So You Think You Can Dance: The top 18 perform; two are eliminated
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So You Think You Can Dance: The top 18 perform; two are eliminated

Thanks to the scrappy Phillies, we have another two-hour performance show culminating in judges' cuts.  And I'm grateful, because better the judges having to make these decisions than America.  Even last week I thought there was only one clear loser, poor one-and-out Brandon.  Unless somebody drops somebody, I'm just not sure how to identify who's going home.

On any given Tuesday, though, anyone might shine -- and anyone might suck.  So let's break it down couple by couple and see if anybody sinks to the bottom and makes the judges' job easier.

Noelle and Russell:  Noelle is back from her knee injury, and back with Russell, in a fun hip-hop number based around a tennis match.  I liked the routine, and laughed out loud in the brief "bullet time" sequence.  Adam says that the choreography was dancing them, and in Noelle's case, I see his point.  She was trying to go for it by aggressively attacking the moves, but she couldn't quite close the deal on most of them, especially the trickier ones.  Maybe it was too much, too fast, no time for us to appreciate the moves; for two such big performers, the whole thing didn't quite gel.

Ashleigh and Jakob:
These two beaming kids look like they stepped right off of the top tier of a wedding cake dancing the Viennese waltz to Etta James.  Perfectly matched, with absolutely lovely performances -- I am coming around on Ashleigh against my will.  That was gorgeous with a capital gorgeous.  The real story of this dance was that Adam Shankman criticized the choreography.  And not just for a moment.  Meredith and Tony, according to Adam, put in too many lifts and erred in allowing Jakob to do a split jette.  I don't expect to be any more shocked until they cut Ryan before the top 10.  Has this ever happened before?  Shanks might just get a copy of the SYTYCD etiquette manual in his locker before next week.

Bianca and Victor: It's an Oreo Broadway number with a black gospel theme, and even though the performers work hard at it, I don't think they got it.  It seemed frantic, but not ecstatic.  The choreography was bouncy, but sometimes the couple seemed like they were bouncing instead of dancing.  Mary implicitly takes a dig at the choreography for throwing in a dancerly leap for Victor while the music was going crazy.   We have some bottom four candidates already, which ought to take the pressure off of ...

Mollee and Nathan: It's always a happy moment when the Bollywood numbers bust out, and after this couple's sizzling disco routine last week, I'm expecting high energy.  Nathan delivers -- he's still a favorite, after all -- but even though the judges didn't criticize her, I thought Mollee could barely keep up and seemed to be struggling with the sharp movements, broad movements, and high jumps.  It was no Joshua and Kate, that's for sure, but Nathan proved himself, running away from Mollee in the process.

Channing and Phillip:
Tony and Meredith throw a difficult samba at two dancers who might be least prepared for it.  For the first part, Phillip seemed to be acquitting himself capably, but who could notice him with that blonde bombshell shaking her hips and hair in the spotlight?  Until, of course, the awkward lifts and weird jumps started.  It's impossible for me to know what that last Phillip-jumping-on-top-of-Channing move was even supposed to look like, and we saw them practicing it in the rehearsal footage.  Noel commented at the end of the dance that Channing should be preparing herself to dance with Russell next week.

Karen and Kevin:
That hot tamale Karen has to adapt to Kevin's style this week in a NapTab hip-hop number.  This is the best matched hip-hop routine I've seen in some time.  Kevin is large and in charge, but Karen is the perfect foil for him in this red-hot (or is that blue?) performance.  Ashleigh may be showing her stuff here in competition, but Karen is one-upping her every week.  I can't wait to see where these guys were going.

Kathryn and Legacy:  Before Phillip's meltdown earlier in the show, I would have been looking forward to Legacy going home.  He has to wrap his b-boy self around a contemporary routine after barely making it onto the show.  And now I have to confess: Legacy, I have misjudged you.  Wow.  The choreography was phenomenal -- a pinnacle routine for this show.  And it used Legacy's incredible control over his body and facility with movement in the service of something completely new.  The judges all talk about his growth, but let's leave that aside; this would have been a highlight of the season if he had been dancing contemporary all his life.  That's why I watch this show -- for performances like that.

Pauline and Peter: Wade Robson creates an extremely conceptual number about people Van Gogh discarded in favor of painting stars.  They even have set dressing.  I have to say that I didn't get this.  The animated backdrop was more interesting than the dancing.  After seeing the rehearsal, I was expecting big, bold movement ... and I got little moues, little flippant nothings.  Love Wade, but hate this number.  If it weren't for Phillip, I think Peter would be easily the next out.

Ellenore and Ryan: Ellenore, no need to worry, love -- Ryan can handle that drop to the floor with insouciance.  He not only has the guns, he's got the goods, sweetie.  I don't think Ellenore had the fast footwork that the tango demands (and that we saw from the choreographers in the rehearsal footage), but her lines are so gorgeous, she committed to the lifts, and as all the judges point out, she didn't get flustered when her heel got caught in her dress.  Another great performance from these two.

As the judges go to deliberate on their four selections, here's my prediction: Phillip and Peter for the guys, Noelle and Bianca for the girls.  Hey, I got 3 out of four -- they took both Bianca and Victor, and let Peter be.  Can't argue with that.  You know, it's tough on the tappers to dance for their lives. Noelle and Victor get to fling themselves around the stage, do acrobatics, dance with their whole bodies ... and the tappers ... tap.  Bianca's solo proves that she doesn't believe tapping is enough, while Phillip just did his thing and dared the judges to cut him.  Which they will.

Bianca's gone, and Phillip's gone.  Two tappers down, and the two better ones at that.  I suspect Peter will be joining them shortly.

Stray observations:

- Nigel announces that Billy Bell can go straight to Vegas next year, and that sacrificial lamb Brandon can re-audition.  He made out like it wasn't his decision, but c'mon, Nigel -- you created the show, you executive produce it, you judge it.  You telling me some 19 Media or Dick Clark Productions gives you your marching orders?

- Cat hasn't made a bad fashion choice in a while, but tonight's creamy sparkly number is especially nummy.

- I knew the "2 Steps Away" number was going to be special when Legacy fluidly formed a circle with his arms in the first 30 seconds and eased Katherine through.  Yes, he's capable -- more than capable.  Strong.

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