A new top-of-the-show elimination format casts a weird and sad pallor on the rest of the dances. Fun!

By Annie Barrett
Updated July 03, 2013 at 06:00 AM EDT
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How absurd is this new format? Last season, all the finalists danced and then we found out who’d been eliminated (from last week’s votes) at the end of the episode. But tonight, the bottom six dancers had to face doom within the first few minutes of the show. Brittany Cherry and Carlos Garland were brutally eliminated right away…and then had to dance with their partners again mere minutes later! I’ve never heard of anything so awkward.

And to make it worse, Nigel started his whole “You’re not dancing hahhhhhd enough” campaign early this time around. It’s such a ridiculous conceit, that these people aren’t putting everything they’ve got into these tiny solos (that the judges DIDN’T EVEN DELIBERATE because they’d already made their decisions). Just senseless bordering on hurtful drama from Nigel, and no one is buying it. I don’t think he’ll be happy until someone actually dies onstage while dahncing for his or her life. These people simply aren’t tottering far enough off the edge of the cliff for him! They don’t care enough about still being alive… for the next 30 seconds!

Mariah Spears and Jade Zuberi also had to dance for their lives… and Mackenzie Dustman and Alan Bersten landed in the bottom six but were immediately “saved” by the judges.

Those cuts, though. That was way harsh, Tai. I actually thought Brittany and Carlos had the best solos of the four — Brittany with her crazy energy and crazy sexy cool hair and Carlos with this insane split jump that looked as effortless as a handlebar mustache fluttering in the breeze. (That doesn’t mean he wasn’t trying, though, Nigel.)

Hayley and Curtis — Jazz choreographed by Ray Leeper

Music: “Mama Knows Best” by Jessie J

Maybe it was the shell shock of those eliminations, but I wasn’t as floored by this sexy black leathery jazz number as the judges. I found it a bit too fluid in parts, if that makes sense, like some of the movements needed to be more punctuated. That might be what guest judge Christina Applegate meant when she told the pair they should have “moved into the words” more. It seemed like Hayley was scared of falling in those heeled boots. And the “Curtis is not a bad boy in real life” hammering-home during rehearsal footage made all those butt-grabs he had to execute on Hayley feel a little cheesy.

NEXT: Two Nappytabs routines starring: Horny People

Jasmine Harper and Aaron — Lyrical Hip Hop by Tabitha and Napoleon

Music: “Tears Always Win” by Alicia Keys

Ooh! I’m loving the chemistry between these two — and from the sound of things in the confessional, so is Jasmine. The pair played a road musician and his girl in town — or basically, “horny people.” Those are all the featured players in the Nappytabs routines. Horny people. “I THOUGHT WE WERE PG OR G!” yelped Mary. “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?” Mary must have memory loss because there’ve been a thousand SYTYCG (Gyrate) routines more scandalous than this. For one thing, both dancers were fully clothed. Anyway, this had such a fun, lived-in vibe to it — sexually charged, yes, but also intensely athletic.

Malece and Jade — Bollywood by Nakul Dev Mahajan

Music: “Student of the Year” (Original Soundtrack) by Radha

I’m awful — I never think any of the Bollywood dances are the best showcases of people’s skills. They always just seem shoehorned in to me. Jade seemed to have some trouble finishing many of his moves with any sort of necessary flourish, and Malece looked a bit weary under the weight of that oppressive bun. Nigel went ahead and said what we knew had been consuming his mind since the moment he saw Malece — “You’ve got such a lovely little pixie look. My eyes are always attracted to you.” Nigel. We know. Sometimes you don’t need to say these things out loud.

Christina gave Jade, who’d danced for his life earlier, some generic “you’ve got to work hard” life advice, at one point inserting herself into a scenario in which she herself was competing in an animation performance. (If I close my eyes and imagine a bizarre deleted scene from Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead hard enough, I think I can see it too!)

Alexis and Nico — Contemporary by Stacey Tookey

Music: “Old Skin” by Olafur Arnalds & Arnor Dan

These two did justice to the original with a “sequel” of Kathryn and Robert’s “she’s going off to war” dance from season 7. I’m not sure they elevated it, but I’m also not sure it was fair to put them in that situation, dancing alongside former faves when no one else had to do that. There was a really nice sweetness and calm about the dance (she returned from war); I just don’t know if it was a standout. Nico’s bright red jeans might be standouts. Are we yay or nay on such loud pants hues for men? I’m still undecided on this year’s spring/summer trend and it’s already July! Agggggh. So behind.

I wonder how many people Googled “The Velvet Underground and Nico” after Christina name-dropped them, “for the old people”? Maybe 15? Thousand? Nah, just 15.

