The Top 20 dance for votes, 'power couples' are declared, and a Nigel comment makes us cringe

By Annie Barrett
June 26, 2013 at 05:45 AM EDT
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I’m trying something different this week — I’m going to rank the dances in terms of my favorites instead of listing them chronologically. Yay or nay on this stunningly inventive new format?

Ladies and gentlemen…your Top 20, now performing for your SUPERVOTE!

Or if you prefer, your regular old votes. Choose your own intensity. But keep in mind that if you don’t SUPERVOTE, Nigel Lythgoe will dance into your dreams Funny or Die-style (die) and make incredulous comments about your legs and/or the jungle. Sleep tight.

10. Alexis and Nico — Hip Hop choreographed by Christopher Scott

Music: “Last Time (Knife Party Remix)” by Labrinth

No. Sunglasses. On SYTYCD routines. EVER!!! I love a real-life disguise, but on this show shades should be banned. It just never works out. If we can’t see their expressions, we can’t get a true sense of the dance — and this one certainly wasn’t winning any awards based on movement alone. The tapper and contemporary dancer just never surrendered to the hip hop groove, and the inclusion of their personal styles for a few measures only made the disconnect more glaring. “We practiced a lot and really tried hard to master the technique,” Nico explained onstage — perhaps that was precisely the problem.

Did anyone else find it rude that after Alexis bragged that she could build a drawer (her parents own a furniture store), the on-screen chyron said “She’s no Bob Villa”? Maybe she is Bob Villa. You don’t know. Maybe she was being modest!

9. Mariah and Carlos — Jive by Jason Gilkison

Music: “Get It Right” by Fantasia

Argh — they tried hard and had some good attitudes, but I can’t think of a dance style I’d be less interested to see from Krump Girl right off the bat. Curse of the ballroom! Not only that, but the routine was too fast and frantic for them; it looked exhausting. I’m confident they’d have slayed pretty much any other style, so I hope the dreaded first slot won’t be the kiss of death in terms of votes. On the upside, I loved Jason’s description of jive as “dancing on a hot stove” and how Mariah’s black-outlined yellow jive shoes subtly matched her dress.

NEXT: Remember those halcyon ballroom days in Vienna, when Avril Lavigne would play? 8. Makenzie and Paul — Viennese Waltz by Jason Gilkison

Music: “I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne

It’s hard to make a waltz even slightly compelling on this stage, what with all the thrashing and air splits and blindfolded trust drops happening before and after the dainty ballroom pieces. But Jason and these two did their best — I loved the use of the umbrella and suspect that without it I’d have completely zoned out. This was a classic case of “girl meets the Armenian boy,” according to Nigel, who also rambled about the “crispy night air” vibe of the Viennese waltz; meanwhile the kids were like “Ugh, OMG, when are you gonna get to how good we were?”

Mary noted the difficulty of dancing in stiff court shoes, and upped my level of intrigue re: Makenzie’s supposedly magical feet. If I see these things flail around bare onstage next week and they aren’t shooting out rainbow trails of glitter, I will be very disappointed.

7. Jenna and Tucker — Broadway by Tyce Diorio

Music: “That’s All” by Kevin Spacey (Beyond the Sea soundtrack)

Mary and Wayne Brady were totally right that these two look like Broadway dancers already, and they’ve both got the permanent “I’m freaked out but also so excited!” facial expression going on at all times. I thought the routine was a little shaky in parts, but it’s nothing they couldn’t have worked out with another take (or maybe better choreography). The skills and chemistry were there; it just wasn’t perfect. Nigel called them a “power couple” and expects many more fabulous routines from them. If I’m being totally honest, I thought Jenna outshone Tucker — but I really like his general energy and aversion to “plain food,” so I hope he stays.

6. Malece and Jade — Jazz by Travis Wall

Music: “Silver Screen (Shower Scene)” by Felix da Housecat

I’m so back and forth on this one. Technically, I loved the choreography, concept, and especially the music. I just think — sadly — it would have worked better with bigger characters. I love Malece visually but I’m not getting much from her as an actress, you know? And that’s what this routine demanded, with its thumping Italo disco beat (Felix da Housecat always reminds me of The Flirts — check it out, berate me later) and Malece’s assignment to literally role-play a big-screen diva. If Travis hadn’t explained the theme, I’d have had no idea she was supposed to be aggressive. I feel like I’m being too hard on her, but I watched this multiple times and never got caught up in the magic. The staging, lighting, and costuming were all top-notch.

NEXT: Good God, Lythgoe! 5. Brittany and BluPrint — Afro Jazz by Sean Cheesman

Music: “Drumming Circle” by Professor Trance & the Energizers

No one seems to know quite how to critique Afro Jazz (same goes on Dancing With the Stars), so we got treated to awkward comments like “I didn’t expect you to have the motherland in you” complete with a new African nickname (Wayne Brady to Brittany) or “People say, ‘This is your ethnicity, your heritage.’ But it isn’t! You didn’t grow up in a jungle!” (Nigel to a dumbfounded BluPrint). Good God, Lythgoe! I’m not usually one to play the PC card, but that Nigel comment was so jarring and cringeworthy and, sad to say, typical coming from him. He’s like your embarrassing, unintentionally racist dad who will NEVER STOP TALKING.

