So You Think You Can Dance Recap: Hey Now, You're With All-Stars

There’s a weird but easily identifiable pattern to the judges’ comments on Season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance, and last night, it went a little something like this:

For the male contestants: Niggling criticism, praise, praise, niggling criticism, death blow. For the ladies: Praise, praise, praise, praise, niggling criticism.

In other words, with only 10 dancers left (each paired for the first time with an All-Star former contestant), and no separate results show in the mix, Uncle Nigel & Co. made it clear with their critiques which guy and which gal would feel the sting of the guillotine on their necks after the results of last weeks’ votes were announced and the Bottom 2 from each gender danced for their lives.

On one hand, it makes sense. If the judges wated time heaping praise on the soon-to-exit dancers, it would be a disconcerting experience for the audience: “Hey! So-and-so was fantastic this week! You can’t kick her to the curb!” (Plus, just because Nigel’s obvious doesn’t necessarily mean he’s wrong.) But on the flip side, this season-long trend has sucked some of the suspense out of the proceedings. I mean, it might have made for better television last night had Nigel finished his harsh criticism of doomed George’s lack of maturity in his movement by pulling a trap-door lever and letting the kid be swallowed whole by the stage, never to be seen again.

Anyhow, since I’d also welcome the experience of sinking into the floor and turning to dust — I’m battling a summer flu with high fever and chills — I’m going to be very brief in disucssing this week’s dances. So without further ado, let’s rank the five gals and five guys based on their routines this week:

Top 5 Gals
1) Eliana (with All-Star Alex): The music (Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”) and the lighting were tremendous, but this couple — who should really dance together every week — were the true stars, creating the most vivid and breathtaking pictures from start to finish. Look for a photo of this routine in the dictionary next to “quiet intensity.”
2) Lindsay (with All-Star Jakob): I’m always a little iffy when SYTYCD goes Broadway, but “Me and My Shadow” was effervescent fun. Anyone else feel, though, like the judges’ slight lack of effusiveness is setting things up for Lindsay’s ouster next week?
3) Witney (with All-Star Nick): I agreed with Nigel that Witney brought to life every rhythm and every beat of the music, and her footwork was fab.
4) Tiffany (with All-Star Brandon): Girlfriend looked a little wobbly in the opening set of spins, no? But she might’ve earned a pass to the Top 4 girls by virtue of that mid-air, upside-down split executed while latched onto Brandon’s trunk (pictured). Yowza!
5) Audrey (with All-Star Twitch): Audrey went into the piece thinking she’d get upstaged by Twitch, and that lack of confidence made it a self-fulfilling profecy. Adieu!

Top 5 Guys
1) Will (with All-Star Kathryn): On a week where the men were a little underwhelming, Will put the “charm” in his Bollywood snake-charmer, and started looking like a potential winner. I loved the lightness of his poses juxtaposed with the outright stomp of his footwork.
2) George (with All-Star Allison): I understood Nigel’s critique about George’s lack of maturity — certainly, he was more Allison’s submissive than her sexual equal. But if you viewed the piece as naive-kid-gets-seduced-by-one-of-SYTYCD’s-all-time-greats, it worked splendidly, no? The guy’s quality of movement will be missed.
3) Cyrus (with All-Star Jaimie): I know the judges love Cyrus, and he certainly brought passion to the post-apocalyptic contemporary piece, but several of the lifts looked positively labored. I don’t see how much further dude could or should go.
4) Cole (with All-Star Anya): There were transitions and moments throughout the dance where my notes read “doesn’t look like ballroom” and “sloppy?” Thankfully, the judges were able to translate my doubts into actionable critique. Is this a one-week blip, or did Cole peak too soon?
5) Chehon (with All-Star Lauren): The judges praised Chehon for his looseness, but for a hip-hop routine — or even a “slinky groove-hop” as Mary called it — shouldn’t there have been some kind of hard-hittingness? A hot, honeyed mess from the choreography to the execution.

