Nigel and the judges narrow the field to a promising group of finalists

By Kate Ward
Updated June 10, 2010 at 06:14 AM EDT
Mathieu Young/Fox

So You Think You Can Dance

S7 E4
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While watching the most recent episode in this seventh game-changing season of So You Think You Can Dance, I realized that Nigel and the panel handed me the equivalent a great, big hot fudge sundae. We had the cool (b-boy Jose Ruiz, tapper Melinda Sullivan); the warm, cozy coating that reminds us of yesteryear (Alex Wong, Billy Bell, Christina Sullivan); and, on top of it all, a nice, sweet, zingy cherry (that would be Kent Boyd, obviously).

So it was to my pleasant surprise that by the end of the entire show, Nigel and the gang didn’t yank this delicious treat away from me. Surely, I expected in the last 10 minutes, the judge would deprive us of early favorites Billy Bell and Alexie Agdeppa, because the season was starting to look just a tad too delectable. (And don’t call me Shirley.) After all, if we’ve learned anything from reality television, it’s how much it loves to rip out our hearts and use them as hacky sacks. (Remember how it felt to lose Alex Wong last year?)

But then, somehow, they made it work. Instead of a top 10, they surprised with a top 11. They didn’t trade my hot fudge sundae for a sad, little cup of Dippin’ Dots. No, Nigel gave us a top 11 with substance; a top 11 that, when mixed together, makes for one tasty dessert. And, like a giant portion of ice cream, I have a feeling that it will make this summer awesome.

Now, before I get so hungry that I abandon my recapping duties for a trip to the kitchen, we should take a look at our top 10, which was revealed last night after we spent the first hour in Vegas watching Nigel — decked out in a Florida retiree-meets-Sue Sylvester outfit — judge our dancers through contemporary, Broadway, and group numbers. So, because I like ranking things almost as much as I like hot fudge sundaes, let me run down my predictions for this season so far.

11. Ashley Galvan: Who? Exactly. Last night was the first time we saw Lil’ C’s favorite from Vegas, and since we were only given a seconds-long snippet of her performance, I’d say the poor girl is being set up as cannon fodder. Really, Lil’ C might as well have shown up and gifted her with a red shirt, no?

10. Robert Roldan: Again, who? Like Ashley, we haven’t seen very much of the dancer, which is curious, considering the fact that he’s good enough to dance alongside Billy Bell with the Alvin Ailey troupe. Add to his lack of screen time the fact that he was a member of Vegas’ ”Take Five” group — who were all bafflingly sent through to the next round, regardless of the fact that they had whipped up a number with less energy than Eeyore after a marathon run — and Robert’s chances are hurting like Anthony Burrell’s hamstring. (Poor Anthony! We’ll get to him later.) That said, Robert is extremely kind on the eyes, so he could possibly secure votes from the squee-OMG-Twilight-butterflies-Bieber generation.

NEXT: Shouldn’t the Doritos of dancing be a good thing?

9. Melinda Sullivan: You know, it hurts me to put Melinda at No. 9. Because, honestly, I want to be Melinda. Gorgeous, talented, and a pal of a well-known 1930s-era tap dancer? The only thing that could make this girl cooler is if she, I don’t know, owned a jet pack or something totally awesome like that. But I have to be realistic. And as we’ve learned in SYTYCD seasons past, America is never too kind to tappers once they reach the top 20. (And neither are the judges, in all honestly.) Their understated solos can never reach the bombastic level of, say, contemporary numbers. It’s simply not as easy to manipulate audiences’ emotions while tapping, unless you’re living inside an MGM musical. (I’d definitely live inside Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, if given the option. Just so Gideon can show me how to jump an axe. What about you guys?) And we saw Mia tell Melinda before revealing that she had won a spot in the top 10 that the dancer’s contemporary work was ”crunchy.” When your dancing is the equivalent of a Dorito chip, I’d say things might get tough for you. (Why does this show make me so hungry?!)

