Here we are -- only eight dancers left with just three weeks left in Season 11. No one is leaping out as the favorite dancer like Fik-Shun and Amy did last season, IMHO. Instead, the remaining dancers are all so good that it seems like a toss-up as to who will be sent home and who will continue. Personally, my favs are Casey and Valerie, but it being "America's Favorite Dancer," there's no telling who the voting viewers will prefer in the end.
So here we go with this week's show, a celebration of Michael Jackson music that opens with a rather odd group number where all of the dancers are dressed in silver with slicked-down silver and purple hair. Were they supposed to be robots or what? Sorry, it just didn't so anything for me.
Host Cat Deeley sashays out in a short off-white dress (ho-hum) with her blond curls done up in a short do. Guess she can't find more sparkly gowns in her closet. Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe and ballroom "scream queen" Mary Murphy were joined at the judges' table by actress/dancer Jenna Dewan Tatum, whose observations were OK but her comments generally were "incredible" and "amazing." Good news, dance fans, Christina Applegate will be back to guest judge next week. Yippee!
Each of the dancers did a solo to spotlight their own particular style, hopefully with a "dance for your life" enthusiasm. All of the solos were good, since the level of dancer is high at this point in the season, but only a few -- Valerie, Jessica, Ricky and Casey -- hit that "wow" level of "see what I can do!" The dancers all talked about the teachers or dancers that inspired them, and each of the Top 8 were paired with an All Star for a routine to win over the judges and the viewers.
My favorite of the night was the contemporary number by Ricky Ubeda with All Star Jaimie Goodwin from Season 3. And considering that Travis Wall choreographed it, the routine was a knock-out. Jenna thought it was incredible and she was "blown away by (Ricky) in every way." Mary said that Travis brought a song ("Smile" by MJ, originally written by Charlie Chaplin) "to life with two brilliant dancers," and Nigel went a little deeper. "It's like a Zen-like state -- you are no longer dancing. You are the dance."
Cat opens the envelope to reveal that Ricky is safe and will be dancing with All Star Anya Garnis from Season 3. Unless he falls on his face or has to do a disco number, Ricky could end up the winner of Season 11.
I also really liked Valerie Rockey's samba with All Star Ryan DiLello from Season 6. She knew that she had to really pull it together after last week's awful jazz routine with Ade Obayomi, and she did. The routine was fast and she looked terrific! Mary said she was gorgeous and it was well done, Nigel thought she was vivacious and that she showed how to dance. "You were brilliant," he said. Cat shocked Valerie when she told the dancer that she was safe, and that she will be paired with All Star tWitch next week. Now that should be something.
The third in my top four routines tonight was the hip-hop number with Casey Askew and All Star Comfort Fedoke of Season 4 (that season had so many great dancers). It was all about the spiderwoman trying to kiss her victim and it called for Casey to really show a lot of expression, and he did. Nigel said he was growing and growing (uh-oh, sounds like the kiss-off) and Jenna thought he was so good, she loved it. Mary said it was hard not to watch Comfort (who was awesome, as usual), but that Casey was getting stronger and stronger. So, of course, Cat revealed that he was one of the bottom two guys. Dang it!
Zack Everhart and All Star Makenzie Dustman (Season 10) performed the last of my top four dances tonight. He may have come on the show as a tapper, but Zack has shown that he can do just about any style and do it well. Nigel said that Zack has "surprised people with how strong" he is, Jenna was wowed by Zack's control and showmanship, and Mary said that he does everything whole-heartedly. Cat tore open the envelope -- he was safe to continue. Next week, we will see what he's got when he dances with one of Season 10's winners, Fik-Shun.
The rest of the routines were all good, as well. Tanisha Belnap with All Star Nick Lazzarine, the winner of Season 1, showed how strong a dancer Tanisha is. Jenna thought she was very fluid, Mary said she was beautiful "flowing across the stage," and Nigel said her core was "tremendous," but that she needs to show her vulnerable side more. Cat then told her that she was one of the bottom two girls. This is going to get worse and worse as the numbers of dancers decrease.
All Star Allison Holker performed a contemporary number with Rudy Abreu that was powerful and got a standing ovation from the judges. Nigel said he believed that the All Stars help the dancers to raise their level of performance. Jenna said that Rudy was phenomenal and Nigel added that he was magnificent. I liked this dance by Rudy more than most because he didn't "mug" got the audience -- it's really distracting in his dancing. So, the next we learned from Cat was that Rudy was the other lowest vote-getter of the guys.
I wasn't expecting too much when Jacque LeWarne, the ballerina, was paired with tWitch, but I was really surprised at how well she did the hip-hop routine. Mary thought she conquered it and Nigel said she used parts of her body that she never used before. "You've got swag," he told her. Unfortunately, the downer was that she was the other low vote-getter of the girls.
Finally, Jessica Richens, who could very possibly walk away with the trophy, got a standing ovation from the judges for her contemporary number with All Star Will Wingfield (Season 4). Mary said she looked terrific and that her passion took Mary over the top. Nigel called the dancers, the music, and the choreographer all his favorites and that Jessica was "magnificent." Jenna thought that each season, one dancer really has grown and that Jessica was that dancer for Season 11. Cat told Jessica that she was safe and will dance with All Star Ade next week.
This week, the third dance crew performed and Control Freakz are now my favorites. I loved their popping routine that was so in sync and so entertaining. It will be close as to which team is picked as the best -- there is one more dance crew to perform. And the winner will dance in the finale Sept. 3.
The elimination was strange this week. Instead of Nigel telling the dancers who were safe and who were going home, that duty fell to Cat. I wonder why. Oh well, Casey and Jacque will be dancing next week, while Rudy, who sobbed continually, and Tanisha are going home. Casey will dance with All Star Makenzie and Jacque is paired with All Star Will. This is really getting down to very few dancers and I don't know who will end up on top. See you next week -- keep dancing.
More TV dance news:
* Both "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With the Stars" received seven nominations for Emmys, which will be given out at the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony Saturday, Aug. 16. The regular Emmy Awards Show is Monday, Aug. 25.
* Dance fans, rejoice -- Season 19 of "Dancing With the Stars" is just around the corner. The 12 pros who will be dancing was announced Aug. 13 on "Good Morning America." They are Cheryl Burke, Tony Dovolani, Karina Smirnoff, Val Chmerkovskiy, Mark Ballas, Derek Hough (YES!), Peta Murgatroyd, Emma Slater, Witney Carson and three "newbies" -- Allison Holker (who is married to tWitch), Artem Chigvintsev and Keoikantse "Keo" Motsepe. I'm going to need to study to get some of these last names right!
It was announced that head judge Len Goodman will be gone part of the season. Does that mean that guest judges will be invited? Hmm, Maks, where are you? And unfortunately, the crazy partner switch up will be back. Ugh!
The celebrity cast will be introduced Sept. 4 on "GMA" and the season starts Monday, Sept. 15 on ABC.