I found it odd and awkward when, at the beginning of "So You Think You Can Dance's" top 20 reveal episode this Tuesday, Nigel Lythgoe stated that he and his fellow judges had "invested in dancers we're not sure about." Um, what's not to be sure about? For the most part, this season's semifinalists are an amazing bunch, as their first live onstage performances readily proved.
But by the end of Tuesday's epic episode, Nigel seemed more convinced, saying, "I think we've picked the right dancers." Over the course of the episode's two hours, the 33 remaining contestants found out their fate, and then those that made it through were grouped by specialty style to do numbers for a studio audience. Most of these routines were stunning, so I think the top 20 have a lot of potential...and that Nigel really needn't worry. These kids will likely do him and "SYTYCD's" legacy proud.
These are contestants who will be moving on to the live shows, which kick off next week:
DuShaunt "Fik-Shun" Stegall & Mariah Spears – Hip-Hop
Fik-Shun is a Vegas street performer and this year's token untrained diamond-in-the-rough dancer (a la last year's Cyrus Spencer or Season 7's Jose Ruiz). Mariah is the awesomely named awesome krumper who tried out last year; she didn't make the cut then, and I remember being quite upset about that. I'm thrilled to see her back. Together, these two brought fire to the stage during an aggressive but playful Luther Brown routine. I hope they're able to excel in other genres, so they can stick around. (Sad side note: A third hip-hop dancer, Phillip Chbeeb's pal Emilio Dosal, made it to the top 20, but he had to withdraw this week when he was injured.)
MacKenzie Dustman, Jasmine Harper, Nico Greetham & Tucker Knox – Contemporary
Jasmine and Tucker got a lot of screentime this season due to their backstories — Jasmine is Cyrus Spencer's ex-girlfriend (he broke up with her while he was competing last year), and Tucker was in a nearly career-ending serious car accident not too long ago. (Tucker was so emotionally overwhelmed after he danced his top 20 Stacey Tookey routine with Jasmine, MacKenzie, and Nico, he started sobbing. Hopefully he can channel that emotion into his future routines.) However, MacKenzie may be the real star here; the one and only goddess of "SYTYCD," Mia Michaels, actually told MacKenzie she's "brilliant," and coming from Mia, that means a lot.
Aaron Turner, Alexis Juliano & Curtis Holland – Tap
Tappers have never fared too well on "SYTYCD," despite the tap genre being so near and dear to Nigel's heart. So is there really room on the show this season for three tappers? Possibly, if they keep getting great routines like this one choreographed by "America's Got Talent" alum Anthony Morigerato (the man who holds the world record for most taps in a minute). Judge Adam Shankman declared this the most fun tap routine in the series' history, and he wasn't wrong. Aaron actually auditioned last season but narrowly missed making the top 20, and initially he didn't make it this season, either…but after the above-mentioned Emilio had to bow out, Aaron was brought back as a last-minute replacement. I think he may surprise Nigel and many other doubters. But Alexis and Curtis are such phenoms, too. All three have a lot of sass, and they're the kind of dancers that could make tap seem cool to a whole new generation — and I'm saying that as someone who's never really been into tap. Whether any of them stay in the competition will ultimately come down to how they fare in other styles, of course...but I really enjoyed seeing what they brought to the stage this week.
Jade Zuberi and Dorian "BluPrint" Hector – Animation
Cyrus introduced animation to many "SYTYCD" viewers last year, and now Cyrus's comrade in the Dragon House crew, BluPrint, has made it through to carry on that mission in Season 10. However, I don't think BluPrint has Cyrus's irresistible personality, and that will probably hurt him; it was Cyrus's likability that kept him in the competition last year over more experienced and versatile dancers. Jade definitely stood out more in this Christopher Scott routine. Neither dancer is quite at Cyrus's level in the animation genre, at least not yet...but I'm still eager to see more from them.
Carlos Garland, Hayley Erbert & Malece Miller – Contemporary
Speaking of personality, Carlos has a huge one, which will hopefully help his odds (I could see him becoming grating, but I like him for now). Malece has seemed like a frontrunner all season. Hayley, who struggles with "insecurity issues" and admits she can be a "timid" dancer, seemed like the underdog here. But then this trio got a routine by the amazing Mia Michaels, and they all excelled. Hayley and Malece played two girls battling for cold-hearted Carlos's affections, and the storyline was compelling. Malece was definitely the star of this number — my eyes kept drifting over to her — but Carlos was a believable cad, and there was nothing "timid" about the way Hayley attacked this routine. I want to see more of all three…and more Mia Michaels, please!
Brittany Cherry, Jenna Johnson, Paul Karmiryan & Alan Bersten – Ballroom
Pairs were split apart, when Brittany's audition partner Serge Onik didn't make the top 20, and neither did Alan's older brother Gene, who'd already been rejected by "SYTYCD" several times. (Jenna had a better family-legacy situation: Two of her sisters had been cut at the Green Mile in previous "SYTYCD" seasons, but she broke what judge Mary Murphy called the Johnson "jinx" by making the top 20 this year.) Brittany, Alan, and Jenna joined Paul — who actually won "SYTYCD Armenia" — for a vivacious Louis Van Amstel routine. The girls definitely upstaged the guys here, so we'll see if Alan is able to do his brother proud, or if Paul can go as far on the American "SYTYCD" as he did overseas.
Amy Yakima & Jasmine Mason – Contemporary
Amy received much more screentime this season, but Jasmine's immense presence really filled up the screen this week; she just looked like superstar. Amy may have been technically stronger during this high-drama Sonya Tayeh number, but even Nigel had to admit that his attention was drawn to Jasmine. However, both stunned in their own ways, and I have a feeling there's room for both of them in the top 10.
Below are two more routines from the top 20 reveal show: a sandstormy Christopher Scott number with the 10 guys, and a mod, mod, mod Ray Leeper number with the 10 girls. Watch and try to spot who really stands out onstage...and come back next week, when the real competition begins! Cue music.