Thoughts after watching each dance three times (I don't always trust my first impressions).
Opening Group Dance: The first shot was reminiscent of Tyce Diorio's jazz piece for All-Star Kathryn and S10 Paul. I enjoyed this number, especially the girls' group work. They're really showcasing the girls' grit this season. I don't know if the make-up was disrespectful, but I did think it looked cool even if it obscured who was who much of the time.
Salsa with Hailee, Yorelis and Darion: Oof, what a mess. I knew that on my first impression. Poor Darion - to be knocked by having a "thinking" face while also being criticized for the risk of his partners' injury. He wasn't served well by the choreography or the judges, though I think Paula was trying to be fair. That lift of Hailee was so awkward. Eesh. Yorelis looked the best out of all of them - my eye was drawn to her. She seemed to get more of the micro-movements than the others, for lack of a technical term for it. Her performance was also boosted by a little hairography.
Jazz with Ariana and Derek: I have a hard time getting over the complete mismatch of the song choice and the "concept" of the piece. Combined with the costumes, it made it a very tonally weird piece for me. I thought the dancers executed it fine for the most part, though neither are very charismatic dancers for me. Did anyone else notice the camera bobble in the middle?
Contemporary with Alexia, Virgil and Megz: My favorite performance of the night. First, the choreography was excellent. Even when the dancers were each doing a separate type of movement, it felt cohesive, and their motions often flowed into each other's in interesting ways. I know the execution wasn't perfect from Megz, but she held her own, didn't seem to be holding back, and from the background package for this and the group piece, the choreographers like working with her, which I always find a good sign. Alexia really caught my eye in this piece, and she hadn't really been on my radar previously. Loved that expression in her backward glance at the end. Reminds me of Bridget's look at the end of the bed-frame dance in last season. Virgil kind of disappeared in this dance, probably because the girls were in the foreground about 90% of the time. Also, someone last season on these boards pointed out that - depending on how its done - stage lighting can sometimes disadvantage dancers with darker skin and I was wondering if that was happening here.
Bollywood with Lily, Gaby, Edson and Burim: This was carried by the girls, mostly because the choreography went easy on the guys. They have some posing with the drums, while the girls had much more high-energy moves. Nice showcase for the guys' abs though at the end, as has been mentioned previously. I don't think I knew that Edson had a cheerleading background - cool.
Broadway with Neptune, Kate, Asaf: I do like Kate's cool style in this piece, though Neptune was stealing the show for me with his expression and energy. I definitely wasn't watching Asaf when all three were in motion. I noticed near the beginning that when the guys took turns reaching out their hands to the small of Kate's back and then withdrawing them, Neptune put some elasticity and spring into it, while Asaf's same movement was comparatively lifeless.
Lyrical Hip-Hop with JaJa and Jim - I feel out of step with just about everyone . . . I thought this was nice but not amazing. But then I always preferred Mark/Chelsie's Kiss Kiss jazz over Bleeding Love. I like to see the dancers sweat. :) I think JaJa and Jim were very expressive. I am definitely curious to see JaJa outside of her wheelhouse.
Jazz with Marissa, Moises, and JJ - Second favorite piece of the night - the song and the choreography worked well together, which is actually hard to say most of the time on SYTYCD. If it wasn't so hard for the show to get music rights, we might have more of that. Anyway, I loved Marissa's fierceness here. I am definitely warming up to her. Thanks to whoever pointed out her great kip in last week's number. I went back and watched for that. Marissa sometimes reminds me of Tanisha in that fierceness and strength. Moises was outstanding - so much talent there. JJ seemed fine that I could see but my eye was usually drawn to the other two. Whatever about their facial expressions . . . it worked fine on TV anyway. Glad Paula spoke up about that.
Team Street - Camera work seemed to focus too much on the b-boys at times, at the expense of seeing the group work better. I liked some of the ideas happening for this piece, but it didn't wow me.
Team Stage - I get the criticisms about the piece's lack of originality, but I liked this, and I liked it more than Team Street's from this episode. I am apparently susceptible to the combination of Woodkid and a lot of synchronous group work. Kate stood out to me here (might have been the contrast of the red hair with their brown clothing though), plus of course the two that got tossed.
Eliminations: I agreed with the twitter voters in the save of Neptune and Moises, who both acquitted themselves well in this episode. I was fine with either Darion or Derek going. I would have preferred Lily over Ariana, as I thought Lily stood out in Vegas and last week, but I don't dislike Ariana.
Dancers I'm excited about currently: Alexia, Megz, Gaby, Neptune, Marissa, Moises.
I have been excited about some of the other dancers before, but those six are the most intriguing to me at the moment.
Format of the show overall: I like that there are combinations of trios, quartets and duos now. The partner dynamic led to a lot of stale pieces and though the current format is not immune to stale pieces, I like the possibility that has opened up with this change. Now it's up to the choreographers to handle that variety.
One benefit of the Team Street / Team Stage conceit is that it gives a fun spin on the group pieces. We always compared the two group pieces against each other anyway (and they were often the best pieces of the night last season). I mostly think of the Team Street / Team Stage as a friendly rivalry (though Travis does seem a little weird about it) and I don't mind it now that I've seen how it actually plays out. To me, it's a welcome, refreshing change from dividing the dancers by gender. Yes, I can see how it feeds into these stereotypes about who is trained and who isn't, but that narrative was in the show well before this more formal rendering of it. The clues that Stage and Street are not clear-cut lines of difference are all there in the show for those who care to see it. A dancer's comment on training, Virgil's Broadway experience, Yorelis' more stage background, etc.