So You Think You Can Dance recap: Leaving Las Vegas
There may not have been a Lacey Schwimmer-Mia Michaels breakout moment to set the YouTubers all a-twitter in last night’s top 20 episode of So You Think You Can Dance, but in spite of all of Nigel Lythgoe’s unsubtle grandstanding about how great this season is turning out to be, I’ve got to agree with the guy. With only one or two truly unsatisfying performances, and nothing even approaching an outright disaster, last night went a long way to assuaging my frustration with Vegas week. Which isn’t to say there weren’t some dancers who still had me scowling about how, exactly, they were worth passing over Evan Kasprzak and Brandon Bryant, dancers with personality and good looks and skill and technique and panache and poise and great dimples…but I digress.
So! As Nigel astutely pointed out at the top of the show, there were a good five or six dancers who we’d seen next to nothing from before tonight — and whose fault is that, Mr. Executive Producer? — so now that we’ve finally gotten a good look at what all 20 dancers can do, let’s give ’em another good once-over to see who continued their momentum from the audition episodes, who launched themselves off on the good foot, and who helped perpetuate my frown lines’ continued assault on my forehead.
THE SURPRISE STANDOUTS
I don’t know which show Mary Murphy was watching when she proclaimed Jessica and Will the couple to beat after their wobbly tango (more on that in a bit), because the routine of the night for me was easily Katee and Joshua’s contempo hip-hop number, about a soldier going off to war. It was the one number that felt all of a piece, that transcended its steps, told a story, and made me actually feel something. (Unlike the dancers, I was perfectly fine getting a wee bit misty.) It’d be easy to chalk that up entirely to the choreography of Napoleon and Tabitha (a.k.a., NapTab, just ’cause), but both Katee and Joshua brought an uncomplicated humanity to their performances that is far more difficult to pull off, especially when you’re giving your first ever performance in a nationally televised dance competition show. (I’m sure Joshua’s occasional ballet training — aha! — came in handy too.) Any memory of Katee’s brush with SYTYCD ignominy as perhaps the first dancer to talk her way out of the top 20 was washed clean away last night, which was doubly impressive given that the producers’ decision not to remind us of that moment themselves showed a restraint they didn’t grant a few of the other dancers. (More on that later as well.) These two were so stunning that they even caused Mary to drop into her — well, I would call it her ”inside” voice if she weren’t otherwise on her way to supplanting Gilbert Gottfried in the Guinness Book of World Records as the screechiest person on television.
NEXT: Sex on heels
Like, for just one example, Mary’s (completely understandable) reaction to Chelsea T. and Thayne. I had a feeling Chelsea was fierce, but I certainly didn’t expect her to leap out of the TV, cha-cha her way over to my couch, conk me upside the head with her hips and force me into serious questions about my sexuality…until Thayne sidled up next to her and I got a look at the finely toned junk in his badonkadonk. Hot tamale train indeed! The chemistry they have with each other may be a bit questionable, but there’s no denying both these dancers were just about assaulting us with sex last night — some of those high kicks Chelsea was throwin’ at the camera had me sweating, dear readers. If anyone will be able to hold his own against such capital F Fierceness, it’s the exuberantly talented Thayne. He better stay on his toes, though, lest he and Chelsea end up one of…
THE LOPSIDED COUPLES
Poor Chris can protest all he wants about having enough personality for an entire forest (and I’m sure he was thrilled that the producers kept reminding us of this problem, too), but I don’t think I watched him for a single second during his whole routine, so bowled over was I by Comfort. Sans braces and in a spangly ”bra and panties,” she just about blew me away with her light touch throughout Tony Meredith and Bette Midler’s jive routine. I’d be concerned that her lack of training seemingly led her to dislocate her shoulder during rehearsal if she hadn’t shrugged it all off with such great humor.
Jessica, meanwhile, gamely made light of her oft-replayed spelling of V-E-A-G-S, which I had always assumed was a sly shout-out to the gone-but-not-forgotten German conglomerate VEAG Vereinigte Energiewerke AG, but apparently was just an overexcited attempt to spell Vegas. (Thanks for nothing, Google!) But her good humor certainly didn’t save her shaky tango with Debbie Allen protégé William, who outclassed her on just about every level. Even with his obvious talent on ready display last night, I didn’t really see where Mary was getting the notion that both of them were STRONG! or PASSIONATE! or ON FIRE!, let alone that they were the couple to beat — but maybe Mary knows something about Jessica’s non-spelling-related dancing skills that we’ve yet to see.
