So You Think You Can Dance: “10 Perform/2 Eliminated”
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So You Think You Can Dance: “10 Perform/2 Eliminated”

B+

So You Think You Can Dance

“10 Perform/2 Eliminated”

Season 9, Episode 11

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After last week’s trainwreck of an episode, So You Think You Can Dance gets pretty damn close to recapturing this season’s earlier momentum with a top 10 performance show that does what this series does best: showcase phenomenal dancers and exciting new choreography. Last episode may have been a tribute, but this week’s show actually feels like a celebration of dance, with the return of the SYTYCD All Stars and a performance from L.A. Dance Project, the company founded by guest judge/ballet dancer/choreographer/Mr. Natalie Portman Benjamin Millepied.

It all begins with a Tyce Diorio group routine honoring Gene Kelly on the eve of what would have been his 100th birthday, featuring the top 10 in iconic Kelly roles. Chehon is Singin’ In The Rain Gene Kelly, along with Cyrus and a smoldering Eliana. Tiffany is adorable as Anchors Away Gene, along with sailors Lindsay, Witney, and Audrey. (They could also be an On The Town reference.) As the garbage lid trio from It’s Always Fair Weather, Will and George are dancing with an unlikely third: Tasty Oreo himself. Due to a “slight injury,” Cole sits out most of the opening number (he makes an awkward appearance at the end), and I’m sure Tyce jumped at the chance of being spotlighted on national TV. He’s expectedly hammy, but it works for the dance, although the choreography gets a bit sluggish in the middle as the separate parts struggle to meld into a cohesive whole. It’s too chaotic at times, but a great spotlight for Eliana and Tiffany.

Like last season, the top 10 means the returns of the All Stars, and in almost every routine, the contestants are elevated by the expertise of their veteran partner. Nowhere is that more evident than in Cyrus’ Travis Wall post-apocalyptic contemporary routine with season 3’s Jamie, which produced the big tWitch moment that I’ve been waiting for from Cyrus. Travis gave Cyrus a routine that challenged him, and trusted that he would be able to pull it off. Cyrus hasn’t had a lyrical contemporary routine, and it’s nice to see the charisma he has in other styles translated into something darker and more emotional. The judges point out that his feet and lines aren’t perfect, but it’s his passion that has brought him so far; Travis and Jamie really bring that out. I haven’t been the biggest fan of Cyrus this far, but his performance this week has me reconsidering my stance, which is good because he makes it into the top 8.

This week’s other Travis Wall routine is a jazz number for Witney and season 1 winner/Travis’ roommate Nick, who play ghosts who won’t let the grave stop them from getting funky. It’s a strong routine that is highlights Witney’s sensuality, but I would have liked more intensity from her. The judges thoroughly enjoy it, and end up saving Witney when she ends up in the bottom two. (It helps that her spicy solo to Santigold brings the heat.) She’s joined by Audrey in the bottom, who is overshadowed by tWitch in her Dave Scott undead hip hop routine. She doesn’t do a bad job, and she’s better at getting low and sitting in the pockets than Chehon in Scott’s other hip hop number, but Audrey needs to bring even more if she’s going to shine brighter than tWitch. She dances a solo to Dreamgirls’ “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” which is a pretty awkward song to go out on, but at she leaves the show on a high note.

Audrey is joined by George on the road home, and while he is one of the show’s most technically skilled dancers, he’s had a lot of trouble connecting with the voting audience. His Tyce Diorio jazz routine with season 2’s Allison showcases his musicality and versatility, but Nigel wishes that George would get raunchier and be more mature with the choreography. Maturity is one of the big issues this season, and I don’t know if it’s just because the dancers are looking younger as I get older or if the show is picking greener contestants. George goes for a darker tone with solo, and he leaves the show as a man rather than a boy. He doesn’t really stand a chance when he’s up against Chehon’s crowd-pleasing acrobatics, and after a bit too much walking at the beginning, Chehon’s solo takes off for a string of high-flying ballet moves. The judges wish Chehon could translate that energy into his paired routines, and his stiff Dave Scott routine with season 3’s Lauren shows that he still has a lot of work to do. In the case of Chehon’s hip hop, having Lauren made him look worse because she’s capable of doing the isolations that he struggles with. His solo tonight may save him from the bottom next week, but at this point in the competition personality is becoming more and more important and Chehon is just flat.

