The ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Top 20 Become The Top 16

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks (New)

This week's "So You Think You Can Dance" show began with the top 20 dancers doing a Nappytabs routine to Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People," but by the end of the episode, six of these beautiful people were in jeopardy, having received the fewest votes from the week before--and four of them were eliminated by the judges, in the first results reveal of Season 9. It is, of course, never easy to see any contestant go home on a program featuring so many talented hopefuls, and this evening certainly was no different--especially when it came to the two male contestants who got the ax, both of whom had such potential.

So the bottom three girls were Janaya French, Witney Carson, and Alexa Anderson, and the bottom three guys were Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, Daniel Baker, and Nick Bloxsom-Carter. None of this was hugely surprising. Contemporary dancer Janaya and ballroom specialist Nick received scarcely any screentime during the audition and Vegas rounds, and I think that hurt them and set them up to be fodder. The overt va-va-va-voom-ishness of ballroom firecracker Witney probably alienated young female voters, who tend not to favor sassy, sexy blondes. The aggressive pimping and forced story arc of Alexa during the Vegas episodes probably turned off voters as well. And as for Switzerland's Chehon and Australia's Daniel, well, maybe the two foreign ballet dancers just cancelled each other out in the votes. (That's the only explanation I have for that result, since both Chehon and Daniel are so gifted.)

The judges elected to save Witney among the girls, which was just fine with me (I never thought Janaya quite popped enough onscreen, and Alexa's emotionless contemporary routine this week elicited the same critiques she'd been receiving since Vegas, indicating that she might be a lost cause). But while I could certainly understand why the judges chose to save the brilliant Chehon among the boys, it was hard to accept that Daniel and Nick, both of whom I thought had chances to become real fan favorites, were gone so soon. I'd had high hopes for them both--particularly for Daniel.

But the biggest disappointment, perhaps, was when the judges announced that they didn't need to have any of the bottom six contestants dance one more time for their lives in order to make an elimination decision. Quite gallingly, Nigel Lythgoe admitted that the judges had known since Wednesday morning who the bottom six were, and knew which two they were planning to save all along. I would have loved to have seen all six at-risk dancers' solos, and I think the dancers should have been given that chance. But then again, I guess Fox had to set aside an extra 17  minutes for what felt like an infomercial for Adam Shankman's Step Up Revolution instead.  Sigh.

However, all 20 dancers did perform this Wednesday, since "SYTYCD" only airs one night a week now, and thus the results based on last week's show were announced at the end of this week's competitive show. So at least Janaya, Witney, Alexa, Chehon, Daniel, and Nick got to dance one more time for America, even if the judges' minds were apparently already made up.

Here's how everyone did...

Lindsey Arnold & Cole Horibe - Hip-Hop

I didn't think this was very hip-hoppy, per se. ("SYTYCD" seems to define that genre more and more loosely each season.) But this seemingly Horrible Bosses-inspired Christopher Scott routine about a nerdy patient and his vampy dentist, amusingly set to Lady Gaga's "Show Me Your Teeth," was a lot of fun. Judge Mary Murphy said, "It put a smile on my face," and it put a big toothy grin on my face as well. Cole definitely proved his versatility by making a total turnaround from his fierce, ferocious paso doble from last week, and he was so committed to his geeky character--he sank his teeth into it, if you will--he continued to play the role long after the music ended. (This sort of spooked the judges, especially guest panelist Adam Shankman, who exclaimed, "Cole, you're totally freaking me out! What is up with you?") However, both Nigel Lythgoe and Adam thought Lindsay didn't bite into her man-eating sexpot character enough, with Nigel calling her performance "immature" and Adam saying she needed to "bring more sex to it." I agree, this was totally The Cole Show. I am sure Cole will be safe next week, but Lindsay may be in danger.

