'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: 'The Top 20'
Our finalists show what they can do, and Nigel declares one girl the best of the bunch
It's time for "So You Think You Can Dance"! Whoot! We're still in the stage in which we have a bajillion dancers in the running, so there's no time to think -- and getting attached just isn't advisable. This looks to be a strong stable of dancers, so fingers crossed we get some performances worthy of the hot tamale train tonight.
We kick things off with a cool "Mad Men" opening, then head into a samba.
The Background: Before we can watch dancing, we must have nine seconds of bonding with each contestant. Witney is 18, plays guitar and drums, digs golf, has 100 relatives and can make a flower with her tongue. Alas, we never learn what happened to the H that's supposed to be in her name. Chehon is 23, grew up in Switzerland but was born in Chicago, is trained in ballet and is having a real problem spitting out information given that he's bilingual and doesn't necessarily think in English.
The Dance: Sambas are notoriously difficult, but I feel as if this one is a bit wooden. Witney is nailing the steps, but she doesn't have the hip action needed to really sell it. Actually, she just may not have the hips, period. She seems locked down. Chehon also seems to be out of his element, as you can practically see the wheels turning in his head. That being said, his feet aren't exactly right, but they're surprisingly good for a ballet dancer's.
The Judges: Apparently Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and Kenny Ortega saw a completely different routine than I did. Nigel thinks Witney is a firecracker! She's a star! Chehon needs to work on his footwork. I think Nigel is completely taken with Witney, and I agree, she's very watchable, but the judges are acting like she made flapjacks with one hand and built the Taj Mahal with the other. She absolutely lights up on stage! But she is not a natural Latin dancer, dude. Mary puts Witney on the hot tamale train, which seems a little overly enthusiastic to me. It's early in the competition to be giving anyone that kind of love, isn't it? Kenny thinks Witney is like Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like It Hot," but hotter. Okay, okay. I can see who the judges want in the finals.
The Background: Tiffany is 19, has baby hands, once had a pet duck and is nicknamed T-Maher-Star. George is 19, he's the second George in his immediate family (his dad being the first), he loves the color green and hates camping. Oh, and he once had a pet frog. They'll be doing an emotional contemporary routine by Sonya Tayeh. The dance is all about love and melting.
The Dance: There are some missteps and fumbles here, but overall, pretty solid. I love almost any Sonya routine, and George and Tiffany capture all the details that make a piece clearly Sonya's. Did I cry, as promised? No, but I liked it.
The Judges: Mary is breathless. She thinks it's about surrender and they both surrendered. She felt they were living it. George did not disappoint, and she thinks he's one of the best dancers in the competition. She thought Tiffany was spectacular. Kenny agreed. The routine reminded him of his youth. And he thought it was breathtaking. They spilled it! Nigel can't remember his youth, and he thinks Tiffany and George are a wonderful couple. Is it me, or are the judges just getting a little too excited?
The Background: Janaya is 20, wants to meet Shamu, loves fuzzy socks, hates orange candy as well as Chucky. Brandon is 27, severely allergic to cats and dogs, is from Kansas City, Kansas, loves Pizookies and his 8-year-old brother just broke a world record for little kid long jumping. He and Janaya will be doing a Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo number in which he's an alcoholic. That NappyTabs!
The Dance: Janaya is so graceful and fluid, and that's exactly what I wish she wasn't for this routine. I think she's not jerky enough for hip hop, and her gracefulness seems to be deflating Brandon a little bit, as he has nothing to work against. She looks great; it's just not hip hop.
The Judges: Kenny thought their bodies were speaking. He thought they did a great job. I'm clearly being too critical today. Nigel thought Janaya needed to get down and dirty, as her back was too supple. Okay, he saw the same performance I did. Mary wanted Janaya to be more feisty, but she loved Brandon. Nigel thinks they need to do more to stay in the competition.
