So You Think You Can Dance’s initial performance episode of the season left me feeling unsettled. The circumstances that have developed since the top 20 were announced last week seem unfair to so many people, that the way things went tonight just seemed wrong. Of course, you can’t prevent injuries and illnesses from happening to contestants, or networks from showing the World Series instead of a dance competition results show. But on top of all that, I am disappointed with many of the pairings. Do the judges hand pick the couples, or are they drawn randomly out of a hat, just like their dance styles? I just had a grimace on my face watching some of these couples dance. Maybe they just need more time to develop chemistry, or maybe we’re in for a long season. Enough of my complaining. Here’s a quick review of the performances:
- Channing and Phillip – Quickstep – Channing looked very glamorous, and I thought she did a good job with the choreography. I’m just not a fan of Phillip, and his wardrobe and dancing didn’t do anything to change that. This is one of the couples that I’m not happy about.
- Ashleigh and Jakob – Broadway (Tyce Diorio) – Tyce called this sultry Broadway, and that it was. I was amazed with all the praise that the judges lavished on Jakob, but I’m happy to hear it, since I am a fan of his after Monday night’s “meet the top 20” episode. I didn’t really get his clothing, but he sure does command attention on stage! Ashleigh really will have trouble getting noticed with him for a partner. I still can’t figure out who he looks like. It’s driving me crazy!
- Ariana and Peter – Hip Hop (Tabitha and Napoleon) – This routine was a “miss” for me. It reminds me of that weird routine that Ashley (?) and Kupono did early last season, where they were supposed to be crash test dummies or something. Let’s just say I find gold and silver spandex very distracting. Plus, there really was no chemistry between these two. I thought Peter did pretty well – he looked comfortable doing hip hop.
- Russell (and Melanie as a substitute for the injured Noelle) – Foxtrot – At the beginning it looked like this was going to be really bad, when Russell was way too deliberate about placing his hand behind his back. But then he loosened up some, and had fun with it. I wasn’t as disturbed watching him dance with Melanie as I was when Pasha danced with her a few seasons ago when his partner was out with an injury.
- Bianca and Victor – Contemporary (Travis Wall) – I don’t like them as a couple. Again, no chemistry, in my opinion. Victor is a great dancer, but Bianca’s shoulder’s really distract me (I have always noticed that, so I was glad Adam mentioned it). There were some excellent moves in this routine, so kudos to Travis Wall for that. Even though I don’t like Bianca and Victor together, I did like the routine.
- Karen and Kevin – Cha Cha (Tony and Meredith) – This was awkward for me to watch, but at least we heard a song from Glee (“Push It”). These two are just weird together, and Kevin didn’t seem too comfortable with all the gyrating. He seemed like he was just going through the motions. (Maybe he should have been in the bottom two guys instead of Russell…) Karen’s costume looked straight out of an 80s dance aerobics video.
- Ellenore and Ryan – Contemporary Jazz (Sonya Tayeh) – It wasn’t a smart move for Ellenore to talk up this performance as one of the best the show has ever seen, and that she’s ever performed. I guess she was trying to compliment Sonya, but it came across as arrogant. I did enjoy the strangeness of the routine, but it was far from the best I’ve ever seen on the show. Ryan certainly is a manly man, though, and he had a chance to show off his strength during this performance. These two have the potential to be a strong couple, and they are probably one of the most satisfying pairings so far. But did anyone else notice how Ellenore had her hand resting on Ryan’s lower abs and the front of his pants during the judges’ comments? I expected Ashleigh to walk on stage and swat her hand away. Seemed a little too personal. Awkward…
- Pauline and Brandon – Smooth Waltz – Too bad that Brandon has already been sent packing, because these two were a rather adorable couple. The dancing was far from perfect, but it was sweet.
- Kathryn and Legacy – Hip Hop (Dave Scott) – This goofy routine was about cavemen experiencing hip hop for the first time, and they didn’t really know what was happening. This was probably my favorite performance of the night. The choreography was clever, and Kathryn and Legacy did a great job bringing it to life. I actually laughed and smiled, while also being impressed by their style. These two are one of the better pairings, as far as chemistry goes.
- Mollee and Nathan – Disco (Doriana Sanchez) – “Inspired by Mexican wrestling…” I’m not a fan of disco, but this was a rather impressive routine. But, man, I’m disappointed that Nathan is paired with Mollee. Sure, they both have a teen fanbase, but I’d rather see Nathan with someone less goofy and hyper. Oh well, I suppose I should be happy that Nathan is in one of this season’s apparent power couples, since he’s one of my favorites.
The Bottom Four (as selected by the judges)
- Russell – What was he doing in the bottom four? Sure, his foxtrot wasn’t superb, but the judges seemed rather impressed by him at the time, and have loved him since the moment they first saw him in Boston. Why single him out for the bottom guys tonight when he was at a disadvantage without his partner? Maybe they just wanted an excuse to see his solo, but I would have been irate if they had sent him home so early! He didn’t seem too happy about being in the bottom four either, as his solo was especially intense.
- Brandon – Poor Brandon, we hardly knew him. He’s had quite a week: the jubilation of being called in to join the top 20, and the unfortunate circumstance of being sent home two days later, with words from the judges that he basically wasn’t quite good enough to be in the top 20. (It was nice of Nigel to say he wants to bend the rules to allow him to come back next season, but Brandon will have to do some more training and strengthening to actually make it further if that happens.)
- Ariana – I’m not surprised that she was sent home. We barely got to know her, and I agree with the judges that she lacked a certain fire in her eyes.
- Pauline – She’s very cute, but doesn’t seem to have much of a following. I guess she’ll be paired with Peter next week now that Ariana is gone.
Sent Home: Ariana and Brandon
So to return to my initial references to this episode making me feel unsettled: it is disappointing that Billy Bell had to drop out. It is also disappointing that Noelle will likely have top drop out next week (dancers don’t usually heal in one week from injuries that require a huge leg brace), which will leave Russell with a brand new partner. But even if Noelle can return to the competition, she and Russell will be a week behind the other couples. Pauline is also now at a disadvantage, because she has already lost two partners! So we started tonight’s episode with four dancers at a disadvantage: Russell, Pauline, Brandon, and Noelle. It’s unfortunate that the three of them who actually performed tonight ended up in the bottom four. If it were really true that the judges were making their decisions based on everything they know about the contestants, I think the bottom four would have consisted of a different group. Ultimately, though, it makes sense that they sent home Ariana and Brandon, but I’d imagine there are many fans who are disappointed that Ariana is already gone.
Hopefully next week’s show will have a more positive vibe!
- My favorite routines of the night: Kathryn and Legacy’s cavemen hip hop, Ellenore and Ryan’s contemporary jazz, Jakob and Ashleigh’s Broadway.