After a results show in which maybe two girls should have gone home, we rank the remaining top 10 dancers
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So You Think You Can Dance

I’m in mourning, dear readers. My snark demon, Smirkelstiltskin, has up and abandoned me. I would point the finger at the unkind comments about him in the message boards of late, but (1) the guy’s a snark demon, so he pretty much lives on those things, and (2) he left a note explaining that he left me so he could nest in Cat Deeley’s hair. I don’t blame him, really. Why go to the chocolate shoppe twice a week when you can live on the factory floor? I’ll miss you, dear Smirkel, but I’ll sleep well knowing you’re safely tucked in that well-tended, ever-changing thicket of blond ridiculousness.

In all other respects, meanwhile, last night’s So You Think You Can Dance results show was pretty much shenanigan free. Napoleon and Tabitha’s group number was tight and fresh (though it would’ve been cooler had it ended with the nite-lite track suits spelling out ”Dance,” or ”Closer” like the Ne-Yo song, don’tcha think?). The judges kept their nattering to a minimum — well, save when Nigel announced that Phillip Chbeeb and Robert Muraine will indeed dance off on the finale, only to completely dismiss the showdown as irrelevant mere moments later, but the man simply can’t help himself. Thankfully yet unnervingly, Mary looked, behaved and even sounded like your average, non-shrieking Midwestern mom. A trio of dancers from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, our world-of-dance guests for the evening, schooled us on what serious, noncompeting, nonpartnered, professional contemporary dancing looks like, and brought the house down in the process. And while I couldn’t tell whether Katy Perry‘s voice was prerecorded or live, the fact that a show with such a tricky history with the homosexuality would welcome lyrics like ”I kissed a girl and I liked it….I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it” with nary a raised eyebrow or snippy comment from the peanut gallery — well, it certainly was refreshing.

And, unlike last season, when Lauren inexplicably stole a top 10 slot from the far more consistent Anya, the right dancers were sent packing. Sorta. Within the show’s one-man-one-woman rules, yes, Thayne and Comfort did deserve their tickets home, but wouldn’t it have made for tremendous TV if Nigel had tossed the rule book into Cat’s hair wigwam and announced that both Comfort and Jessica would be getting the boot and Thayne remaining to dance another day? Wouldn’t it have been exactly the kind of shocker that would’ve jolted a new, exciting dynamic into the show, forcing the choreographers to come up with a routine for two guys (and, as the Alvin Ailey dancers ably demonstrated, not necessarily a romantic one) and break them of the been-there-seen-that sameness that’s started creeping into many of the routines? Wouldn’t it have put all the dancers on notice that the playing field was now completely level?

Woulda coulda shoulda, Nigel, but I do have to admit that as far as top 10s go, this one’s pretty solid. In fact, after next week, things are gonna get seriously cutthroat, coming down to the strength of the routines in the week as much as season-long popularity and momentum. But — why not? — let’s hazard a breakdown of the rest of the season anyway. In the spirit of Nigel’s expressed desire to keep Thayne on into the top 10, however, I’m going to make my list gender blind, based solely on the dancers’ perceived voter popularity and my own subjective opinion of their dancing thus far and their chances in the weeks ahead. So, in reverse order, my semifantasy SYTYCD season 4 top 10:

NEXT: Who’s just hanging on?

10. Jessica She could surprise us. Free from Will’s oppressive shadow, she could blossom into a thrilling dancer instead of a merely competent one. And Cat could come out in a T-shirt, jeans, and a ponytail. If wishing only made it so….

9. Gev Now that the B-boy can no longer rely on his partnership with the agreeably game Courtney (who’s also one of the few women on the show appreciably shorter than him), Gev’s got to work double hard to shore up his technique lest the other women leave him in their dust.

8. Courtney There’s something that’s instantly appealing about Courtney, but when I think back on this season, I can only conjure a single routine where she stood out from the pack with any kind of wow factor — and in case you’re having problems doing the same, I’m referring to her ghetto princess hip-hop number last week. There’s being the underdog, and then there’s being underground.

