The top 10 deliver a crop of lackluster performances just one week after dazzling us

By Kate Ward
June 24, 2010 at 06:45 AM EDT
Mathieu Young/Fox
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So You Think You Can Dance has the distinction of being one of the only programs on television that reduces me to a blubbering mess. Just thinking of ”The Bench” or ”Bleeding Love” makes me want to run to a box of Kleenex, grab some chocolates, and hunker down and read a Nicholas Sparks novel while sobbing my eyes out. And I can’t stand Nicholas Sparks!

But, last night, I found myself more than an hour and a half through the show feeling… nothing. Zilch. Nada. In fact, I haven’t felt so emotionally dead since Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Because honestly, it seemed as though everyone phoned it in. (Surprising, since last week’s performance episode was so awe-inspiring.) Nigel seemed more focused on the World Cup than what was going on up on stage. The dancers looked more bored than a sleep-deprived Twilight star. The costumers forced the most heinous clothing on our dancers, and dressed Mia and Nigel as if they were Mama and Greg Brady. (As for that random ruffle on Mia’s shoulder: did it remind anyone else of Lina Lamont’s microphone-hiding flower pin?) Even the editors tried to convince us that the backstage footage shown at the beginning of the evening was live — when we clearly could tell it was from last week’s results show, based on the clothing the contestants were wearing. Laziness, laziness, laziness!

Speaking of questionable outfits, Cristina came rolling out on stage as the first dancer of the evening, wearing something Scarlett O’Hara would throw together using Aladdin’s magic carpet. But, luckily, the salsa dancer must have rubbed her genie lamp before drawing names this week, because Cristina nabbed the best prize of all: Pasha. Dancing in a genre close to her style, a Jean-Marc and France Paso Doble, Cristina was able to prove her technical know-how, hitting each spin and pose the style demands of its dancers. And though I enjoyed watching Pasha manhandle Cristina during the number (even if it made me a bit jealous — you know that I feel Pasha Is My Boyfriend), I still feel like I have that rare facial-recognition disease when it comes to the salsa dancer. Honestly, when we saw her draw Pasha’s name out of the hat, I found myself wondering for a split second, ”Who is that?” And that’s a question we’ve already established should be reserved for Ashley! (Who’s Ashley?) Last week, I gave Cristina a pass, since she was dancing with the ever-expressive Mark. But as attention-grabbing as her partner was this week, I expected to see what the judges saw from Cristina — a ”mucho caliente” performance. Instead, I found Cristina to be, well, a bit too mild for my spice-seeking taste.

NEXT: SYTYCD goes Bollywood

While Cristina might have metaphorically rubbed the lamp last night, Jose literally did so during his Nakul Dev Mahajan-choreographed genie-inspired routine with Kathryn. And a little magic must have transpired there — otherwise, why else would he have been showered with praise from the judges for such a middling routine? Usually, in So You Think You Can Dance history, Bollywood proves to be a crowd-pleasing genre, even when it comes to the most unlikeable of contestants. (See: season six’s Mollee and Nathan.) But I found myself less focused on the dance and more focused on whether or not that was Legacy was sitting next to Nakul in the crowd. That could be because I’ve long been rooting for a Legacy/Kathryn romance (Please make it so! It’s all I have now, guys!), but I’m guessing it’s mostly because the dance failed to meet the standards expected of SYTYCD Bollywood. Heck, Jose didn’t even know what Bollywood was, which makes me assume he didn’t pick up a newspaper anytime in 2008. Which would also mean he’ll be in trouble if someone hands him a dance about Michael Phelps or the Large Hadron Collider. (Hey, you never know.) Yet the judges, warmed over by his bright smile, handed him a gold star for effort.

Not that it was a complete surprise. After all, Nigel & Co. did the same when it came to Billy, who brought as much street to his Lil’ C krump routine with Comfort as a marshmallow Peep. Though the choreographer tried to convert Billy into a hardcore alter ego, Billy B Buck, Mia — in spite of her accolades — managed to eke out her inner voice of reason by saying that the dancer looked more like Billy B Whack. (P.S. Can we officially send ”buck” to the retirement home where it can hang out with ”rufus” and ”Not!”?) Sure, Uncle Nigel — who hates the hip-hop music the kids on his lawn are playing so loudly these days — claimed Billy hadn’t found his inner warrior yet and Adam rightly said the routine was a failed experiment, but I was honestly shocked they let him off that easy. Billy’s feet were pointed during various parts of the routine — a definite no-no when it comes to krump, obviously — and his lack of endurance quickly became obvious with every fumbled move he executed near the end of the number. It was as if he handed in a math test fool of doodles to his teachers, who then marveled over how close he was to writing a number by drawing a balloon that kind of looked like a 0. But perhaps they were entranced by Billy’s introduction package, which showed the dancer wearing a black pleather pantsuit (!) dancing to the Backstreet Boys. It nearly got me too — in fact, the 1990s nostalgic in me was so excited about Billy’s admission, I couldn’t even manage to write English in my notes. And I quote: ”THAT”S AMASINZG!!!”