This dance was a revelation, though — I rewound it at least five times to note the precise moment when BluPrint started grinning and easing into the dance (a far cry from his rigid animator style) after a series of well-executed lifts with Brittany. I think my worry that he’d be not so hot at partnering amplified my reaction to his clear enjoyment. Not to mention, Brittany really, really impressed me. I can see her excelling in any style now with her sense of fun and confidence in her movements. At the top of the show I didn’t think much of this partnership; now I can’t wait to see what’s next.

4. Hayley and Curtis — ‘Seductive Hip Hop’ by Christopher Scott

Music: “Go” by Delilah

I’m loving their chemistry! What a perfect tease that was, pre-dance, of Curtis finally getting used to the idea of pawing his partner all over her midsection because that is simply what happens on So You Think You Can Dance. His reaction went from timid to mischievous to clearly delighted within the span of a few seconds of editing. Fun stuff. They are really cute together.

I ended up unable to take my eyes off of Hayley during this dance, which incorporated both a swinging light fixture and a light bulb microphone in very cool ways (given another shot, I think they could have timed the light-play even more perfectly). She seems like one of those dancers who comes alive times a billion when she’s onstage as compared to when she’s rehearsing. Nothing wrong with that.

3. Jasmine Harper and Aaron — Jazz by Sonya Tayeh

Music: “Bottom of the River” by Delta Rae

Such incredible power in this one. I nearly threw a fit at the end when I came to the bitter realization it was over. I didn’t realize Jasmine was so tall, but seeing her next to Aaron it is very clear her legs go on for miles, or approximately seven sets of Sonya Tayeh’s earrings. Sonya made it clear she wanted to show the audience how oppressive her earrings were — I mean, how impressive these two dancers were together.

I love that even Sonya was in shock at the giants’ initial attempts at her “swampy-feeling” routine. Did you see Aaron lift Jasmine out of a center split with her legs perfectly straight? My. God.

“Jasmine, where were you when I was 20?” wondered Wayne Brady, who actually knows Aaron’s dad, a Las Vegas musician. “You dance like he sings. Man, you are a sexy cat.” Ooh, yeah, Wayne, keep it creepy.

NEXT: Two more POWER COUPLES 2. Jasmine Mason and Alan — Contemporary by Travis Wall

Music: “Can’t Help Faling In Love (Live at Daytrotter)” by Ingrid Michaelson

I bumped this up to number 2 after repeat viewings — that blindfolding was some serious business and the bravery and conviction of it all made me lose my breath the more I watched. Their chemistry seems months old already and I imagine the dance would have been even more impactful a few weeks down the line when we know these people a bit better — or better yet, it would be an amazing closing dance for any episode. Great stuff from Travis.

Jasmine is a marvel (both Jasmines are!) but Alan was right there with her. The concept initially annoyed me — blindfolds? already? — but ended up being a great one for a ballroom guy who’s already comfortable with partnering and would gladly step up at the chance to LOSE HIS VISION in an unfamiliar style. The balls on these people! Always. Seriously.

I loved the quick switch of the hands as she was leaning back, and the trust drop to end all trust drops. “I’m calling it the trust drop. Look for the Wayne Brady trust drop app.” No, Wayne Brady, you are not breaking any ground by calling it that! We are all aware of the trust drop. Please no more apps.

1. Amy and Fik-Shun — Contemporary by Sonya Tayeh

Music: “Elsa” by The Valerie Project

Right away during the opening zoom-in, you got the sense they were playing characters instead of themselves. Well, not even characters, really. They were like unique forces of non-human movement…working together. Perfectly. And THIS SONG. Instant download. Do it. Spotify that sh-t.

It was just a stunning combination of music and action — a mini movie, in a way. This routine typifies all I ultimately want out of So You Think You Can Dance. Just a complete sensory experience I never could have even begun to conceive of myself. Love. LOVE. Love!!! AMY. WOW. Fik-Shun. Adorable. The Beast and the Beauty are frontrunners for sure.

Nigel as an animator. Mary Murphy ballroom dancing with Jason Gilkison! Travis in a boa! EVERYONE! Watch the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” opening number below.

This is shot SO WELL. I love it.

And just humor me: Did that opener remind anyone else of the “All Over the World” fashion show extravaganza from the 1980 cinematic masterpiece Xanadu? I promise that if you love SYTYCD, you might enjoy this.

Note: In my So You Think You Can Dance = Xanadu equation, Travis Wall = Gene Kelly.

Coincidence? I think not.

Discuss: Who were your faves tonight? Does Nigel need to shut up? Should sunglasses be banned forever?

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