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SYTYCD Dance Critic's Desk: So You Think You Can Dance, Season 8: Top 14

Updated on July 7, 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.

Top 14 Perform

Welcome back for another week of Dance Critic's Desk, where I review and critique each week's performance episode of the hit Fox television show So You Think You Can Dance.

This week the regular judges were joined by Carmen Electra, who apparently has quite the dance background - am I the only one who never knew she had such extensive ballet training? - and SYTYCD alum (and one of my favorite choreographers) Travis Wall. Given what a big personality Carmen Electra has, and her extensive television experience, I was surprised that she wasn't a better judge - her comments were largely unenthusiastic and very basic. Travis Wall, on the other hand, proved he has yet another talent to add to his list. He seemed a little nervous in the beginning, but he didn't have reason to be, as he was a fantastic judge. He gave even his favorite dancers bits of constructive feedback - support your standing leg, extend your port de bras - that have largely been lacking from the judges this season. If it weren't for the fact that it would mean he couldn't choreograph, I'd say they should have Travis judge more often.

This week's episode had more high and low points than last week's, which was pretty consistently strong. With as much difficulty as I had picking my top 3 pieces last week, I worried that I'd have a hard time again this week. But apparently there was no need to worry, as three routines stood out to me as clearly being the best. Without further ado, here they are!

Watch Clarice & Jess as they NAIL this piece

Runner Up: Clarice and Jess Performing a Justin Giles Contemporary Piece

Clarice and Jess make their debut in my top 3 this week. They are obviously both quite talented dancers, but up until now I hadn't been wowed by them at all. That changed this week, thanks in large part to some really gorgeous choreography by Justin Giles. The way he punctuated the movements to correspond with the music was fantastic, and Clarice and Jess both really understood Giles' vision and proved their own musicality in how they danced - sharp, precise, hard hitting, and perfectly synchronized (see from about 4:06 in the video for a glimpse of what I mean). And the emotion of the performance was spot-on - it was well acted and totally believable.

It almost felt like some of the movement in this piece was hip hop inspired, and I loved that about it. Perhaps Jess and Clarice need to be paired up with NappyTabs next week?

The Incomparable Melanie and Marko

Runner Up: Melanie and Marko Dancing a Ray Leeper Jazz Routine

This week Melanie and Marko continued their run of near-perfect performances. These two are the type of dancers that you could just watch walking around the stage together and find it beautiful. Not only are they the strongest couple on the show in terms of their dancing ability (technique and pure brute strength), but they are the best performers, too. This piece was strong, sexy, feisty, and aggressive, and Melanie and Marko embodied all of those things from the moment the piece began, never once breaking character. I realize I'm probably gushing a bit, but let's be honest, these two are unstoppable. I'm sure that the position of President of the Melanie and Marko fan club has already been filled, but if not, sign me up right now.

Why are they only runners up, then, you ask? Well, this review takes into account not just the dancers but the piece as a whole, and there were a couple of moments where I felt like the choreography was a little less than seamless. Melanie and Marko handled what could have been awkward transitions perfectly, though. My major complaint about this piece is that Melanie's costume was really distracting - the ruffle on her shoulder, especially, detracted from the ability to watch her, and the huge asymmetrical skirt broke up some of her perfect lines. The piece on a whole would have been stronger if that costume hadn't been so overwhelming. Minor complaints, though, when we're talking about Season 8's resident power couple. I'm already excited to see what they give us next week.

Caitlynn and Mitchell will take your breath away

Top Pick: Caitlynn and Mitchell Performing a Mandy Moore Contemporary Piece

If I was even the tiniest bit tentative about Caitlynn and Mitchell after last week's show, I'm not any more. These two have gone from making it onto my radar to making onto my list of clear favorites.

Like every single one of the judges, this piece was my clear favorite this week. Mandy Moore's choreography was simply beautiful. I loved that the piece was emotional, but that the predominant emotion was joy - I couldn't help but smile watching it.

Caitlynn and Mitchell both have these incredibly gorgeous lines that were really highlighted by the choreography. They are both really beautiful dancers, the kind that can take your breath way with a simple arabesque, and I think this week it finally became clear how perfectly paired they are. They look great dancing together as two individuals with similar strengths, but they're also great partners. Not only was their chemistry clear in this piece, their trust for each other was, too - from the start with Caitlynn's blind fall into Mitchell's arms, the partnering work in this piece was really complex, and they moved through it so seamlessly it seemed like they had been rehearsing this piece for weeks, not just days.

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 4 of duets, my top 5 are:

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

(With Tadd being a very close sixth place!)

Honorable Mention: Jordan and Tadd's Waltz

Other Thoughts

One of the other highlights of tonight's performances was that Ryan Ramirez didn't smile ONCE in the zombie piece! She finally proved that she's capable of fully embodying a character, which to be honest, rescued her in my view. I really liked their piece - it was just the right mix of fun, bizarre, and well-danced. And the fact that they were playing zombies made it easy to forget the fact that Ryan and Ricky don't have the best chemistry. I think they're both incredible talented, but I'm still waiting to really love them together.

I hate to say it, but I definitely agreed with the judges that Sasha and Alexander's hip hop piece was lacking, but I don't think it was entirely their fault. The choreography was too simple, the story line too simple, and I think it would have been hard for anyone to give that piece much life. That being said, Alexander yet again underperformed compared to Sasha, whose dancing, stage presence, and swag were all clearly stronger than Alexander's. I'll be interested to see if they make it into the bottom 3, though, or if their die-hard fans voted extra hard after the harsh judging.

Ashley and Chris's piece was my least favorite of the night. I did think it had several spectacular moments - especially some of the harder lifts and the dramatic ending - but overall I think it was too hard for them to do well with such a short amount of rehearsal. They danced it hard and I give them major props for doing as well as they did, but it definitely came up short. On another note, Chris was the only one of the guys that I noticed clearly messing up steps in the boys' group routine (which, by the way, I LOVED - props yet again to Justin Giles!) - I wonder if that will play at all into the judges' decision-making process tonight?

Jordan and Tadd's waltz deserves an honorable mention - they really danced it well. I didn't love the music and, let's be honest, the ballroom pieces are often sort of lost on me, but they did things that were obviously very difficult with ease. As the judges mentioned, this is especially noteworthy coming from b-boy Tadd, who has showed us week after week that he is incredibly versatile, but it's also worth pointing out that Jordan is obviously a great partner for him - they're another couple that I think is really well-matched.

As with last week, whichever of the girls that gets sent home tonight won't deserve to go - I think they're all really strong. As for the boys, depending on who ends up in the bottom three, I think it will come down to either Chris or Alexander - though sometimes America, and the judges, surprise us!

Which dance was your favorite tonight? Weigh in in the poll below!

You Be the Critic!

Which dance was your favorite this week?

See results


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    • Kate Spenser profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate Spenser 

      7 years ago from Austin, TX

      Yes - though these days, more a choreographer than a dancer because I don't have enough time to dance regularly enough to really call myself a dancer! But yes, I trained in ballet growing up and through college, have taught ballet, modern/contemporary, and hip hop, and have choreographed in all of those genres as well.

      I'd love to see a Sasha, Jordan, Tadd, Melanie, and Marko top 5 this season!

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Kitty Fields 

      7 years ago from Summerland

      Voted up and awesome. Right now in the competition, I'm a big fan of Sasha, Jordan, Tadd, and Melanie. Great dancers this year, for sure! Are you a dancer, Kate?


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