Valerie's Awesome 'SYTYCD' Partner Ricky Will Keep Shining This Season

Without many surprises or shocks, So You Think You Can Dance chose its Top 10 dancers last episode and most of the dancers that the viewers and judges kept on weren't a surprise — including favorite tapper Valerie Rockey. So what about her equally amazing contemporary partner Ricky Ubeda? He's in the Top 10 as well and now that the dancers will be paired with all-star SYTYCD alums, it's time for him to show that he excels no matter who his partner is.

A month ago, Ricky and Valerie were favorites, and not much has changed since then. Those blessed enough to get a Travis Wall contemporary routine always reap the benefits — and Ricky and Valerie were no exception in their first show as a couple. Since then, they haven't always received the most conventional dance styles with a waltz and a Bollywood dance, but the pair has been able to keep up with the challenges.

Ricky wowed me (and the judges) in the first live episode when he was partnered with fellow Top 10 dancer Jessica Richens. Sonya Tayeh’s choreography and choice of Meredith Monk song are what I look for (and expect) in quality contemporary dance. But bias aside, Ricky was absolutely phenomenal — and Ricky and Jessica were a great pairing. Judge Nigel Lythgoe even said, “It's the first time that I've heard a So You Think You Can Dance audience not screaming madly because we were just in awe of what we were seeing — it was other-worldly.” Preach, Nigel!

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So, Ricky was a bit lucky to be in his preferred style of dance with two amazing choreographers the first two live shows. But that's not to take away from his talent.

When his time did come to be challenged with the Viennese waltz, I wasn't shy about saying I wasn't impressed. There are a number of reasons that I didn't love the piece — and a lot of those weren't directly related to Ricky and Valerie's performance. The song choice felt overdramatic — which was a choreographer choice. And along that same thought, I've never been fond of Lacey Schwimmer.

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Beyond that, I didn't like Valerie's costume ... and it threw me aesthetically that Valerie was taller than Ricky. I feel awful saying that, but as SYTYCD shows us, we are programmed to see female-male romantic couplings where the man takes the "dominant" role. I actually dislike how much the show plays into that and I wish they'd explore mixing genders (and gender roles) more. Regardless of the larger cultural implications, I think the size disparity threw me.

I'm not proud of my gut reaction, but upon re-watching the waltz I have been able to see how well they did on a performance level. I'm not saying it's my favorite, but it's not as bad as I remember. (I can still hate the song choice though.)

After that, the couple followed up with a super fun Bollywood piece which renewed my love for both of them. In a dance style that neither is familiar with, they kept up the energy and performance.

As for last week, the pair had to do hip-hop routine with a voodoo premise. Although Ricky's a contemporary dancer, he rocked it. He’s a super technical dancer like Nigel said, but he was able to get down and dirty. And judge Mary Murphy said it was the best number of the night.

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The choreographers on SYTYCD recognize Ricky's strengths outside of just his partnership with Valerie. He's highlighted in almost every group piece that he performs in — including the Travis-choreographed all-male piece that the judges flipped over. (Just like the guys flipped off the stage ... har har.) In all seriousness, this was a fabulous piece by Travis and a great example of how to oppose our conventions of what we expect from male dancers.

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It may not be considered "fair" that he gets so much more screen time in the group numbers, but Ricky has earned his place in the front and he always looks fantastic. Now that the Top 10 has been paired with the all-stars, Ricky will be with Season 7 winner Lauren Froderman — who can dance like this:

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With their powers combined, Ricky may just be unstoppable.

Images: Adam Rose/Fox; sytycdancegifs/Tumblr; charliedemons/Tumblr; danceonfox/Tumblr