So You Think You Can Dance Top 20 Performance Recap: The Battle Begins! [Updated]
BEST OF THE NIGHT | Amy & Fik-Shun (Contemporary, Sonya Tayeh) I can barely remember how Sonya explained the dance — and it didn’t matter a bit, not with the way Amy and Fik-Shun executed the movements in a way that conveyed a struggle between two opposing forces. There was an electricity that crackled every time the duo made contact, and the degree of physicality and difficulty was perhaps the highest of the episode. I loved that move where Amy hurtled onto Fik-Shun’s back, sat for a beat, and then shifted position without any perceptible strain, as if she were a simple extension of his body rather than a separate entity. Mary was right: Last week Fik-Shun didn’t seem strong enough in his own style; this time around, he is looking like a potential front-runner. And Amy is almost a shoo-in for Top 5 ladies.
BEST OF THE NIGHT (RUNNER-UP) | Hayley & Curtis (Hip-Hop, Christopher Scott) I was a little uncertain of the Hayley-Curtis pairing — especially on a sexy hip-hop number about a man’s dance with a deadly assassin — but the fact of the matter is they hit it harder than Wladimir Klitschko in a title fight. The synchronization was flawless, the footwork was fleet, and Curtis somehow transitioned from boy to man the minute the music began to play. There were moments I wished Mr. Scott had kept the lamp props as supporting players rather than giving them equal billing to Curtis and Hayley, but the final third of the dance had me clapping and hollering with delight.
WORST OF THE NIGHT | Alexis & Nico (Hip-Hop, Christopher Scott) In a week where most of the dancing was solid (if not totally spectacular), this was the lone weed in the flower bed — with hammy facial expressions, lethargic floor work and all the crispness of a paper towel in a mud puddle. Subtract another five points for Nico’s oblivious response to the judges’ criticisms — “I had a lot of fun doing it!” Dude, that’s not the point of this exercise, okay?
WORST OF THE NIGHT (RUNNER-UP) | Makenizie & Paul (Viennese Waltz, Jason Gilkison) To be fair, there was a sweet flow to this waltz that was certainly aided by Makenzie’s candy confection of a pink skirt and the introduction of an umbrella to the mix. My problem was I didn’t feel any chemistry whatsoever between the “princess” and her “dream man” — a problem exacerbated by the dancers’ unrelenting pageant smiles. If these two are going to be in it for the long haul, they’re going to need to bring more raw passion and connectedness; there’s no interview or swimsuit portions to this competition, after all.
BEST ATTEMPT TO OVERCOME BAD CHOREOGRAPHY| Jenna and Tucker (Broadway, Tyce Diorio) I really, really, really wish that Nigel Lythgoe would think about adding 10 or 12 new choreographers to the Season 10 mix. Maybe those new voices would light a fire under choreographers like Tyce to stop them from phoning it in with a Broadway routine that was hampered by a hazy storyline, a lack of synchronization, lame props (how exactly did the clothesline and sheets enhance the movement?) and a very low degree of difficulty. Jenna and Tucker gamely tried to overcome — dude has astonishing athleticism, while Jenna’s already in the running for an Emmy for Best Use of Legs in a Live TV Show. If either one gets booted next week, it’ll be one of the great tragedies of Season 10.
MOST OVERHYPED (BUT STILL QUITE GOOD) | Brittany & BluPrint (Afro-Jazz, Sean Cheesman) Don’t get me wrong, Brittany and BluPrint had some great moments in a routine that took them further outside their comfort zone than Michele Bachmann at a Gay Pride parade — the “dragged by the feet” sequence was particularly nifty — but I felt like the dancers began to tire a little bit after the midway marker. And for whatever reason, I couldn’t quite shake my longing for Janelle and Dareian’s similar (but superior) dance from last year. Also, should we talk about Nigel’s INSANE commentary about how people shouldn’t assume BluPrint would excel at Afro-Jazz because he’s black? WHO WOULD ASSUME THAT? “You didn’t grow up in a jungle,” Nigel rambled. The only way his critique could’ve been more uncomfortable is if he’d brought the name Paula Deen into it.
MOST SURPRISING CHEMISTRY| Malece & Jade (Jazz, Travis Wall) Travis’ piece about a classic film couple experiencing tension when she gets the better reviews was oddly (almost offputtingly) specific, and the finishing note — Malece stuffing a newspaper into Jade’s mouth — was disappointingly artless. That said, to my eyes, the duo really delivered — seamlessly weaving from sexual heat to simmering tension and back, and nailing the fast, staccato nature of the moves. And while it probably shouldn’t count, I’ve got to give props to Jade for Best Facial Expression as Cat Read His Voting Numbers. Dude is an absolute hoot!
MOST DISAPPOINTING | Mariah & Carlos (Jive, Jason Gilkison) Following Top 20 announcement night, I’d pegged Mariah as a Season 10 front-runner, but Mary was right that her jive with Carlos had a “labored” quality to it (despite being set to Fantasia’s excellent “Get It Right.”) I respected the amount of effort it took to pull off all those tricks without someone tearing a tendon, but the final third of the routine had all the joy of carrying one’s oversized Costco purchases up to a fourth-floor walkup.
ROUTINE I’M NOT SURE HOW I FEEL ABOUT | Jasmine M & Alan (Contemporary, Travis Wall) I had to agree with Nigel that the red lace blindfolds covering Jasmine and Alan’s eyes took away an important emotional entry point into the routine. And yet there were moments — particularly the “trust fall” and “hand-swap” elements — that were mesmerizing. To be fair, Travis gave Jasmine a little more to do during the course of the routie, but Alan’s strength and steadfastness shouldn’t be underestimated, either.
POSSIBLE SEASON 10 DARK HORSES? (AKA BEST ATTEMPT TO OUTDANCE ONE’S REVOLTING COSTUMES)| Jasmine H & Aaron (Jazz, Sonya Tayeh) “Jasmine dang got some legs up there!” squealed Mary as the routine came to an end, and I was right there with her. Jasmine extension and flexibility were wondrous in Sonya’s “swamp people” number (a routine that maybe could’ve been a little “uglier,” if I’m being honest), and Aaron matched her power and intensity all the way — and managed to maintain his sex appeal even in THOSE PANTS. My one complaint — and I wish the judges had pointed it out — was that in several instances, Aaron lost his flow and fluidity while transitioning from one move to the next. He won’t be able to get away with that once the field starts shrinking.
SHOULD BE BOTTOM 6
Alexis, Makenzie, Mariah, Nico, Paul, Carlos
WILL BE BOTTOM 6
Alexis, Jenna, Mariah, Paul, Tucker, Carlos