‘So You Think You Can Dance’: The top 20 perform (and a robot dog too!)


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Finally! The part of the season we’ve been waiting for has arrived, so let’s get right to it. The first of the top 20 dancers to perform were Jeanine Mason and Phillip Chbeeb, who did a hip-hop number choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo.

They were a couple trying to get to sleep who couldn’t until they had resolved an argument. I enjoyed the piece, but didn’t quite feel as in love with it as the judges did. Maybe I was rusty, or maybe the camera angles on the dance put me off (when will the show learn that quick cuts and zooms only take away from the performances instead of enhancing them?)


I think in general Tabitha and Napoleon’s routine felt like something they had done before, and it’s hard for me to feel very excited about a dance like that until I’ve gotten to know the dancers and their personalities a little bit. So I liked it, but I didn’t think it deserved Mary Murphy’s oh-so-predictable fake-out scream.

Next, Asuka Kondoh and Vitolio Jeune danced in Broadway style as choreographed by Tyce Diorio. With visions of Joshua Allen and Katee Shean’s ‘Godspell’ dance from last season, I anticipated a really fun, snappy dance, but the performance fell a little flat for me, partially because — with a fake old-timey camera propped up onstage — they seemed unclear about who they were performing to, and because in general it didn’t feel as lively and zany as I expected. The judges agreed that they were left wanting more.

Karla Garcia and Jonathan Platero then tackled a Tony Meredith cha-cha-cha, which also wasn’t quite as sharp and hot as I would have wanted, although Mary liked it enough to yell about it. I was worried at this point: Was I being too judgmental? Was I just nostalgic for last season? What was missing?

I quit worrying when Randi Evans and Evan Kasprzak danced a Tyce Diorio number that was sexy yet happy, romantic without being sappy or over the top. It was especially impressive considering neither dancer does jazz, and Evan and Randi had to pretend to be in love even though Randi is very married. The judges adored it and the two were deemed the Adorable Short Couple of the season (last season it was Courtney Galliano and Gev Manoukian). Mary was so taken by the dance that she shouted in Nigel’s ear and then tried to break up Randi’s marriage by talking about how hot she and Evan are together. By the way, Evan and Ryan have another brother. His name is the Other Brother, as detailed on his T-shirt.

I wrote last week about my uncertainty over Tony Bellissimo. I think he’s adorable and charming, but I’m not sure if his dancing ability is equal to his personality. He performed a Tabitha and Napoleon hip-hop dance with Paris Torres. It was cool-looking, but guest judge Adam Shankman was right when he said that the dancers needed more snap and rebound when attacking their moves. Mary wasn’t sure whether the number would be memorable. I think I enjoyed the performance a bit more than the judges did, but it certainly wasn’t as good as the dances that preceded and followed it.

Caitlin Kinney and Jason Glover performed a Bollywood dance set to ‘Jai Ho’ from the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ soundtrack as choreographed by Nakul Dev Mahajan, who is one of my favorite ‘SYTYCD’ choreographers already even though we’ve seen his work only once before on the show. Look, you’d have to be dead inside not to enjoy Bollywood dancing. In fact, as I watched, I was amazed that there isn’t a Bollywood dance class being offered at my gym as we speak. It just looks so cool and fun, and Caitlin in particular looked lovely and happy. I liked how she danced with her feet while she was doing a handstand. The judges, understandably, loved the whole thing.


And it just got better from there! Janette Manrara and Brandon ‘Lil C and Mia Michaels hate me’ Bryant performed a Louis van Amstel fox-trot, looking debonair as could be. The turns and lifts at the end were lovely, and the judges loved it so much that somehow Mary was forced to confess that she’s had too much Botox to appropriately express how much she liked the dance. That’s a relief to me, because I was thinking that thus far this season that Mary’s looking a little more tweaked than usual — but I was too nice a person to say anything. I hate it when Mary screams and I hate it when she pretends as if she’s going to say something mean AND TOTALLY DOESN’T!!!! But this did make me like her more.

I think I’ve picked my favorite couple so far of the season, and it’s Ashley Valerio and Kupono Aweau. Part of it may just be that they lucked out with their pick: a Wade Robson jazz dance about two crash-test dummies. As Adam said, you either love or hate Robson dances and I liked it a lot, including the odd makeup and Goldfrapp music. Ashley in particular shined in the piece as the EVE to Kupono’s WALL-E. I even loved the little crash-test doggie that scooted across the stage, even though it was a little bit distracting. The judges enjoyed the routine and Mary put the pup on the hot tamale train.

I have mixed feelings so far about ballerina Melissa Sandvig. On the one hand, I’m sick of the ‘naughty ballerina’ finger in the mouth move she’s been doing so much. On the other hand, at 29 she is nearly as old as I am and we old ladies need to stick together. She and Ade Obayomi performed a lovely Mandy Moore contemporary dance and Melissa’s moves and grace were out of this world, thanks to her experience as a ballerina, naughty or not. Adam found it utterly special, and the other judges also loved it.

We closed out with Kayla Radomski and Max Kapitannikov who performed a Louis van Amstel samba. I could tell from the first move that it was going to be a fun, sexy performance, but the main story was how taken the judges were with Kayla, who had never danced ballroom before. Adam swore that Kayla made him believe in God. And with our last dance of the night, Mary finally put a human on the hot tamale train and knocked the protective headphones off Nigel’s head.

Though the night took a little bit to really get started for me, I do think, cliched as it sounds, that this season could be even better than last, and I really enjoyed last season. Those dancers who didn’t blow the judges away tonight will have to step up immediately (in 3-D or otherwise: That’s an Adam Shankman joke, in case you didn’t know).

Incidentally, if you’re on Twitter, check out the posts tagged #sytycd if you choose to Tweet while you watch the show. You might catch a few posts from yours truly while you’re there. In the meantime, be sure as well to check out the LATimes Show Tracker on Twitter!


— Claire Zulkey

Photo: Fox