dance. And that”s on you, Spencer. I hate that a bad routine could send talented people home. I know everyone has a grind with two routines this week (choreographers included), but still.
Sonya was underwhelmed. She felt it was a jumble of things. Absolutely. Nigel thought it could have been quirkier. It was only okay. He”s worried for them. I am, too. Mary thinks they need to find a way to make it work, and it didn”t this week. Jesse loves Sonya and they fake kiss a bit, but he agrees that it was a grab bag of styles.
Ryan and Ricky
They get a cha cha by Louie van Amstel. He”s going to keep them out of the bottom three. I wish Louie wouldn”t put that kind of pressure on himself, because I really don”t know what he can do when Ryan is, well, Ryan. Ricky points out that the dance is out of their comfort zone and it”s hot. Caliente. He”s excited. I don”t think Ryan is, though.
Ricky is hot, but this dance? Not hot. Or at least Ryan isn”t hot. I keep thinking of Kendra on “Dancing with the Stars.” That is not a good thing. She just looks ungainly, to be honest. Ricky, though, is rocking it out. I guess hot is within his wheelhouse.  
Nigel felt Ricky was great, but Ryan”s legs were too far apart and her footwork was sloppy. Mary agrees with Nigel. She says Ryan was sloppy, but Ricky was great. She puts Ricky on the hot tamale train – alone. Jesse says it was his favorite routine for Ricky. Sonya loved that Ricky was enjoying it, but she could tell Ryan was tense.
Caitlynn and Mitchell
They”ll be doing a Travis Wall routine set in the 1970s. It”s about a female rock star who learns her man is married. Caitlynn has to slap Mitchell and she just can”t do it! But then she can. She”s very cute but can we just get to the dancing?
Weird, weird music choice. Janice Joplin? This is only slightly better than dancing to a garbage disposal running. And I don”t dislike Janice Joplin, but I think you can only dance to this stuff if you”re blotto on LSD and covered in mud at the Woodstock festival. Despite the terrible song choice, this is still an amazing dance. And the jump into the split is pretty wowza, gotta admit.
Mary thought it was slightly naughty, intense and she loved it. Jesse thought they were amazing. He has Caitlynn”s boots in red. Badump-dump! He thought it was fantastic. Sonya thought it was really, really hot. She says Mitchell is a great partner but sometimes he disappears and focuses too internally. That”s true – I never really notice Mitchell during his dances and usually have to rewind. Nigel wants Mitchell to be careful. He feels like a dirty old man looking at Caitlynn but he wanted her to stay focused on Mitchell instead of the audience. Doesn”t he bitch at people for not including the audience sometimes? So confusing.
Melanie and Marko
They have a contemporary routine by Dee Caspery. It”s about couples slipping in and out of the light. They will be dancing with a  light bulb. He”s dark, she”s light. If one more person says light, I”m going to punch someone”s lights out. Oops.  
Ah, Melanie and Marko. What can I say? So intense, so perfectly connected, so good. Love them.
Jesse loved it. Sonya”s glad this is the future of dance. She wants them to stay humble and true because they”re amazing. Nigel is excited to split up the couples, apart from breaking up Melanie and Marko. He declares it magical. Mary declares them shining stars. And they so are.
Jess and Clarice
They”ll be dancing a jive by Melanie and Tony. This seems a little closer to home for them, but we”ll see. I”m surprised at how solid Jess has been this week, I have to admit.
Jess is, again, not bad at all. Clarice, also solid. It gets a little floppy here and there, but I think it”s hard to sustain a jive. And especially to this music. Again another crappy song choice. It”s certainly not a song to jive to.
Sonya loved it, period. The lifts worry Nigel and he needed more energy in parts. Mary felt it lost steam as it went along and it wasn”t as much fun as she hoped. I blame the music. But she notes Clarice had the fun. He thought it was great. And he loves Cat Deeley and thinks she”s one of the great reality show hosts. Okay, time to wrap it up, guys.
Tonight was honestly troubling because I felt so many factors that had little or nothing to do with the actual dancers may still get them booted out tomorrow night. Terrible song choices, crappy routines, blah dances that didn”t even rise to the level of school dance recitals – how did “SYTYCD” go so completely off the rails this week? It wouldn”t have been so bad (or maybe not even that noticeable) if season eight wasn”t so strong. But season eight is that strong – and some dancers (like Jess, whom I”d previously counted out) continue to surprise. It”s going to be interesting – but I think it”s going to be another sad, bad Thursday night.
Do you think Caitlynn and Mitchell got stuck with a bad routine? What did you think of Sasha”s fall? And do you think Melanie and Marko will be as good separately as they are together?