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The Background: Alexa is 19 and loves red lipstick, being outside and frozen yogurt. And she loves sprinkles. Can't forget the sprinkles. Daniel is 24 and he's an Aussie, has a pet kangaroo and then he makes up a bunch of stuff to be funny. Bad idea, Daniel! Don't be a smart ass this early in the competition! They get a Sean Cheesman jazz routine.
The Dance: I don't love this routine, and I do not dig the song choice. At all. I feel really sorry for Alexa and Daniel, as they have so much to work against. They do a more than decent job, really, given that they have to overcome a routine that's overly complex, gives them little time to connect, and has awful music. This feels clinical. I call foul on Sean!
The Judges: Nigel thinks they were asked to do so many intricate things, and because of that it was difficult for them to connect with the audience or one another. But Nigel says that they still need to connect with one another, even though there's no time for it. Mary agrees with Nigel. She was glad Sean smiled. Kenny thought it was an extraordinary piece, but he didn't feel as vested in it as he wanted to feel.
The Background: Amber is 21, used to run track, loves bunnies, hates sausage and sleeps with stuffed animals. Nick is 20, took 23 credits last term, loves movies and his dad works at the Playboy mansion. Wha? Anyway, they'll be doing a Viennese waltz by Jason Gilikson, which is good news for ballroom dancer Nick.
The Dance: Obviously, this is in Nick's wheelhouse, but even so it's still a very, very good performance. Nice work from Amber as well, who seemed to be on par with Nick. They're fluid and graceful and, hey, this is the routine for it. Unfortunately, audiences don't really gobble up the waltz. It's just not showy enough, though it is tough to execute. The old saying is true -- they have to work hard to make this look so easy.
The Judges: Mary thought the whole thing was dreamy. She loved their flow. She thought Amber pulled it off despite uncomfortable shoes. Her extensions were excellent. Kenny thought it was fluid and he enjoyed it. Nigel points out Abby Lee Miller in the audience, though I wish he wouldn't. Can't she just go away and yell at little kids on her own show? Nigel cautions Nick to look less nervous onstage, and he thought Amber collapsed a bit in her core. Still, Nigel thinks they both deserve to go through.
The Background: Amelia is 18, her dad is a tattoo artist and she was named after the famous female pilot. Will is 19, likes orange, thinks he's Simba and runs out of ideas for his nine seconds. They get a NappyTabs routine in which they're both cats. Hope it's funny, because in rehearsal Will can't stop giggling.
The Dance: Man, Amelia is limber. I'd like more arching and hallmarks of felinity, or, if that's not possible, more snap. This doesn't read like a NappyTabs routine to me, and I'm disappointed. Amelia is so offbeat and Will is such a good foil for her, I expected more.
The Judges: Kenny would play with Amelia all day long if she were a kitty. Yuck, Kenny. She's barely legal, can we skip the flirting? Anyway, he loved it. Nigel thinks Will and Amelia are a great partnership. They have lots of personality. He wasn't sure it was hip hop, but it was memorable. Mary thought it was purrrfect and thinks NappyTabs created a routine suited for them. But was it supposed to bypass the hip hop snap entirely? And aren't the dancers supposed to rise to the choreography instead of the other way around?
The Background: Janelle is 24, from Alabama, loves to cook, loves purple and will cook anything you want. Dareian is 20, ran away from home to join the circus (okay, give this guy more than nine seconds next time), used to play hockey and can talk like Donald Duck. Sean has another routine, and it's African dance. Hope it's better than the last routine of his we saw. Janelle gets a little injured in rehearsal, but she bounces back, poor thing.
The Dance: Janelle looks pretty fierce in this, and Dareian meets her head on. This is another tough routine, and because (again) the dancers have so much to do it's almost exhausting to watch. But really good job. This show is just getting better, really. I could quibble about some bungled footing, but I won't.
The Judges: Nigel loves the routine. He thinks Janelle and Dareian are exciting as dancers, and he's shocked Janelle has overcomes her injuries. If she survives rehearsals, she could do well! Mary thinks they came out winners. Kenny thought the piece took him to many, many places, like a dance travelog. They set the place on fire!
