For the past four seasons of So You Think You Can Dance, I have enthusiastically blogged about the show. But after what I saw as poor treatment of season six and its contestants by the producers (a rushed finale, no tour, etc.), I was questioning whether or not I would even tune in for future seasons. Then came the news that they were mixing up the format, by pairing up new contestants with beloved SYTYCD all-stars every week. My interest was piqued. And then I was totally sold on the idea when I heard that Russian ballroom dancer Pasha would be one of the all-stars. Pasha is just one of those people who I must watch if he shows up on tv.
I’ve heard mixed opinions of this new format since the top 11 performance show. Yes, I miss watching chemistry develop between some of the dance partners, and rooting for pairs. Yes, some of the performances are awkward because, for example, you have someone who has never danced ballroom trying to keep up with the sensational Anya. And yes, the first week I was so excited about seeing my favorite former contestants that I didn’t pay a bit of attention to the new folks, who this season is supposed to be all about.
The producers must have listened to internet chatter or held some focus groups, because during the Top 10 and Top 9 weeks, they have made some changes to improve the show. The best change is that they started having the all-star stand with his/her new contestant partner during the judges’ comments. It was just wrong and awkward that first week when the all-stars were shuffled off stage immediately after finishing their performance. This new format of all-star/new contestant pairs works best when the choreographers play to the new dancers’ strengths. Alex Wong has been the best example of this so far, in his contemporary routine during the top 11 week, and during his sensational hip hop duet with Twitch this week. This week in particular, Tabitha and Napoleon threw in some creative ballet touches that somehow added humor and strength to the routine. Other times the new format fails miserably, as when Kent was paired with Anya for ballroom, or when Billy Bell cheesed his way through a krump routine with Comfort.
It is definitely taking me longer to pick clear favorites, because I still find myself drawn more to the all-stars during the performances. Let’s take a look at the Top Nine dancers:
- Adechike Torbert – I am always partial to strong, masculine male dancers, so I love Adechike. I love watching him dance because he combines strength and gracefulness in an almost magical way. He has so much control, yet sometimes it seems like he’s floating through the air. His serious demeanor doesn’t both me – I loved his contemporary dance with Allison last week even though the judges complained that he wasn’t dancing with his heart. But still, it was nice to see him loosen up this week during his hip hop with Lauren.
- Alex Wong – The judges are getting a bit annoying with their treatment of Alex as a dance god. I thought they were way over the top with their praise of his routine with Allison, but that their raving about his hip hop routine was pretty accurate. (Although, Tabitha and Napoleon should receive a lot of credit for coming up with the fantastic choreography.) There’s no denying that Alex is already a highly trained professional, but it is clear that he is very passionate about branching out into areas outside of ballet, making himself a more versatile dancer, and proving that he deserves to be on the show. He’s in a similar position to season three’s Danny, in that he is so much more talented than the other contestants. But somehow he hasn’t been pegged by the judges as arrogant like Danny was.
- Ashley Galvan – Ashley was barely a blip on my radar until she blew me away this week with her beautiful contemporary routine with Ade. Granted, Ade was a big part of why the performance was so impressive, but it was obvious that Ashley was fully invested in the dance, and that she gave it all she had. Her technique was flawless, and her stage presence was moving. She’s not my favorite contestant personality wise, but if she keeps dancing like that, she may become a favorite.
- Billy Bell – All the hype about how a-MAY-zing Billy Bell is got annoying to me as far back as last season, when he had to drop out due to illness. So I haven’t really jumped on the Billy Bell bandwagon this season. Sure, he’s a great dancer, but he seems to have trouble connecting with the audience. I don’t see him being a fan favorite.
- Jose Ruiz – I am still a little confused about why Jose ended up in the top ten. He’s not as talented a b-boy as some in the past (anyone would have trouble following Legacy), and he seems really goofy to me. Last week’s bollywood and this week’s ballroom were pretty awful, but the judges have an inexplicable soft spot for him. Rather than critique how wrong some of his performances are, they praise him for being entertaining. They aren’t holding him to the same standards as the other contestants. I wouldn’t be disappointed to see him go home soon.
- Kent Boyd – Before the competition began, Kent was my favorite of the guys. But since then, the producers’ portrayal of him as a naive small town farm boy, a country boy come to the big city, has been driven into the ground so much that I am over him for the moment. He really does have a “deer caught in the headlights” look about him (as Mia pointed out) that is distracting during his performances. He’s a cute, likable guy, but I am ready to see him invest more in his performances, and show some more genuine personality during his dancing. At the moment, he’s kind of a male version of former contestant Molly, and she was never one of my favorites.
