“so you think you can dance”: handicapping the top 20

Even though it seems like we just crowned Jeanine Mason “America’s Favorite Dancer,” So You Think You Can Dance has quickly segued into their first fall season, giving us another group of talented dancers to entertain us each week. Here are my thoughts on the top 20.

I love tappers, and I loved Phillip Attmore’s audition, but last night’s conveniently placed clip of his backtalk to the judges will surely turn some people off to him. I think a lot of Phillip’s success rides on which female dancer he’s paired with.

Billy Bell is an early favorite of mine. The strength of his dancing comes as somewhat of a shock, as though it’s not possible for this skinny, pale kid to bring Adam Shankman to tears. I really look forward to seeing Billy’s growth in the top 20.

My spotty viewing of the audition rounds prevented me from seeing Channing Cooke before last night. Athletic strength doesn’t always translate to strong dancing, but she seems to have a balance of both. She’s like the Kherington of season 6, albeit less annoying, so I think viewers will become well acquainted with her.

I’ve literally never seen Ariana DeBose before finding out she was in the top 20, and the producers couldn’t be bothered to show much of her dancing. Depending on her partner, Ariana could make an early exit just from the fact that the viewers don’t have much of a rapport with her.

The less I have to see of Ashleigh DiLello, the better. She’s clearly hamming it up for the cameras every chance she gets, and the faces she makes while both dancing and talking are obnoxious. I get the whole husband and wife shtick the producers are going for, but her dancing is mediocre, and “personality” can only get you so far.

Ryan DiLello is far more talented than his elastic-faced wife. A strong male ballroom dancer has been missing from SYTYCD for the past few seasons, so if Ryan’s prowess extends beyond ballroom floor, I think he has a good chance of making the top 10.

Russell Ferguson is the earliest of my early favorites. When I saw this krumper excel at Louis van Amstel’s insane cha-cha-cha during Vegas week, I was shocked. Russell further shocked me by completely killing it in the following jazz, contemporary and Broadway routines. The cynic in me finds his claims of having no previous training suspect, but I hope it’s true and he’s simply a wealth of untapped talent.

Detest is not a strong enough word to describe my dislike for Mollee Gray. Nigel was completely spot-on when he told her that she dances like a 14 or 15-year-old. I’d place her maturity level at about the same age. Sure, she has great technique, but the emotional connection to her dances is lacking. Can she master the fiery paso doble? The sultry rumba? A hard-hitting hip hop? Mollee will definitely alienate older viewers, but the younger crowd will text enough votes to keep her around for longer than I’d like.

As far as female ballroom dancers go, I’ll take Karen Hauer over Ashleigh any day. Her audition was strong, but her lack of camera time throughout Vegas could hurt her.

Hip-hop is often over-represented in the SYTYCD top 20, but this season, Kevin Hunte is the sole hip-hopper (not counting krumper Russell or b-boy Legacy). He’s very versatile, as glimpses of him in Vegas showed, but there are a lot of strong males this season, so Kevin’s versatility will have to go a long way.

We haven’t seen much of contemporary dancer Jakob Karr thus far, but the little we have seen shows a lot of promise. I hope he does better than my early contemporary favorite from last season, Jason Glover, who was kind of a disappointment.

The only thing Noelle Marsh has going for her is that she’s mildly less obnoxious than her “best friend” Mollee. (Side note: How fast can one become someone’s best friend? Apparently for these two, it’s the length of time it took some random PA to put them in the same hotel room.) We haven’t seen much of her dancing, so Noelle’s run in the top 20 is TBD.

Throughout Vegas, Paulina Mata was one to watch for me, so when she suffered that terrible ankle injury before the Broadway round, I thought she was a goner. Her spirit seemed a little beaten post-injury, so hopefully being in the top 20 gives Paulina the spark she needs to become a true contender.

Kathryn McCormick is a great dancer, as seen in the clips we saw last night. Viewers may have a hard time remembering her talent, however, after witnessing the horrible sound of her voice when she cries. When the tears started, her voice reached octaves that only dogs and dolphins can hear. Unless Kathryn can pull it together and keep the tears in check, she’s going to have a hard time getting votes.

I’ll keep my thoughts about Jonathan “Legacy” Perez short: he’s annoying, and I don’t get the hype. The end.

Tapper Bianca Revels is very talented and has a lot of personality to back it up. She also has quite a fan following, as this is her third season on SYTYCD. Her tapping is great, but I fear she may struggle with ballroom or contemporary.

Peter Sabasino rounds out the trifecta of tappers this season, and while we haven’t seen much of him yet, I have to applaud Nigel and the rest of the judges for not pulling the “we need to keep the genres equally represented” card when it came to the tap dancers. Now if only we could get some more ballet dancers on the show…

All I can really recall about Ellenore Scott is that I declared her “really obnoxious” after her audition. We know Nigel loves personality, and Ellenore has plenty to go around.

Victor Smalley’s curly Mohawk suffered the same fate as Kupono’s floppy Mohawk last season: shorn off in a Las Vegas bathroom. The haircut is definitely an improvement, and from what I saw of Victor last night, he has great technique.

Nathan Trasoras has the advantage of being a favorite from way back in season 5. His audition was phenomenal, but he was too young to qualify. Nigel, in a rare moment of clarity, saw Nathan’s potential and gave him a ticket for Vegas in season 6. For being so young, Nathan is a great dancer, and I think he’ll fit nicely into the requisite non-threatening male that makes the teen voters go crazy.

Be sure to tune in on Monday October 26 for “So You Think You Can Dance: Meet the Top 20,” where viewers will get to see each dancer perform in their own style, as well as in choreographed group numbers. The judges will then pair up the dancers at the end of this SYTYCD special.

Photo courtesy of Fox.com