On ''So You Think You Can Dance,'' Lauren inexplicably edges out Anya; otherwise, the show has produced a solid touring company

By Adam B. Vary
Updated July 20, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Joe Viles/FOX
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”So You Think You Can Dance”: Meet the top 10

I seem to recall once upon a time when one Lauren Gottlieb was standing before the judges waiting to hear whether she would make it to the So You Think You Can Dance Top 20. Lauren, see, had only just the year before served as the assistant to one of the SYTYCD choreographers, and lead judge and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe was deeply concerned that if he chose Lauren for the Top 20, he would be accused of showing favoritism to a former employee (of sorts). So when he did bring Lauren into the fold, he warned her, in no uncertain terms, that if anything, the judges were going to be holding her to a higher standard than any of the other dancers.

Cut to last night, with Lauren and Anya standing side by side, waiting to hear whether they had made it into the SYTYCD top 10 and, more important, earned a spot on the upcoming 50-plus-city SYTYCD tour — and the paycheck that comes with it. Anya, week in and week out, had consistently delivered stellar performances, more that matching the peerless technique of her partner Danny Tidwell — and even injecting their routines together with some needed showmanship oomph. Lauren, meanwhile, had been a disappointment, coasting by with merely okay-to-good performances, once even wasting 15 seconds of a solo opportunity with a pouty walk-on intro. Nigel said as much to Lauren last night — and then announced she was in the Top 10 and Anya was going home.

Now could someone please explain to me how exactly that is holding Lauren to a higher standard?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Anya’s style requires a partner, and it’s kinda tricky to crown a single person America’s favorite dancer when that person needs another dancer to really shine. Plus, based on the studio audience’s reactions and your, er, quite lively message-board banter, Danny is still rather unpopular with a great deal of people, and that’s been bringing Anya down. What’s more, her solo costumes are, well, the sort of outfit that might force someone to say to a friend, ”Well, there were these shredded chandelier thingies hanging off her boobs….”

But come on. Isn’t it our job, the voters at home, to chose who wins based on frivolous criteria that have precious little to do with dancing? Isn’t the whole point of letting the judges have the final word for the first five eliminations to save those with true talent from an audience that largely hasn’t the first clue what ”musicality” or ”strong carriage” actually means? It’s no wonder Mary Murphy looked completely pissed off at the end; the woman may have misplaced her marbles a long time ago, but she sure had her heart and head in the right place when she proclaimed she’d go to the mat for both Danny and Anya.

This episode was all a reminder of just how small the dancing world really is. Lauren assisted Tyce Diorio, who had as his assistant this week season 2 runner-up Travis Wall, who’s the brother of contestant Danny Tidwell, whose mother, Denise Wall, also teaches contestant Jaimie. Then there’s tap-dancing guest performer Jason Samuels Smith, who’s the cousin of dance legend Debbie Allen. And I haven’t even started on the Schwimmer family yet. (Don’t worry, I will.)

But I digress. Hok’s ouster was far less of a surprise than Anya’s. He’d been faltering for weeks now while fellow break dancers Dom and Sara took flight, and you could see it in his solo last night, which was far more manic and unfocused than Hok had ever been. (Quick note: How great was it that virtually all the soloists actually interacted with the music they were dancing to? Hey, Wade, is that ”musicality”?) Even Hok knew he was going home in the end. But I do wonder if the judges were kicking themselves after they entered the studio following their deliberations and heard the sudden roar of applause when Cat reached Hok’s name in her list of the bottom three. As happened with Musa last season, the show’s managed to boot one of its most popular dancers just when things really started to get interesting.

Okay, I think my tantrum is over. (Wait, one last thing: Cat, you really have to stop breaking into Grandma’s condo. First you steal her blanket off the davenport during the auditions, and now you’ve nicked her pastel sherbet drapes for your dress! And is that her dangly costume jewelry I see on your ears? Have you no shame, Cat? It’s Grandma!)

Okay, now, really, all things considered, this is a totally fine top 10 made all the more interesting by its lack of a clear front-runner — or even a pair of top contenders, for that matter. But since this is EW.com and we sure do love our lists, here’s how I rank the contenders at the halfway point.

1. Dominic His unfortunate penchant for dropping his partner in rehearsals aside, Dom has shown fantastic growth all season long. The guy has fun on stage, so we do too, and viewers love to see talent bloom right in front of them. Plus, he’s bursting with personality and an I-wanna-be-your-friend smile — like, say, a certain earlier SYTYCD winner. Like, say the older brother of…

2. Lacey She’s had the cards stacked against her from the start: Americans are hardwired to be wary of nepotism, so the wave of popularity she’s riding now is all of her own making. If anything, she’s far more easy to watch than her frenzied brother Benji, and since she’s one of the only two dancers in the top 10 who’ve never once been in the bottom three, Lacey could very well be the first female SYTYCD winner.

3. Sara But not if Sara has anything to say, or step, about it. As I said yesterday, this B-girl seems to be able to handle any style that gets thrown at her. Her marked improvement, like Dominic’s, provides more compelling television than consistent professionalism and polish would.

4. Sabra It will be interesting to see next week whether Dom’s success owes more his own abilities or the seemingly infinite patience and support he’s received from his more technically adroit partner. Has Sabra really been the magic factor in their partnership?

5. Pasha His partnering skills are unmatched, and that will matter even more now that he’ll be switching up week to week; while others stumble, he’ll find how to click with whoever comes his way. But that pesky only-one-can-be-the-winner thing could still work against him.

6. Danny Still the best technical dancer of the bunch, he’s got a mountain of ill-feeling to surmount if he ever hopes to win. Let’s just hope the spark he found in last night’s foxtrot turns into a roaring fire.

7. Neil The dude sure is pretty, but his solo last night was all kinds of jumps and kicks and tricks with no connection to the music. Perhaps a new partner will help shake him up.

8. Jaimie She’s an elegant dancer of true sophistication — and then she opens her mouth to gush about the ”whole idea” of Hok, and I fear all is lost.

9. Kameron The judges Wednesay night were right — Dan Karaty’s routine may have been beyond lame, but the faux-hawker has yet to really come out from Lacey’s shadow to show us what he’s really all about. Then again, Kam is all with the cute, and one should never underestimate the power cuteness holds over a 13-year-old’s speed dial.

10. Lauren I think we all know where I stand with her. So moving on….

What’re your top 10 rankings? Was Anya the right person to go? Was anyone all that impressed with Jason Samuels Smith’s tap routine? And did anyone else think Enrique Iglesias looked slightly terrified that someone was going to ask him to dance?

Episode Recaps

So You Think You Can Dance

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.
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