Oh, Step It Up & Dance. You’re a sly one. Just when I was all ready to be done with you, you pull yet another surprise out of your bag.
After we last saw finalists Cody, Nick, Miguel, Janelle and Mochi, they were sent home and told to come up with 1-minute solos. They also did some publicity for the show with the other seven contestants in that time and the entire cast did a live performance of Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" at the Tribeca Film Festival to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the video.
Now it’s back to LA where they catch up in the limo on the way to where they’re staying (the segments also included personal stuff). Mochi went back to performing in The Lion King, eight shows a week, in the interim. Janelle choreographed for and filmed a cheer tape – one that people can buy and learn the numbers. Which makes sense. It really does. Miguel shot a show for MTV Tres called Bust A Ritmo and taught classes all over the place. Cody filmed Center Stage 2 and some other movies. He’s also in the revival of Grease on Broadway. Nick’s been shooting commercials and assisted Tina Landon for a Rihanna performance (after winning the last challenge).
After dropping their stuff off at the mega-pad, the final five meet up with Elizabeth and Jerry at the studio. Naturally, solos aren’t the only thing they’ll have to do. Elizabeth says there’s no immunity for this one and Jerry warns that it’s going to be the most difficult challenge yet. Why? Because the guest choreographers are also judges – it’s Vincent Paterson and Nancy O’Meara. Vincent’s number will be to Michael Jackson’s "Man in The Mirror." He worked with MJ for years (he was even a zombie in "Thriller") but never got to choreograph this song. Nancy’s place it to see how their work ethic is and if they can be thrown on a world tour. They get 4 hours today and 2 hours tomorrow to learn it.
Vincent and Nancy run through the number first so they can see how it is. As Vincent teaches the steps, he reminds them of the emotion that must be behind the moves and both give the dancers tips and nitpick to make it better. Miguel and Janelle are struggling the most with the actual choreography and Cody’s having issues emoting. Mochi’s the only one who hasn’t had any notes that they’ve shown but she’s fighting her age, as she says.
Miguel’s struggling because he’s let his technique falter over the years and talks with Nancy about it at the end of rehearsal. He’s taking responsibility for letting himself slip and wants to get over his mental blocks. This is probably the first time this season he’s been…humble and grounded. It’s a shame we didn’t see more of this in other episodes.
It’s the next day and Nancy tells them that she noticed they held back a bit – they need to let go and really surrender to the story they’re trying to tell. So she runs them through the piece one at a time. Nick’s first. He voice-overs that he was trying to connect to the emotion of the piece and "peel back the tough-guy layer." After dancing he says he felt more open than the day before. Nancy says that’s the most she’s ever seen him emote but says he can do more. Mochi’s next and she pulls from all her personal issues and actually starts to cry. When she apologizes Nancy tells her to let it go as "that’s how you get to know yourself."
Cody goes next and talks about how it’s hard to balance the technical and emotional. Nancy tells him to stop holding back so much, using the term "snob," which he didn’t appreciate. When he asks for another word she uses "cold" which is only a slight improvement. It’s Miguel’s turn and he blanks in the middle of the choreography. Uh-oh. Nancy says that he needs to figure out what he’s going to do if that happens again. Janelle, who was very, very nervous – to the point that her legs were shaking – is last. When Nancy asks if she knew she was going to be like that, Janelle says yes. When Janelle tells her she has no way of coping with it, Nancy tells her to figure out how to "suck it up" and reach another level. P.S. It’s Janelle’s birthday. So Happy Birthday.
Vincent comes in and they run through it as a group and he was really impressed by their growth. As was Jerry. Nancy did a heck of a job helping them pull it out. Jerry said "Wow!" and they got some tears out of Vincent. Before they go out and perform, Vincent verbally adds 15-seconds to the end for them to express what they’re feeling in that moment.
Today’s guest judge is Toni Basil. You know, the Toni Basil. Awesome. As was the performance. It was very good overall. I enjoyed watching Nick and Mochi the most. They had a little something extra in it for me. Cody was good too. Janelle and Miguel got lost a bit for me here and there.
After the performance, Elizabeth was a little choked up and Vincent said he was pleased with it overall, immediately telling Nick he was "gorgeous." Toni said it was wonderful to watch, that she saw him take a journey. Toni told Miguel that his turns were weak but his emotion was very real. Vincent says that some of the lines weren’t what was choreographed which wasn’t good for this particular dance and Nancy adds the he knows where he faltered. Miguel knows and tearfully says that he talks a big talk and it would "suck" to not be able to perform his solo.
Toni compliments Janelle on her emotional arc for the song but notes her knees and feet need work. Vincent gets choked up yet again as he was touched by how committed to the number she was. Nancy echoes Toni’s comments. Mochi was really strong all around and technically beautiful, according to Toni. Nancy commends her for being able to focus her emotions for the performance in a much better way than in rehearsal. Cody was a little over-the-top for Toni (though wonderful technique-wise) and, when Nancy says he’s still a little "snobby" Elizabeth disagrees with the word usage. They get in a bit of a snit over it. Vincent tries to clarify by stating how Cody’s strong technique can sometimes make him come off as cold. Nancy agrees and says she’s said that before, but brings up the word "snob" again which starts another bit of a snit.
After the judges deliberation, Nick and Mochi are selected as the two possible winners with the challenge going to…Nick! Yay!! Two in a row! They’re both in the grand finale.
Toni says Cody fell into a standard dancer’s trap – showing the audience what they should feel instead of experiencing it himself. Vincent compliments Janelle on her glow but her technique is still a liability. Nancy tells Miguel that this week, sometimes he was on and sometimes he was off. Cody’s been saved, which is no surprise, leaving Miguel and Janelle.
When it’s a battle of flawed technique, the person who’s had the most problems with it loses. And that person is Janelle. Worst birthday present ever. Miguel will get an opportunity to dance his solo and redeem himself.
Should Miguel have gone home instead? Did you think Mochi was going to win the challange? Are you surprised Cody has such issues this week? And how much do we love Elizabeth sticking up for her dancers?