‘So You Think You Can Dance’ recap: In the garden of beasts

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I may say it every year, but based on the performances of this season’s top 20 -- dare I say it? -- we’re settling in for one of our best seasons ever. This is especially true when it comes to the female dancers, whom Nigel Lythgoe deemed ‘beasts.’ Some people may take issue with this term, but I find it strangely empowering.

There were so many highlights Wednesday night that I can’t possible give everyone due diligence, so I’m going to focus on my favorites and a few other discussion-worthy moments.

I feel pretty smug for having picked out Melanie as being one of my favorites early on in the auditions, because not only did the contemporary dance she performed with Marko earn a standing ovation from the judges, Nigel predicted that Travis Wall’s choreography may earn the show another Emmy. I liked that it was a relatively simply conceit for the dance: two statues that come alive and try to join together. Marko was great and their chemistry was lovely, but something about Melanie in particular is so beguiling, delicate yet strong. She had a way of creating little moments with each move, moments when I really believed she was a statue. Nigel deemed her ‘queen of the beasts.’

My other favorite girl from the auditions didn’t let me down either (and having Travis Wall as a choreographer clearly didn’t hurt.) Sasha portrayed Alexander’s troubled conscience in their rather dark dance. She was very compelling, to the point that the judges urged Alexander to work a bit more on his presence and their connection in order to keep up with Sasha, who is clearly a great actress in addition to a dancer.


Like the judges and the audience, I found Miranda and Robert Taylor Jr. totally adorable in their jive. Once again, Robert played the nerd and Miranda was styled as a ‘60s mod chick. Clearly that dance is a ton of work, but they both looked like they were having lots of fun. I’ve said before that I think Robert’s ‘Woo!’ shtick is on the verge of grating, so I was glad that Nigel advised him that not everybody may love it, and that he needs to focus a bit more on his dancing technique than his personality.

The ‘fish out of water’ awards go to Ashley, a ballerina who performed hip-hop with Chris (I found her old-school moves in their dance to ‘Forget You’ infectiously spunky), and Nick, the tap dancer who had to perform a quickstep with Iveta. No pressure: She’s just a world champion when it comes to ballroom, but the judges praised him for keeping up with her (I am actually more excited to see her leave her genre, just to see how she’ll fare transitioning to contemporary or hip-hop.)

The judges didn’t have many critiques for the dancers in general, although I did agree with them in that I had a hard time reconciling Ryan’s big, happy grin with her bittersweet Chris Scott lyrical hip-hop dance (her rather country-inspired outfit was also jarring). The judges also strongly advised Clarice that she’d have to kick it up a notch in order to keep up with her partner, Jess, this season, but I thought she was charming and seemed like she was working really hard next to him during their Broadway routine. But then again, I’m not an expert.

Speaking of which, how did you like Megan Mullally as a guest judge? I had no idea that she had a dance background. She clearly took her task very seriously (see her consulting her notes?), and I am convinced that she is aging backward.

Which performances were your favorites last night? Who, if anyone, do you think deserves to go home?


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-- Claire Zulkey