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"So You Think You Can Dance": The very long and winding road

June 9, 2010 | 11:10 pm
Pg194067 I have to disclose that tonight I didn't watch "SYTYCD" as a fan but as someone who wanted to get the episode over with as soon as possible so I could possibly see the Chicago Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup for the first time since almost 10 years before I was born.  Unfortunately, this was a bad episode for impatient people.  We saw some  good dancing tonight but also a lot of annoyingly drawn-out material.

I didn't mind the first half of the episode so much. Here we learned that Ida Saki was dropping out (exactly why is unclear, perhaps to focus on other things, perhaps because she couldn't take the pressure) which shocked and upset the judges.  After that  we saw the finalists go through a Broadway round which looked like a lot of fun, especially for Adrian Lee and Lauren Froderman. I don't think I loved Lauren the first time I saw her but she won me over with the excited way she pretended to punch the seats after getting good input from the judges. 

After that came the group performances, which were fun to watch in many cases, like the first, contemporary group.  However I wished the judges had been a little more specific when it came to the groups they criticized because while some obviously delivered more moving routines, the others seemed fine to me. I think the talent was simply there (nobody danced egregiously badly to my eyes) but merely proficient wasn't enough.

After that cut the dancers went through contemporary choreography with Latin dancer Cristina Santana's hard work paying off but other Latin dancer Giselle Peacock getting cut.  We didn't get to see a lot of Giselle this season but I thought she had a classy, graceful exit. We also lost Marge Simpsonesque Nicole Knudson, which meant that between her and Ida, my two favorite quirky brunettes were out. 

Poor Kent Boyd was the victim of two especially drawn-out segments tonight, the first as the judges took their sweet time letting him know he was as good as the other contemporary dancers and convinced him that he needs to believe in himself.

After that the dancers had, as a reward, a session with dance legend Grover Dale on how to unleash their inner star onstage (I would have liked to learn more about what he specifically taught them) and then the dancers performed solos one more time. They only showed Lauren Froderman's but that was OK with me because it was amazing: fun and funny and physical and unabashed.

Finally it was time to learn who made the show's Top 10 and the judges, in "Project Runway" style, made housecalls, or made some housecalls and just called other contestants.  I hope the show doesn't repeat this in future seasons because this style of the reveal was ridiculously overlong, especially as the judges who did tell the dancers who made it in had to do the ol' reality TV fakeout. I hate this so much: it's one of TV's most overplayed tropes. "I'm sorry to tell you that you made it to the bottom of the group and by bottom I mean top!"

In terms of the reveals there weren't a ton of surprises, aside from Adrian Lee and Anthony Burrell not making the cut: by and large everyone that the show focused through the season got good news, including Kent, once again, whose poor innocent town of Wapakoneta OH was the butt of a long drawn-out bit involving Nigel trying to navigate from L.A. to flyover country. The gag wore thin after a while, and the suspense was minimal since it seemed unlikely that Kent would be subject of such a long bit just to be rejected.

That annoyed me but I was even more irritated by the "surprise" at the end of the episode as the Top 5 boys were decided. It was down between Billy Bell and Robert Roldan and it turned out that ... they both made it! There's no Top 10 but Top 11! I'm glad for Robert and Billy but this is another reality TV cliche that needs to be retired: the talent being too big for the Top N so we're going with the Top N+1!  It just felt rather arbitrary, this big announcement about how there's going to be a Top 10 when it's going to be a Top 11 instead. 

But I won't hold lazy TV editing against the dancers, who perform tomorrow night for the first time.  And who is in the Top 11 you ask? They include:

Girls:
1. Cristina Santana (Salsa)
2. Melinda Sullivan (Tap)
3. Alexie Agdeppa (Jazz)
4. Lauren Froderman (Contemporary)
5. Ashley Galvan (Lyrical)

Boys:
1. Jose “Full Deck” Ruiz (Breaking)
2. Billy Bell (Contemporary)
3. Alex Wong (Ballet)
4. Kent Boyd (Contemporary)
5. Robert Rolden (Contemporary)
6. Adechike Torbert (Contemporary)

One more thought: I haven't found a good place to slip this observation in and it might not be relevant after tonight but over the last few weeks I really enjoyed the interstitial song choices for the audition/callbacks episodes, which sounded more current and diverse than a lot of the bland inspirational music we sometimes hear on these shows.

--Claire Zulkey (follow me on Twitter: @Zulkey)

PS: Yay Blackhawks!

(L-R): Host Cat Deeley and judges Mia Michaels, Adam Shankman and Nigel Lythgoe. Cr: Mark Davis/PictureGroup/FOX

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