It sure didn’t take long for the top 20 of So You Think You Can Dance to get up to speed. The first big performance show of the season didn’t have a single true dud act among them – if there were any misfires Wednesday night, it came in the choreography department – and several performances that took turns bringing down the house. And to think these were all new pairings making their debut.
No one was sent home this week, though SYTYCD will trim four a week from now. Here’s a quick rundown of the best of the best from Wednesday, and a guess at who might be in trouble next time out.
Lindsay Arnold had seemed to be running behind fellow Utah ballroomer Witney Carson, but the show gave her and martial arts fusion guy Cole Horibe the night’s anchor spot, and their paso doble proved worthy of the producers’ confidence. There’s been some question over whether Cole, while definitely an amazing athlete, can handle all the technical demands of SYTYCD, but his sensibility fit perfectly with the paso, and Lindsay showed off a new ferocity.
Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer’s lack of formal training figures to do him in eventually, but the hip-hoppers determination to work through unfamiliar steps is endearing. Paired with Eliana Girard for a Broadway routine from Hairspray, he managed to embody the lightheartedness of the music, albeit with fairly basic choreography. Nigel Lythgoe all but ordered America to vote to keep Glitch alive, on the grounds that he deserves the chance to develop.
I doubt one could guess Janelle Issis was a belly dancer on the basis of the African jazz routine she performed with her twin pixie, Dareian Kujawa. It was demanding and exhausting, as the pair bounced all over the stage. These two ought to be able to push each other going forward.
Audrey Case and Matthew Kazmierczak are two dancers that needed a little publicity boost from this night, but both should be safe after dancing next-to-last with a Titanic-themed contemporary routine from Travis Wall (he was channeling the love story, not the shipwreck). I didn’t love it as much as the rest of the world apparently did – it seemed a little too designed to create pathos – but they surely did strike a chord.
Leading the list of those in trouble: the pairing of Janaya French and Brandon Mitchell. Neither dancer received much publicity up till now, and it was plain to see that the judges didn’t think much of the NappyTabs salute to overcoming alcoholism, or whatever that was. This routine needed angst that neither the choreographers nor the dancers could provide.
I would also worry about the pairing of Amber Jackson and Nick Bloxsom-Carter, who danced a Viennese waltz. They fell right in the middle of the two hours, and as Nigel pointed out, the waltz doesn’t provide the chance to wow with athleticism. Amber looks like she might have some potential, if she survives longer than Nick.
The judges seemed concerned that the jazz routine Sean Cheesman put together for Alexa Anderson and Daniel Baker had the dancers appearing too off-putting for America, but Alexa at least probably has had enough publicity to survive for now. Ditto for George Lawrence II, who was paired with Tiffany Maher on a contemporary number that was hard to remember five minutes after it ended.
Witney Carson and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp had the major disadvantage of performing first, and Chehon, a ballet dancer having to tackle a Louis van Amstel samba, had some of the only mildly critical reviews of the night. My guess is that both have made a strong enough impression before now to stick around. Witney in particular is sort of fascinating in a Britney-Spears-gyrating-in-a-school-uniform way.
My picks to leave – not that any of them were exactly bad, mind you – are Janaya, Tiffany, Nick, and Brandon. What did you think?