As for the Bottom 2 girls (Audrey, Witney) and guys (Chehon, George), the women’s solos did nothing to sway me from the inevitable conclusion (Witney, safe!), but on the guys’ side, George’s evocative, “clutching the crystal ball” solo (which seemed somewhat inspired by last week’s “Hometown Glory”) was so special, I thought the judges might spare him and axe Chehon. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Anyhow, for next week, here’s my predictions:

Should Be in the Bottom
Tiffany and Witney
Chehon and Cole

Will Be in the Bottom
Tiffany and Lindsay
Chehon and Will

What did you think of this week’s SYTYCD? Who should and will be in trouble next week? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. S says:

    I felt like Cheon was dancing a solo that was choreographed by Cole. It wasn’t him or his, it was Cole and George should have stayed over Cheon but in the end Cheon is better on the eyes and that means more profit in Uncle Nigel’s pocket.

  2. forwarddad says:

    Your cold must have clouded your thoughts :-). I thought Will was more of an actor than a dancer. Cute but lacking technique. I am so over Cole – another actor with little technique. Sick of the hamming. Reminds me of Robert who eventually cut it out and even Jesse the Broadway dancer. So over sex kitten Witney . She should go home next but Nigel will save her.

    • Nigel Is Pervy says:

      Pervy Nigel always saves Witney because he is a dirty old man! Love this show, though except for him.

      • Jake says:

        Michael, I still don’t understand why you and other critics have continuously lavished so much praise on this show. Nigel’s critiques have always been so manipulative and deliberate–this is not a new development. He goes on and on saying that Chehon can’t connect to the audience because he’s been in the Bottom 2 twice and yet he fails to mention the same thing for Whitney and Lindsay. How does he know? Is he doing focus groups on what people think of Chehon? We get it…Nigel likes who he likes and manipulates his comments accordingly…but this foreshadowing of who is in the Bottom 2 is a bit sickening and unfair to the contestants.

      • I think all men, like the blathering brit Nigel, who use the terms darling, sweetheart, etc when addressing women, especially young women with whom they have no relationship are pervs! My dislike of Nigel grows and grows.

  3. CC says:

    Cole has a foot injury. The doctor told him that he could not practice for the two days before the show, so he was seriously down in rehearsal time.

    • Yeah, they even noted that he couldn’t perform in the opening number – I wish that they’d been a bit clearer that Cole was performing with a foot injury (just because it feels a bit under-the-bus-y, because normally contestants get talked the hell up when performing while injured).

    • pylgrym says:

      Will someone explain to me why an attractive mature man who likes girls is called a perv? Spending way too much time with alternate lifestyles. No matter what they claim, straight is still considered acceptable-maybe even “normal”.

  4. Alan says:

    The moment Chehon turned around at the beginning of his solo I connected with him more than any other dancer this season. He seemed pretty intent on not being sent home. His style reminds me a lot of Danny from season 3 (who in my opinion is the best SYTYCD contestant ever). I always find that I end up rooting for contestants with more sedate personalities on this kind of show which basically just sets me up for dissapointment because you either have to be “quirky” or “goofy” for the .voters to get behind you. Shame.

    On another note, I find it quite insulting to the majority of dancers that have left that Cyrus is still in the competition. He was more like a forklift carrying Jaimie around the stage tonight than a dancer yet the judges continuously praise him for not sucking. The show is called “So You Think You Can Dance” not “So You Think You Can Be A Nice Guy”.

    • tewence says:

      i agree about cyrus. and i believe it was nigel who said “travis didn’t hold back.” false. all cyrus did was pick her up. and the ONE step he did (cabriole) was atrocious. i love love love cyrus in his element, but he really has no place in the competition at this stage of the game. it isn’t fair to the others who are more relevant to do the choreography thrown at them.

    • D says:

      I strongly disagree with the remarks about Cyrus. Cyrus has been able to do all the types of dances that have been assigned to him but do you see any other dancer that could even attempt his style. Nope! Yeah this show is called so you think you can Dance so you want a dancer that can do all types and still connect with the audience. Cyrus is that guy. And as far as his choreography goes for that week. You can’t blame him for it. He does what the choreographer arranges for him. It wasn’t his fault that he got choreography that highlighted the girl for the most part. And look who made it to the top 2. Ha! obviously everyone thinks he’s good at what he does.