8. Adechike Torbert: This contemporary dancer has one thing going for him beyond the skills: new permanent judge Mia likes him. So much so that she compared traveling to his home to give him good news to greeting a family. (Especially poignant for her, considering she recently had lost her mother.) And while I have no doubt that Mia will be stabbing him — in the good way — once the real competition begins, Adechike has to compete with the other contemporary dancers in the group. Since I don’t think we’ve seen competition this close since Bush vs. Gore, I fear Adechike might fall behind the others, due mostly to his late introduction. But then again, this is a guy that dances better knowing each day might be his last. So if he’s teetering on the edge and facing elimination, there’s no doubt he’ll be dancing like it’s December 2012.

7. Christina Santana: Unlike Billy and Alex, I’m not sure if Christina has a fan base that has followed her since she lost out on the chance to be in the top 20 last season. But considering the fact that the lady is the only ballroom dancer in this year’s competing crop, she’ll have the advantage when it comes to partnering and chemistry. And though she’ll certainly burn the floor, it’s not often that female salsa dancers progress very far in SYTYCD. But holy guacamole, who knew Christina could perform contemporary about as well as she can salsa? (Again, SYTYCD, stop making me hungry!) We could see Christina become the Heidi Groskreutz of this crop.

NEXT: The X-Men of SYTYCD

6. Lauren Froderman: I’ll admit that I hated Lauren when we first saw her do that bizarre, so-called ”sexy” Marvin Gaye number for the judges in Los Angeles. Hated. Compared her to a Bring It On reject. But you know what? I’ll admit when I’m wrong. Well, I will still contend that her audition was one of the worst Vegas-bound ones we’ve ever seen, but dammit if this girl didn’t win me over in Sin City. (She’s kind of like a Kate Hudson movie. You really want to hate it, but in the end, you walk out thinking about how you can’t wait to watch it on TBS every time the network screens it on lazy Sundays.) She sold fun during her Broadway routine. Her group number with Giselle Peacock and poor, poor Anthony was good enough to be choreographed by the likes of Mandy Moore. And during her final solo — the only one to be featured on last night’s show — the goofy smile that worked against her during ”Let’s Get It On” worked so, so for her during ”At Last.” Her balance, her control, her jumps — they were all flawless. And girl knows how to work the floor. (She kind of reminded me of one of those collapsible cups you use while camping. And I mean that in a good way.) So why is she at No. 7, and not higher? Well, Lauren unfortunately lacks the compelling backstory, and ”former cheerleader” isn’t the best way to grab votes. Yet, I am kind of adoring her right now, especially since she managed to live through that awkward moment with our head judge and her ”letter carrier.” (Oh, Nigel, you’re so British, you are!) Plus, her little brother has perfected the Justin Bieber hair flick. And I imagine that kind of commitment must run in the family.

5. Jose Ruiz: There is one strange thing about the top 11 this season: the noticeable lack of hip-hop dancers. Luckily, they squeezed in b-boy Jose, who is determined to be the Legacy of season seven. But based on what we’ve seen, he could become the Russell of this season. Think about it: Usually, at this point in the competition, the resident b-boy is a flawed figure whose only chance at survival is nabbing a partner so skilled, they mold into one technically advanced, emotionally present superpower. (Think: season 6’s Legacy and Kathryn, season 2’s Ivan and Allison.) It’s like X-Men, really. But Jose proved that he’s already a skilled contemporary dancer. So if he’s paired with a favorite all-star, we could see him transform into SYTYCD‘s Professor X.

4. Alexie Agdeppa: Even though we haven’t seen much from Alexie since her audition earlier in the season, the contemporary dancer is probably the best female in the crop, what with her beautiful extensions and more than technically proficient arm work. And while I fear memory-plagued voters won’t pick up the phone to call for Alexie, I’m hoping her approachability makes up for recent lack of airtime. I don’t know, I just feel like I want to go to the mall with Alexie, don’t you? Her and Robin Sparkles. Let’s go!

NEXT: The Mighty Ducks and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. You’re welcome.

