Two weeks ago, head judge and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe announced that since the bevy of dancing talent was so good this year, it wouldn’t be fair to send anyone home after only one voting opportunity. However, that meant that last week, four contestants got the boot: ballroom champion Iveta (sob), great-but-not-great-enough contemporary dancer Missy (shucks), B-boy Wadi (somewhat unfortunate), and tap dancer Nick (already forgotten him).

It’s worth noting that not one of the couples who appeared in the Bottom Three in Week One did so in Week Two. It could be that the fans of those couples redoubled their efforts to keep them safe by voting in droves, but I think it’s simply because the rotation changed. Those that went early in the show in Week One went late in Week Two and vice versa.

Here are the facts: the Bottom Three in Week One were the couples who went 1st, 3rd and 6th, and in Week Two it was the couples who danced 1st, 2nd and 4th. Two hours is a long time and ten routines is a lot of dancing, but it would seem clear that if you are one of the last three or four couples to perform, you needn’t necessarily dance your ass off to get votes… just don’t stink up the joint, and you’ll be fine. Contrarily, if you dance in the first half of the show, you’d better bring it (and then pray). I’m hoping that as the number of couples dwindles, the actual quality will supersede their position in the rotation, at least until we get to Top 10.

Judging along with Nigel, Mary and Lil’C was guest Kristen Chenoweth, who has had many years of experience as a TV actress as well as a performer on Broadway. I remember her most recently from Pushing Daisies, and I know she was short, but I didn’t realize she was as tiny as she is (she’s 4’11”). She was an awesome judge, smart and funny as hell, and thank God she didn’t offer to take any of the dancers home with her like Debbie Reynolds did.

Final note: in addition to the usual “couple” routines, there were two other routines as well, one Broadway and one contemporary. Each one involved eight contestants -four girls and four guys, one person from each “couple”, and though the judges did not comment, Kat mentioned that their performance may have had some weight in their decision as to who got cut.

The Bottom 3 Couples

Five of the couples I graded “amazing” or better, so I predicted that the Bottom Three would be the three couples that weren’t: Sasha/Alexander (who were only merely good, and because they went first), Miranda/Robert (who were actually very good, but who went third), and Ashley/Chris (who went fifth and got the weakest marks of the night). Once again, I was two-thirds right: the Bottom Three were Ashley/Chris, Miranda/Robert and Caitlynn/Mitchell (who were great, but went second). And this time the right couple was sent home, that being Miranda and Robert. I respect the heck out of both of them, but they were way overmatched in THIS Top 20.



After three weeks of competition, here are my rankings:


THE FAVORITES


1. Melanie Moore (Marko) – performed a lyrical hip-hop routine choreographed by Nappytabs. I was worried that this genre might turn out to be Melanie’s Achilles heel, but I shouldn’t have been. She can do no wrong, and the smooch she shared with Marko was adorable. One could almost believe that they are really a couple, they have that much chemistry.

2. Jordan Casanova (Tadd) – performed a hip-hop routine choreographed by Nabbytabs. What a wacky way to close the show: Jordan and Tadd play two total strangers who wake up in bed the next morning. They dance around an actual bed, putting their clothes on WHILE dancing, and it was awesome. I didn’t see any of Jordan’s initial nervousness, and that’s a credit to her surprising maturity.

3. Tadd Gadduang (Jordan) – performed a hip-hop routine choreographed by Nabbytabs. It takes confidence to start a routine off clad in nothing but boxer shorts, but that’s clearly a quality Tadd has plenty of. Granted, just the idea of lying in bed with Jordan, even for pretend, is a fun idea, but Tadd still maintained his professionalism. He didn’t dance as well as Marko tonight, but he’ll still the top guy in my book.

4. Marko Germar (Melanie) – performed a lyrical hip-hop routine choreographed by Nappytabs. This was cool: Marko played a guy who got dumped at the altar, only to find true love with his BFF Melanie. Aww. Marko really sold the drama and emotion of the piece, and was brilliant. This was one to remember.

5. Sasha Mallory (Alexander) – performed a contemporary routine choreographed by Dee Caspery. Contemporary routines are highly metaphorical, and this was no exception. Playing the role of a concept rather than a person, Sasha did quite well, but Alex was the focus of the routine. It was a beautiful routine, and the judges praised her for it.



DANCERS WITH A DECENT SHOT AT TOP TEN


6. Caitlynn Lawson (Mitchell) – performed a samba routine choreographed by Jean-Marc Généreux. I really wasn’t worried about Caitlynn this week, because if you’ve watched DWTS, you’ll know that the samba is all about the sexy. Lots of hip action, shoulder thrusts, fancy footwork and twirling, and it was very good. The judges ate it up big time. I think her appearance in the Bottom Three this week was merely because of her early spot in the rotation.

