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Dance Critic's Desk: So You Think You Can Dance Season 8 - Top 16

Updated on August 3, 2011

About the Dance Critic

Kate Spenser studied classical and contemporary ballet beginning at the age of 10 in the greater Boston area. She attended summer programs at the Briansky Saratoga Ballet Center and the American Academy of Ballet. She continued dancing, and began choreographing, while in college, taking courses in the prestigious Five College Dance Department in Western Massachusetts. She has choreographed ballet, modern, contemporary, and hip hop dance pieces on dancers with a wide range of ages and ability levels.

Welcome back to Dance Critic's Desk, for a review of the third week of duets on Season 8 of So You Think You Can Dance. What was a tough competition got even tougher this week, and yet again the judges will have their work cut out for them in the elimination show tonight. I definitely had my favorite routines as well as those I didn't like as much, but the truth is, there really isn't a weak link among these 16 dancers, so no matter who gets eliminated, it will certainly feel like they didn't deserve to go.

But this is a competition, and in a competition, we name our favorites - here are my picks for top 3 routines of the evening and top 5 dancers of the show.

A duet, but more of a Trio: Sasha, Alexander, and the Piano

Runner Up: Sasha and Alexander performing a Dee Caspary Contemporary Routine

First of all, props to Dee Caspary for creating such a gorgeous work of art. I loved the use of the piano in this piece - how Sasha comes out of it, returns to it, plays through it, how the dancers dance on and off of it - it really became part of the story and the movement of the piece. Everything about this piece just worked together with an amazing synergy - the music (The Cary Brothers, Belong), the gorgeous costumes, the piano, and of course, the dancers.

Sasha continues to stand out from a field of incredibly talented dancers - not only is she technically nearly flawless, she's a powerhouse of strength and has incredible stage presence - she's given us several emotionally charged performances in these last few weeks and yet her emotion is fresh and new each time. Lil C nailed it on the head when he told Sasha that she is "eight notches above perfection." I'd be shocked not to see her in the final three.

I agree with the judges that Alexander showed growth from last week to this, though I'd like to see him push himself more in terms of stage presence. Still, he's an excellent partner for Sasha, and a beautiful dancer in his own right.

Next week I hope these two get something that's really fun - a ballroom piece, maybe, or a Broadway number - to give them a chance to show a different side of their performance abilities. They've given us one emotionally riveting performance after another so far, so it would be great to see something different, and differently challenging, for them.

These two are so good, they make the judges lose their minds...

Runner Up: Melanie and Marko dancing a NappyTabs Hip Hop Routine

I like to think that Nigel thought to tell Melanie and Marko that they are "the couple to beat" because he read my review last week when I basically said the same thing. Although maybe he just said it because it's what we're all thinking - these two are UNSTOPPABLE! They are a power couple in every way - they're both impossibly good dancers, they have the best acting abilities and stage presence on the show, and they move together like they were born to partner each other. To quote Lil C yet again (because, let's face it, he has got a way with words that just makes you want to quote him all the time), they are like "a pair of limited edition Swiss Army knives."

This piece was really fun. One of the things I love the most about Napoleon and Tabitha's choreography is that they often pick stories that you'd expect to see for a contemporary piece - like this piece, with best friends falling in love, or last week's soldier returning home - and tell them in a hip hop vocabulary that makes so much sense that you couldn't imagine the story being told any other way.

My absolute favorite part of the piece was the first standing movement sequence (starting at 1:24 in the video, right). The way Melanie and Marko hit and then suspend each move, articulating every movement of their bodies, is gorgeous.

Because they're my favorite couple, I want to see Melanie and Marko work with my favorite choreographer, Sonya Tayeh, next - her choreographic genius paired with their talent would be almost enough to make heads explode.

Caitlynn and Mitchell shimmy their way onto the radar

Top Pick: Caitlynn and Mitchell dancing a Jean-Marc Genereaux Samba

I'm going to express what might be an unpopular opinion here, and given what the judges have said about the ballroom numbers so far in this season, maybe I'm just totally off the mark - ballroom is pretty far from my specialty, after all. But I have to say it anyway - I kind of feel like Jean-Marc has been dumbing down the ballroom dances a bit this season. As a whole, I've found them to be kind of boring.

So maybe that's why I LOVED this piece so much - it was everything the other ballroom pieces haven't been - intricate, exciting, fun, sexy, and exceptionally well danced. Mitchell and Caitlynn weren't really on my radar at the start of the season, but they are definitely on it now. They were both so confident dancing this number that you'd really never guess it was their first time with the genre. What I really loved about it was how it was fun and sexy without crossing over into being cheesy. I get the sense that's really easy to do, especially when you're out of your element and are over-relying on your stage presence to get you through - but Caitlynn and Mitchell exhibited none of that compensation.

Technically speaking, they're both really strong, and they both articulate their movements gorgeously. The piece was so clean, so precise, and their footwork and posture alike were bordering on perfection. They're getting stronger and stronger as partners, too - they really have a fantastic chemistry going on in this piece, and I can see them continuing to grow tremendously as partners from week to week.

Next week I hope these two get to work with Napoleon and Tabitha doing something really fierce, so they can continue to prove their versatility to those of us who are quickly becoming huge fans.

Kate's Top 5

Each week I pick who I think are the top 5 dancers of the season, taking into account the totality of their work on the show to date.

At the end of week 3 of duets, my top 5 are:

  1. Melanie Moore
  2. Sasha Mallory
  3. Marko Germar
  4. Mitchell Kelly
  5. Caitlynn Lawson

Other Highlights

I loved Sonya Tayeh's choreography this week. Ashley and Chris were SO close to making it into my top 3 with the Bettlejuice piece - I thought it was their strongest performance yet, and the choreography was incredible. I completely disagreed with the judges who thought it was lacking...but then again, I still haven't gotten my invitation to guest judge, which is why I have to save my opinions til the next day! And I thought that the piece with Ryan and Ricky was awesome, and I loved both the choreography and the concept. I still think that while Ryan and Ricky are both incredible technically (that leap of Ricky's over the fabric was breathtaking, and Ryan is arguably the most polished dancer this season in terms of her technique), they missed the mark in terms of the emotion of the piece. I kept seeing a trace of that famous Ryan smile creeping onto her face, which didn't make any sense to me in the context of the piece, and I didn't really think they had enough of a connection to each other. Still, I think they'll stay in the competition because they're both such strong dancers. Miranda continues to amaze, and though it's awesome how supportive she is of Robert (and I think he's proving himself in terms of being a great partner) I think it's a bit of a shame that they're so mismatched in terms of technique and training. Clarice and Jess did a great job, but I thought the choreography was a little flat. (Is it just me, with the ballroom pieces? They just feel slow to me. I'd love someone to explain to me why I'm wrong, if I am!) And Jordan and Tadd gave a great performance, but I agree with Nigel that they concept overshadowed the dancing a bit. Still, they are both really strong and incredibly versatile dancers, which they continued to show this week.

Tomorrow's elimination round ought to be interesting, to say the least. I honestly can't say who I would send home at this point, if the decision were up to me, which is why I'm glad it isn't! What do you think - which was your favorite dance of the night? Who do you think will go home? Weigh in in the comments below!

You Be the Critic

Which was your favorite routine of the evening?

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