NEXT: It’s not a tumah

Yet, I understand their ongoing affection for Billy much more than I understand their praise for Melinda, who delivered a lackluster Stacey Tookey routine alongside Ade wearing a distractingly ugly dress that reminded me far too much of Starr’s tumor dress from season two of Project Runway. (Not a good thing.) As far as I was concerned, Ade was the only half of that dance putting effort into the number, executing beautiful jumps and throwing around Melinda’s Mother Earth as if he were a BP executive. All Melinda offered were clumsy finishes and (yes) lovely lines that would be more impressive if we didn’t already know that her dance expertise extends beyond tapping, something the judges seem to forget. (Anyone else find themselves thinking how much better Alexie would have pulled off the routine?) Viewers, however, still haven’t warmed to her, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see her grace the bottom during the results show tonight.

Another dancer I’d be surprised to see escape the bottom three once again is Adéchiké, who had the misfortune of performing second last night (a disadvantage, since many voters have the memory of a fish), and drawing a Mandy Moore number with no storyline whatsoever. I understand where the choreographer was going with this — since Adéchiké had problems with his Travis routine last week, Mandy attempted to tap into his emotional center, just asking that he give something for viewers to latch onto. Unfortunately, I think the contemporary dancer would have fared better had he been presented with some sort of concept that he could act out. For the second week in a row, Adéchiké proved he was a stellar partner who was completely present for his other half, Allison. But Allison’s dress — the only good wardrobe choice of the evening — was more dramatic than the contestant. Though the judges claimed to see more personality in the dancer, I still only saw Adéchiké’s blank face. And when it looks like you’re attending an Introduction to Statistics lecture when you’re on the SYTYCD stage, well, I’d say that’s a performance worthy of an incomplete, no?

But if you want to talk about misfortune, it’s impossible not to mention Alex freaking Wong, who, hopefully just for this week, has been downgraded to Alex ”eh” Wong. Why did he draw the short straw? Why, because someone hopped into the room, tapped a magical staff to Alex’s head, and bestowed upon the ballet dancer the Curse of Tyce. You see, this is a dangerous curse, one that almost certainly will result in poor dancing, immediate elimination, or sudden inexplicable appearance of douchey chinstrap on one’s jawbone. Luckily, Alex only will have to (hopefully) contend with the first side effect, since he failed to deliver Fosse the way Fosse is supposed to be delivered. Alex, dancing with Lauren, was too tense, too technically proficient, even if his kicks were fantastic, and (I’m gonna say it) better than Billy’s. But Nigel was right when it came to the dancer — he didn’t cower enough. He wasn’t sneaky enough. He simply wasn’t into it enough. (Surprising, when you consider how expressive Alex was as a young tap dancer in his introduction footage.) And as for Alex’s admission that he didn’t know anything about Fosse, well, that’s almost as ridiculous as Jose’s admission about Bollywood. What’s the matter with kids these days? I guess they’re just too busy, as Nigel says, looking at ”a YouTube” or something.

NEXT: Lauren’s hot and cold

Well, I’d have to tell Mia to go look at ”a YouTube” of Robert’s performance last night, because I think the judge got it all wrong when it came to the contestant’s Jean-Marc and France Argentine Tango with Anya. Listening to the judges critique the contemporary dancer after they praised the likes of the lackluster Cristina was as confusing as the mere presence of Mia’s brass knuckles. Robert, dancing outside his genre, managed to be powerful, masculine, and seemed a good match next to Anya. Even the ballroom dancer thought so, speaking out against Mia’s critique by telling the panel, ”I wouldn’t look [powerful] like that if he wasn’t by my side.” Look, I’m not the biggest Robert fan — I still think he’s as hammy as a pork roll, and, apparently, has been since childhood, as hysterically proved by his old dancing footage — but he’s one of the only contestants this season who consistently draws my eyes away from the all-stars. He has presence, poise, and, most importantly, a sense of drama missing from other contestants. And in a season full of blank faces, shouldn’t we applaud that?

