‘So You Think You Can Dance’: The Top 20 struts its stuff before the voting begins

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I’m never a big fan of the excruciatingly long reveal of the contestants of a reality TV show, so I was pleased with Thursday night’s “Meet the Top 20” episode of “So You Think You Can Dance.” Instead of the judges pointlessly going to the dancers’ houses to let them know whether they made it to the show or not, the process was sped up. Sure, we still caught the judges’ nonsensical attempts to fake out the contestants (“I’m so sorry to tell you that all your hard work has been for nothing and that you definitely didn’t make the show but it’s opposite day! Just kidding. Psych! Did we get you?”). But in the same episode, the dancers were grouped together to give us a sneak preview of what we’ll be seeing from them this summer, and I know I saw at least one dance that got me seriously excited for the new season.

First, a chunk of contemporary dancers was introduced, including one of my early favorites, Melanie Moore. As I predicted, we learned that Sasha but not Natalia Mallory made the top 20. Along with Miranda Maleski and Ricky Jaime, the group performed a lovely celestial Stacey Tookey routine that had supportive Natalia in the audience tearfully applauding her sister Sasha.

Next, we learned the fate of the hip-hop dancers. I didn’t understand why Virgil Gadson didn’t get through, especially after Nigel Lythgoe praised him for both his dancing and personality. It was also not indubitable that Brice “Professor Lock” Johnson would make it, either. However, the other dancer with a catchphrase, Robert Taylor Jr., did join the Top 20. In an Urkel-esque outfit, he stood out in Dave Scott’s dapper hip-hop routine, joined by Chris Koehl, Tadd Gadduang and Wadi Jones. I do sorta wish Robert would lose his “Whooo!” catchphrase, though.

Only one ballroom dancer made it through to the Top 20, but I was happy to see that Iveta Lukosuite finally made it. Mary Murphy was so overcome by all the work Iveta put in to get to this moment that she cried while giving her the good news. Since she was the only ballroom dancer to make it this far, Iveta performed a Jason Gilksion paso doble with Pasha Kovalev. What is there to say? They’re both pros: Iveta’s won so many dancing competitions you almost wonder if “SYTYCD” is that big a deal to her. (I’m sure the exposure is nice, though.)


Then the jazz dancers were introduced, including sexy Jordan Casanova. Joined by Clarice Ordaz, Marko Germar and Missy Morelli, they danced one of Sonya Tayeh’s patented strong sensual female (and one male) dances.

I was wrong Thursday night when I said there were no tappers this season. So wrong. Nick Young and Jess LeProtto are the competition’s Broadway/tap dancers, and they performed a charming, high-energy Chris Scott tap routine, with tiny Jess dapper in a tuxedo and rangy Nick as a grubby street performer, trying to outdo each other onstage. It was an insanely high-energy dance full of personality. Even if you don’t love Broadway, you had to appreciate the work that went into it.

Finally, the last batch of contemporary dancers was introduced, which included Alexander Fost, Ashley Rich, Caitlynn Lawson, Mitchell Kelly and Ryan Ramirez. They performed a joyous Travis Wall dance in which they threw petals in the air throughout the performance as if to say: “Whee! We made it!”

My favorite dance of the night came next, when the Top 10 guys performed a Chris Scott hip-hop/contemporary routine that looked like what would happen if the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers walked into “Inception.” The guys hurled, flipped and marched in and out of red doors onstage in slim suits and straight faces. I love any dance that can be described as “quirkily menacing.”

The girls were no slouches either in a Sonya Tayeh dance where she had the performers channel exciting, creepy geisha girls. Sonya Tayeh is always all about making her dancers sexy through strength and empowerment, and that’s exactly what she brought. I know more than one female viewer who reconsidered her heterosexuality after watching that number. Judge Lil’ C loved it so much he made a Gary Busey-type acronym out of Sonya’s name to celebrate her.

Finally, the Top 20 joined together to dance to “Little Bird,” a happy performance that I think is what Natalie Portman in “Black Swan” would dance like if she had a nice, normal mom.

Which of the dances were your favorites? Which all-stars do you most look forward to returning when we get to the Top 10? And do you see yourself making use of your ability to vote 50 times online each Wednesday night?

-- Claire Zulkey

Follow me @Zulkey