Amelia Lowe & Will Thomas - Contemporary

With their adorable and delightful "Love Cats" routine last week, Amelia and Will easily established themselves as one of Season 9's power couples, and possibly THE couple to beat. And this week, when they got a contemporary routine by goddess/genius choreographer Sonya Tayeh, gorgeously soundtracked by Icelandic multi-instrumentalist Olafur Arnalds, they seemed positively unbeatable. During this number about two lost souls searching for the light at the end of a tunnel, Amelia actually seemed like she was made out of light, like a lit-from-within figurine, and Will proved he could ditch his giggly, goofy class-clown persona and get serious. This was a total 180 from "Love Cats," but just as compelling to watch. Adam gave them a standing ovation, called Amelia "brilliant," and told Will that he'd stepped it up "a million percent." Mary wooooooed!!!! and told them they'd both elevated "another floor up." And Nigel was apparently so wowed by Will, he accidentally called Will "Travis." And if a dancer is being compared to the almighty Travis Wall, even subconsciously, that's a pretty major compliment!

Amber Jackson & Nick Bloxsom-Carter - Tango

This turned out to be Nick's last dance, but at least he got to go out doing something in his general area of expertise. He did a fantastic job, but ironically, Amber, a contemporary dancer, totally upstaged him. This might have ultimately influenced the judges' decision to let Nick go, assuming they'd seen rehearsals of this routine (since, as I mentioned few paragraphs ago, the judges' minds were made up long before Nick set foot onstage Wednesday). Adam called this Miriam Larici & Leonardo Barrionuevo-choreographed routine "HAWT!" and praised Amber for fully inhabiting her "fire-breathing dragon" character, but Adam also said Nick did such a good job of being a partner, he made Amber look good and therefore "vanished" as a result. Nigel also devoted most of his praise to Amber, but called Nick "strong." Mary, the ballroom expert on the panel, recognized the difficulty of this routine and praised Nick for handling it in a way no other contestant on the show possibly could have. But it was obvious that Amber had stolen the spotlight, and by the end of the night, it was Amber who remained and Nick who was gone.

Audrey Case & Matthew Kazmierczak - Contemporary

I really didn't think cutesy arm-farter Audrey could pull off a "robotic power struggle" Sonya Tayeh routine set to evil electronic music by Steed Lord--but damn, the girl nailed it. She totally mastered what Nigel called the routine's "stank steps." But still, my eyes were riveted to eyelinered Matthew, who was convincingly evil in a deliciously Kanemura/Kuppono-esque sort of way. "I cannot believe that you are the same couple that did that beautiful love routine on the chaise lounge last week. You're probably one of America's favorite couples," marveled Nigel. "I know they're one of my favorites! You're a dynamic duo for sure," raved Mary. Adam said any doubts he'd had about Audrey were now "wiped away," and told Matthew, "If you keep it up like that, this competition is yours to lose." I am sure both of these contestants will be safe next week.

Janelle Issis & Dareian Kujawa - Lyrical Hip-Hop

In this, another cute Christopher Scott routine, Dareian played a man about to propose to his girl (set to the Temptations' "My Girl"), and I truly thought he and Janelle were adorable together and shared terrific chemistry. Janelle, a bellydancer by trade, was completely out of her element but gave it a good go, and Dareian was absolutely in his element, radiating a natural joy. I was actually surprised by how underwhelmed the judges were by this number. All three judges criticized the rudimentary choreography, which admittedly was not as challenging as some of the night's other routines, but that obviously wasn't the dancers' fault. "It was sweet. It was like cotton candy. It was light and airy. I thought you did it okay," shrugged Mary. Nigel even called the routine "uninspiring...there was nothing that made me want to pick up the phone." But I disagree. I think Dareian and Janelle are intrinsically likable and exactly the kind of contestants America will support.

Janaya French & Brandon Mitchell - Broadway

This Sean Cheesman Broadway number cast Janaya as a girl at a bus stop who gets so absorbed in her romance novel (50 Shades Of Grey, maybe?), she crosses the line from fantasy to reality and lustfully pounces on innocent bystander Brandon. This was cute, but I wasn't totally convinced. I just wasn't buying sweet-faced Janaya in the "cray cray" vixen role, although I did appreciate her commitment to the character; she really did go for the comedy. But something about this routine just lacked a certain oomph for me. The judges, however, loved it. All three judges thought Janaya was a standout and had greatly improved from the week before, and Mary even said, "Last week I thought you guys could be in danger, but you have just risen to the occasion." But the judges ended up cutting Janaya at the end of the night anyway. Weird.

