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'So You Think You Can Dance': Wha?

I feel like I’ve been a little shortchanged over the last three Thursdays.  Well, that’s not entirely true: "SYTYCD" results shows have been delivering some wonderful dance performances (and some OK musical performances), but are we ever going to get a regular elimination, one where the solos actually mean something?  

The episode kicked off with a great group number to "All That Jazz" with guest choreographer Kelley Abbey. I liked the Fosse-esque moves combined with the rather grubby, old-fashioned styling and set design of the piece, along with the toned-down version of the song. The dancers reminded me a bit of scrappy street performers, in a good way, of course.

In terms of showcasing American dance at its finest, it was a good episode, first paying tribute to former Ailey School director Denise Jefferson. I confess I wasn’t familiar with her or her passing prior to tonight but I’m grateful to the show for bringing it to my attention -- if it wasn’t for "SYTYCD," I don’t think I would be familiar with the Ailey dancers either.  After that, we saw an exquisite pas de deux from members of the American Ballet Theatre.  I was captivated by Yuriko Kajiya, who was what I think of when I imagine the perfect ballerina, especially as she twirled en pointe, making it look like the simplest thing in the world. She looked like one of those little jewelry-box ballerina dolls, only, you know, happy and alive.  

In a break from the performances, we learned that Robert and Jose made up the bottom three with Billy. Billy sat in the audience and didn’t participate in the group number, so part of me figured he must be going home, but then another part of me thought, "No, they’ll never let that happen for a third week in a row. Maybe Jose will be eliminated and I’ll look really smart because I predicted that Wednesday night."

DJ Smart, a dancer who has auditioned on the show but never made it to the point of the competition episodes, was given some time to perform, which was a treat: He performed to "Say You Will" by Kanye West while wearing shackles on his wrists. It was a gorgeous dance, but I have to admit I especially admired the sheer physicality of the performance, the way he repeatedly used only his legs to get up from a splits position, the point of his toes, the definition of his huge thigh muscles.  

Whoever has been selecting the All-Star dance performances for the results shows has good taste, because I was happy to see once again Lauren and Neil’s "Night of the Dancing Flame" routine as she embodied goodness and light and he the dark side, out to corrupt her. Neil does creepy and seductive well, and I love that Lauren, all in one character, combined an innocent girl, a broken-down doll and a strong woman.

Before the solos, Nigel announced which All-Stars will be going on tour with this season’s dancers, so if you’re a fan of Allison, Dominic, Courtney, Ade, Russell or Kathryn, get ready to snap up tickets.  

As for the solos, I thought Robert’s was fine, but didn’t exactly demonstrate why he deserved to be there above Billy or Jose, while, as Nigel put it, Jose just seems to get better and better with his breaking.

Before we got to the results, Enrique Iglesias (who apparently just goes by "Enrique" now?) performed the song "I Like It," with a brief cameo by Pitbull. Between Enrique, his wallet chain and the auto-tune, and I felt like we were being treated to a review of everything that is not new in music, but I have to admit the song was kind of catchy, and the younger Iglesias is not aging so poorly.

As for the results, Nigel announced that he and the judges "haven’t made up our minds, but we came to a conclusion," which you could argue means the same thing. He told Robert that some of the judges didn’t think he was growing, and Jose that he wasn’t improving enough in dance genres other than breaking. Then Nigel told Billy that he set a precedent on the show for opting not to dance even when the doctors said he could. Here I expected Nigel to tell Billy, "And since you decided not to dance when you could while the others had to perform, out of fairness we have to send you home." But that’s not what happened.

"American Idol"-style, NO ONE was sent home. Got that? Next week two dancers will be eliminated, however. I guess I’m supposed to be excited about this, because hooray, no bad news tonight, but I don’t understand the point of postponing the inevitable. I think the show just didn’t want to have another elimination like the last two weeks, but I don’t feel any less shortchanged. I know I’m not in Billy’s shoes and can’t understand the potential pain or discomfort he’s feeling, but I can’t help but feel that it would have been fair for him to go home tonight. If he had been ordered not to dance but could still perform next week, then tonight’s results would make more sense, but since he could dance but didn’t, I’m not so sure.

As if to provide one more example that the whole competition aspect of the show was a bit of a mess Thursday night, the episode apparently ran a little short, and so at the end the camera lingered extra long on the judges joking around and the dancers frolicking onstage.

So you tell me: Do you agree with the judges’ decision? Am I a horrible person for thinking Billy should have been eliminated? And have you learned the Nappytabs routine yet for National Dance Day?

-- Claire Zulkey

Comments () | Archives (56)

The whole competition has been off since the beginning. Set up was to be 10 dancers (5 male and 5 female) and 10 All Stars. Only to change, now 5 female and 6 male. Which I thought was unfair from the get go. Why didn't they add another female then to make it fair? And now tonight with no one (male) being eliminated. It truly is off and unfair.
I love this show and have watched it every year. The dancing had been great, but I'm disappointed.

If the show doesn't have the confidence in Jose's abilities to put him in the group dances, he should go home. I don't care what he can do in his own style - he (apparently) can't do anything else!

