People who have complained that there’s too much contemporary dancing on So You Think You Can Dance at the expense of ballroom/ballet/crump/Pee Wee Herman are probably enjoying Season 9. Six dancers are left now, and none come out of contemporary – another reason why this is probably going to go down as a well-remembered SYTYCD season.
The show welcomed back Jesse Tyler Ferguson as guest judge, and he once again made up for his lack of technical prowess with unquestioned fanboy enthusiasm. The top eight each got a quick solo and short biographical segment to kill a little time. My main takeaway from the bios: those Utah moms either stay youthful looking a remarkably long time despite their big families, or they begin giving birth around age 4. I swear Lindsay Arnold’s mother doesn’t look a day over 30.
Witney Carson partnered with Twitch on a hip-hop routine from new choreographer Luther Brown. This was the one place I parted company with the judges, who I felt rather easy on the teenager, who seemed unconvincing and tentative in spots. She does have real star quality, though, and carried on nicely despite having to wear MC Hammer’s old pants. It was amusing to see that Witney’s dad is uncomfortable with the reality that his little girl is all grown up. If she wins, he’ll find a way to deal.
We learned that Cole Horibe went into martial arts because he felt bullied, and started dancing because he already wanted to be an actor. Once again this week, he got to show off a creepy persona courtesy of a Sonya Tayeh routine. His partner, Allison Holker, is so good she can’t help but pull attention, but Cole again showed he’s more than a gimmick – his technique is as good as anyone there. I do wonder, though, if a routine like this makes it hard for fans to warm up to him. This may be reflected in next week’s vote.
It took a while, but there seems little question that Eliana Girard is the female frontrunner. Given the “Dreaded Quickstep” courtesy of Dancing With the Stars veteran Jonathan Roberts, she and all-star Ryan made it look like child’s play. Mary Murphy had a few quibbles, but the judging table was mostly an Eliana lovefest. Jesse recalled judging at her audition, where we saw the footage of her writhing on a pole. Our little girl has come a long way.
Lindsay had a Sonya jazz routine with all-star Alex Wong, one that she told us was meant to exhibit “sexual tension.” This might be beyond Lindsay (and frankly, almost everyone in this season’s cast) – while the judges seemed to feel the technique was there, all agreed that there was no connection, sexually tense or otherwise, between the partners. Lindsay’s solo was strong and memorable, but overall the night was a misstep when she couldn’t afford one.
Will Thomas was given hip-hop from Christopher Scott which called on his to be angsty for a change. One reason I haven’t really gotten on board with Will was that he hadn’t been called on yet to much that’s really emotional, but I found this convincing. His partner work with Lauren was excellent, and he still showed some of his irrepressible personality. His bio package was interesting too, as he credited dancing with giving him a purpose in life, and making him a winner in the school where at one time no one understood him.
It was Moore of the same for Cyrus Spencer: a Mandy Moore jazz routine, and Season 8 winner Melanie Moore as a partner. I’ve been reluctant to go along with what the voting seems to be telling us every week, but I now think Cyrus is going to be the male winner. Nigel Lythgoe prepared us for this result by saying SYTYCD is all about America picking its favorite dancer, not necessarily the best. He was an infinitesimal bit behind Melanie most of the time, but it was a crowd-pleaser. Dance geeks won’t like that he doesn’t know who Bob Fosse is, but they’re a big minority.
Chehon Wespi-Tschopp told the story of being adopted by a Chicago couple and then going away to London for ballet. He’s a likable guy who has maybe been a bit low-key to fully connect with America, but his tango with Anya Garnis netted him his best notices of the entire season, complete with Mary’s Hot Tamale Train stamp of approval. This isn’t a dance that usually shows off strength, but when he lifts, wow. Chehon hasn’t gotten as much credit as some others for going outside his comfort zone, but he didn’t seem very ballet here.
Now that there’s only eight left, it’s easier for me to remember Tiffany Maher is on the show. And just in time, I’m really beginning to warm up to her. Her partner work with Ade on the Mandy Moore routine was phenomenal, with some terrific lifts and peerless body control. This was the first time she really reminded me of what Melanie was doing last season. The judges really love her, not that they have had to save her so far, thanks to America’s votes.
And they wouldn’t have to do it this week either, as Witney and Lindsay were the bottom two girls – the faceoff between the lifelong friends that we knew was coming sooner or later. I don’t know that there’s been any space between them all season, but the judges eliminated Lindsay and saved Witney, meaning she has now matched the SYTYCD finish of her idol Chelsie Hightower.
The male results were a mild surprise. Chehon was safe – I had him pegged as a likely casualty a week ago – and the judges ended up saving Cole at the expense of Will, who had yet to be on the bottom in any week so far. I had assumed Will’s personality had made him the favorite among the guys, but maybe America was looking for more than what Cat Deeley called a “giant Labrador puppy.”
What did you think of the results? And is anything stopping Eliana and Cyrus?