The Top 16 opens the night with an Annie Lennox cover of "Take Me to the River." I'd say it was Mandy Moore based on the song choice, but it doesn't seem like her choreography style.
The contestants are introduced in pairs, based on who they danced with last week. The notable exception is Jessica & Marquet, newly paired after their former partners were eliminated last week:
Jacque LaWarne & Zack Everhart
Bridget Whitman & Emilio Dosal
Emily James & Teddy Coffey
Brooklyn Farmer & Casey Askew
Valerie Rockey & Ricky Ubeda
Carly Blaney & Serge Onik
Tanisha Belnap & Rudy Abreu
Jessica Richens & Marcquet Hill
Hey, look at that: It was a Mandy Moore routine. I've been watching this show too long. Maybe.
Misty Copeland is back for a third straight week as guest judge, along with regular judges Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe.
Results: The bottom six dancers are Bridget, Marcquet, Brooklyn, Serge, Tanisha and Zack. Huh. America hates ballroom, apparently (half the dancers up there are ballroom dancers). I'm kind of surprised Zack is up there — maybe America just couldn't handle him in a bodysuit. Interestingly, Bridget is the only repeat name from last week. Brooklyn and Serge were both in the bottom Week 1, but not last week.
Tonight's interview topic is "Your earliest dance performance."
Cat tells us Valerie was 4 years old in 1998. Crikey, I'm such a fossil. She did a little tap dance. Rickey's first was a contemporary routine at age 12, and he admits it was very dramatic and over the top. They're getting the season's first Bollywood routine. They both look like they're having a lot of fun and it also looks completely exhausting. Valerie seems to me to be struggling with the speed of the dancing toward the end and they get a little out of sync.
Mary points out choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan and says he was looking like a proud papa. Mary says Valerie looked amazing all the way through, so what do I know? She calls Rickey "wicked strong." Nigel says Bollywood reminds him of disco because it's so fast, with no time to breathe. Misty points out the intricacies of the hands, comparing it to miming in ballet.
Bridget's mom put petroleum jelly on her teeth so she'd smile during her first performance and she tripped because she was thinking about it. Emilio's first performance wasn't until he was 19. They get a contemporary routine about embracing change and growth. Travis Wall wants to leave his troubled past behind — Emilio will be portraying Travis and Bridget is the metaphorical past not wanting to let him go. It's like we're all sitting in on Travis's therapy sessions.
Nigel calls it a powerful piece of choreography, and happily points out Emilio pointed his toes in the routine. He calls Bridget magnificent. Misty says the choreography highlighted the dancers as well as showing his ideas. Misty points out that Bridget didn't overshadow Emilio. Then she talks about a specific move Emilio did and has him demonstrate it again.
Tanisha's first performance was as a 9-year-old cheerleader with pom-poms. Rudy describes his first performance as "the worst thing ever" — a Salsa dance when he was a little kid. Hip-hop choreographer Dave Scott wants them in a black-and-white comic book. Rudy accidentally clocks Tanisha in the nose during rehearsal.
Tanisha is wearing a tiny catsuit with a super-low back and see-through cutouts from knee to armpit. It highlights her wriggles. Although in close-ups, you can see she's wearing some sort of panties underneath. Good girl.
Misty praises Tanisha's "subtle sexiness" and says Rudy was her "perfect partner." Mary says Tanisha walked on the stage and her outfit went "BAM!" She liked how Rudy sold the routine. Nigel praises Dave Scott for doing a routine that suited the two dancers. He compares Tanisha to Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in "Batman & Robin."
Cat describes Jessica's first performance as "Honey BooBoo-esque" and that is the least surprising thing ever. Dmitry Chaplin is giving her and Marcquet a smooth foxtrot, with Marcquet as a "successful businessman." It's not said what Jessica is supposed to be, but I'm guessing either trophy girlfriend or highly paid escort. At one point she sits in the armchair Marcquet started the routine in and spreads her legs as wide as possible. Gross, Dmitry. If Len Goodman was on this show he would call out that sort of vulgarity.
Mary didn't love it despite some "fabulous moments." Marcquet has not danced American Smooth before, only Latin ballroom, which makes sense to Mary. She says Jessica blew her away. Nigel says when he hears "foxtrot" he thinks "Fred and Ginger" and misses the flow of movement. But he admits he's an old guy. Nigel says he doesn't think Jessica has ever danced as well as she did in the Top 20. And then he compliments her hair and makeup. That's some faint praise. I'll be shocked if Marcquet isn't eliminated tonight. They'd probably shed Jessica too, if she were in the bottom six.
When Carly was a kid, she wore a tutu for a whole year when she was 2. Serge was a little Italian gangster in his first ballroom competition. Serge sports a ridiculous little ponytail on the top of his head during rehearsal time. Mandy Moore's reached back into her old CD collection to choreography a contemporary routine to Jewel's "Foolish Games."
Nigel apologizes to Carly for not telling her last week how well she danced since he was too busy blathering about how America wasn't going to vote for that routine. Misty calls Carly a "full-body dancer." Mary loved it and was particularly impressed by Carly.
