Praise Jesus, the performance round of So You Think You Can Dance has started. Unlike its bigger, bolder cousin American Idol, SYTYCD zips through the audition/Vegas rounds and gets right to the meat of the competition. Nigel “If I’m being frank” Lythgoe is on the judging panel, as usual, but I’m so delighted to have Mary Murphy and her ear-splitting screeches back. I’ll take the Hot Tamale Train over Mia Michaels’ nonsensical hippie musings any day. Filling in the rotating third spot this week is Megan Mullally, a former ballerina and Broadway veteran. I’m pleased to see she’s moving on from her I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Commercials. Megan, you were Karen Walker and you’re married to Ron Swanson, for chrissakes. You’re so much better than “Turn the Tub Around.”
The couple with the honor of performing the first dance of the season is Jordan and Tadd, dancing an Afro-jazz piece by Sean Cheesman. The dance is fast-paced and a bit frantic, which led to them falling out of sync a few times. A routine like this requires a lot of strength and control, something both dancers need to work on. Tadd was impressive; I think he’s one to watch among the guys. As for Jordan, I’ve yet to see her do anything to really wow me, other than the sheer stupidity of her wanting to be a Pussycat Doll.
Sasha and Alexander were next, with a contemporary piece from SYTYCD golden child Travis Wall. The choreography was just so-so; nothing like past dances of his that still give me goose bumps. Sasha was very light yet powerful in her dancing. It’s too early for me to form an opinion on the heretofore unseen Alexander, but I think he’ll be safe for a while, considering his partner was heavily featured in the Vegas rounds and is allegedly a frontrunner.
Clarice and Jess were saddled with a boring Tyce DiOrio Broadway number. Watching this dance felt like it was going backwards and in slow motion. Nothing seemed to happen. Jess, being in his comfort zone, was impossible to look away from. His technique appears flawless; I’ve never seen such crisp, precise pirouettes. Clarice was trying so hard to keep up with him, but the cheesy smile she plastered on her face didn’t help.
New choreographer Christopher Scott choreographed a lyrical hip-hop number for Ryan and Ricky. I need to be up front and admit I do not like Ryan. She’s a great dancer, no doubt, but her personality and stage presence reeks of entitlement. Just because you almost made it last season and you’re Mia Michaels’ assistant doesn’t mean you get a free pass in this competition, blondie. The choreography was great, and while both dancers performed it well, it was hard not to be distracted by the gigantic smile plastered on Ryan’s face throughout the routine. When the judges questioned her on why a perma-smile was necessary for a dance about lost love and longing, she spewed some nonsense about remembering happy moments. It was ridiculous and a bit defensive, to which I say she needs to learn to stand there and take whatever the judges say to her.
Caitlynn and Mitchell were supposed to dance a jazz choreographed by Sonya Tayeh, but poor Mitchell hurt his elbow in rehearsal and had to sit out. Not a good thing for the first week of performances, when the audience is still trying to learn who’s who. Season seven’s Robert filled in for the injured dancer, which I feared could take the spotlight away from Caitlynn, but she held her own. To be honest, I haven’t been crazy about a Sonya routine since Mark and Courtney’s dance to “The Garden” in season four, but this dance strayed a bit from her typical style, which was nice. My heart broke a little seeing Mitchell crying in the audience after the performance.
The first ballroom routine of the season belonged to Miranda and Robert, aka “Woo Guy,” courtesy of Jason Gilikson. Their jive, set to a Bruno Mars song I happen to love, appeared great on first glance, but the high energy of the routine hid the technical missteps. Robert’s feet weren’t pointed and Miranda’s posture was a bit too hunched. Personality-wise, Miranda needs to come out more and Robert needs to reel it in. Nigel was right in telling him to tone down the “woos,” which are already getting old. They could be making an appearance in the bottom three tonight.
Sean Cheeseman’s second routine was a jazz danced by Missy and Wadi. The Pandora’s box theme was a bit of a stretch, but the end of the dance was cool, watching Wadi do his free running/parkour on the prop box. I don’t recall much about Missy’s dancing, other than her waist-length hair is quite distracting. She needs to cut it or contain it.
My favorite dance of the night was easily Melanie and Marko’s contemporary piece, choreographed by Travis Wall. The dance’s story, of two marble statues falling in love, made me roll my eyes, but Travis’ choreography, combined with the two dancers’ talents, was wonderful to watch. Melanie is a superb dancer, with gorgeous lines and great strength. Marko was good too, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Melanie. This is going to be a great partnership.
I need to interrupt myself to beg Nigel to stop calling the female dancers ‘beasts.’ I’m sure he thinks it’s edgy and flattering, but it’s just stupid and kind of offensive. Yes, the female dancers are a talented group, but find another term to use to compliment them. All right, I’m stepping off my feminist soapbox now. Carry on.
Ashley and Chris danced the weakest dance of the night, a hip-hop choreographed by Christopher Scott. It was fun and cute, but having this dance follow Melanie and Marko is like eating a fillet and having a Slim Jim for dessert. Neither Ashley nor Chris was particularly great, which I think means they’ll be in the bottom three.
The final dance of the night was the “dreaded” quickstep. Every single dancer who has ever performed the quickstep in SYTYCD history has been eliminated. Tapper Nick and world quickstep champion Iveta may have changed that trend. Jason Gilikson’s choreography was dynamic and fun, two words I never thought I would use to describe the quickstep. The odd couple, paired most likely because Nick is tall enough to properly partner Iveta, danced well together. Despite never having danced ballroom before, Nick’s tap training had to help, as both dance styles have fast footwork. While I enjoyed this routine, I’ll resist judgment on this couple until I see Iveta attempt another style of dance.
I don’t feel confident predicting who’s going home tonight, because there were so many dancers that America basically saw for the first time last night. It should be an interesting results show.
RESULTS SHOW UPDATE: After witnessing five wonderful solos and two so-so solos (I’m looking at you, Jordan and Robert,) the judges decided not to send anyone home, giving America the chance to see the top 20 dance again next week before eliminating anyone. A lot of people were upset by this decision, but I think it’s wise. I’m still at the point where I can’t put names to all of the 20 faces, so this works in favor of both the dancers and the voting audience. Four dancers will go next week, but I think after two performance shows, it will be a bit more obvious who was suffering from nerves/weak choreography and who just needs to go home.