The judges are very ham-handed about pushing for their favorites this season, and trying to influence the audience votes. Some of their comments last night were downright puzzling, and unnecessarily hurtful. Before I critique the dancers, let me first comment on two of the choreographers.
In previous seasons I loved the routines Shane Sparks choreographed. But after a season of Napoleon and Tabitha, his work looks dated and clunky. Four dancers could not make his material come alive, but Nigel blames them, not the choreographer. Does anyone buy that nonsense? Shane, you have been left in the hip hop dust and your routines no longer get oohs and aahhs just because they come from you. Up your gam, 'cause you are killing those kids. Two of them are going home tonight, and it is your fault.
Louis Van Amstel: Brilliant hire. Louis is a choreography genius for ballroom. He will be able to scratch his itch to create difficult routines, and he has the vision to lay stories over them that enhance the people he is creating the dances for.
And a few judge comments: Mary needs to stop prattling so much. Those kids live for a Mary scream, and she has sold out her own trademark by giving those little screams, then once in awhile the standing big scream. Which is the real deal, Mary? Don't scream for every mediocre dance that comes down the pike.
What an embarassment when Lil C didn't know that bent knees were part of the Tango. Then he got shown up in from of America by Mary, Nigel, and Tony Meredith. Yikes.
Randi & Evan: Evan is too laid back. Randi was clearly leading and he was following. I thought this routine was fun to watch but not inspiring or memorable.
Melissa and Ade: Melissa even looked like Sonja in this jazz routine. I liked it when I expected to hate it, because Sonja is just such a wierdo. I can't get out of my head how loony she was on the audition show. Ade is a genuinely great person and a strong dancer. He reminds me of Joshua and the judges are talking about him in the same terms. They clearly favor him, and unless something goes terribly wrong, he will be in the top 10. Melissa was great in this routine. She is fearless and really pushing herself.
Caitlin and Jason: Victims of Shane Sparks bad choreography. But, Caitlin, danced the hell out of it, from her body to her face. She was flirtatious and acted out the character Shane gave her. Jason was a step behind her all the way. If one of these two goes tonight, it should be him. But I think others are clearly in far more danger of elimination.
Jeanette and Brandon: What a hot mess this routine was. Hectic to the point of mania. Jeanette kept pulling those awful faces, dancing with her mouth hanging open. Both were trying so hard to cram every one of those steps into that mish-mash routine, and it didn't work as a whole. Given the rehearsal footage, the routine was dumbed down because they couldn't get the lifts, and that fault goes to Brandon. I've yet to see a disco routine on any season of this show that was worth a damn. But the judges love them so they are probably safe.
Asuka and Vitolio: He's getting the sympathy vote this week by the show playing the orphan card. Asuka was just gorgeous. She never broke character even throughout the judging critique. She's got a tough road, as most ballroom folks do, so she's got to rely on personality and appeal to stay on the show. Vitolio will go sooner rather than later. His dancing is good, but there are too many other guys who are much better.
Kayla and Max: From the opening moments when Max showed up his devious plan, to the end when he claimed the throne, Max really gave this piece his all. He got Brian Friedman's idea and ran with it. He matched Kayla all the way. She is an amazing dancer and safe tonight. I loved the characters in this dance.
Jeanine and Philip: She danced circles around him. Philip is not going to be a Twitch - one who can pick up other styles. The judges will push for him to make the top 10, but if voters like other dancers better, and don't allow themselves to be herded like sheep, he will be gone in the next week or so, and deservedly so. She was amazing. I believed her. She kicked his ##### out there.
Ashley and Kupono: Another Shane Sparks disaster. Ashely gamely attacked this piece and did a far better job with it than Kupono. He was a mess. I think he's on thin ice tonight and may drag her out there with him.
If voters decide for themselves, the bottom three are: Ashley and Kupono; Jeanine and Philip, and Asuka and Vitolio. Vitolio has the orphan-sympathy pass so he is safe. Kupono will hit the bricks. It's either Asuka or Ashley, and the judges will boot Ashley first, because Asuka is a ballroom dancer and Mary will fight for her.
If I was doing the eliminating, it would be Philip and Jeanine.