  5. Ioan says:

    Eliana and Alex were the best of the night. The judges aren’t even trying to hide who they want to go through or be eliminated.

  6. Ioan says:

    Oh yeah, and I have connected with Chehon and like him a lot. I think Nigel is trying to make the audience think that they can’t connect with him. It’s a matter of opinion and different personalities.

  7. Wesley says:

    It’s definitely being set up as a Cyrus-Eliana win this season. And I think I’m sorta fine with that. I know Cyrus isn’t the best dancer, but he is hella fun and you can’t hate the guy at all. If he ever was in the bottom, I know that the judges would keep him, cuz his solos are INSANE. Eliana is absolute perfection, if she doesn’t win it’ll be such a shame.

    I really only liked Eliana’s, Cyrus’, and Tiffany’s routines. Will did a fine job, but bollywood doesn’t suck me in really. The others, it felt something was really off. The ballroom girls have really been getting the short end of the stick with these routines, it’s too bad really.

    I think the judges made the right decisions this week. I think George was amazing, and I gasped when he lifted himself up from that back turn, but they can’t save him over again. His partnering has really never worked, it’s too bad since he’s an exceptional soloist. Chehon, I was ready for him to go for awhile, but I knew that if it was George again he would’ve been safe. Anyone else was there he would’ve been ousted. I was getting tired of Audrey, and she never gave me a performance that really wowed me. Tiffany is definitely the better brunette, and I’m glad she’s still there. And Witney’s solo, I’m gonna commit some blasphemy, but that was by far my favorite ballroom solo, I can ever recount on SYTYCD. I’m super glad she was safe because that solo, WOW. And they say ballroom dancers can’t do good solos.

  8. Nancy Todd says:

    I hope you feel better real soon, Michael and thank-you for posting the recap. I always enjoy them.

  9. Fan says:

    Why is Alex an all-star? Did he actually participate in an entire season? I remember when he got injured and had to drop out during the first week. Did he later come back a different season and participate?

    • Jas says:

      Did you not see the routine last night? Not trying to be funny, but Alex is a BEAST. He got injured during his own season, then got injured again, but on the other foot or leg. He would have won…

    • Jim says:

      Alex was on Season 7. He didn’t get injured the first week; it happened several weeks in. He was able to give a couple very memorable performances before then. Namely his contemporary with Allison and hip-hop with Twitch. He was a judges’ fave and might’ve even won if he didn’t tear his achilles.

    • Meg says:

      They don’t call him Alex FREAKING Wong for nothing. (And yes, FREAKING is always capitalized.)

    • Nigel Is Pervy says:

      Because he’s Alex freaking Wong!

  10. Playhouse says:

    Gotta be honest, the passion in Cyrus’ dance completely caught me off-guard last night and was the only one to really stir and draw my attention. (Admittedly, I was only half-watching the show last night; this season’s format really has killed a lot of interest or connection with the show for me.) I was quite surprised by how moved I was with the dance. I like Cyrus but it’s clear he’s years of study away from being as capable as a number of the others in the competition. Still, the “raw energy” the judges talked about is something to behold. Yeah, he’s around this far out of sentimentality, but I wouldn’t say that makes us worse for wear out of it.

    • BDL says:

      You should see my 4 year old son. He dances with complete joy, abandonment, and raw energy. Doesn’t mean he should be on this show.

  11. fiona says:

    For the very fact that cole injured his foot (and frankly is still injured ie the criticisms that he wasn’t heavy on his feet) and he lost two days of practice he did an admirable job on the cha cha

    • Pearl says:

      The greatest thing? Even though the Judges criticism could be easily justified by his injurie, he DIDN’T try to use it. He could say that he wasn’t feeling able to perform hard on his feet, but he didn’t argue. He is a great professional, he won’t complain. And i loved his Cha cha. It was one of the most intense Cha chas of the last years, c’mon. Just because he has a martial arts’ background doesn’t mean he cant be a great dancer. He applies himself so much in the character and in perfect his lines and footsteps. I like him much more than Will and Cyrus!