7. Kherington She’s fun, she’s blond, and she’s learned how to look (act? be?) legitimately buck, even if it completely wears out her poor sweet patoot. Okay, I kid. In all honesty, she’s been the stronger dancer in her partnership with the more easy-to-like Twitch. But if Kherington’s ever going to become the American sweetheart she so longs to be, the lady has got to learn how to dance in heels.

6. Chelsie Just as much an entertainer as Mark — and probably stronger in her technique — Chelsie’s done herself no favors by giving off the impression that she sees Mark as a walking booger with icky crooked pinkies. In truth, she (or the show’s editors) have tempered that inkling of late, but I have a feeling the, um, Marksie fans haven’t so much been speed-dialing on her account.

5. Twitch So that’s what Twitch’s lensless glasses are about: When he’s not dancing, it would appear that the sometime Stephen Boss fancies himself a kind of B-boy Clark Kent, and that ”T” shield under his shirt would naturally be the logo for his Twitch, um, superhero. Right. Well, his solos are certifiable crowd pleasers, and he’s been the consistent studio-audience favorite from the word go. But Twitch better hope he never comes across another ballroom routine this season, because that genre is clearly his kryptonite.

4. Joshua Rewatching Josh’s Viennese waltz from Wednesday night, I could see the awkwardness the judges were talking about, but the guy is still by far this season’s biggest surprise, the one who’s impressed us most often with his ability to take on styles whole time zones away from his wheelhouse. Born to dance, with an instantly likable personality, he could have it rough when asked to partner with women other than Katee — but I highly doubt it.

NEXT: Win, place, and show

3. Will He’s got all the assets of season 3’s Danny Tidwell — world-class technical skill with elegance and poise for days — with none of Danny’s early jank attitude. But since the judges have worked overtime to paint Jessica as a pair of soul-sucking human manacles keeping Will’s brilliant wings from reaching their true stratospheric potential, the guy’s kinda under the gun to break the SYTYCD sound barrier now that he’s free to partner with women more equal to his blinding magnificence. So was his strangely frenzied solo last night a minor bump in Will’s road to dancing sainthood or a symptom of performance anxiety heretofore curtailed by his need to shore up Jessica’s nerves? We shall see.

2. Katee It’s hard to believe that she entered the top 20 with the greatest handicap of any of the dancers, namely her honest-if-none-too-wise remark in Vegas that if she didn’t make the finals this time, she’d likely never audition for the show again. Five weeks later, Katee enters the top 10 as the female dancer who reminds me the most of last year’s winner, Sabra: She can make pretty much any style look as if it were coming naturally out of her own body rather than a series of steps placed on her by someone else, and she quietly refuses to mug, clown, pose, or in any way seem desperate for America to love her. Which only makes us love her all the more. Well played, Katee, well played.

1. Mark Without any screen time during the auditions, and practically zero unearned pimping from the judges, Mark has managed to win me (and many of you) over for one simple reason: The guy performs. Other dancers are certainly more technically capable, but no one draws me into a routine more immediately and with more natural style, and I don’t know if any dancer has more fun up there on the stage. And yet I was hesitating putting Mark as my top choice here, because I wasn’t yet sure if America is completely behind him — but then he and Chelsie landed more votes this week than the seemingly invincible Twitchington. That makes Mark and Chelsie one of only two couples who have never been bottom three’d (the other, of course, is Katee and Joshua); based in large part on your comments in our boards, I’d say Mark’s the one in his partnership bringing home the bulk of those votes. His partnering skills, by the way, are his greatest asset going forward: As the dancers split up into new couples, I have a feeling Mark’s going to have the easiest time gelling with whoever comes his way.

So that’s my top 10 — what’s yours? Do you think the rigid SYTYCD gender parity is fair at this stage of the game? Which new couple combos are you most excited to see? How, exactly, did Cat manage that massive hook of hair curling up the right side of her face as she gave Jessica and Will their results? And do you have any clue what those ”IV REAL” shirts were all about? I’m clueless, and Google’s no help at all, but if I’m able to root out the answer, I’ll post it on PopWatch, promise. (Note to all of you on the message board: I know it stands for ”For Real,” but what does that mean?)

Episode Recaps

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So You Think You Can Dance

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

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