Chehon’s competition for the bottom next week comes courtesy of Cole and Will, who both have less than spectacular showings in styles that are drastically different than their usual. Partnered with Anya for a Dmitry Chaplin cha cha, Cole is more focused on sending his energy out to the audience rather than building chemistry with his partner, and the judges call him out for not paying more attention to the first person to ever board the Hot Tamale train. Anya is allowed to board the fictional locomotive after the routine, but Cole is going to have to wait for the next one to come around. Will is partnered with Kathryn for a Nakul Dev Mahajan Bollywood routine, and while he certainly has the energy, the routine has a high school variety show feel. It’s that lack of maturity again, and while Nigel says that sometimes he would like to see Will be more serious, he decides against it because of how much fun Will brings to his performances.

The girls really shine in this episode, beginning with Tiffany and Brandon’s exhilarating Doriana Sanchez routine. Featuring 11 lifts, each more impressive than the last, it’s a spotlight for Brandon’s incredible athleticism and Tiffany’s stunning flexibility. There are times when Tiffany trips on a turn or wobbles on a lift, but these become less significant as she gets thrown around the dance floor by Brandon. Her costume is horrible (why the cutaways?!) but her personality is on point, and between her Gene Kelly persona in the opening and this disco, she’s found a way to bring youthful energy to her performances rather than immaturity.

The evening’s most technically impressive number comes courtesy of Lindsay’s Spencer Liff Broadway routine with season 6’s Jakob, which requires perfect unison as he plays her shadow. It’s a cute concept that is beautifully executed by the two, and they make it look fun and easy, which is essential for a successful Broadway routine. The routine reminds me of Kayla and Brandon’s Tyce Diorio number in the season 5 finale, and after getting “Gravity” last week, it looks like Lindsay is the second coming of Kayla. That’s certainly not a bad thing, Kayla was a gorgeous dancer, but I actually think that Lindsay is more personable. She really blossoms in this routine, and being partnered with Jakob pushes her to new highs. As Nigel points out, Jakob has stunning extensions, and that strength rubs off on Lindsay when they dance together.

It’s funny that in their first episode separated from each other as a couple, Cyrus and Eliana give their best performances of the competition. I’ve been saying that once Eliana had a different partner she would dominate this show, and she couldn’t get a better partner than season 7’s Alex Wong. This is Alex’s first time dancing on the SYTYCD stage since his legendary duet with tWitch, and he’s a perfect match for Eliana in a Stacey Tookey contemporary routine. Millepied compliments Tookey on her song choice, Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” and she deserves the praise, picking soft haunting music that really emphasizes how smooth the movement on stage is. This routine also shows how powerful it is when the audience doesn’t clap during quietly intense routines like this one, and there is nothing to distract from the perfection on stage. It gets the evening’s only standing ovation from the judges, and Nigel tells Eliana that she’s his favorite girl of the season, saying she’s perfection in technique in personality. Mary compares her to a great tiramisu, which is nonsense but also a great description because like Eliana, tiramisu is totally fucking awesome.

Stray observations:

  • Cat’s look tonight is disco ball meets bubble wrap. Surprisingly not a bad thing.
  • So if you don’t want to dance the opening number, you can choose not to?
  • Cat playing the microphone flute is adorable.
  • Will’s Bollywood pants make it look like he just peed his pants really bad, with a giant black spot on the crotch.
  • Natalie Portman is one lucky lady.
  • Lindsay reminds me of Boo from Bunheads. Any crossover between SYTYCD and Bunheads fans beyond Genevieve Koski and I? I love that show.
  • LA Dance Project is the guest performer this week, giving us the kind of challenging, sophisticated choreography that we don’t get too often on this show.
  • “Lord have Murphy!” Ladies and gentlemen, the catchphrase of the year.
  • “You have got to apply more pressure to the inside edges of the balls of your feet.” I love when Mary gets all A Beautiful Mind with ballroom.
  • “Like the song said, I’m glad you came.” Nigel is gross.
  • I tried to watch an episode of Travis and Nick’s Oxygen TV show All The Right Moves, but couldn’t make it past the first ten minutes. It’s not pleasant.

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