Teddy says he was a "ham" growing up and we see a picture of him popping the eyebrow as a little kid. His first dance performance was a tap trio. Emily's first performance was a ballet performance where she got mad at being at the back of the line and so she marched off in a different direction entirely.
They've got a salsa and right off the bat it looks like Emily loses her footing when her shoe slips on the stage or something. There's a really awkward lift where Teddy essentially ends up with his chin in Emily's crotch for a spin. That's on the choreographers Oksana Dmytrenko and Jonathan Platero, not the dancers.
Misty tells Emily that she recovered well from the slip but looked uncomfortable through the routine. She loved Teddy. Based on rehearsal footage close-ups and tonight's close-ups, Teddy is making liberal use of the makeup department's concealer and foundation stash. Not that I blame him. HD is a cruel mistress. Mary congratulates them but then says "you got through it," which is never a great compliment. Nigel tells us Emily dislocated her shoulder this morning. He thinks the couple might have been worried about her injury during the routine.
Jacque's first performance involved a lot of pink and a lot of fur. Zack's first performance was pigeon toed and in sequined trousers. They're getting a Sonya Tayeh jazz routine about a couple who had a fling in the past and bump into each other.
Mary wondered if Jacque was going to dance in the high, high heels she had on at the beginning and she liked the slinky way Jacque had of getting out of them. Mary also loves the way Zack gets into the character of each dance. After Nigel praises Sonya, he says he had trouble connecting to this routine, despite the dancers being very, very good. Misty wants to pick on Jacque, expecting more refinement in her feet. She explains that she criticizes the dancers harshly because they're so good and she only wants them to get better. Sweat is literally dripping off Zack as he stands next to Cat.
Casey was 8, doing a hip-hop routine with frosted tips in his hair. Brooklyn's first performance was a tap routine that she now thinks she took way too seriously. Choreographer Will "WilldaBeast" Adams wants them to hit it hard and get low. This is the kind of hip-hop I like. Down into the floor, hard. That being said, they're both a little light on it to me, Casey more so than Brooklyn. Also they seem to be wearing bulletproof vests, which are sometimes hampering their upper-body movements.
Nigel is thrilled to have WilldaBeast as a choreographer on the show. However, he's dubious about the vests. He also thinks they needed to get down more and get it from the gut. But he says Brooklyn did a "damn good attempt." Oh, lordy. Nigel and I are in agreement. Mary thought the second half of the routine was better than the first and echoes Nigel and Misty in singling out Brooklyn for praise.
Now we get a mini-group routine with Tanisha, Zack, Casey, Brooklyn, Serge, Emily, Emilio and Valerie in a Sonya Tayeh routine which the choreographer names "The Village of Broken People." I'm not sure if we're seeing this performed live or if it was pre-recorded. Tanisha gets a bit of a spotlight when she's hurled atop all the other dances and then steps out solo toward the camera. Interesting that Sonya's favoring Tanisha here. Emilio also gets a little mini-solo when he's carried atop the other dancers.
Misty calls them a cohesive unit but singles out Tanisha as a shining star. Mary calls it "brilliant" and thinks each and every one of the dancers was a star at some point in the routine. Nigel says this is "the Sonya Tayeh [he] loves." He also adds that he's not normally a Bjork fan but when paired with Sonya, suddenly it works.
Cat says she feels like she needs to do a "happy dance" to lift things up after Emilio spews out some heavy sounding blather. So she does a little goofy Charleston-ish move. I really do love Cat.
The other eight dancers — Bridget, Marcquet, Teddy, Carly, Jessica, Ricky, Jacque and Rudy — are in a Travis Wall routine about the "outlaws escaping." They're dancing to a OneRepublic song that I've Shazamed twice in the last week because I still can't believe it's OneRepublic. There are a lot of crazy lifts and falls, almost like a cheerleading routine. It's an interesting contrast to the Sonya routine. She had her dancers bunched together for a lot of the dance, but Travis has the dancers spread out often filling the whole stage.
Nigel compliments the director's cutting, Travis's choreography and the dancers. Misty says it was incredible, and that she loved Ricky especially. Cat says what I'm thinking, which is that Ricky looks good in guy-liner. Mary stands and cheers. She tells Marcquet he tore that routine up and Marcquet mock faints. Mary also praises Carly's trust in her fellow dancers during that crazy lift and fall.
Actress Lucy Hale sings. You guys, I don't think she's going to make it to the next round of "American Idol."
Nigel says America hasn't made it easy for them, but it's never easy. He then drops the bomb that they'll be eliminating four dancers next week. Dang. Nigel says they try to stick with America's vote as much as possible, unless one of the bottom two dancers (male and female) really sticks out. He then adds that this week, these six dancers all stood out. Marcquet and Brooklyn get the axe, which is how America voted. America, why do we hate ballroom dancers?
Aw, Cat reminds us that Marcquet and Brooklyn auditioned together. I'm sorrier to see Brooklyn go than Marcquet.
This means Casey and Jessica will be paired up next week. That's Jessica's third partner in as many weeks. Is she the kiss of death? Watch out, Casey!