Time for a break. Dance Day submissions! July 28th, people! You can do it in a Porta-Potty! Or on a roof! Or in a basement! Just dance, dammit! Dizzyfeetfoundation.org!
The Background: Eliana is 21 and hates raisins, loves "True Blood" and digs the word Alfred. Um, okay, tha's specific. Cyrus is 22, he's a Pisces, has ear gauges and loves shoes.
Tyce D'Orio will be doing a Broadway routine with them. Cyrus has never done choreography, so Tyce is getting a little panicked. And yelly. Tyce is never yelly, so he must be worried.
The Dance: Turns out there's no reason for worry. Cute, cute routine. Just so fun and so upbeat and man, two very watchable dancers. It seems that Tyce might have simplified it a bit for Cyrus, but he pulls it off. After a few serious performances, it's a relief to see a routine that's just plain fun.
The Judges: Mary thinks they brought the house down. She says people will watch their routine over and over again. Mary can feel Cyrus' heart out on the stage and she thinks Eliana is a ballerina who can really get down. Kenny felt like he was watching a Broadway production. He thought they were on fire and thinks they kicked it all the way to the back wall. Nigel loves Cyrus but doesn't think he's a great dancer yet, but he gives himself 100 percent. Nigel thinks Eliana is the benchmark that all the other girls need to reach, even though she hasn't had a chance to show all she can do.
The Background: Audrey is 18 and is from Oklahoma, can fart with neck and loves Taylor Lautner. Matthew is 21, digs hiking, is a cat person and is terrified of sharks. Oh, he also has 6 tattoos. He and Audrey will be doing a Travis Wall routine inspired by "Titanic."
The Dance: Oh, this one is GOOD. Really, really good. A truly emotional routine, executed with such heart. Beautiful. When Audrey jumps off the sofa into Matthew's arms? Epic. Best dance of the night thus far.
The Judges: Standing O from the judges, so I think we all agree on this one. Kenny thinks it was gorgeously danced and exquisitely choreographed. Nigel declares it his favorite dance of the night. Big props to Travis, but he got brilliant dancers. Word. Mary thinks Travis probably felt like he won the lottery by getting these two. She thought it was perfection.
The Background: Lindsay is 18, loves food, hates spiders and loathes tomatoes. And she can't cook. Cole is 26, a ninja Asian cliche who likes math. Also, he's descended from the famous 47 Ronin sumurai. He and Lindsay will be doing a paso doble.
The Dance: Okay, maybe this is the best dance of the night, period. Cole is FIERCE and Lindsay is selling it. Tonight's performances have gotten stronger and stronger as the evening's gone on, don't you think? Lindsay seems to poop out a little at the end, but that's understandable. Love this one.
The Judges: Kenny thought it was two of the best performances he'd seen on the show. Mary can't stop screaming. She thought it was pure paso doble. NIgel knows Cole's done more than martial arts, as that was the best paso doble he's seen from any guy on the show. He thinks they both have a little magic.
Overall, I thought the bar (or barre -- wanna give props to the ballet dancers) was set very high. No one really muffed it, no one was so out of their element you shielded your eyes, and let's face it -- a lot of the dancers were not dancing in anything close to their genres. This is gonna be a goooood season. Alas, next week four dancers go home. Although I didn't think I was going to miss the results show, the fact that results are now going to be crammed into a performance episode makes me a little sad -- I want to see this group dance for the full two hours.
If I had to send anyone home (not that I would want to -- everyone was really pretty damn good), I think Janaya and Witney for the girls, Chehon and Daniel (sorry, Daniel -- it's not you, it's the routine) might be in danger. But the margins this year are going to be razor thin from week to week. Don't forget to vote!
Who do you think knocked it out of the park? Who was weakest? Do you think the judges got it right?
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