“So You Think You Can Dance”: A rising star falls

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It’s sort of funny that after the strong emotions following Wednesday night’s performance show, all the dances and controversial feedback didn’t really make any difference on the week’s elimination. Well, not “funny,” really. Ironic, maybe, but moreover, the results are a bummer.

It felt like Thursday’s show wanted to deliver some redemption, positive vibes and good news in response to some bitter emotions following Wednesday night’s show, starting off with a beautiful, somewhat melancholy and eerie group dance that seemed to take place in heaven, with Ade presiding as head angel.

After that soft, white soothing performance, Nigel delivered the good news about the Emmy nominations bestowed upon the show and Adam Shankman as producer of the Oscars. To add more feel-goodery to the mix, Nigel mentioned that he will be working with Eleanor Holmes Norton to help pass a bill to set July 31 as National Dance day, which may or may not include a congressional flash mob, which is the first flash mob I would actually like to see (instead of deleting when it’s sent to me as a forward). Dance heals us, not drives us apart!

Sadly though there was business to do still tonight, and Cat announced who would be joining Alex Wong in the bottom three, as Alex was automatically down there because of his performance-preventing injury. I was surprised that the first dancer she brought out, Billy, was up for elimination. I thought Billy danced fine last night: I actually was more taken with Katee, his replacement partner, than anything else (I miss her) but I didn’t predict he’d be in danger. I think Adam’s advice to him, to just forget that he’s in a competition and dance the way he truly wants to, is good, because for some reason whenever Billy dances “seriously” I always think of Adam crying the first time he was on the show, and I think I’m ready to see Billy get loose.

I think the show’s most passionate fans just stood up for their favorites last night, as Robert was rescued from the bottom three even though it seemed like that was a spot where he was spending a lot of time. The audience certainly stood up for Adechike with both their votes and comments last night. I personally prefer Ashley (who joined Billy in the bottom three) to Adechike and I know in terms of last night’s performance, Mia did too, but she took a moment to address Adechike, saying she knew she came off as harsh and insensitive last night, and explained that it was because she felt frustrated that the dancer’s light was dimming. I know some of you questioned Mia’s sensitivity, but after having watched her over many seasons I don’t think she has anything driving her except wanting to see the dancers perform their best, and if that passion comes out in rough ways sometimes, that’s just how she is. Remember the tough love she gave Brandon? I think it pays off, and from a television critic perspective I prefer the kick-in-the-butt approach instead of the endless soothing pablum that we’ve seen from TV judges like Paula Abdul. I like a tough lady, even if she’s a little harsh at times.

If that didn’t make you feel better, watching Anya and Pasha set the dance floor on fire should have. I like Anya better as a brunette, but that’s my only critique of these two. They’re total ballroom professionals, nothing else to say about it. I think Pasha’s the most fun to watch when he dances with Anya. After that we saw a performance from the Broadway show “In the Heights,” plus a performance from Natasha Bedingfield featuring the All-Stars dancing backup, looking smart in suits and ties (yes, even the girls. It’s nice to see a reminder that women can dance fierce backup sometimes without dressing like showgirls).

Billy and Ashley danced for their lives, but this was a bit of a red herring when it was revealed that Alex is having surgery for his lacerated Achilles tendon. It’s likely that he’ll return to dancing but not at least for three months, which means that he’s out of the competition (although welcome back for next year). Of course this is a very tough break for Alex and to a lesser extent for the viewers, as last week in his hip-hop routine with tWitch he gave us a taste of how he could really blossom in other genres, potentially establishing himself as one of the fans’ (and not just judges’) favorites.

As sad as Alex and the judges seemed, no one appeared more upset than his fellow contestants, especially Kent, Jose and Billy. Despite the bad news it was a very touching moment, closing off a rather unusual, sad episode. Next week let’s all regroup and just have a good time.

.—Claire Zulkey

Adechike Torbert ® and Mala Tejwani (L). Cr: Mathieu Young/FOX