So You Think You Can Dance – Season 9 : ‘Meet the Top 20’

Courtesy of FOX

Alright dance fans – are you ready for what’s shaping up to be a stellar season of So You Think You Can Dance? Last night marked the landmark 200th episode as our Top 20 were announced followed by some hella good dancing. Are you as excited as I am?

Let’s break it down after the jump.Every year our jidges seem to say the following refrain: “This year we’ve raised the bar even further when it comes to the skills and talents of our Top 20″. I don’t know if I buy that. I’m thinking the technical and artistic abilities are likely on par from season to season. What’s different about these later season is that we’re broadening our range of genres and styles. Call me an optimist, but I think that real talent transcends time.

At the same time…woah, am I ever excited about this year’s Top 20! I’d also like to take a narcissistic moment to happily pat myself on the back for predicting who would make it in last week. (In all honesty it’s pretty frackin’ obvious if you look at who got screen time during Vegas week, but that’s besides the point)

Courtesy of FOX

We start out with our first contemporary batch of dancers. Absolutely no surprise, Alexa Anderson, who was on the receiving end of various Vegas smackdowns, is the first to make it in. She’s joined by George Lawrence II, Will Thomas and previous green-miler and sour-puss, Amber Jackson. We’re immediately treated to an amazing Tyce Diorio contemporary routine and George totally steals the show. A beautiful number, but honestly, during the whole routine I was only looking at him with my mouth agape. This “child” (as Debbie Allen would say) has so much absolute joy and artistry in his dancing, he blows everyone else out of the water. SYTYDC pool members: Put all your money on this guy! He’s top FOUR, I’m calling it now. I loved how Nigel backhandedly compliments Amber by saying how unattractive she was in the clip package when she was saying how she’d never audition for the show again after being cut twice. (True enough, but she gets serious props for setting aside her pride and bringing it.) All in all, this is a great start to the night.

Courtesy of FOX

Next up we’ve got our ballroom dancers. This little package had absolutely no suspense. Only three Latin dancers in our top 35? It comes as no surprise that Nick Bloxsom-Carter, Witney Carson and Lindsay Arnold secure spots in the Top 20. As I said last week, I’m tickled pink that both members of ‘Team Ballroom’ have made it in, but the Jason Gilkinson choreographed number that followed didn’t do much for me. With all that blonde hair it just was bit too porn-starry and I don’t think Nick was showcased as well as he could have been. I tend to opt for the more smouldering and suggestive sexuality, and this number felt much too overt. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see what these three deliver.

Courtesy of FOX

Then we moved on to another delightful surprise as both of my favourite ballet dancers from Vegas week – Chehon Wespi-Tschopp and hottie, Daniel Baker – make it in the Top 20. Woo-hoo! Rounding out the amazing classical dancer pool is Eliana Girard who steals the show in the following Desmond-frickin-Richardson/Dwight Rode choreographed routine. Although this had the makings of a ‘blow-your-mind’ routine, something just didn’t sit right with me during it. Perhaps it was the music, some “off” timing, or unreasonable expectations, but I ended up feeling a tad unsatisfied overall. Despite that, we did see some absolutely amazing dancing and I literally squealed when I found out that we’d see more of both Daniel and Chehon. Let’s also hope this means that Richardson and Rode will be choreographing more routines for the show.

Courtesy of FOX

Onto our jazz dancers. Top 20 peeps Tiffany Maher and Audrey Case were rarely seen, if at all, during Vegas week. Their joined by SYTYCD’s first-ever belly dancer Janelle Issis  (no surprise) who has to sit out sick during the following Sonya Tayeh number. Nigel literally takes the words out of my mouth when he calls it the “Pebbles Flintstone” routine because that is exactly what it was. These two little powerhouses totally support one another in a very entertaining performance, but neither one of them really took centre stage (I couldn’t help but wonder how that dynamic would have changed had Janelle been there to perform with them). They’re not exactly on my radar yet, but I have feeling they’ll creep in as dark horses when the competition really gets underway.

Courtesy of FOX

Next up is a second batch of contemporary dancers: Matthew Kazmierczak (aka the Ryan Gosling lookalike) Dareian Kujawa, Janaya French (who has been invisible this entire time) and of course, Amelia Lowe, the silent movie star (who really needs to take it easy on that winged eyeliner). Amelia’s skin is so pale, she can’t help but stand out in the Stacey Tookey routine but even so, this routine was the first to feel like a proper group number. It was beautiful to see the amazing ebbs and flow that each dancer had with one another. Everyone had their own little moments, but it was never distracting and worked to bolster the piece as a whole.