7. Ashley Rich (Chris) – performed a jazz routine choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. Just to clarify, if you’ve never seen footage of Sonya, think of her like the SYTYCD version of Jillian Michaels. She delights in crafting brilliant but punishing routines, and they’re almost always majorly cool. In this one, Ashley and Chris played zombies, and it was decent but not great. Nigel’s biggest problem was with the music (“Lights Go Down” by Telepathe), which is not the dancer’s fault, because they have no say in that. He continued by saying it was all technique and no character, which is basically saying “You pass… barely.”

8. Ricky Jaime (Ryan) – performed a contemporary routine choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. This routine had the dancers playing lovers struggling through an emotional breakup. It required a real vulnerability from them, and the delivered it in spades. A powerful performance indeed, and I’m not surprised that they got the votes to move on.

9. Ryan Ramirez (Ricky) – performed a contemporary routine choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. I had never heard the acoustic version of “With Every Heartbeat” by Robyn before, but it was the perfect choice for this routine. Though it wasn’t quite as emotional a routine as Melanie and Marco’s, it was still terrific. I wasn’t sure Ryan deserved to be spared last week, but now I’m glad she was.

10. Jess LeProtto (Clarice) – performed a foxtrot routine choreographed by Jean-Marc Généreux. Playing a nightclub crooner who connects with one of his listeners, Jess was in his wheelhouse here. There were no missteps, and he exuded a sexy coolness like Adrien Brody in that commercial (you know which one I mean). Kristen called it her favorite of the night, and I’m guessing many of the voters felt the same way.



DANCERS THAT MIGHT BE LIVING ON BORROWED TIME


11. Clarice Ordaz (Jess) – performed a foxtrot routine choreographed by Jean-Marc Généreux. Normally, the foxtrot is one of my least favorite dances – mostly because it lacks that “wow” factor - but when it’s done to Sinatra (in this case, “Fly Me to the Moon”), all bets are off. This routine was classy, and professional, and I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. Finally, my early faith in Clarice is rewarded! The bad news is, I think she may NOW be the weakest girl remaining…

12. Chris Koehl (Ashley) – performed a jazz routine choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. This routine was bizarre, but I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped. It didn’t really give Chris the chance to shine, and I’m glad he gets another chance to do so. (Besides, if you want to see a “zombie” routine done to perfection, go to YouTube and enter “Rama Lama Bang Bang”. You’ll get a group routine from Season Two, choreographed by Wade Robson, that is, to me, still one of the best the show has ever produced.) Chris survived the Bottom Three this week, but if he doesn’t start being more consistent, he’ll be gone within two weeks.

13. Mitchell Kelly (Caitlynn) – performed a samba routine choreographed by Jean-Marc Généreux. It was tough to look at Mitchell instead of Caitlynn’s bare midriff, but to his credit, he knocked this samba out of the park. The judges gave him by far his best critiques of the season. Wasn’t enough to keep him out of the Bottom Three, however, and that worries me.

14. Alexander Fost (Sasha) – performed a contemporary routine choreographed by Dee Caspery. In this routine, Alex played a sad piano player who was composing a piece based on happy memories, which are all he had left, and Sasha represented those memories. Since this genre is more Alex’s strength, I paid more attention to him, and I’m happy to say he was not totally outshined by Sasha this time. It was easily his best routine, but all the judges were unified in their opinion that Alex needs to continue to grow as a dancer. Still, he and Sasha went first and yet managed to avoid the Bottom Three, which counts for something.



ELIMINATED THIS WEEK


Robert Taylor Jr. (Miranda) – performed a Broadway routine choreographed by Tyce Diorio. By far Robert’s biggest asset is his personality, and Tyce’s routine gave him an avenue to show it without going overboard. He held his own in the routine, but against this competition, “holding your own” just ain’t good enough. I was happy that he ditched the whole “Woo-Man” shtick, but personality only goes so far.

Miranda Maleski (Robert) – performed a Broadway routine choreographed by Tyce Diorio, to the music “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If You Ain’t Got That Swing)”. Miranda played an upper-class “working girl” who was trying to woo street-musician Robert. It was okay, but this duo needed something modern to wow audiences, and old-timey numbers like this tend to be the most yawn-inducing. Case in point: she’s now officially an audience member.

Next week: the competition heats up as the remaining fourteen vie for supremacy. Though I wonder if any genre will even make a dent in the impenetrable armor of Jordan/Tadd and Melanie/Marko. If someone were to predict that someone other than one of these four were going to win this season, I just wouldn’t believe them.

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