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So You Think You Can Dance recap: SYTYCD Top 20 perform for the first time

Season 8’s top 20 dancers: nine contemporary, four jazz, four hip-hop, one Broadway, one tap, and one ballroom

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Think Dance Judges
Adam Rose/Fox

So You Think You Can Dance

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

There was so much to adore about last night’s introducing-the-top-20 episode of So You Think You Can Dance — two doses of killer hip-hop and creepy cool Sonya Tayeh! 100 percent more kooky Cat Deeley! PASHA! — that I’m going to let my snark demon Smirkelstiltskin loose now, so we can just address as Smirkel puts it “the disturbingly smooth elephant in the room” and then move on to all the SYTYCD goodness.

And so: What is Robin Antin doing on So You Think You Can Dance? Sure, she created a powerhouse dancing brand with the Pussycat Dolls, but, really, what is her function as a judge on this show? Is it to randomly bleat “Sex! Sex! Sex!” so the fine folks at The Soup have a new go-to sound bite for the summer? Is it to make Mary Murphy seem like a silken-voiced model of articulate, reasoned insight by comparison? Or is it simply Nigel Lythgoe’s diabolical attempt to undermine American Idol quasi-rival The X Factor and its new judge Nicole Scherzinger by creating an instant Pavlovian aversion among American television viewers to the words “Pussycat Doll”? All I know for certain: Smirkel has already started sculpting a shrine to Ms. Antin out of birds nests, latex gloves, and petroleum jelly, and it’s scaring the crap out of me.

Anyhoodle, last night was otherwise likely the most satisfying, least obnoxious top-20-reveal episode in SYTYCD history. As if Nigel & Co. finally realized that the Green Mile episodes are deadly boring to watch no matter how many see-’em-from-a-mile-away fake-outs they attempt to juice up the tension, this year the top 20 reveal was interspersed with introductory, genre-specific group numbers that ranged from totally fine to outrageously great. By and large, dancers who had been spotlighted either in their initial audition, Las Vegas week, or both still received the lion’s share of screen time last night, in both the Green Mile package and the group choreography. But a couple heretofore unknowns still managed to make a strong first impression. So let’s get to it!

The first group of dancers were all contemporary, with two dancers we had never really seen before, and two that have already made an indelible impression on the season. All we know of Ricky Jaime is that he first began dancing at his devoted mother’s wedding, and he is great at jumping really high with impressively expansive kicks. Somehow, we know even less about Miranda Maleski, just that she was nervous to hear the news, has very curly hair, and was wearing a pretty heart pendant on the Green Mile. I would call her obvious cannon fodder, but I still remember the fact that season 3 champ Sabra Johnson was a complete unknown heading into the top 20. Of course, even though she’s been barely featured ever since her chill-inducing initial audition, gamine kewpie doll Melanie Moore remains one of my top favorites to win — but Sasha Mallory may give Melanie a run for her money. Somehow, even though Sasha and her younger sister Natalia dominated the Vegas audition episode (or, rather, the producers chose to transform Natalia’s low blood sugar into THE TRAGEDY OF VEGAS WEEK), I still adore both of them. It takes a special kind of wit to quip, while Cat Deeley is shimmying between you and your sister, “Look, we made an Oreo!” As for this group’s Stacey Tookey number, Cat called it “like a little piece of heaven,” and I’d agree, if heaven was a melancholic commune where everyone reads Keats aloud to each other while aching with a slow, insatiable yearning for unknowable truths. Everyone’s technique sure was super, though.

NEXT: An unknown hip-hop boy stands out