'So You Think You Can Dance': Russell and Noelle introduce us to Afro-Jazz

russellferguson_sytycd_290.jpgThe invading forces of baseball are gone and democracy reigns supreme once again on "So You Think You Can Dance." And I'll be sure to enjoy it as much as I can tonight, 'cause god knows tomorrow night I'll probably be moaning about the foolishness of the voting public and waxing nostalgic about the good ol' days when judges decided who to kick off. 

Okay, I promised myself to give Ashleigh a fair shot this week, but seriously...did she decide to celebrate today's 40th anniversary of "Sesame Street" by skinning one of those colorful international versions of Big Bird and making pants out of him? On a less gruesome note, it's lovely to see the smiling faces of our season 5 dancers sitting in the front row! They're in town for the tour, and to do a fundraising concert for the Dizzy Feet Foundation

1. Karen & Kevin
The Hustle/Maria Torres/"Come To Me" by France Joli:
 In Karen's pre-dance interview we learn that shortly after they auditioned together in Vegas, she and her husband decided to get a divorce. Aw, that's rough. And you can't help but wonder whether her making the show and his getting cut had anything to do with it. Dance-wise, well, two things: first, I find Kevin's red pants-shiny pink shirt-navy vest combo incredibly (disgustingly) distracting. Second, I'm ashamed to admit that I wasn't aware that you could do the hustle to anything but, well, "Do the Hustle." Shows what I know about the '70s. I'm gonna assume last week's performance will carry them through this week, but I wasn't blown away, despite the judge's enthusiasm.

2. Ashleigh & Jakob
Jazz/Mandy Moore/"Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood: 
Apparently, Jakob is good friends with S5's Jeanine outside of the show. Cool. Mandy's routine incorporates a cane, and the music makes it impossible for me to think of anything but "Zoolander." It almost seems like Jakob is doing Blue Steel at times...seriously. Raves all around from the judges for both of them (yeah, yeah) - Jakob even invites a Joel Grey comparison!    

3. Pauline & Peter
Quickstep/JT & Tomas/"Hey Baby! (Shake Those Hula Hips)" by Big Kahuna & The Copa Cat Pack: 
Hmm...any conspiracy theorists want to opine on an already vulnerable couple drawing the kiss of death dance? The routine features Pauline as a hula dancer and Peter as an entranced Navy man. It actually looks pretty strong to me, considering - it's fun, they're light on their feet, and it's probably the most I've liked Peter since he made it into the Top 20. Maybe it's the uniform. The judges congratulate their performance, while giving the expected technical criticism. In fact, Nigel predicts that they'll be sticking around!

4. Kathryn & Legacy
Broadway/Andy Blankenbuehler/"I Wanna Be Like You" by Swingin' Fireballs: 
Huzzah for a non-Tyce Broadway routine! (Though I'd love some Broadway music, I can certainly live with this "Jungle Book" number.) It features Legacy as a couch potato, with Kathryn dragging him away from the TV and into a playful confrontation. I thought it was totally adorable, though the judges wanted a bit more out of Kathryn's acting skills. Legacy...wow. This guy is growing by leaps and bounds (Get it? 'Cause it's a dance show???), and I can't say I agree with the judges' disappointment in Kathryn. 

5. Channing & Viktor
Contemporary/Stacey Tookey/"Be Be Your Love (Live at KCRW)" by Rachel Yamagata: 
The routine is about a toxic relationship, and while it was strong, it didn't completely suck me in. I'm happy to see Channing dance in her style, as are the judges. And I'm willing to cut them some slack chemistry-wise because they're new partners. Mary and Adam are kind, but Nigel and I are really on the same page - this was their style, and while they may have gotten one or two runners home, they didn't hit a grand slam.    

6. Ellenore & Ryan
Hip Hop/Lil' C/"Lost Boiz Anthem" by Tha J-Squad: 
I've really been looking forward to seeing Ellenore do hip hop, and though this routine by Lil' C wasn't especially exciting, it gave her a chance to show off her attitude (specifically her stank face) and ability to hit hard. Ryan kept up, for the most part. In fact, he wins Adam's "Most Transformed Dancer of the Night" award. Mary and Adam agree that the routine is good, but not great - I agree that it ran out of steam a little midway through - and Nigel is even harsher, declaring them unsuited to the style.  

molleegray_sytycd_290.jpg7. Mollee & Nathan
Salsa/Gustavo Vargas/"Quimbara" by Celia Cruz & Johnny Pacheco: 
Firstly, love the song. Viva La Reina de la Salsa! Secondly, I'm not convinced by Mollee's sexification efforts. It feels a little like watching those kids on "Toddlers and Tiaras" try to act like sexy adults. Not that I've ever gotten sucked into a marathon of that show or anything. Adam calls the routine bad luck of the draw, and says it exposed all of their weaknesses. Mary also has a number of technical complaints. Basically, these guys will be banking on their fan base this week. 

8. Noelle & Russell
Afro-Jazz/Sean Cheesman/"Frog Dance" by Mickey Hart & Planet Drum:
In the story, Russell is a frog and Noelle is an African princess being taken on a "spiritual walkabout." A speedy one. Russell is so fantastic that I can't say I caught quite as much of Noelle's performance, but altogether I give them - and this new dance style - two big thumbs up. Great energy, great character work, and "crazy good," according to Mary. In fact, it buys them a ticket on the Hot Tamale Train!  
  
Favorite Numbers: Russell and Noelle's Afro-Jazz dance, hands down. I don't think I can put any of the others in the same category.  
Stand-out Individuals: Legacy continues to impress, and Pauline and Peter really stepped up with their quickstep.  
Disappointments: I expected more out of Ellenore and Ryan's hip hop routine, and Nathan wasn't nearly as good this week as he has been in the past.


Any new favorites? Disappointing former favorites? What do you think of the new choreographers' work? 

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