NEXT: WE ALL SCREAM FOR SOMEONE WHO WAS ALREADY ELIMINATED Brittany and Blu Print — Broadway by Spencer Liff

Music: “It’s Oh So Quiet” by Bjork (Ice Princess Original Soundtrack)

Oh, man, this is one of my favorite “dance songs” ever — alternatingly delicate and thrashing, which introduces so many possibilities for the visuals of the dance. Tragically I only had eyes for Brittany for most of the dance — along with the knowledge that we’ll never see her again. When she threw up one arm from atop that table on the line “So, what’s the use?” I had to wonder the same for her. Mary threw Brittany a line about “THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR CELEBRATION OF DANCE WITH US,” but what was the use of even catching that? Aw, it was all just so upsetting. Maybe as we go through more cuts, these final obligatory “support your partner” dances will get easier — they’ll be like dance angels! — but for now it’s awkward and sad.

The judges reminded Blu Print to step it up personality-wise, especially in a Broadway routine. Christina wants goofiness but not annoying faces, and a story, but not chenays. Did we all follow that? Meanwhile, Nigel advised him to adopt the classic Hollywood “fake it ’til you make it” attitude. It seems more evil coming from him.

Jasmine Mason and Alan — Tango by Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

Music: “Escape From Slavery” by PP Music (UK)

This was SO good. I get so excited when the ballroom dances deliver excitement instead of a “ho hum” vibe. Jasmine’s visuals — her flexible lines, her dramatic and fearless spinning drop-downs from lifts — dominated the routine, but Alan was the behind-the-scenes star for enabling all of her aerial greatness. I didn’t even need the “he’s taking her innocence away” story to get a decent charge out of this routine. Nigel told Alan there wasn’t any other guy in season 10 who could have pulled off this tango — with the possible exception of the tall and strapping Aaron.

Mackenzie and Paul — Jazz with Sean Cheesman

Music: “Mannequin (Skeet & Tito Remix)” by Trish

Wow! Based on the all-powerful trifecta of dance, costuming, and music, this was one of my favorites of the night. Mackenzie captured the “broken doll”/mannequin effect perfectly up on that platform, and Paul gamely kept up with her stylized jerks — I’d forgotten he was a ballroom dancer. That twisting aerial of his in the background was insane! Nigel just loves Mackenzie and the way she walks around the set, “a dance diva but without the attitude.” I picture him stalking all the girls with hidden cameras, but that’s silly. The cameras are right out there in the open.

NEXT: Carlos leaving is an even bigger crime than Cat’s “black hole” dress Mariah and Carlos — Contemporary by Stacey Tookey

Music: “Dead in the Water” by Ellie Goulding

Wow. Carlos leaving first is a true crime — he’s one of the best guys by far, and this was his style, so it especially hurt. I couldn’t bear to look at his face after Mary screamed approvingly that “MISS LITTLE HIP HOP DANCER” was “GONNA NEED TO BE UP ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RAINBOW” if she kept dancing like that. He was gritting his teeth politely but likely seething inside. I want to go to the other side of the rainbow, he was probably thinking. Who doesn’t?

“America got this wrong, Carlos,” said Christina. We don’t even know if he was the bottom-vote-getter, though. So really the producers got it wrong, as far as we know.

Mariah did step it up emotionally, both during the dance and with her genuine on-the-verge-of-tears facial expressions any time she was on camera. What a whirlwind for her. Wow, I am more upset about Carlos than I thought! I have my DVR paused on their faces and he’s so serene and beautiful. Why must bad things happen to serene and beautiful people? What is this — real life?!

Amy and Fik-Shun — Hip-Hop by Tabitha and Napoleon

Music: “After Party” by Dorough Music

This time, the two Horny People in the dance were hotel bellhops — a fun and hilarious concept, and why don’t I ever stay at this hotel? That was some very effective ass-thrashing by Amy on “Girl, girl, girl, girl, girl.” Amy was tentative about jumping into Fik-Shun’s territory, but with her ability to so fully launch into a believable character on top of her near-flawless movement, she has nothing to worry about. And Nappytabs made great use of Fik-Shun’s unique balancing act and time-suspension specialties. I had to rewind this one right away, it was so much fun.

Jenna and Tucker — Cha Cha by Dmitry Chaplin

Music: “I Like It Like That (Aaron Jerome Remix)” by Pete Rodriguez

Okay, I firmly disagree with Nigel on this one, even though I did take great delight in his demanding that the ballroom pieces on this show “look a bit more like Dancing With the Stars.” First of all, a lot of the DWTS numbers at this point incorporate tons of jazz, contemporary, or other dance elements. The choreographers deliberately design them with this “fusion” in mind to grab the attention of viewers because let’s be honest — a dramatically low-lit cha cha incorporating props and a sense of story is going to be more compelling than a traditional technical number. It just is. Jasmine and Alan’s tango this week was an anomaly for SYTYCD ballroom routines. They usually just aren’t all that.

So for Nigel to demand, all Len Goodman-like, that he wanted to see “more cha cha in there” is actually sort of a sabotage to the dancers, I think. People want to see the more stylized version of what they consider boring dances sometimes. Am I wrong? Let me know what you think!

That said, I liked how Tucker elevated his game with a ballroom swagger I never could have imagined. Jenna of course was in her ballroom element. “I loooooove playing Sexy Girl,” she confided to the camera. Oh girl. We know.

Which dances were your faves tonight? Are you upset about Carlos and Brittany? How exactly should Cat’s “dress” be destroyed?

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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