So You Think You Can Dance emerged from its Olympics hiatus with an unusual idea, one that was unprecedented for this show: a night that celebrated allegedly iconic SYTYCD choreography from one person, Mia Michaels.
The problem with this idea is that a bunch of kids we’re still just getting to know can’t hold a candle to performances and dancers that are a treasured part of fans’ memories. As the show was drawing to a close, Nigel Lythgoe even admitted the night had been a disappointment, something rarely heard in the hype-filled halls of reality TV (interestingly, the same thing happened on Tuesday, after a disastrous night of America’s Got Talent).
Many of the spotlighted dances came from the talent cornucopia of Season 4, and seeing them again mostly served to make me wish that Joshua Allen, Katee Shean, Mark Kanemura, Chelsie Hightower, and Twitch were on this season instead of that one. And it likewise didn’t help that the night’s guest judges, “Ballet Boys” Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt, admitted they hadn’t watched any of this season and essentially had no familiarity with SYTYCD history.
Despite all this negativity, there were some highlights. Both Nigel and Mary Murphy correctly called the night’s final performance as its best, a reprise of the Season 5 “addiction dance” with Lindsay Arnold and Cole Horibe. If he’s done nothing else this season, Cole has proven he has plenty of acting chops, and Lindsay was able to overcome her desire to be “pretty,” as Mia put it. She has adapted nicely to contemporary material.
The other blonde ballroomer this season, Witney Carson, got excellent marks also after she and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp had their take on the Season 2 “bench dance,” which is apparently about Mia’s impossible love for a gay man, something I’m guessing happens a lot in her field. Chehon managed to show off his technique while still handling the needed emotion, though Mary Murphy believed he can loosen up even more. Witney had less to do, but made her usual strong impression.
The other five dances, however, all lacked a little something. In the case of Eliana and Cyrus, and their repeat of the Season 4 “door dance,” it’s the fact that Cyrus, lovable as he may be, isn’t up to the standard set by Twitch four summers ago. Eliana is never less than fierce, though, and she can handle more personality-driven dances too. George Lawrence and Tiffany Maher were pretty solid on the Season 4 “hometown glory” dance, though Mary thought Tiffany was a little too over-the-top. My reaction to this pairing is somewhat different: they rarely make an impression on me that lasts for more than a few minutes.
Amelia Lowe and Will Thomas had been pretty much judges’ pets to this point, but the response to this dance was the first sign that the honeymoon might be over for at least one of them. They got to perform the Season 5 “butt dance,” which led to a long discussion of Amelia’s anxiety about having to show off that body part to a national audience. Well, she is still just 18. I actually liked her on this quite a bit; it was the first time her cutesy-poo persona hasn’t bugged me. Will, however, was beyond irritating with his theatrics. He got called out for going too far, and Amelia was dinged for being too reserved, so it’s no surprise these two looked a little confused as they were being judged.
Janelle Issis and Dareian Kujawa, easily the most endangered pair coming into this night, had the Season 4 “bed dance,” which is memorable but not really the ideal piece to show off your chops. Janelle in particular had little to do, which was unfortunate since she said she had a recent breakup to draw upon for inspiration; and it wasn’t a positive that the new judges immediately noticed Dareian’s foot issues, which he’s only been knocked for all season long. Audrey Case and Matthew Kazmierczak had the Season 3 “Time” dance that was a tribute to Mia’s late father. Audrey shone throughout, but Matthew was just sort of there, a point that the judges made during their critiques (foreshadowing!), and he looked stricken afterwards.
On to the eliminations, which awkwardly, were based on votes cast three weeks ago. We were also informed that four would be going home this week, which would reduce the field to the ten who are going on the SYTYCD tour. There weren’t too many big surprises here, aside from the continuing safety of Tiffany (who I simply don’t find memorable) and Cyrus (who is technically not measuring up). The endangered women were Amelia, Lindsay, and Janelle; while George, Matthew, and Dareian were the men in trouble.
After a solo from each of the six, which allowed Janelle to belly dance again and which Dareian really killed, it was on to the bad news. Once Nigel said that the performances tonight were a key determining factor, it was obvious what the calls would be, and they were the right calls: Lindsay and George were saved; Dareian, Matthew, Janelle, and Amelia are leaving.
Did you agree with the calls the judges made? And what about the one-choreographer format?