  12. Liz says:

    Welcome back Jakob!!! Watching the George and Allison routine I couldn’t help thinking how much better Jakob would have done it. The lines, the extensions. And kudos to Lindsay, in a routine that had basically no partnering at all, she did a commendable job beside a master.

  13. All stars make everything better. After the Epic Fail that was last week. This week had a lot of great routines and performances. I was so glad to see Eliana finally perform to the best of her abilities. Bottom for next week should be: Cole, Cyrus, Lindsey, and Tiffany. Check out the rest of my thoughts here:

    • It seems obvious that it would have been better to delay the Mia Michaels retrospective to a week in which there were all-stars. The all-stars would have made a huge difference in the mastery of the choreo. But with the current crappy high tech staging and lighting distracting from the dancing, the routines would not be as good as the originals even if the original dancers were doing them on this stage. Current stage backdrop and lighting sucks big time! Camera work also sucks a good part of the time.

  14. Matt says:

    I don’t deny that Eliana is probably the best dancer there, but I want Lindsay to be the girl winner. I don’t know what it is, but whenever she’s dancing it just draws me in. She was fantastic last night, in what was my favorite routine. I was a little nervous with her doing broadaway with Jacob. That just sets her up to be inadequate. But she was anything but. For how much they made is seem during auditions and Vegas week that Whitney was the ballroom girl to watch, they should be ashamed to have diminished Lindsay’s ability like that.

    As for the guys honestly none of them thrill me. Ultimately I was watching the girl all-stars the whole time. Not shocking when you have dancers like Kathryn, Allison, and Anya, but still none of the guys draw my attention at all.

  15. Stafford says:

    While you are my favorite TV writer (and I keep refreshing your site all day just so I can read your recaps or articles) I wouldn’t want you to write anything at the expense of your health! Have you been bitten by a mosquito lately? (I’m just saying that West Nile Virus is all over the news and don’t forget Lyme disease)…so take care of yourself.

    Oh, and I do hate the new format. You are absolutely right that Nigel telegraphs who’s out. Shouldn’t the judges recuse themselves from looking at the results until Cat discloses them live? That would at least give some semblance of fairness in judging.

  16. Dee says:

    Eliana and Alex was like a match made in heaven!!! They are beasts, love love love them both. I thought Lindasy did a great job considering dancing next to yet another beast, Jakup. I love Kathryn and Will, but didn’t care for the Bollywood routine. Aubrey and Tiffany are interchangeable for me. But Aubrey sucked in that hip hop routine, but the routine sucked anyway, even though Twitch still killed it. I hate Dave Scotts routines, I just never like his choreography. Chehon routine was terrible, he is a brilliant dancer, but in his style, I have yet to see him really that great in anything but his style, jmo. I thought Whitneys was pretty cool too. All in all the guys are pretty underwhelming this season. The girls are better, but to me this season just isn’t all that great. The new format, the dancers, it’s just flawed. I hope my girl Eliana takes it, because the other girls are ok, but nothing all that special.

  17. Realist says:

    I’m not a fan of Cyrus and his contemporary routine was heavily watered down in technique. A plethora of lifts and a poorly executed cabriole just isn’t good enough for this stage of the competition. I didn’t buy his emotional performance in the routine, and I’m not moved when he tears up every time someone gets eliminated.

    I think it’s unfair that dancers who have been cut, and even those who made it to the green mile but didn’t make the show are put aside for someone who cannot dance well outside their own genre. Lots of dancers are asked to come back after they’ve trained more in other styles, while Cyrus gets into the top 20 on his first attempt.

    I don’t think Cyrus has justified his position on the show, and the judges babying of him just makes it worse. He reminds me most of Cedric from season 3, except Cedric was fairly critiqued and was able to show his potential by dancing well in his mambo routine.

