So You Think You Can Dance: "Top 20 Perform (Again)"
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So You Think You Can Dance: "Top 20 Perform (Again)"

B+

So You Think You Can Dance

"Top 20 Perform (Again)"

Season 8, Episode 8

Well, here we sit amidst the wreckage of So You Think You Can Dance, one week in and already a week behind. By all accounts last week's debacle of a "results show" was unrehearsed, but it was none the less misbegotten for its spontaneity. So two couples have to go home tonight, and God help the dancers who end up being less than impressive in either a style they should ace or in a stretch they can't quite make. They're going to drag their non-randomly-assigned partners right down with them.

Tonight's all about the pairings, so the introductions come two by two. But although Nigel said last week that "two couples" would be going home, he clarifies tonight that out of the bottom three couples, four dancers would be going home. So mix-and-matching is possible. Redeeming the show for one night, Debbie Reynolds (who invites several dancers to come home with her as adopted children) serves as tonight's guest judge.

Ricky and Ryan are assigned to bring to life Mandy Moore vision of "Addicted to Love," and I'm calling this early as one of my bottom performances of the night. Leaden writhing, awful costuming, and a generic form of raunch that is compatible with Ryan's awful grin. And poor Ricky, turned into an eighties leather-bar cage dancer, looking like a stick alongside big blousy Ryan and her hideous mullet.

Caitlyn and Mitchell get contemporary with Stacy Tookey, and I love the way it's staged with the two chairs behind each other, then with the dance proceeding between and around them. Along with the memorable song--Adele's "Turning Tables"--this is a routine that should keep them well safe.  And that's a good thing because Mitchell hasn't gotten to do any partnering yet.  He's definitely got a knack for it, based on the way he presented and supported Caitlyn.

Wadi and Missy have to cha-cha, and while I'm no expert, I've seen a lot better cha-chas on this show. Wadi looked much more comfortable posing between moves than doing the moves themselves. And even Missy failed to make the fringe fly with her walk--not much hip, and without hip, what's a cha-cha for? She did a fantastic job on the lifts, making beautiful lines, and supported well by Wadi it must be said. I defer to Nigel and Mary's contention that Missy was wonderful; my amateur eyes were craving Iveta, I confess.

But Iveta and Nick get Bollywood, a lucky call for Nick who should have no problem with the footwork but might not be expected to nail the arm movements with precision. I knew from last week that he would attack them with gusto, but there's always a danger of flailing... and there was some flailing. The problem is his less disciplined style, and frankly his lankiness; Bollywood works better at a more compact scale that emphasizes strength and energy rather than wildness and bigness. The two of them could be in trouble.

Miranda and Robert have to impersonate woodpeckers at the behest of NappyTab, which doesn't sound like Emmy-bait. And while you can't doubt their gameness, Miranda's limitations showed when she almost didn't get around on her one trick, the foreword somersault. The routine annoyed me because it was relatively static, not moving much around the stage or changing levels. The invention of it was impressive--I saw some different moves--but I wasn't wild about the execution, nor how it refused to allow Miranda any moment of playing to her strengths.

Jess and Clarice have to play to some Stacey Tookey emotion in their "Cathedrals" routine. More importantly, Jess has to wrestle Clarice into the air about every thirty seconds in the dance, and he's visibly staggered a couple of times. I agree that Jess looked overmatched during the partnering work. It ends very strong, though, with that insanely gorgeous unison section, and I'd really hate to lose that, despite Jess's increasingly unbearable personality in all non-dance moments.

Jordan and Tadd draw Viennese waltz, a chance for the lighting designer to pull out the polka-dot filter. I felt like they were moving rather gingerly around that bench, as if they were afraid they were going to bump into it, but how nice to see people sweeping across the stage! My favorite bit was when Tadd did the waltz steps solo while holding Jordan half upside down over his head. The boldness of that  moment said everything I needed to know about the level of this dance--not just an adequate simulacrum, but reaching toward the real thing.

Melanie and Marco get a magic-hat jazz routine from Mandy Moore, and I couldn't figure out whether the differences in the way they approached it were intentional of not. Marco is dancing low in his thighs, while Melanie is up high in the stratosphere, always lifting off her toes. But it's wonderful how they go for it together; there's joy in their movements, big and expansive but so professional. Just because I think Melanie is the bee's knees, I'm glad to see a routine that should keep them around.

Sasha and Alexander draw the serious NappyTab piece, about a soldier returning from war. What a contrast to the earlier woodpecker business in terms of how big, how complete the dance felt. And wow, Sasha! I had my breath taken away by a moment of stillness, when she remained motionless for a beat while leaning back. So solid. Alexander had that great flip off the headstand on her back, but otherwise he can't really compare with how hard and precise and completely inhabited her movements are. Sa-sha! Sa-sha! Sa-sha!

Ashley and Chris dance Spencer Liff's Broadway number from opposite sides of prison bars, and you can see why this was the closing dance -- it's cool as anything in staging and execution. I loved the moment when Chris steps halfway through the bars to hold Ashley up, and it was surprising when Ashley started to match him acrobatically toward the end of the routine. What might not have worked as well was the camera placement; the director never quite figured out what alternative angles best showcased the dance, and for good reason--it wasn't meant to be viewed from anywhere but the audience perspective.

So who's in trouble?  I'm saying Ricky and Ryan, Robert and Miranda, and Jess and Clarice. Or they would be in trouble, if Nigel ever intended anyone to go home, rather than keeping them imprisoned on Fox to dance for us forever! Mwhahahahahaaaaa!

Stray observations:

  • What's your vote for most cringe-inducing "secret" revealed by one partner about another?  I vote for Jess's stick-figure orchestra.  (And who among you was waiting for someone to reveal the biggest but least-surprising secret about their partner -- his minority sexual preference?)
  • Part of Ryan's bodice came loose during her dance, leading to the weird spectacle of what I assume was the sticky tape that was supposed to hold it up being prominently featured in high-def on her boob during the critique.
  • Wadi seemed quite devastated by the criticisms he got from Nigel and Mary, and a little nauseous about being propositioned by Debbie Reynolds.
  • Debbie on Nick and Iveta: "You did freak me out, in a good way."
  • Speaking of being freaked out, Debbie doing the Woody Woodpecker laugh, then getting a huge standing ovation, freaked me out, and not necessarily in a good way.
  • Cat suggests that the show is "spoiling" us by giving us the whole top twenty over again.  How about spoiling us by giving us an actual competition?
  • Noel, too, was a little disillusioned that the Vegas tickets weren't real.
  • Napoleon was military, we learn -- but they don't claim he was deployed.  Details, anyone?
  • Nigel "prays" that America votes tonight.  Did he keep everybody on last week in retaliation for us not voting enough?

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