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So You Think You Can Dance recap: 'So You Think You Can Dance' Top 12 performance night recap

On their last night together as couples, the Top 12 struggle when tasked with performing two routines

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James Dimmock/FOX

So You Think You Can Dance

TV Show
Reality TV
run date:
Nigel Lythgoe, Cat Deeley, Mary Murphy
Current Status:
In Season

I owe Jesse Tyler Ferguson an apology. In my walk-up PopWatch post for last night’s Top 12 performance episode of So You Think You Can Dance, I threw some serious shade his way for deigning to step behind the judges’ table with nary a single qualification to even semiprofessionally judge professional dancing. Sure, he was in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on Broadway, but that show, charming as it is, is not exactly A Chorus Line. No matter, though, because last night the ginger half of the Tucker-Pritchett household on Modern Family proved himself to be uncannily qualified to judge dancing … on this specific dancing competition-cum-reality television program. A true SYTYCD superfan, Mr. JTF was witty and natty, self-depreciating and self-possessed, offering well-phrased praise and thoughtful reproach — basically everything you want out of an Emmy-nominated gay dinner party guest. And he capped it all with a genuine, long-deserved tribute to the sparkling, fringe-y swizzle stick that is host Cat Deeley, who if the world is in any way just and kind should be an Emmy nominee by the time you read this. Bravo, JTF, bravo. I shall never doubt your SYTYCD bona fides again.

I only wish the episode JTF presided over with professional guest judge Mia Michaels Jr. Sonya Tayeh had matched his unabashed enthusiasm. Perhaps this is a classic case of being careful what you wish for: For weeks now, I’ve been harping on the judges for overpraising the dancers, and the producers for letting the couples “pull” genres too far in their own wheelhouse. Alas, when asked this week to dance two routines, at least one of which was an out-of-wheelhouse challenge, every single couple struggled — some much more than others — and the judges (for the most part) let ’em have it. The result: Only two couples managed to stake an obvious claim to a slot in the top 10.

Sasha and Alexander were not one of them, thanks to a paso doble by Tony Meredith and EW.com guest blogger Melaine LaBetteMidlerPatin that to my eye started strong but fell apart once the dancers moved into a close hold. As my colleague Mandi Bierly says, whenever these dancers do ballroom badly, it looks like they’re stumbling around in half time. Sasha kept looking down at her feet, and Alexander too often just does not seem to be all that aware of and/or confident about where he needs to put his hands. That’s a chronic problem for him, actually. In the opening pose of their Tyce Diorio jazz number, Alexander slammed his hand smack down on Sasha’s face; not 30 seconds later, he just about mauled her left breast instead of grabbing her waist like he clearly should have. It was such a jarring sight, I kinda checked out of the entire number; it was only after the judges heaped praise upon it that I went back and rewatched it. And I guess I get what they were saying — they both did dance with abandon, power, and conviction, and Alexander finally managed to stay out of Sasha’s hungry shadow. But I still found the number itself to be Tyce’s usual brew of individually well-done moments that add up to an exhausting and shapeless mélange of movement. He’s like the Michael Bay of SYTYCD choreography. Still, that’s no reason for Sonya to compare him to “[bloop].”

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