“so you think you can dance”: random thoughts and judging the top 10

It’s been a while since I’ve checked in on So You Think You Can Dance, and a lot has happened since then. We’ve had injured dancers (RIP Billy Bell), eliminations on performance nights thanks to the World Series, and some semi-interesting dances. No dancer has really reached out and grabbed my attention like previous seasons, but the top 10 will definitely show who the true front runners are, and who will be heading home soon.

Before I get to my thoughts on the top 10 dancers, I need to take a moment to address the atrocity that is Victor Smalley’s elimination last night. His solo was so much stronger than Nathan’s last night, and I’m perplexed as to how Victor went home while the judges’ personal punching bag will live on to annoy for another week. Victor was never a standout to me, but I felt the grounds of his elimination were unfair, and for once, I actually agreed with Nigel Lythgoe. Scary. Also, I’ve been in love with Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” since the first time I heard it on the radio, and I knew it was just a matter of time before it would make an appearance on SYTYCD. Imagine my disgust when terror queen Laurieann Gibson choreographed a clunky, forgettable routine for sparkle twins Mollee and Nathan. So disappointing. I wish we could put the song back into the rotation for, say, a Nap/Tab routine for Jakob and Kathryn. Someone make this happen, please!

On to the top 10…

I expressed my dislike of Ashleigh at the start of the top 20, and while I was able to quash my annoyance so far, I feel like her gig is up soon after leaving her partnership with Jakob. Her obnoxious facial expressions have been kept to a minimum, but after each routine, I couldn’t help but notice she never did much dancing. A lot of hair whipping and posing, sure, but nothing incredibly substantial. The judges have fallen over themselves to praise her, constantly raving over how much she’s grown. I have to challenge them on that…I think people who have been voting for Jakob and Ashleigh are only voting for one half of the partnership. Also, expect Ashleigh to “randomly” draw her husband as a partner in the upcoming weeks.

Male ballroom dancers usually light up the stage on SYTYCD (see: Dmitry, Pasha, Artem and Ivan), but Ryan has left me unimpressed so far. He’s a good dancer, but he’s really nothing special. I think his overt masculinity was nicely balanced out by Ellenore’s quirky grace. He has no discernible personality outside of working out, doing extreme sports, and obsessively waxing his eyebrows. He’ll go pretty far in the top 10, but I don’t think he’ll crack the top four.

Russell was an early favorite of mine, but there hasn’t been much to keep him on my favorites list since the top 20 started. So far, it’s been a lackluster foxtrot, an awkward hip-hop, a pretty good Afro-jazz, another lackluster foxtrot, a clunky samba and an overpraised contemporary piece. That track record doesn’t exactly scream top four to me. I do love Russell’s personality, and when he performs in his own style, I remember why I loved him so much in the Vegas round. He really needs to step it up and be more consistent if he wants to make it far.

Mollee, Mollee, Mollee. SYTYCD‘s resident Cindy Brady (thank you to Entertainment Weekly for making that comparison) annoys me more and more each week, a feat I didn’t think possible. Despite having been in the bottom a few times and delivering solos that were nothing but glorified gymnastics routines, Mollee is still in the competition. She is a pretty decent dancer, but we haven’t really seen her in a genre that she’s completely owned. She can’t do sexy, she can’t do hip-hop, and everything else has been just so-so. I’m waiting for her to blossom into the woman the judges repeatedly claim her to be, because right now, she really does look like a graduate of “Dolly Dinkle’s regional hip-hop class 101.” (Help…I’m agreeing with Grandpa Nigel again!)

Jakob has been the shining star of season six thus far. His technical ability seems to be endless, and he comes across as very personable in his interview packages (not to mention he’s BFFs with season five winner Jeanine…can they please do a duet on the finale episode? How awesome would that be?) I think Jakob will excel even more once he’s ditched his cheese ball, coattail riding partner. I beg you to show me a genre this guy can’t do, therefore making him a lock for the top four.

I’m pretty lukewarm about Noelle, considering she’s had the same middling lineup of dances as Russell. She’s definitely got great lines and technique, as shown in her contemporary piece this week, but her attempt at sexiness in the samba was kind of hard to watch. I think my biggest problem with Noelle is that she reeks of dance school competitions. The cheesy grins and some of her posturing are so reminiscent of my own dance school experience, and I don’t think that kind of dancing will get her very far into the top 10.

There is nothing I love more than a relative unknown at the start of the top 20 turning into an absolute dynamo by the top 10. This is how Jeanine evolved last season, and I think Kathryn is following the same trajectory. She’s gone from unknown crying girl to talented tamer of emotional b-boys. From a cave woman in a Dave Scott hip hop to a fiery vixen in a Tony Meredith paso doble, Kathryn has handled whatever she’s been given with her extensive talent. I absolutely adored her partnership with Legacy, and while I’m sad to see them break up, I’m anxious to see how she’ll grow with other partners.

I was unnecessarily harsh on Legacy before the top 20, thinking him irritating and overhyped. I am definitely eating my words now. What I used to think was insincere is now an emotional dancer learning a lot on a once in a lifetime journey. His lack of technique is sometimes very evident, but the fact that he was able to pull of a haunting contemporary piece, an attention-grabbing paso doble and an emotional Viennese waltz speaks to his ability to learn quickly. Kathryn has definitely taught him a lot, and I fear that Legacy may falter without her helpful partnership, but his sincerity and eagerness will hopefully carry him far.

I can’t really recall why I thought Ellenore was annoying during the Vegas round. Sure, she’s quirky and definitely unique, but I’ve enjoyed watching her dance. She is so versatile and so good at what she does. I don’t think I even watched Ryan during their Broadway piece this week because Ellenore was just so phenomenal. The idea of a potential partnership between her and Jakob has me anxious for Tuesday nights.

Oh, Nathan. How quickly you’ve gone from young upstart to judges’ punching bag. As soon as I found out he was paired with Susie Sunshine, I knew things couldn’t be good for him. I knew Nathan had talent, but there was something about his partnership that brought out the irritating brat in him. The judges latched on to this, with both Nigel and Adam Shankman taking turns handing him slices of humble pie. I think he would have been so much better off with someone else as a partner, because he’s now been so strongly associated with giggles, skipping and annoyance. It will be interesting to see how Nathan internalizes Adam’s advice to watch what he says, as well as how he fares with a less obnoxious partner.