‘So You Think You Can Dance’: Ballroom blitz

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Does Mia Michaels ever disappoint? The contemporary choreographer always creates amazing dances on ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ and Thursday night’s episode was no exception. The group performed one of her creations to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’ wearing black suits and Maori warrior-style facepaint, and they worked pounding, hard-hitting moves with deadly seriousness. It was hip, mysterious, funky and a little scary, and I wish we had seen something like it last night.

Meanwhile, Cat Deeley looked like her own Victor to last night’s Victoria. wearing a trim white tuxedo in contrast to last night’s flashy red ‘Dynasty'-style dress. Do we prefer her more minimalist and boyish or girled-out and glam? I can’t decide.

Of course, on an elimination show it’s not all robot-warrior dancing and fashion: We had business to get to. Last night’s hip-hop got no love, as Caitlin Kinney and Jason Glover and Ashley Valerio and Kupono Aweau were sent to the bottom three, which wasn’t that surprising since the judges didn’t have a ton of great critiques for them last night. I was not expecting Kayla Radomski and Max Kapitannikov to have to perform solos, however, but maybe the audience, like me, assumed that if the judges were fawning all over Kayla she’d be safe and thus didn’t call in.

Before we got to the solos, we saw guest dancer Amrapali Ambegaoka perform a Kathak Indian dance, which, performed alone, perhaps lacked some of the glitz of the Bollywood dances we’ve seen on the show, but you’d have to be blind not to see (or hear) how much work she was doing with her nonstop foot movements and practically still torso and head. She was gorgeous and elegant. The guest dancers are one of the best parts of the elimination shows, so far much better than the guest singers, but more on that momentarily.


I thought Caitlin’s solo performance was impressive, although it didn’t give me goose bumps, but I like her a lot and figured she had a pretty good chance of staying in the competition between her solo and what she’d done so far. Even a non-expert like me could tell much much work was put into Jason’s solo -- not a moment seemed wasted, and each movement was beautiful. I was rooting for Ashley, but it seemed like she wasted the first third of her performance posing near the stairs. Kupono’s solo seemed a little goofier and not as polished as Jason’s, and I had pretty much written him off as the guy who’d be going home, especially since I enjoyed seeing Max do a solo jive. I liked having a long, lean ballroom male in the competition and hoped he’d be safe. I thought Kayla’s energy and personality came through in her solo, which was full of nonstop movements that showed off how far she could extend herself and her limbs.

Before we could get to the elimination, we needed to mock the work done by the dancers by having a few minutes dedicated to lip-synching. OK, I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on the producers of ‘SYTYCD’ and Kristinia DeBarge, since lip-synching the latest pop tune on TV is nothing new. Maybe I’m just touchy about her song ‘Goodbye’ since I’m a baseball fan and I’d much rather hear Steam’s ‘Kiss Him Goodbye.’ What’s her follow-up going to be, ‘Rock n’ Roll Part 2 Part 2'?

The judges weren’t unanimous in their decisions. I was pretty sure that out of the three girls, Ashley would be eliminated since the judges seemed so fond of Kaitlin and Kayla, and I was right (to be fair, the judges did critique Kayla, saying she overpacked her solo). I thought that Kupono would surely be sent home, especially since the judges claimed there was very little substance in his solo, and they praised Jason and Max. But, maybe because Max is a ballroom guy, he was sent home.

Chalk up my first unhappy elimination: I think Ashley had shown so much potential in her Wade Robson performance last week, and Max stood out from the other boys. And, secretly, Kupono’s list-making thing on the show has gotten a little old for me (sort of like Melissa Sandvig’s ‘naughty ballerina’ bit). I know Caitlin and Kayla still belong in the competition, but I’m going to be keeping my eye on Kupono (who will be paired with Kayla) next week.

— Claire Zulkey