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Bring on the All-Stars!  Nigel has been telling us that the individual competition begins now, but what really begins is our chance to see if these dancers are really as good as they’ve looked for the season so far.  How do they measure up to the best of the dancers from past seasons — or is it possible that they’ll even outclass them?

For me the question is: Neil Patrick Harris — great guest judge, or the greatest guest judge?  I’m an unabashed fan who believes that NPH would improve every single show on television, so seeing him behind the judges’ table is a dream come true.  One might even surmise that the lack of a bonus choreographer at that table beside him is a tribute to his ability to judge on his own.  At least I’m going to take it that way!

Marko looks right at home dancing a samba with Chelsie — a samba that gave him plenty of chances to shine.  I saw one slide that didn’t come off, but Marko danced with great confidence, and Chelsie made a perfect partner for him.  That one series of lifts that NPH describes as “a scissor kick around your face” was stunning.

Jordan gets contemporary with All-Star Brandon, and she carries on with the same strength and solidity we saw from her last week.  Brandon is such a stunning dancer that I was concerned anyone might disappear beside him, but she is beautifully matched, especially in the side-by-side unison portion.  These last two weeks have really turned me around on Jordan.

Tadd gets to dance hip-hop with Comfort, and I have to say I wasn’t feeling that routine.  The super-fast patter part in the middle had a certain breathless charm, and it was clearly difficult, but what I didn’t like about it was how little movement around the stage there was.  It was like close-up magic; it just didn’t play as well on the big stage as another approach might have.

Mitchell draws Broadway with Melody, and Tyce gives them an air-travel themed number.  Since Mitchell should be damn glad to be here at all, he’d better dance his ass off this week.  And I’m not thinking this is going to do much for him.  The partnership was almost non-existent, and Mitchell was overdoing it, as the judges noted.  

Caitlynn wins the Pasha sweepstakes and the tango lottery. I sometimes don’t appreciate it when the camera zooms around them in the middle of the dance — I always think about the poor audience having a cameraman walk between them and the dancer.  But here the circling allows the stillness of the beginning to emerge into the dance in a lovely way.  The problem here is that I do not even recognize Caitlynn in that hairdo and dancing that way.  There seems to be no connection to the person we’ve seen for the past several weeks.  I still think Caitlynn has a problem with having no identity on this show.

Sasha and Twitch!  Man, that’s a pairing that gets me right to the edge of my seat.  And by the end of the routine I was on my feet and cheering.  Old school emotions and amazing movements in a partnership that had it all.  My reaction was the same as NPH’s: I want them to dance together every week, because then I can have this reaction of goosebumps and delighted laughter every week.  (We might have to throw Christopher Scott in there, too, because he gave them some incredible style.)

Jess dances a contemporary piece with Kathryn, and while I really liked the idea of the routine, it was a strange piece to feature Jess since he was “invisible.”  The moments when he broke away to do typical Jess leaps and stuff seemed out of place.  Much better was just him weaving around her in support and interaction.  I’m not sure it’s Jess’s best work (as the judges state), and I’m not sure it will prove as memorable as they might hope.

Melanie and Pasha in the Viennese waltz is another pairing I’ve been dreaming of, and it’s just as beautiful as I could hope — so fluid, so full of little nicely conceived moments, and pure swoony romance.  I normally hate the disco-ball set that they break out for this type of dance, but this made me love it.

Ricky and Allison have to do some Tyce nonsense about bad dreams.  This is not going to move Ricky up in America’s estimation, because while it features some impressive dancing, the weirdness just isn’t inspiring.  Please, choreographers, don’t put the dancers in rags and make them stalk around.  It wasn’t “deliciously dark” like Mary said, at least to me — just strange and hard to respond to.

Clarice and Robert close out the show with Bollywood, and as always, it’s a crowd-pleaser.  The kiss bugged me because that doesn’t happen in Bollywood (let alone the lift and spin where she straddled him), but Neil is right that this is the way for Clarice to break out of her dead-end partnership and get some personality — thanks to a partner whose electricity matches her own.

Who’s in trouble?  Mitchell (as usual).  Ricky, I’m betting.  Caitlynn, I wouldn’t be surprised. And if I have to pick another girl, it would be Jordan even though she danced wonderfully; America is going to vote for the Bollywood number, so I doubt Clarice will be in the bottom, although I’d pick her to go home in the next two weeks.

Stray observations:


  • Something was a little off about Cat’s timing when she gave Nigel her characteristic “Evening, sir!”, and the applause almost died out.  I’m glad Cat acknowledged it with a joke about NPH taking up all the audience’s adulation.
  • The one thing that always seems weird about the All-Star section is the critique given to only one dancer.  I hate the way the All-Stars are sent off like props.
  • Neil either didn’t get the memo about not criticizing the choreographers or chose to ignore it.  That was quite a bold statement that Mitchell’s airplane number “wasn’t well thought out” and “seemed pieced together.”  Zing!  Guess Tyce won’t be called upon to choreograph for HIMYM anytime soon.
  • Cat line of the night: “Help me up, babe, because I’ve got these silly shoes on.”
  • No, I was wrong.  It’s “He’s on a wheelie chair.”
  • Nope, wrong again: “No one noticed a thing.”  Cat Deeley, ladies and gentlemen!