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So You Think You Can Dance: “Top 16 Perform”

Illustration for article titled iSo You Think You Can Dance/i: “Top 16 Perform”
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It’s been two weeks since these dancer were on television last, so it’s no surprise that things are a bit sluggish when the Top 16 take to the stage. After being delayed for the MLB All-Star game last year, So You Think You Can Dance had to eliminate four dancers, so this week’s episode is at least an upgrade in that only two contestants are sent home. Unfortunately, America puts the judges in a tough position with the women by voting some of the best dancers into the bottom. I knew that Mariah would be going home once she was in the bottom with Makenzie and Jenna, two favorites of the judges and choreographers that are also part of two of the season’s power couples. Mariah’s had one dance with a new partner and it wasn’t all that great.

Jenna is saved because she danced for her life last episode, and while Mariah brings plenty of personality and energy to her solo, Makenzie outshines her on a technical level. If Makenzie finds herself in the bottom again, she needs to perform something a little more crowd pleasing to show she can have fun. Her graceful “Claire de Lune” routine is beautiful, but she needs to make herself accessible to the voting public and present a more inviting image. She’s incredibly sexy in her Dave Scott hip-hop routine, but she’s just a sexy moving statue if she doesn’t bring some extra cheekiness and personality to the precision. I think she does that this week, but I'm not necessarily in touch with what the voters see.


Makenzie’s partner Paul strikes that balance of character and technique perfectly, and after tonight I can see him making it all the way to the finale. Granted, the male competition isn’t nearly as fierce this season. There are some clear frontrunners with the women, but that’s largely due to the voting rather than their performances. The women all seem to rise above the challenges thrown their way, but there’s a clear disparity in the quality of the male performances. Alan, Curtis, and BluPrint find themselves in the bottom, and all their solos disappoint. Alan puts too much focus on his prop cape, Curtis brings no character to his tap, and BluPrint continues to be devoid of personality. All he would have to do is smile to make it look like he’s enjoying himself, but that goes against the cold, robotic nature of animation. He keeps a stern face and that ends up sending him home. His performance in the Brian Friedman jazz routine completely falls apart by the end, but it’s Mariah’s situation that really seals BluPrint’s fate. The judges aren’t going to send Makenzie home, so it makes sense to send Mariah’s underperforming partner home with her rather than break up a different couple where both members aren’t on the chopping block.

Curtis and Alan have both been in the bottom before, and after their performances tonight they’re likely to end up there again next week. Curtis hasn’t been listening to his constant note that he needs to get his shoulders down, and he can’t afford to be sloppy when his partner is so meticulous. Hayley once again outshines him in their Dee Caspery contemporary routine (on a ladder!), but as a way to ride on her coattails, Curtis is running with a romance plot and reveals that he took Hayley out on a sushi date during the break. That might be enough to change the voters’ opinions of him, but it’s unlikely after the spanking the judges give him. Alan is in the same situation with Malece, and she steals the show during their Dave Scott hip-hop routine. Malece has swag while Alan just looks goofy, and his control is nowhere near as sharp as his partner’s. Dancing with all these different partners is great top 10 prep for Malece, though, and this season’s Blonde Dance Robot is picking up a lot of steam as she continues to wow the judges.

It’s a shock that Jenna is once again in the bottom three, and although the judges go wild for her Travis Wall contemporary routine with Tucker, I wonder if voters will have the same appreciation for the prop-heavy number. Jenna’s armbands restrict her movement in an interesting way, but problems with the Velcro at the end diminish the impact of those final moments. They’re also distracting, and I found myself looking at the red bands more than the two dancers. The judges clearly want Jenna to stick around, so they inflate their praise of the routine, but they’re also a very talented couple so they deserve the kudos.

There are two Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin ballroom routines tonight and they are danced by polar opposite couples. Nico and Alexis are the youngest looking of all the contestants, and their jive has a high school talent show feel while the far more mature Aaron and Jasmine deliver a passionate, smooth quickstep. Nico’s small frame has a lot of trouble with lifts, but Aaron not only flips Jasmine around with ease, he does it while wearing a face that says he knows he can spin this girl around his arm, throw her in the air and catch her. There’s an overwhelming bravado seeping out of Aaron when he dances, and that confidence has made it easy to forget he’s a tapper when he’s in other styles. Their technique may not be perfect, but Aaron and Jasmine have a personal connection that radiates on stage. When they look each other in the eyes, they are having a silent dialogue that brings extra character to one of the show’s hardest dances.


Aaron and Jasmine’s main competition at this point is Fik-Shun and Amy, who once again astound the judges with a Tyce Diorio hobo jazz routine. Amy’s technique is outstanding, but Fik-Shun makes a dramatic leap this week as he shows impressive control of his movement while still bringing the inebriated sense of freedom felt by a dancing tramp. His character work puts him ahead of his partner for the first time in the competition, and while Amy offers Fik-Shun a lot of help on the technical side in other styles, she would be wise to turn to her partner for help building unique characters. They both have a lot to offer each other, and the more they share, the better their chances of ending up in the finale.

Stray observations:

  • This will be the only place in which I mention that Carly Rae Jensen is tonight’s guest judge. Let it never be spoken of again.
  • Poor Mariah and BluPrint get eliminated looking like Battlefield Earth extras.
  • Congratulations to SYTYCD on seven Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Reality Competition Program, Host, Lighting Design, and four for Outstanding Choreography (Mandy Moore, Sonya Tayeh, NappyTabs, and Travis Wall). If I had to pick an Emmy-winning routine from last season, it would be this one:

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