THE SOLID PERFORMERS
I’m really glad to see that Chelsie H. is so strong in a genre outside her ballroom training; call me callous, but I really hoped there was more to her than whatever ”issues” plagued her family, drove her to dance, and caused the loss of a house and ”several cars.” There certainly appears to be a lot going on with her partner, Mark, who got the terse and testy Mia Michaels treatment when first learning her ”Tim Burton’s wedding” contemporary routine but came out the other end of it intact and winning raves. Actually, I’m guessing the best thing for the dancers about Mia’s routines is that you can flit around like a finch trying to walk like an Egyptian and not even the judges can tell if you’re really pulling it off or not.
Any doubt that Kherington was one of the producers’ favorites, meanwhile, went the way of Mary’s sanity the moment it was revealed she’d been partnered with Twitch, who won the opening-show solo-audience-applause award by a landslide. I’ve got to begrudgingly admit that she was pretty much fun, holding her own against Twitch’s beaming charisma, even if the Broadway routine itself was kinda all over the place. (Tyce numbers always run so hot and cold for me.) But I don’t think they’ve earned the moniker Twitchington quite yet.
By contrast, I really do wonder if the producers stacked the deck against Rayven and Jamie. We’d seen practically nothing from these two dancers until last night, and yet they were given the very first slot in a two-hour show. They’re both lucky, then, that NapTab had Rayven yank down Jamie’s impressively pliant jeans (I wonder where one finds a pair of those shiny briefs), ’cause otherwise their sound-if-standard go at a hip-hop number wasn’t exactly sticking to the roof of my brain. (I do agree with Rayven, though: 28 is definitely not old. Nope, not in the slightest. And neither is 29, for that matter.)
NEXT: Who’s out first?
THE ONES IN DANGER
Rayven and Jamie are also lucky that three other couples seemed so obviously destined for bottom-threedom. Since it’s a foregone conclusion that far more than 50 percent of last night’s audience was made up of heterosexual women and homosexual men, I sincerely doubt that Susie’s flavor, fire, hips, sass, passion, or color streaks could distract viewers from her issues with that smooth waltz lift. (And anyone who missed it the first time was alerted to it by Nigel’s pointing out that…most of us probably missed it the first time.) Her partner, Marquis — whose childhood was also blighted by those troublesomely indeterminate ”issues” — fared a bit better, winning praise from Nigel for his ”line technique” and ”carriage.” But he started the show with a serious case of pit stains, and I don’t think dancing the most lethargic style of the night is exactly the most winning of debuts.
Of course, even when you’re given a razzmatazz jazz number by Mandy Moore — replete with diamond dust, no less! — you can still fudge it with a mismatched partner and relentless camera mugging. We might as well label Matt as ”season 4’s Lacey,” because I think the guy’s eyes are hardwired to find that little red light indicating which camera is live. Which wouldn’t be as big of a deal if he were able to treat his partner as something more than a sack of potatoes that bears an uncanny resemblance to Uma Thurman, Princess Diana, Cameron Diaz, and one of the faeries from Willow. To be fair, Kourtni’s a fine dancer, but it looks like her physical stature will make her a vexing partner for anyone this season other than Twitch and William, and that lack of chemistry read all over both Kourtni and Matt’s ho-hum performance. (The look on Mandy Moore’s face after guest judge Dan Karaty said the choreographer would’ve hit the number ten times harder pretty much said it’s all: ”Aw…but it’s true.”)
At least that duo wasn’t compared unfavorably to a waterfowl, like Courtney G. and Gev. (Why it’s necessary to differentiate between Kourtni and Courtney with the initials of their last names is a bit beyond me, since they’re also near physical opposites too.) Truth be told, I don’t think I’ve ever really enjoyed a disco routine on this show; all the dancers are just far too young to get the ”feel” of the 1970s that Nigel’s looking for — maybe multiple viewings of Saturday Night Fever should be mandatory for anyone taking on this genre. As oddly awesome as it was to learn that Courtney dances for the New York Knicks and that Gev was originally from Kazakhstan (how many Borat jokes do you think he’s had to endure over the last two years?), I have a sneaking feeling they’d best be honing their solos for today’s results show.
My guess, though, is that the dancers with the biggest risk of elimination are Matt ”Broomstick Up the Butt” Dorame and Susie ”Hips Don’t Lie” Garcia. But what do you think, dear readers? Did Katee and Joshua surprise you? Did Nigel skeeze you out a bit when he ogled Cat Deeley’s legs? Will Cat ever be able to get the audiences to say ”jidges,” especially now that she’s pretty much stopped saying it that way herself? And who in the name of David Cook allowed the American Idol Swaybots ™ to invade the SYTYCD audience?
Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.