So You Think You Can Dance: “Top 20 Perform; 2 Are Eliminated”
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So You Think You Can Dance: “Top 20 Perform; 2 Are Eliminated”

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So You Think You Can Dance

“Top 20 Perform; 2 Are Eliminated”

Season 10, Episode 9

Good thing Nigel Lythgoe’s Twitter handle is under his name at the start of this episode, because fans need to bombard @dizzyfeet with tweets letting Nigel know that his choice to have eliminations at the start of this week’s episode is the worst decision in So You Think You Can Dance history. (Yes, even worse than the Top 10 7th season.) For some insane reason, the dancers are eliminated at the top of the show and then dance their previously choreographed routines even if they’re not continuing in the competition. It completely destroys the momentum of the show, starting the episode on a depressing note and adding an extra element of sadness each time an eliminated dancer takes the stage. There’s a reason why reality TV competitions save eliminations until the end, and the rhythm of this episode is thrown way off by this bizarre decision.

The bottom six are Mackenzie, Mariah, Brittany, Alan, Jade, and Carlos, with Mackenzie and Alan being spared solos as they get saved by the judges right away. Mackenzie and Alan were in two of last week’s strongest routines so it’s strange that they find themselves in the bottom, but they prove why they were saved in their routines tonight. If the judges are to be believed, Mackenzie is a choreographer favorite and one of the most humble dancers in the competition; she has the misfortune of being so perfect that it’s reading across as haughty to the public. She plays a sexy fembot in Sean Cheeseman’s jazz routine, and she devours her diminutive partner Paul, who holds his own but can’t match Mackenzie’s precision and spark. Alan and Jasmine M.’s tango is one of the evening’s standout numbers, with Alan performing an impressive series of lifts that his partner slinks in and out of with ease. Jasmine M. gives amazing face in the sultry routine by Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo, showing off personality and acting ability that will get her far.

Nigel is disappointed by all four of the solos tonight, but I’m calling bullshit and saying he lied to get Carlos off the show. Carlos delivers the exact type of solo the judges love, equal parts acrobatics and emotional storytelling, and it’s leagues above the boring animation routine Jade brings to the table. Nigel says the judges consider the choreographers’ opinions as well as the contestants’ performances in Vegas, but then why does Jade, a contestant who had to dance for his life twice in Vegas, stay in the competition while Carlos goes home? Was Carlos a huge bitch in rehearsals? Jade’s Bollywood routine this week is fun but sloppy, and although Malece schools him technically, the judges love his personality. It’s absurd that Jade’s average Bollywood performance would be considered stronger than Carlos’s intense Stacey Tookey contemporary routine, and maybe he would be safe if the judges waited until after the contestants danced to make eliminations. Then again, the judges have this strange obsession with animation, so maybe Jade is going to make a bunch of small, shaky movements all the way to the Top 10.

Mariah and Brittany’s solos are missing a wow factor, but Mariah’s emotionally rich performance later in the episode is much better than the forgettable Spencer Liff Broadway routine Brittany dances with Blu-Print. Liff’s literal interpretation of the song puts the two dancers in a library, and their characters fail to come to life in the prop-heavy space. Always welcome guest judge Christina Applegate tells Blu-Print that Broadway is when he shouldn’t be afraid to be as goofy and wildly energetic as he wants, and it’s clear that he’s more uncomfortable with this genre than the African jazz of last week. Brittany is talented but forgettable, hitting all the steps but failing to provide the extra spice that will keep her fresh in minds of the voting public.

NappyTabs choreographed last week’s spectacular opening number, and they continue their upward swing with two great hip-hop routines this week that show vastly different sides of the choreographers. Their sultry piece for Aaron and Jasmine H. channels Christopher Scott’s “Misty Blue” for tWitch in Sasha back in season 8, telling a deeply intimate story with tight, precise movements that translate to a quietly smoldering passion.

Aaron’s size is going to be a huge advantage, and he just looks so much older than all the rest of the men dancing in this competition. He’s a man in a group of boys, and his partnership with Jasmine H. benefits from his maturity. Comparisons to tWitch and Sasha are well-deserved for both of them, and if they’re this good after only two weeks together, I fully expect Aaron and Jasmine H. to get to the Top 10 and beyond.

On the complete opposite end of the hip-hop spectrum is Amy and Fik-Shun’s booty-popping bellhop number that shows just how formidable Amy is as a female competitor this year. Watching her on stage tonight, I couldn’t help but wonder how many high school dances Amy completely broke it down at, because you know she was twerking all over her school’s auditorium or greenhouse or wherever they had homecoming. Fik-Shun does strong work in his own style, but you can tell that Amy is the workhorse of this duo, probably forcing him to rehearse over and over until they’re perfect.

In a shocking development, the tappers are some of this season’s most versatile contestants, although Aaron has established himself as the leader of the tap gang. Curtis’s Ray Leeper jazz routine with Hayley features sexualized choreography that gets a little too exploitative, and the fact that he looks so young doesn’t help to diminish the creep factor. He needs to work on bringing more weight to his movement, which will help keep his thin, lanky frame grounded. While Alexis was part of last week’s worst routine, she and Nico completely redeem themselves with their Stacey Tookey contemporary routine, a sequel to season 7’s piece for Robert and Kathryn.

Alexis’ extensions are beautiful and her quality of movement is clean and smooth; with both Alexis and Mariah, you get the notion they’re well versed in most styles of dance but have chosen tap and krump as their specialties to make them stand out from the crowd. Contemporary is Nico’s style, and he performs flawlessly, even if it’s hard to believe he’s the husband of a woman returning from military service. Again, it’s the problem with having dancers who are fresh out of high school.

The last routine of the night is a cha-cha for Jenna and Tucker by Dmitry Chaplin that showcases Jenna’s fiery stage presence. Tucker is a reliable partner, but he’s not quite as vibrant as Jenna, who is clearly in her element for the entire routine. During judging, Nigel criticizes Dmitry’s choreography for not being enough of a cha-cha, stating that the choreographers need to make sure they’re differentiating the styles or else they’re defeating the purpose of a show that is supposed to be spotlighting a variety of dance. It’s a ridiculous complaint at the end of an episode that proves this season has a much bigger problem than a lack of cha-cha in the cha-cha. If the series continues to have eliminations at the start of the show, it risks doing irreparable damage to the structure and flow of the competition. There’s absolutely no reason why this format change had to happen, and after sending in your votes, make sure to shoot @dizzyfeet a tweet saying how much the new decision sucks.

Stray observations:

  • Should’ve known it would be a bad episode after seeing Cat’s outfit.
  • Tyce Diorio’s gothic clown routines always leave me cold and remind me of a low-grade Mia Michaels. His strength is not in weird staccato movement.
  • Christina says she wants Curtis and Hayley to ooze into the words. She means “act.”
  • Bunheads also made use of “It's Oh So Quiet" for a dance number, making me wonder why that show’s choreographer Marguerite Derricks hasn’t been asked to contribute to SYTYCD.
  • Poor Carlos. Not only does he get eliminated, but during his contemporary routine his pants bunch around his dance belt to create an unfortunate diaper effect.
  • Did Nigel just say he wants Tucker’s performance to be more like Dancing With The Stars?
  • “Those step-push ripples were so hot.”
  • “You’ve just been very rude to somebody in Bombay.”