Cat Deeley welcomes us in a sparkly, slinky Velma Kelly dress, like she knows a whoopee spot where the gin is cold and the piano's hot. Notable in the opening dance-off: Jess does the splits, Iveta is dressed like Goldfinger, Marko impresses with pirouette-into-flip maneuver, Robert is dressed like an early-'90s pro wrestler who based his gimmick on The Warriors, and a control-room snafu reminds us that we're LIVE. Also, Cat says, "Here are the girls... and here are your boys," which is NOT the usual protocol! Get it together, CAT! Training camp's over! We also learn that Mitchell injured his elbow in rehearsals and thus won't be dancing (and is automatically in danger of elimination tomorrow). Jesus, not this injury-bug stuff AGAIN! I thought Mitchell was a dark horse, too.
Cat introduces the jidges: Nigel, Mary, and guest judge Megan Mullally. I love her and all, but don't get cute with the stunt casting, Lythgoe. We're also getting 8 seconds worth of "facts" about the dancers before each performance, leading to a lot of cute stammering to get things in under the wire, but honestly? Not much of use is learned. Let's just get to the dancing:
Jordan and Tadd: African Jazz (Sean Cheesman)
This pairing gives is one of my favorite guys with one of my least favorite girls, kicking things off, for me anyway, on a worrying note. I'm sorry, Jordan is annoying; in her 8-seconds thing, she either pretends she's stupid or actually IS stupid, as she talks about how she thought "afro jazz" was people in afros dancing jazz. Yeah. The performance is impressive, but this style has yet to prove to be immersive like hip-hop or contempo or even the better ballroom routines have been. Tadd, however, continues to impress -- so strong and expressive. Nigel's like, "If that's African Jazz, I love it," which kind of says a lot, don't you think? Megan is refreshingly specific in her critique, talking about Jordan's leg extensions and such. It's telling that Megan's critique was the only one that called for a replay of the actual dance.
Sasha and Alexander: Contemporary (Travis Wall)
Not sure how I feel about pairing up Sasha, who is a contender, with Alexander, who may be boring. The idea here is that Sasha is Alexander's conscience, punishing him for something or other. This leads to, among other things, Sasha legit kicking Alexander dozens of times in rehearsals. Both Sasha and Alexander can certainly move out there, so why am I not feeling more from this routine? Is it the limp Sarah McLachlan song? It all feels like it could use another day or two to work on the emotion of the whole thing. Mary says she loves Travis's transitions and marvels at Sasha's strength, which is spot on. But she also agrees with me that the dancers didn't give us anything to connect to. Even the two of them standing with Cat, begging for votes, they don't look like they've gelled yet. Nigel needs more from Alexander's face. Nigel is also insistent on making this season all about how "the guys" need to keep up with "the girls." It's Week 1, Nigel, slow that shit down.