Oh, it's seriously on — now that the couples are doing two dances, and simultaneously are about to break up! I won't miss the terminal cuteness of Mollee and Nathan (the couple that gave me the sugar diabetes), and I'm going to be hoping for a Ryan/Karen pairing just to make Ashleigh crazy. Here's what I saw last night and what I predicted for tonight's elimination:
Ellenore & Ryan: I'm not sure too many couples could have delivered as winning a Lindy Hop. This was some serious fun, and I never would have guessed that Ryan had a back injury (then again, we only have Adam "Is There A Doctor In The House" Shankman's word on it). I was impressed with the energy of Ryan's kickouts, and generally with the light-on-their-feet feel of the whole thing. In fact, I worried — just a bit — that Ellenore wasn't keeping up. But we learned a new dance term (coffee grinders!), and had a fabulous time with a pair of dancers who looked like they were having a fabulous time. And in the nicest contrast of the night, their second routine (to "Razzle Dazzle" from Chicago) was full of restrained energy and tension. It was terrific to see the two go at it slow, nail those inventive lifts, and perform their hearts out — especially Ellenore, who committed to her character in an absolutely winning way. Prediction: Both should sail through to top 10 land.
Kathryn & Legacy: In Sonya's jazz routine, Legacy got a chance to bust out a few b-boy tricks. But it was Kathryn that really made up ground in this routine, reminding us of her strength, athleticism, and glorious lines. All those beautiful cartwheels over each other … all that fantastic extension. It was a lovely exhibition of controlled energy. ("You saucepots, you!" Cat exclaimed.) The poor dears got the Viennese waltz next, which despite Legacy's tears was not exactly kind to him. The choreography did something very interesting by making Legacy the one who needed support and who grew during the performance, putting Kathryn in the position of presenting him with confidence. Kudos to Legacy for reaching for something about grace and poise, but he's not quite there yet. Prediction: Welcome to the top 10, both of you!
Karen & Victor: Our partnerless orphans made an awkward pair this week, first in the tango, which I assumed would make a powerful showcase for Karen. And it was, but Victor didn't really help her to shine. I thought they had nice tension and restraint in their posing, but I was distracted by Victor's loss of masculinity. Those spins did not belong in the tango, at least not with that hand position (or butt position). Then they drew hip-hop with Laurieann Gibson, whose choreography I did not find impressive last week. Once again I was underwhelmed. Where were the strong rhythms, where was the fast pacing? The interpretation was a bit too literal, and the pace never varied, never become electric. I didn't think it was a memorable routine, and I didn't think Karen, for all her commitment, could match her partner. Prediction: Bottom two for sure, and both could be gone; after loving Karen in the early going, I now think she's in a race to the bottom with Mollee, and Nathan and Victor are equally matched for great potential and utterly problematic performance.
Mollee & Nathan: So … a hip-hop routine about inventing the telephone? Ohhh-kay … This was cute enough, plenty of fun choreography, but where's the hard-hitting, pounding choreography? X-ray Specs Shankman diagnosed a hurt ankle on Mollee and gave her a bit of a pass. Did anybody else feel a little uncomfortable when Nathan played a keyboard up and down her spread legs? No doubt they need to be shook up, but I expect at least one of them not to make it that far. Perhaps because of the can-can, just a strange, strange dance — this season's Russian folk dance, perhaps. I was already mad about the pink pinstriped costumes before they even came back from commercial. And you start to notice how little the two of them danced together this week. Mollee's performance outshone Nathan's, who (despite Tyce's rather desperate comment about how the can-can was originally danced by couples) just felt extraneous to the whole enterprise. The judges were nice enough, but the sound of classical music at the start of a routine is pretty much the kiss of death on this show. Prediction: Absolutely bottom two, and both could be gone, although I suspect the judges will now pick Mollee over Karen.
Noelle & Russell: If it had just been the samba, I would have said that Noelle and Russell would be on the chopping block. Russell was not confident when he was partnering, although he was impressive when dancing synchro side by side. And the judges were right — Noelle didn't bring the sexy. It did get better as it went along, but we needed va-va-voom from the first hip shake, and we didn't get it. Thank goodness for the contemporary routine ol' Tasty gave 'em for round 2. The couple had a gorgeous connection, great control, exactly the right variation in pacing to highlight the emotions. There were levels! There was presence! And suddenly the two seemed perfectly matched, when in the last round, they were struggling to dance together at all. Prediction: It's possible they will end up in the bottom two if America decides to rescue Mollee and Nathan, but I doubt it, and I doubt either one will be going home.
Ashleigh & Jakob: The moment they put these guys last, you knew what was coming. I'm starting to think this competition will be a farce if Jakob doesn't win it all. What a gorgeous lyrical jazz routine, the stillness and pacing dead on. When Jakob held her perpendicular to his thigh, looking away resolutely — well, that's the wow factor that Jakob brings. He had moments where Ashleigh seemed to be presenting him, rather than the other way around, and when he lifted her, the confidence and strength made you more aware of him than her. Then they closed the show with the cha-cha, and my response: Woooooooo! I don't know how much cha-chaing was going on, but who cares when they are having so much fun and rocking so hard? I think what sets Jakob apart is that he performs with such masculine energy, despite his small stature and possible gayitude. Prediction: All the way to the top, baby!
And the results? America disappointed me by putting Ryan and Ellenore in the bottom along with the two couples that belonged there. But the judges made it absolutely clear that neither of them were in danger. Karen's solo, aside from the boots, was a big nothing. Mollee frantically threw in every move she could; it didn't even seem like dancing. How do you decide between those two? Victor brought the brooding strength, and I think he clearly outdanced Nathan, who seemed rather emo next to him. I'll dare to suggest that Mollee and Nathan are both out.
When the judges come back, they disagreed with me about Mollee's desperate kitchen-sink solo; they interpreted it as fighting for her place in the top ten. Bye-bye, Karen; that was one too many weeks of not quite rising to the occasion. There's a shocker for the guys, though: Nigel wanted Nathan to head home, but he was overruled and Victor is gone. Oh well — Nathan'll last just one more week, tops, right?
- "By the end of tonight, half of them will have been cut." Among all her other accomplishments, Cat has mastered the future perfect tense.
- The Basement Jaxx opening number was a little weird for me, NapTab, but that variable speed headspin by Legacy in the middle? Genius.
- Victor should be in the bottom two just for those halfassed rips in his solo tank top. Don't even go there unless you can do the full Ryan.
- Has Shankman been reading our comments? I think he was quoting several of you all when he advised Nathan to be careful about comments like "I relax by jet skiing."
- I fast-forwarded through Shakira, guys, I admit. How was she? Did her hips lie at all?