(Sniffles) There sure was (gasp) a lot (gulp) of tears (rapid inhales of breath) last night (rubs at eyes), huh? (Stops, takes several deep breaths, centers self, starts sobbing again, steps away from the keyboard, centers self again, blows nose, returns to writing) So You Think You Can Dance‘s Vegas Week has always been a brutal, emotional, and infuriating Bataan Death March of auditions, winnowing nearly 200 dancers down to a TV-friendly 20, and last night’s Vegas Week episode brought the drama on all levels. Some superlative dancers faltered just once and found themselves starring in their own SYTYCD mini-episode of ”Walking Out the Door While Talking to the Camera As Sappy Music Plays Me Home.” Others continually screwed up and were given reprieve several times over, only to be cut at the end. And some made it to the very last stage largely on the sheer power of a well-fitting skimpy dance outfit. Well, okay, I’m only thinking of one specific dancer for each of these categories, but you get the idea.
And such is life as a fan of a reality competition show on the Fox network. Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe told me flat out last year that he’s ”casting” the Top 20, and that he doesn’t ”always pick the best dancers,” so of course some questionable cuts are to be expected. Like, let’s just call it now, the highly mysterious dismissal of Natalie Reid. I’ll grant you that there was a marked contrast between her rehearsal performance and her actual performance of Sonya Tayeh’s jazz routine — while the former, done with BFF Brandon Bryant, was near perfection, she danced for the judges with her new partner like someone had just let rip a massive fart and she was still overcome with the giggles about it. And yet Natalie’s unfocused dancing still wasn’t nearly the kind of stiff, bumfuzzled mess that befell Gabi Rojas in both the Tabitha and Napoleon D’Umo hip-hop and the Sonya jazz number. But Natalie was the one sent home with barely an explanation other than she somehow didn’t live up to expectations, while Gabi was first passed along on the strength of her initial solo after a disastrous hip-hop routine, and then given the chance to dance for her life after her robotic jazz, a chance Natalie equally deserved but never received.
The whole interlude left a bitter taste in my mouth and the feeling that far more went down with both women than we were privy to on the show. Perhaps Nigel and Co. were just put out that Natalie’s performance for them was sub par compared with her performance during rehearsals. (Earlier in the recap, Adam wrote: ”Natalie’s unfocused dancing still wasn’t nearly the kind of stiff, bumfuzzled mess that befell Gabi Rojas.” He will now allude to that sentence while discussing the producer’s apparent lack of confidence in the audience’s short term memories.) Or perhaps the judges cut Gabi more slack for her stiff dancing because she has rheumatoid arthritis — an affliction, by the way, that didn’t come up once in an episode filled with reminders of what had happened two minutes previous, let alone nutshell bios of castoff dancers like “football coach’s son Travis Prokop” and “widow Talia Rickards.”
NEXT: The big and small wonderful moments from last night