“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.

‘so you think you can dance’ recap: top 20

Last night was the first performance show of season 5 of So You Think You Can Dance, which has easily overshadowed its reality TV cousin American Idol in showcasing talent and keeping viewers (namely, me) interested. The first week can often be shaky as dancers adjust to their partners and the show’s format, but this season’s top 20 proved otherwise. Here’s my take on the ten performances.

Philip and Jeanine: Freaky popper meets unknown contemporary dancer. I think Philip lucked out by getting hip-hop his first week, and despite Jeanine’s lack of hip-hop training, she really kept up with him during Tabitha and Napoleon’s routine. I wouldn’t rank it among SYTYCD’s most memorable dances, but it was good.

Vitolio and Asukah: This was the one routine that really missed the mark throughout the 2-hour show. Both dancers focused way too much on their technique instead of really embodying the characters of Tyce Diorio’s Broadway number. Technically, the dancing was great, but it was lacking the personality that was so desperately needed to turn the choreography into a true performance.

Jonathan and Karla: A cha-cha to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” sounds terrible, but these two made it work. I expected Jonathan, a ballroom dancer, to do well, but Karla’s skill was surprising given her contemporary background.

Evan and Randi: Another Tyce Diorio routine, this time jazz, and this time executed much better than his previous piece. It was very obvious tonight that Evan’s dancing skills go far beyond his Broadway stylings. Randi (formerly known as Unitard Girl,) was wonderful too, and the whole dance was fluid and beautiful.

Tony and Paris: Another weak routine in an otherwise strong first episode. I liked the choreography (again, Tabitha and Napleon,) but I didn’t like the performance. Something was off. It seemed like both Paris and Tony were trying too hard, which is something that becomes very evident on a show full of natural talent. I agree with Nigel that their costumes were too distracting, but that’s an issue to take up with the costume department, not the dancers.

Jason and Caitlin: The Bollywood style of dance has become a great addition to the show, and all of the numbers thus far have been energetic and sharp, Caitlin and Jason’s included. This is definitely a couple to watch this season. While I don’t think the number was as perfect as the judges claimed it to be, (some sloppy feet and weak arms) it was definitely memorable and great to watch. I’m just glad they didn’t dance to the Pussycat Dolls’ version of “Jai Ho” and stuck with the original instead.

Brandon and Janette: Usually, the mention of a foxtrot makes me want to change the channel, but tonight I actually found it enjoyable to watch. Dancing with the Stars pro Louis van Amstel’s choreography was great, although he was mysteriously absent from the audience while the judges were showering his work with praise.  Brandon may be this season’s most controversial contestant, only because of Mia Michaels’ inexplicable hatred, but I think he’ll be around to have a dance studio showdown with her if he continues to dance as well as he did last night.

Kupono and Ashley: Wade Robson’s routine about crash test dummies falling in love was very strange, but that’s what any regular viewer of SYTYCD has come to expect from him. Both Kupono and Ashley fully embraced their characters and made them believable, something Asukah and Vitolio should have done earlier in the night. The dancing was great, too, but it was hard to focus on the steps when the dancers’ skin was painted white and there were robotic dogs and flying tires onstage.

Ade and Melissa: Having taken ballet for most of my life, it’s only natural that I want to see Melissa do well, since other ballet dancers have short shelf lives on SYTYCD. She may be the oldest contestant at 29, but I don’t think that’s a handicap at all. It seems to be more of an advantage, because while younger dancers were still eating Cap’n Crunch and watching Full House before going to school, Melissa was already five years into her dance training. The contemporary routine, choreographed by Mandy Moore (not the one married to Ryan Adams,) was beautiful and even made judge Adam Shankman tear up.

Max and Kayla: Wow. Talk about ending the night on a high note. Their samba, another Louis van Amstel masterpiece, was phenomenal. I think that ballroom dancer Max was outperformed by Kayla, a contemporary dancer, but as Adam Shankman pointed out, Kayla wouldn’t have looked half as good as she did without the strong partnering that Max provided.

Bottom 3 predictions: I think it’s a safe bet that Paris and Tony will be in the bottom 3 couples, as well as Asukah and Vitolio, but I honestly have no idea who could be joining them. If I absolutely had to choose, I would say Ashley and Kupono, simply because Wade Robson’s number may have been too strange for America to understand. Out of those six dancers, I think that Paris and Vitolio will be going home.

Check out the results show tonight on Fox to see whose dancing days are over.