‘So You Think You Can Dance’ recap: Breakfast of champions

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I don’t think I realized how uninvested I was in SYTYCD’s Season 8 couples until I finally saw them dancing with the All-Stars. I also never realized how little I expected from the guest judges this season until Neil Patrick Harris showed me how it’s done. Even when the celeb judges take the job seriously (Megan Mullally) or are outstandingly charming (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), I always half-listened to their feedback, figuring that the ‘real’ comments would come from Mary or Nigel. NPH was entertaining, for sure (like that ribald little joke he made about Mary’s knees?) but he also delivered the serious perspective of a working stage actor and the honest critique of someone who really watches the show and respects the performers enough to tell them what he really thinks. I especially liked how he, as a Broadway colleague, called Jess out on his tendency to mug. Even my husband, who says ‘I just don’t get dance’ when I make him watch my favorite routines, said ‘He was really good’ when Neil spoke, adding, ‘They should have him on every week!’

My love affair with Neil was ignited when he confirmed that I wasn’t crazy. There was one dance that I simply didn’t like or get that much, and it was Tyce Diorio’s airplane-themed ‘Take Off With Us’ Broadway/jazz number for Mitchell and All-Star Melody. I didn’t pick up on the story from the dance at all, nor that sense of Broadway joy or cool that so often infuses Tyce’s numbers. Plus, the costumes bothered me: MItchell and Melody’s outfits made them look more like stripper cops than anything airline-related. Neil got first crack at the dance and said, ‘Um ... I didn’t get that at all.’ I liked that he didn’t sugar-coat the bad news, either, by saying ‘You know how great I think you are!’ first.


But other than that, there was so much more good stuff in Wednesday night’s show than in last week’s. In fact, let me pause before I write about my favorite dance so I can go vote for Sasha...

...there. Hands-down, my favorite performance of the night was Sasha’s hip-hop routine with All-Star Twitch as choreographed by Christopher Scott. I think I expected something goofier and raunchier when I heard the premise, which was that a wife is fed up with her sexless marriage and takes matters into her own hands at the breakfast table. But the dance was set to ‘Misty Blue,’ and while the dance’s moves were hard-hitting, the sexuality was sensual and mature. I especially loved that Sasha was dressed in real clothes for the routine, proving that you don’t need lots of cleavage or leg to be sexy. I’ll always love Twitch, but my eyes were on Sasha for the entire dance. In my professional opinion, I think she’s the coolest and I want to be her when I grow up. The judges loved it too and Cat and Nigel kind of made dirty jokes in response to the dance.

I also really loved Ricky and All-Star Allison’s Tyce Diorio jazz routine. Tyce redeemed himself here, but, more importantly, I think we got to see Ricky really blossom as Allison’s ‘worst nightmare.’ He was creepy but not over-the-top in a Sonya Tayeh kind of way. I thought he and Allison were a wonderfully matched couple in terms of technique and depth. Nigel said that Ricky demanded his attention, even though Allison’s one of his favorite All-Stars. NPH once again put it eloquently when he said that before that performance, Ricky typically danced ‘young,’ but found maturity in this dance.

I don’t have room to talk about how great everyone else was, but I think a lot of the Season 8 dancers were elevated by their All-Stars. I loved the sophistication in Caitlynn and Pasha’s Argentinian tango. I think Brandon (who to me is slowly transforming into Alfonso Ribeiro) helped establish Jordan as more of a serious dancer than as the sexy cutie pie I’ve always considered her to be. And I liked flirty samba Marko -- I think he needed to swivel his hips a bit next to Chelsie Hightower to shake off the heaviness that often came from his dancing with Melanie.

Who do you think will go home Thursday night? Will it be Mitchell, since his was the only dance that the judges didn’t seem to like? And are you into the solos or are you like me and could live without them?

-- Claire Zulkey