    If you’re untrained and unique, and crave fame that badly, go on ABCD or America’s Got Talent. His presence in the top 20 just drags the show further down in its downward slope since season 5.

    This show, albeit being a popularity contest, is still a dance show, where dancers have to show versatility in all styles. Likability is fine, but there should be a balance between being likable and being able to dance. Defenders of Cyrus always rant on about contemporary dancers not being able to dance hip hop as well as Cyrus, or contemporary dancers getting equally watered down routines, but I think the elimination of multiple technicians such as Alexa, Amber, Amelia, Aubrey, George and Matthew has shown that dancers who aren’t versatile have been justly eliminated.

    George was bound to be eliminated because of his introverted personality and multiple bottom three appearances, but Cyrus needs to go next. Unfortunately, it’s sadly foreseeable that he’ll be dancing hip hop again next week.

    • Dave says:


    • ladyhelix says:

      It is America’s FAVORITE dancer, and he has yet to be in danger. Based on that – there is no “unfairness” in regards to Cyrus.

      • Realist says:

        I never used the word “unfairness”, so I’m not sure what you’re quoting. I said that it was unfair that other dancers who have shown more versatility have been eliminated before him, and insinuated that he shouldn’t be in the competition at all, let alone the top 10.

        It is America’s favorite dancer – but shouldn’t America’s favorite dancer be able to excel at other genres of dance outside their own? Shouldn’t America’s favorite dancer be able to dance at the same level of difficulty as their competitors? If Cyrus wins the competition, the message that will be sent out is that you can just be unique and dabble on the surface of other styles and win the competition, while other dancers who are challenged lose out.

        Cyrus hasn’t shown the same amount of growth, potential for growth or versatility as previous top 10 b-boys, hip hop and krump dancers such as Ivan, Joshua, Legacy, Russell, Twitch, etc. They all have had more training than Cyrus, but there’s no reason why Cyrus couldn’t have taken a year or two to train up. It’s season 9 – dancers applying for this show should know by now that you’re expected to dance in a multitude of styles. Therefore, I don’t understand why he applied for this show over other dance-oriented shows to begin with. He not only burdens himself by being an average competitor on the show, he also burdens the other dancers who are eliminated before him, and especially Eliana for dancing in non-challenging routines as a result of being paired with Cyrus.

        If he wins the competition, I guess it paves the way for Fox to allow other classically untrained dancers such as lap dancers and strippers into the top 20 – I mean, as long as they excel in their own style and are entertaining and extremely likable, right? But I guess they achieved that with Janelle.

        • The Squatch says:

          I have to agree. I just don’t get why Cyrus is still around. You can clearly see that they’re making his routines easier than every one else and even then he just doesn’t seem that good. Sure, he has plenty of personality and is supposed to be great at his own style, (Personally, I don’t even know if I would call what he does in his own style “dancing” to begin with.), but I don’t think that should be enough. Every other dancer had what seemed like very difficult and challenging routines and all he had to do was keep lifting and putting back down his partner while music happened to be playing in the background.

          I would ask that Cyrus fans please don’t attack me and try to convince me how wrong I am. This is all simply my opinion on him. I can respect the fact that you like him so I will ask that you respect the fact that I don’t. Personally, I think Cole is probably my favorite out of the male dancers left and Eliana my favorite of the females.

    • Monica says:

      Oh stop hating, he is there b/c he has a fan base that others did not.

  18. Amy says:

    I love Will, and his adorableness! He’s the “Benji” of the season. Not the best dancer, but one of the most loved.

  19. Luke says:

    Well, sick one, you are right about the obvious set-ups for a let-down – Especially because I thought – LAST week – that Amelia danced the hell out of that butt dance yet got a meh from Nigel – and THIS week – the same thing happened to Audrey – who I thought kept up with Twitch and brought humor and personality to the dance – yet, surprise! Guess who didn’t like it so much? That is what I HATE about this season – And could Nigel be more self-congratulating during the show? Yeesh. And even though Eliana is far and away the best dancer – I’m rooting for Lindsay because I still can’t believe Eliana – a grown woman – wouldn’t know you can’t have a bird In Your Bed without risking suffocating it!!