Courtesy of FOX

Finally, we round out the Top 20 with the three most unique dancers of the bunch: Our first ever stepper, Brandon Mitchell (who doesn’t get as much ceremony as Janelle did), martial artist/dancer Cole Horibe and of course, lovable animator Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer. What follows is the best routine of the night, choreographed by genius Christopher Scott (who I seriously want to marry and bear children with). How much do I love Christopher Scott? Only he could turn a shameless piece of FOX cross-marketing into a work of art. The number beautifully showcases and seamlessly integrates the talents of these very unique dancers. Loved this routine! Seriously YouTube it.

Courtesy of FOX

But the dancing didn’t stop there! In fact, we were treated to an additional THREE routines! The top 10 girls (actually nine without Janelle) performed a Travis Wall number, and all my thirst for a full-out Wall routine was finally satiated courtesy of this gorgeous ethereal, contemporary piece. Definitely gave the preceding baseball number a run for its money for best routine of the night. YouTube this one too.

Courtesy of FOX

The guys didn’t want to be upstaged by the girls, so they tackled a manly Sonya Tayeh routine. Perhaps it was the horrendous “maternity pants” costuming, but this number didn’t nearly have as much resonance as the Travis Wall piece. The girls easily win this round! We did, however, get treated to the adorable personality of Will Thomas, who doesn’t quite have the same 6-pack physic of many of the other male dancers.

Courtesy of FOX

To cap off a pretty amazing 200th episode, we got the return of “Mama” Mia Michaels in a routine that featured our entire Top 20. I definitely loved aspects of it, but on the whole, I wasn’t blown away as much as I wanted to be. I found the stage lighting to be incredibly distracting or perhaps I needed a palate cleanse after so many group routines in a row. But I’m absolutely thrilled with the possibility that we’ll see more Mia Michaels routines this season.

Other Observations:

  • Cat Deeley is the single most wonderful host on reality TV today. She effortlessly moves things along without the proceedings feeling rushed or redundant. Plus with quips like “BFG: Big Friendly Giant” how can you not love this woman? Do you think she’ll ever be cheeky enough to poke fun at herself for the horrendous decision to host ‘The Choice’?
  • A word on Zooey Deschanel and the whole concept of the ‘celebrity judge’: Yes, they don’t know dancing and it is often painful to sit through commentaries of “That was SO good” and  “I am speechless because y’all are so ah-mazing”. In this instance it’s forgivable because this wasn’t a competition episode, but really, the joy of the show is hearing the constructive criticisms from professionals (it’s how the Top 20 grow with every performance). I’m hoping SYTYCD will limit the celebrity face time on the show if the guest is unable to be constructive or, at the very least, entertaining.

So that’s our Top 20 folks. What do you think? Happy with the decisions? How did you like the performances tonight? Any bets on who you think will win the competition? Curious that there was absolutely no mention of the All Stars?  I’m inclined to think we’re not going to be getting any All Stars this year as we go back to pairing up the competitors themselves. What do you think? Sound off in our comments section!

So You Think You Can Dance takes a short 4th of July break next week, but returns airing Wednesdays at 8:00pm EST on FOX July 11.

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About tvangie

Angie is a TV addict currently pursuing a PhD in media studies. A freelance researcher and writer on the side – she really misses talking about her favourite shows because none of her friends watch them. Help her out.

3 thoughts on “So You Think You Can Dance – Season 9 : ‘Meet the Top 20’

  1. I’m with you on everything, except for your ranking of the final group numbers; the Travis chiffon orgy was just a little too contrived for my liking (I hate superfluous props), and despite the maternity pants (I’m fairly certain they were supposed to be Hakama but the waist was WAY too high – perhaps in an effort to disguise Will’s belly flab), I loved the raw energy of Sonya’s routine. This having been said, I was a little put off by the number of thinly-veiled homophobic comments from the guy dancers that were included in the final edit of the rehearsal footage. As for the final group routine, the sunglasses-lifting chorus line was possibly the most awkward and amateur piece of choreography I’ve seen on the show (Mia, WTF?)

    • I have a love / hate relationship with the portrayal of masculinity and sexuality for male dancers on the show. There have been times I’ve thought Nigel should be censored for his completely inappropriate remarks about how “men” should dance/act.

      With that said, it’s another thing when the dancers themselves say things. Boo…

  2. I wish they would make a better set with set changes for this show. It is so popular and widely watched, and since it is in the same place each episode, they could put more effort into that. I was so happy for the top 20 to be announced finally though, and see some fine dancing. I do love this show though and the best part is waiting to see who is put through, and who is not. My whole family watches with our PrimeTime Anytime recordings now ever since a friend and co-worker at Dish suggested saving time by using them for the Auto Hop feature that trims 20 minutes an hour since we can watch commercial free. That freedom has helped us enjoy more TV, which is what we want more of, not commercials.