Eliana Girard & Cyrus Spencer - Jive

Okay, Cyrus, a hip-hop animator with pretty much zero experience in other genres or with handling choreography, wasn't exactly amazing here. His clumsiness even had Mary giggling in parts. But he gets a free pass for a couple of weeks, before he'll start having to be as polished as the other dancers and won't be able to use his lack of experience as an excuse anymore. He gave it a really good try here, and for the most part I was impressed with his effort during this sassy Tony Meredith & Melanie Lapatin routine; what he lacked in skills, he made up for with the right smiley attitude. ("You still looked like you were having a good time," noted Mary.) And Eliana was the star of the show, with all the right moves to compensate for Cyrus's lack of finesse. "We knew what we were getting when we chose you, which is sometimes you're going to hit a brick wall," admitted Nigel to Cyrus. "But Tony and Melanie did a good job of getting you through it." We will see if Cyrus is so lucky next week; he's definitely lucky to have the brilliant Eliana as a partner. (Side note: Anyone else think the Jack White song in this routine sounds like the "Heatmiser" TV Christmas carol? Just wondering.)

Alexa Anderson & Daniel Baker - Contemporary

This Dee Caspary bathtub routine should have been amazing--and technically, it was. But for some reason, I just wasn't amazed. And neither were the judges. "After that bath, I should have wanted to take a [cold] shower--and I didn't. Something was chilly, missing. I was very, very aware of the technical elements," lamented Adam.  Said Mary, "You may be missing a little bit of chemistry between the two of you." Said Nigel, "Somehow the connection between yourselves, and us, was lost. That emotion was missing. You cannot just dip your toe in the water; you've got to dive in." This was a problem Alexa had had from the beginning--she was always utterly alive from her feet to her neck, but her face was always dead--and this was her ultimate downfall this week, as I am sure this listless performance only solidified the judges' decision to send her home. But I think she dragged Daniel down with her. That's too bad.

Tiffany Maher & George Lawrence II - Foxtrot

The foxtrot isn't one of those styles that gets me all excited, usually, but there was no denying that these two danced this Tony & Melanie routine (nicely set to the Sinead O'Connor version of "I Wanna Be Loved By You") like a dream. It seemed like they were suspended on wires, like their feet barely even brushed the floor. George was the epitome of elegance, a total class act, and Tiffany seemed like an Old Hollywood screen siren. Adam declared them "in-freaking-credible!" Mary howled and shrieked and woooooed!!!! with delight. And Nigel, right after slamming Alexa and Daniel for their lack of chemistry, told Tiffany and George, "I think you make an absolutely incredible couple. You have just given a lesson to every other couple on how to connect." Let's hope the other dancers were watching and taking notes.

Witney Carson & Chehon Wespi-Tschopp - Bollywood

This Nakul Dev Mahajan routine, which closed the show with a big bang, might have influenced the judges' decision to save both Witney and Chehon--if they hadn't already made up their minds, that is. It wasn't the best Bollywood number I'd seen on "SYTYCD," but it was definitely fun and fiery, and for once we got to watch stoned-faced and serious Chehon cut loose. ("It was the first time I saw joy from you," Adam told Chehon.) Mary called this routine "absolutely perfect," and Nigel praised the ballroom girl and ballet boy for adapting to a style so far outside their respective comfort zones. Now that both of these dancers have been saved, let's see if this routine was enough to get them the votes that'll keep them in the running next week.

Wow, I can't even begin to predict who might go next week, so I will just rattle off a list of who I think is definitely safe: Amelia, Will, Audrey, Matthew, Dareian, Janelle, Eliana, and Cyrus. Next Wednesday's eliminated contestants could be among any of the other eight, really. It won't get any easier to say goodbye to any of these talented dancers, but hopefully, in the end, the right ones will make the top 10.

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