  20. Liana in San Diego says:

    Despite Nigel’s comments that we are to look for more than just good dancing in the contestants, the show is, after all, called “So you think you can DANCE,” not be charming and raw. Cyrus is adorable, but he can’t dance worth a fig, and it’s insulting that he even made it into the top 10. That spot should be for real dancers, not someone who “tries” and shows passion. Puh-leeze! He had better not be one of the last ones left or I’ll swear off this show. And yes, the format truly sucks this year.

  21. Lana says:

    I have no idea why the bird in the bed has anything to do with dancing but each to his own thing…I do agree about Cyrus but I also see what Nigel and the others see, but I do think we are down to the better dancers that Cyrus can’t possibly beat. However America, we can be a strange group!. I was thrilled to see Alex and I want to see lots more of him, I don’t care who they pair him with. I love Whitney so I was shocked to see her in the bottom but then I was shocked to see Eliana in the bottom that one week. I love Will and vote for him and Cole each week and I thought he did awesome this week as usual. I too hate the new format and wish we had the result show back, maybe next year?? Surely the result show did better in ratings than those God awful dating shows did?

  22. Ugh, Cole needs to go! When you can’t fake a chemistry connection with Anya (who DRIPS sex appeal), then you’ve gone far enough.

    In our review we heaped nothing but praise on Eliana (partially because of our intense love for Alex FRIGGIN Wong). She’s going to walk away with this whole thing!

    Also, much better group number this week than last. It helped that we could actually see everything happening…

  23. Grace says:

    Don’t really see a point in having a girl and guy winner this season..Eliana is the clear winner here.

  24. Miss O' Ginnis says:

    More importantly who was the dancer from Project LA flirting with Cat after their routine?

  25. The Squatch says:

    Is it too late to vote for Alex…? hehe

  26. Suzy says:

    I don’t get the Witney love! In all of her routines over the last few weeks, she’s done a LOT less work in the routines than her partners… there was such an obvious difference in skill level between her and Chehon that I found them difficult to watch. (Similarly with Eliana and Cyrus, though the hip hop robot routine was a great marrying of their talents). Lindsey is by far the better technical dancer of the “ballroom girls” and had shown a greater emotional range.

    • Tamara says:

      THANK YOU! I really don’t get the big hype about Witney. I think she just got a great edit through the auditions and Vegas (over Lindsay) and the judges seem determined not to let go of it. To be honest, I couldn’t really tell who was better when they were both doing ballroom- its all a lot of hair tossing and hip shaking and they’re both great at it no doubt- but I feel like Lindsay has really progressed past being just a ballroom dancer and has shown really impressive strides with her contemporary pieces (which are equally matched in skill levels with the male). Witney is still just a sexy ballroom dancer, who’s gotten by on amazingly choreographed routines that don’t have her doing as much as the guy, as you rightly pointed out. I really really like Lindsay and hope she isn’t in the bottom 2 next week because she’s going home if she is.

  27. J. Lindberg says:

    I’m sorry, but I think you’re totally clueless about who belongs in the bottom!

  28. Nichole says:

    Thank-you for the review, hope you are felling better soon!! Have to say that the choreography this season has been really disappointing for the most part, until last night’s Staci Tucci (spelling?) piece, which as beautifully danced. I feel this has lead to a very disappointing season for performances compared with the last few years. That opening group number last night by Tyce was awful!! Mia’s the week before was fantastic though :)

  29. Every week, I find myself wishing that the more organic staging and lighting from 3+ seasons ago would return. The high tech stuff is so distracting as a backdrop to dance performance. Whoever decided on that should be ‘shot’! Go back and look at the staging from all seasons prior to season 7 and you’ll see what I mean. You could see the dance performances without background distraction. Camera work was better back then by a mile or a million miles sometimes!