3. Billy Bell: Gasp! You’re all shocked, aren’t you? I’m putting Billy Bell at No. 3? It’s blasphemy! Send me to confession now, right? Well, I hate to say it, but the favorite has some stiff competition this year in the form of two other contemporary dancers, and since he faltered during Vegas, I have no choice but to place him at No. 3. First off, he performed in the third group seen during last night’s Vegas round, who choreographed a Broadway number so boring I’m pretty sure I can use it instead of Tylenol PM to get to bed tonight. Seriously, you would think these dancers would be skilled enough to know that the flying V formation doesn’t really work outside the Mighty Ducks’ ice rink. It was so bad, Adam told the group that he wanted to cut all of them. And yet, of course, the judges didn’t cut anyone from the group, which kind of confused me since I remember learning as a kid that actions lead to consequences. (Which is why I only ate just a handful of those paint chips. Just a handful! Or two. Whatever.) But we suspected Billy would easily nab a spot in the top 10, even if his solo consisted of him walking on stage, spitting on the judges, and walking off the set screaming ”San Demis High School football rules!” Which is why we weren’t surprised that he also survived his so-so Broadway and contemporary rounds. He’ll have to really prove his favorite status during the next few weeks, and excel outside his solos. But, since, like Julie Andrews, I have confidence in sunshine, I believe Billy will indeed excel, since he is like a little ray of sunshine, isn’t he?

2. Alex Wong: Technically, there is no better than Alex in this crop of season seven contestants. Emotionally, there are plenty. The problem with many technically trained ballet dancers is their rigidity. Breaking out of the confines of ballet is certainly no easy feat. Luckily, Alex knows this challenge is ahead of him, based on the judges’ comments in Vegas. And since we’ve already seen the guy shed a tear or two, I hardly think it’s impossible for him to summon to passion and vulnerability that was missing from other technically advanced dancers from seasons past. (Think season 3’s Danny Tidwell.) I really hope that Alex gets in tune with his emotions, because I’m already in awe thinking about the possible numbers Sonya, Mia, and Wade can choreograph for him. We certainly know he’s willing to take chances, considering the fact that he left the Miami City Ballet purely for the SYTYCD gig, which he didn’t know he would get when he quit. It’s kind of like when Jodie Sawyer left the American Ballet Company to dance in Cooper Nielsen’s troupe! He’s a risk-taker, guys!

NEXT: The no. 1 slot

1. Kent Boyd: Before last night’s episode, I thought of Kent as SYTYCD‘s resident Furby. He was cute, wide-eyed, and seemed like he’d be fun to pet and play with. But then, he had to go and execute a near-perfect contemporary routine, schooling the likes of Anthony (poor guy), and even Alex Wong. And then, on top of it all, he delivered a speech that was so deserving of a slow clap, I actually stood up in my apartment and did one myself: ”I’m from a freaking farm, and I just danced next to Alex freaking Wong, and Anthony, who could frickin’ smash the crap out of me. I’ll never have kicks like them! Obviously, I have the heart, you know? I want to get the kicks. I want to be… I just want it, you know?” Written, the speech might look cheesy, but hearing Kent deliver it, with SYTYCD‘s swelling music in the background — it was so, as Kent would say, freaking cinematic. Like, I wanted to run across a field in Wapakoneta and embrace him fondly after hearing it. And the beauty of the moment was that it was so unrehearsed. Kent wasn’t someone who had this tragic farm boy story waiting in the wings for the perfect moment.He felt every word of that speech. I mean, the guy made Lil C cry. And inspired Nigel to go through all the stages of a mid-life crisis right in front of our eyes, as he drove in a bright yellow car through rural Ohio to give Kent the good news. And how can you not love someone who comes from a family prepared with confetti? These people know how to deliver a moment!

Alright folks, I’ve already written over 2,000 words, which kind of makes me the writing equivalent of blowhard Tyce. But before I go, I will give a shout-out to poor Anthony Burrell, the one person cut from the competition that truly deserved a spot in the top 11. His group work was lovely, and he delivered a contemporary routine stronger than Alex, managing to look powerful and masculine in an outfit that seemed a better fit for a speed-skater-turned-stripper. So here’s hoping the guy will return next year. Because, really, this hot fudge sundae of a season is missing some sprinkles, I’ll admit.

But what do you think of the top 11 this year, fellow SYTYCD fans? Are you, like me, trying to figure out how they’ll work with an 11th dancer? Who’s your current favorite in the crop? How do you feel about the eliminations of Anthony, Ryan, and Adrian? Do you think Nigel was stopped for going too fast, or too slow? How uncomfortable was it you think for the Boyd family to listen to him in the bathroom? And complete the following sentence: ”If Tyce can have that much fun in an airport, imagine what he can do in a _____.”

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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