- Lauren Froderman – Lauren was my favorite female contestant coming into the top 11 performance show. She hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations, based on her great solo during the final round of Vegas week. I loved her personality and interesting choreography! Hopefully she’ll be around long enough to show more of her strengths.
- Melinda Sullivan – Much like Channing was last season, Melinda has been a disappointment. I love her look and personality, but she seems very disconnected and/or uncomfortable during her performances. The judges praised her last week for her mother nature performance with Ade, but I didn’t think she had to do very much, or that she did it very well. And she seemed very unsure of herself dancing with Pasha this week. I am watching the results show as I write this, and I’m not surprised that the judges sent her home. I think it was a mistake for her to reveal that she has already done modeling and acting, since that makes her come across more as someone looking for fame, rather than someone focusing on her passion for dance.
- Robert Roldan – Maybe if the show had introduced us to Robert during the audition and Vegas rounds I would feel some connection to him, but maybe not. I haven’t been particularly impressed by any of his performances.
Alexie and Cristina, the first two dancers sent home, hadn’t made an impression on me, so I had no positive or negative reactions to their eliminations. At this point, I guess my favorites are Adechike, Alex, and Lauren, but they are still being overshadowed by the all-stars.
The All-Stars – Here’s a run-down of the former contestants who are entertaining us again this season
- Ade – Season 5 – Melissa and Ade were probably my favorite couple during Season 5, so I’ve loved seeing him on stage again. He’s been a great partner for all the newbies.
- Allison – Season 2 – I didn’t start watching the show until season 3, so I knew nothing of Allison before this season. She’s fantastic! I don’t know how good any of the other early season contestants were, but I am glad she accepted the invitation to return.
- Anya – Season 3 – Anya never quite clicked in other styles when she was a season 3 competitor, but she burns up the stage doing ballroom. It’s so fun to watch her at work.
- Comfort – Season 4 – Comfort wasn’t my favorite during season 4, but it’s nice to have a female hip hopper among the all stars.
- Courtney – Season 4 – Courtney is at her best when she’s dancing a Sonya Tayeh routine. Their styles and personality somehow mesh well.
- Dominic – Season 3 – I feel like we haven’t seen much of him yet, but it’s nice to have yet another season 3 contestant return, since that was my favorite season.
- Kathryn – Season 6 – Kathryn was overshadowed by fellow season six finalists Russell and Jakob, but she deserves her due as a great and beautiful dancer, so I’m glad she is on the show this season.
- Lauren – Season 3 – Still a bit cheesy, but still nice to see her.
- Mark – Season 4 – Always nice to see quirky Mark, and it looks like he’s been working out! 😉
- Neil – Season 3 – Neil was the king of cheese during season 3, and he still has it, although toned down a bit.
- Pasha – Season 3 – My favorite contestant ever! So glad to see him again.
- Twitch – Season 4 – Always a fun personality and stage presence
My Favorite Performances So Far
- Group Hip Hop (Jose, Twitch, Comfort, Dominic) – This funky number from the “Meet the Top 11” episode reminded me how talented some of the former hip hop contestants are. Jose held his own pretty well, but the other guys were special to watch.
- Group Ballroom (Pasha, Anya, Cristina) – This “Meet the Top 11” performance was all about Pasha, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was so nice to see Pasha and Anya together on stage again. Cristina was barely noticeable, I’m sad to say.
- Adechike and Allison’s Contemporary – I totally disagreed with the judges on this Top 10 Week performance. All they did was complained about Adechike’s lack of heart and his robotic movements. I thought it was a beautiful dance by both partners, and helped put Adechike at the top of my list of favorites.
- Pasha and Cristina’s Paso Doble – This Top 10 Week performance apparently didn’t impress very many people, since it only succeeded in sending Cristina home. But for me it was another chance to see Pasha in his element, and I thought Cristina did a decent job, too. In fact, I picked up the phone and voted for her!
- Mark and Ashley’s Contemporary – This Top 10 Week performance to an Annie Lennox song was very well done, but at the time I mostly paid attention to Mark, with little regard for Ashley. In watching it again now, I see that she also did a great job.
- Ade and Ashley’s Contemporary – I loved this Top 11 performance, with Ade taking on the role of Ashley’s backbone. She was perfect in her role, too, and for the first time I really noticed her.
- Twitch and Alex’s Hip Hop – I think Nigel is right that Tabitha and Napoleon will be nominated for a an Emmy for this psychiatrist/patient routine, which perfectly meshed Alex and Twitch’s strengths, and also really brought out Alex’s personality. I have watched it 4 or 5 times now, and it is still really that entertaining. I hope we’ll see more guy partner routines, since there are only two girls left now.
So there you have it. I fell behind on my reviews of this season’s episodes, but now I’m all caught up. What have you thought of this season so far? Who are your favorites?