So You Think You Can Dance review: Season 9 – ‘The Top 20 Perform’

Courtesy of FOX

Here we go dance fans – the competition begins as our Top 20 perform for your votes this week. How does the new one-show-per-week format hold up?

Let’s take a closer look after the jump.

We waste no time as the show opened with an ah-mazing Christopher Scott Mad Men-esque routine. It took all of five seconds for me to realize it was a Scott choreographed piece, as his signature was all over this one (in the best possible way *swoon*). Utterly breathtaking and a perfect way to quell the fears of viewers (such as myself) who were anxious about the fate of the group numbers after the results show had been cut entirely this year. A great way to start the show.

Also absent (and predicted) are our All Stars. I loved the All Star format, but I can’t say that I’m necessarily disappointed that we’re going back to the traditional contestant pair-ups. After all, seasons 2, 4 and 5 continue to be my favourite of the franchise, and there was nary an All Star to be seen back then (Although, arguably, that’s where the All Stars started…) So while it’s somewhat disappointing that we won’t get to see some of our favourite dancers return, maybe going back to SYTCD roots will be better for this new, once a week format. (Side Note: Was anyone else salivating as much as I was when Nigel listed some of the performances at the upcoming Dizzy Feet Foundation gala? Sigh. What I wouldn’t give for a big ol’ bag of cash to get a ticket!)

Another big surprise – FOUR dancers are going to be cut next week. Looks like we’re getting a bloodbath after the 4th of July festivities. But enough logistical chatter – let’s get right into the dancing!

Courtesy of FOX

First up, we’ve got ballroom dancer Witney and my early favourite, ballet dancer Chehon. They pull a Latin samba which was just okay. It served well as the first number of the night, upbeat with plenty of sparkle, but there was a general lack of eye contact (read: chemistry) between the two. Witney was great, as she should be in her genre, and Chehon was adequate. I think he did well all things considered. He’s still one of my favorites because I know he’ll blow me away, given the opportunity. Prediction: Witney will be safe; Chehon might end up in the bottom three.

Courtesy of FOX

My top pick for the guys, George is up next with partner Tiffany (aka Pebbles Flintstone #1). They draw a Sonya Tayeh contemporary routine that showcases the incredible athleticism and grace of these two dancers. George stood out much more to me than Tiffany, but that could be because I’m a little biased. This boy’s lines are just - breathtaking. The partnering/lifts between these two was magnificent. Like Mary pointed out, there was one spectacular move where little Tiffany effortlessly glides up George’s leg in gorgeous tableaux. Sometimes I felt Tiffany’s emotions were a bit forced, she generally had a perma-grin (save a couple of moments) which brought me out of the intensity of the piece, but George totally sold the raw emotion to me. A very well-matched pair with complementary moments of high and low. Prediction: Both will be safe.

Courtesy of FOX

Hip-hop followed with Janaya (who has yet to emerge from the background for me) and stepper Brandon. Normally, I love me some Nappy Tabs, but when they introduced their number as an alcoholic struggling with addiction and the gal who loves him, I immediately tensed up. Although we’ve had some amazing story pieces, I was apprehensive that this piece was going to break free from its high concept. And I was right. The story was far too distracting. And the dancing itself was subpar, especially considering the three numbers we’d seen thus far. Generally, I found the isolations really choppy and awkwardly jerky. The pair did loosen up mid-way through the number, but most of it felt like they were counting in their heads. Didn’t feel it – completely forgettable. Prediction: Janaya is in trouble – she’s shown next to no personality (granted, she hasn’t really been given much opportunity) which tells me she’ll not only be in the bottom, but ultimately cut. Brandon will be in the bottom and might save himself if we can witness some killer stepping in his solo (which I’m dying to see).

Courtesy of FOX

Two hot blondes are next up – Alexa and Daniel in a supremely difficult Sean Cheesman jazz number. I honestly appreciated so much about this number, but ultimately, as guest judge Kenny Ortega pointed out, I was not entertained by it. It felt really overworked and strained. I know these two were working hard, but the problem was, I could see all the work. It needed to feel more pure and organic, and I’m not certain it was the dancers’ fault or Cheesman’s. The props (i.e. the cage/scaffolding) were way too distracting, and the complicated lifts just felt like there was too much “setting up” rather than dancing. But poor Daniel gets some serious credit as he had to do all of that contorting in a three piece suit with a smile on his face. Prediction: These two are in the bottom three, but Alexa will be saved (there’s been too much investment in her). Either Daniel or Chehon might be cut, using the lame justification of having two trained ballet dancers and wanting to keep up the diversity of styles on the show.

