There are pros and cons to the new no-results-show version of So You Think You Can Dance, but something they’re going to have to work on is not using this week’s performances to telegraph who is going home based on last week’s performances. Given that Nigel Lythgoe’s only predominantly negative reviews were for George Lawrence Jr. and Audrey Case, could anyone have been shocked to see those two being axed at the end of the evening?
The top 10 made their first appearances with the all-stars on Wednesday, lending an overtone of specialness to the proceedings. Guest judge Benjamin Millepied seemed reluctant to really bite, but he honed in on what made the dances work. And truth be told, even those going home don’t have much to look back on with regret.
George’s problem was a lack of distinctiveness compared with the acting ability and unusual specialty of Cole Horibe, the underdog story of Cyrus Spencer, and the oversized physique and personality of Will Thomas (the other man in the field, Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, was saved by the judges this time, but will be lucky to get past next week). George and Season 2’s Allison performed a Tyce Diorio jazz routine, which called on him to play a visitor to Paris distracted by a beautiful dame. It looked to have sufficient verve and technique, but Nigel Lythgoe called him out for seeming too “immature” to be in heat. Ouch.
Audrey had been safe every week till now, but I guess that drippy Mia Michaels piece last week was a real mood (and vote) killer. Wednesday, she was partnered with Season 4’s peerless Twitch on hip-hop with a “living dead” theme. No one could have been surprised that she couldn’t live up to Twitch’s standards, but it wasn’t bad work for a first-timer. Nigel called her out for not quite getting into character, which might have been the decider when she faced off against Witney Carson in the female bottom two.
As for those who will be joining us again next week:
Tiffany Maher didn’t get much pre-top 20 publicity, and back in early July I wouldn’t have gambled that she would outlast fellow brunette Audrey. But she’s not only managed that, she’s the only woman left who has yet to place in the bottom, so it might be time to start taking her seriously. She was partnered with Season 5’s Brandon for a disco routine that featured her being lifted 11 times. It might have been nice to see her moving across the floor more often, but as Mary Murphy pointed out, Tiffany still needed to hold form in those lifts.
Either Witney or Lindsay Arnold have been in the bottom every week since the top 20, a sign that the two blonde ballroomers are sharing a voting base. It’s hard to imagine the judges keeping them both past next week, and that might be bad news for Witney, whose jazz routine with Season 1 winner Nick was less instantly memorable than what Lindsay nailed. She looked sultry – I always feel like Chris Hansen is lurking around the corner when I watch her dance – but the Travis Wall routine just felt a little thin. Lindsay and Season 6’s Jakob performed a cutesy Broadway number that had them playing each other’s shadow – a performance that called for being in sync even more than usual. The dance was playful, and once again, Lindsay didn’t look the least uncomfortable away from the ballroom.
Eliana Girard had the good fortune of partnering with sublime SYTYCD hard-luck story Alex, who also came out of ballet. Is it likewise good that Nigel openly referred to her as his favorite female dancer this season? Possibly not, since we know that voters don’t like being led too blatantly. It’s hard to argue, though, after this Stacey Tookey contemporary performance, the first time we’ve really gotten to see what Eliana could do with a well-rounded partner. This haunting routine was perhaps the season standout thus far, delivering supreme athleticism and emotion.
Is Cyrus going to stop being graded on a curve now that we’re kinda late into the season? Well, not quite. He was able to carry the emotional weight of a mondo-dramatic Travis Wall routine, and had terrific help from partner Jaimie (Season 3). But parts in the beginning looked really clunky, and even though the performance made an emotional impact, Travis didn’t call on Cyrus to do much other than be a presence. I think we do need to see more from him at some point other than not dropping his partner.
Chehon had to do hip-hop this time around (with Season 3’s Lauren), and it was like watching the math nerd in gym class, trying to get through the necessary evil. He has a ways to go before anyone will confuse him with a b-boy, but he did an acceptable job coming down from the world of balletic precision. Will had the break of partnering with one of the show’s biggest finds, Kathryn McCormick; and in getting a Bollywood routine that put a premium on physicality and sheer fun, his biggest strengths. It was the crowd-pleaser it was meant to be. But Will has gone a long way on mugging so far this season; it’s about time we got to see him dig deep emotionally.
Finally, there’s Cole, who was really let off the hook for a disjointed cha cha with Season 3 standout Anya. His footwork was only fair, and as even the mostly kind judges noticed, he paid little attention to his partner. Cole has less trouble than anyone else in the field getting into character, but now that it’s the final 8, he will need to become more precise. I actually think he might have been the one leaving Wednesday instead of George, had the voters put him in the bottom.
Who was your favorite from this week?