I’m just glad the judges applauded for Lauren, a contestant I’ve been so hot and cold about, she might as well be a Katy Perry song. But whereas last week she completely flatlined during her Mandy Moore number, she surged to the top of the pack last night with her Tessandra Chavez hip-hop routine with Dominic. And it seems good things happen when you tranquilize the hyper cheerleader and her equally spirited partner — the number, centered on an abusive relationship, actually connected with both the judges, not to mention us watching at home. Lauren hit her moves hard, and Dominic pulled out some b-boy tricks that far exceeded anything we’ve seen from Jose yet this season. And I was happy to see Adam’s praise for Lauren, after his relatively unfair attack on the dancer last week: ”You took my notes… you listened to me,” he told Lauren, who appeared genuinely moved by her dance long after the final note had reverberated throughout the theater. And to top the great number all off, we had this unintentionally (?) dirty comment from the cheeky Cat: ”Dom, do you want to get to a deeper place?” Oh Cat. You make it so easy for Michael Scott!

Though SYTYCD didn’t save the best for last, they still saved the most entertaining for the final slot: our dear Kent, forced to tackle a Tyce jazz routine alongside Courtney in an outfit that made him look like he belonged in an underground New York sex joint that Det. Benson and Det. Stabler would investigate on an episode of Law & Order: SVU. Not only was Kent’s introduction package the most entertaining — thanks to a compliment directed towards Courtney, which was essentially the equivalent of writing her name and number on a bathroom stall: ”She doesn’t care. You [can] touch her all you want.” — but also because the guy gave it his all during the routine, even breaking out his sexy face. Of course, he does need learn a thing or two from the likes of Adéchiké when it comes to partnering (surely I wasn’t the only one nervous whenever he had to catch Courtney), but I was surprised that the judges instead opted to focus on his performance level with their somewhat confusing, contradictory critiques. Nigel felt he didn’t look like he had as much fun as he did during his cha-cha last week, whereas Mia felt he stayed too much in his ”Kent world.” Yet, I felt Kent still held his own during this enjoyable — if far from perfect — routine, and was hardly eaten up by his partner, as the judges asserted. Instead, the only folks eating up Kent were the members of the TV viewing audience — including myself. Sorry Kent haters, the Kent Kool-Aid is swishing around in my belly. You should drink some too. Seriously, it’s good.

NEXT: Ashley? Who’s Ashley?

And then there was Ashley. Poor, poor Ashley. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Who’s Ashley? Honestly, guys, I still don’t know. I wouldn’t even be able to pick this dancer out of a group of five brunette girls. I mean, even her hair doesn’t even want us to know what she looks like, based on the way it was flopping around her face during her Travis jazz routine with Mark. But that was hardly the root (har har) of her problems last night: for the second week in a row, Ashley was handed a ho-hum contemporary number, even if Travis claimed the dance was labeled ”jazz.” And, honestly, like Nigel, I expected more of Travis, who, in the past two seasons, has delivered some of the most inspired numbers to hit the stage. Even Mark couldn’t seem to muster up excitement, and I’m pretty sure that guy would be pumped to dance the Electric Slide if asked. The routine was just made up of a lot of throwing, twirling — and absolutely zero passion, even if it did bring us one pretty awesome flip. (As for Nigel’s slight chiding of the former season 2 contestant, well, here’s hoping it encourages Travis to step up his game, right?) But there’s a chance Ashley could escape the bottom three again this week. (As I sincerely hope she does, since I’d love to see her perform a quality routine.) Because some people love the underdog. And some Toddlers & Tiaras fans will love her old dancing footage. And some love contestants who are greeted with milestones — and Ashley seems to have one every week. Last week she was in love! This week she’s about to celebrate her birthday! Any predictions as to what we’ll see next week? A Bat Mitzvah? A wiccaning? Pas d’armes?

Well, that’s all for me for now, folks. I’ll see you tomorrow, when we’ll discuss the next contestant booted from the competition. Did you also feel something was lacking last night? How awful were the costumes? Was it nice to see Dominic not grope our venerable host? Whose childhood footage was cutest? Was Mia wearing brass knuckles? And is there any chance that someone other than Melinda will be sent packing tonight?

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