Courtesy of FOX

The kiss of death – the Viennese waltz (aka the dance that will pretty much guaranteed you are bottom three) was up next. I actually don’t mind this dance; I’ve seen a couple over the years that were just gorgeous. Unfortunately, this one was not and I blame it solely on ballroom dancer Nick and his horrible scrunched-up, forced emotion face. Thankfully Nigel points this out to him –so I’m not the only one sitting on the meanie throne. Seriously this boy looks like he smells some funky cheese or something. It’s unfortunate because partner Amber does very well indeed. As the music swells and the camera gets away from Nick’s face, the dance really starts to shape up. Complicated lifts are pulled off with grace and ease, but I really don’t think it’s enough to save these two from the bottom three. Prediction: Drawing the “death dance” pretty much cements these two for the bottom three. I predict that Amber will bite it simply because there are too many contemporary girls on the show as is, and she doesn’t have as much clout as Alexa. But I may be wrong – I think Amber is a great dancer and I personally would choose her over Alexa. I *think* Nick will get a pass this week simply because he’s the sole male ballroom dancer.

Courtesy of FOX

Next up is the “cat” routine with Amelia and Will – and finally Amelia’s horrendous winged-eyeliner will be put to good use. Will is just adorable, he’s deliciously innocent and I can’t help but smile at his antics. The routine itself is a departure from the traditional hip hop that we get from Nappy Tabs, but it’s delightfully quirky and couldn’t be a better match-up for this pair. They’re a great couple and they really did justice to the piece, making it their own. This routine borders on Wade Robson territory, who I frickin’ LOVE, as it really showcases the personality of the dancers while still including some impressive lifts and musicality. Prediction: These two are safe.

Courtesy of FOX

African jazz is next, and we finally get to see belly dancer Janelle perform after her various illnesses and ailments. She’s partnered with Cirque du Soleil alum, Dareian in a Sean Cheesman number. Again, we get the severe difficulty, but what a difference it is from the Alex and Daniel routine. They’re different styles, and obviously different routines, but the complicated, pretzel-like entwinements between the two are more seamlessly executed in this number. There’s not as much “work” or strain in this number. I probably shouldn’t compare the two numbers, but I just can’t help it. It gives me a sense of what the previous number could have been. I quite liked this performance. Prediction: These two are safe.

Courtesy of FOX

The world’s most lovable couple is up next, Eliana and Cyrus. They tackle a Tyce Diorio Broadway routine and it is one of the most delightful, uplifting things I’ve ever seen. Cyrus’ joie de vivre is dripping from him – it’s utterly infectious. He’s adorable! And ballet dancer Eliana’s energy is right up to par. But it’s more than that – she pulls some really sick moves throughout the routine. Nigel says that Eliana is the girl to beat and I completely agree. She’s my favorite girl and will definitely make it into the top three. Prediction: These two are so safe.

Courtesy of FOX

It looks like most of the memorable routines are stacked at the latter end of the show as Audrey and Matthew step up to plate with a Travis Wall piece. Drawing a Wall number pretty much guarantees your safety and this one is no exception. I groaned a little bit when I heard it was going to be a Titanic re-enactment of the nude drawing scene. Another high concept?  Nope.  In this case it works. The chemistry between these two dancers is palpable. You just believe that these two are intensely in love and the amazing dancing is just an extension of it. Just beautiful partnering work, the lines and lifts are gorgeous. The routine made me feel like I was privy to a deeply intimate moment, yet it still felt innocent and pure. My favourite routine of the night (if we’re not counting the opening number…that seriously takes it) Prediction: Both are safe.

Courtesy of FOX

It’s fitting that final routine of the night is a show-stopping number. A paso doble with ballroom dancer Lindsay and martial arts dancer, Cole. Holy crap, this is one memorable dance! Generally speaking, I love me some paso dobles. The style itself is just steaming, but when it’s done right like it was last night – is it ever hot. Cole’s carriage, posture, entire performance is so engrossing – Phew! Someone get the hose out to put out this fire! And well Lindsay is in her genre so we all expect her to excel, which she does. The two are just amazing together. Prediction: Safe! Safe! Safe!

And that’s all folks. What do you think of my predictions? How’d you feel about this week’s routines? Any thoughts on how next week is going to go down with four cuts, squeezing in a group routine (hopefully) and all those performances?  Sound off in our comments section!

So You Think You Can Dance airs Wednesdays at 8:00pm on FOX.

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.

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