Billy would've been a hero if he danced on an injured knee and did horribly, just for trying. But that he didn't even give it a shot, he deserved to go home. I think Billy was scared of doing yet another style he wasn't comfortable with - STEP - and he chickened out. This show is so biased towards contemporary it's ridiculous. Why must Jose do contemporary, but no contemporaries have to do breaking? And if they did do breaking, the judges, much like Billy and crunk, would just dismiss it as not being important.

I also don't get how the judges don't see why Billy and Robert are in the bottom 3 all the time. The votes are cast by teenage girls mostly, who cast based on their crushes. As good looking as Robert is, or as great of a contemporary dancer Billy is, they're not exactly girls' cups of tea. I think they'd get more respect if they were just openly gay, and stopped forcing the tough, macho-guy, image at us, cuz it'll never work. For such a gay dance style, contemporary doesn't seem very tolerant of man-on-man romance sets, which is exactly what some of these dancers (Kent?) need.

Billy has received rave reviews from the judges since day one. Is this a case of the judges not wanting to eliminate one of their own favorites? Personally, I think Jose is enormously talented but is in over his head now. Wish he could get some training in "technique" and become the all-around dancer he definitely could be. Sorry, time for him to go home with his head held high and proud of all he has accomplished.

The results were fair enough, considering the odd circumstances.

Billy is one of my favorites, and even in spite of that, I might agree with you depending on the circumstances.

If it was about Billy sitting it out because his heart just isn't in it or because he didn't want to do the Step, ok, yes, you may be right.

But I am trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially considering the fact that two dancers the past two weeks have had pretty serious injuries, one potentially career ending (although I REALLY hope not for Alex's sake!!). I could completely understand him feeling nervous with all of that in his mind. And him not wanting to risk further injury, being mature and thinking about his future career as a dancer, I think he made the right choice. And I kind of think Nigel was wrong in blatently calling him out on it.

And yet, I have to say that even IF my first two scenarios are what happened, and Billy just is over this show and doesn't want to dance, or chickened out (which I really don't think is the case, personally), but even IF that were true, I STILL think Jose should go home over him. If they have to severely dumb down choreography for him ONE more time, I might seriously throw things at my TV. I keep waiting for a choreographer to actually give him something that ANY other dancer on this show would get (in ANY style outside of their own), and just let us see that he is not even remotely in the same league as anyone else still on this show. And Legacy, he is NOT.

Billy may not have danced last night. But Jose hasn't danced in the group numbers the past few weeks (ok, fine, he pushed someone across the stage on a cart last week). But this week he wasn't in there AT ALL. I paused my TV a million times and looked far and wide for him. They aren't even putting him in the group numbers! I mean, he just needs to go. He seems like a very nice person, and I am not trying to be mean, but seriously. Seriously. He needs to go.

Claire, I could not agree more. Throughout the season, Billy has held an air of arrogance, thinking he is invincible. This continued this week, when he decided not to perform. Any of the other 5 dancers remaining in the competition would have done whatever they could to have the opportunity to dance with doctors' permission. Could you imagine Kent saying he simply didn't feel like he should dance after being cleared by physicians? Of course not! To be at this level of a competition of this caliber should be viewed as a blessing to any dancer, but Billy takes it for granted, and as a result, should have been eliminated tonight.

Additionally, how do we think this situation makes previously injured contestants feel? Imagine being in Alex's shoes, watching Billy receive the go-ahead from doctors that Alex was surely begging for a couple weeks ago. As if it was not painful enough to see him get the ok to dance, Billy decides to toss it out. I think this is incredibly unfair to the other dancers, unless each dancer will now get to sit out a week to recooperate, mentally and physically, without risk of elimination.

Thank you, Claire, for your clear-minded review of this situation, and know that you are not alone in your opinion.

Thanks for your honesty in admitting your ignorance of US modern dance. Alvin Ailey was a local , raised in Los Angeles, who studied with legendary Lester Horton here before going to Broadway & starting his historical dance company, a major force in culture as well as art. What exactly is your background in dance?

i think that billy did the right thing by not dancing because it ensured his health for next week. it was smarter than risking it and getting hurt worse, no? i understand that it's a competition and that he should push himself to the limit but when it comes to a physical competition like this your health is more important than winning. he obviously knew the risk of going home and it probably wasn't easy to make the choice that he did. it's not like someone completely healthy sitting out and knowingly being put into the bottom three, he was a little bit iffy. so he obviously thought the risk of getting hurt worse was bigger than the risk of going home.

on that note, the judges obviously don't want to see billy go home, especially if he's going to be able to dance for sure next week. and they can't send someone home that danced well like adechike over someone that didn't dance at all because that would cause major problems with the viewers. so i do understand the choice they made, and even though i'm more than a little biased when it comes to billy remaining on the show, i think it was probably the best option there was. billy's an incredible dancer and they might have lost a large fan base had he been eliminated, yet as i said before it would have been wildly unfair to eliminate anyone else.

we'll see how it turns out next week.

billy should have been tossed. spoiled west palm beach kid who copped out on doing the step because he couldn't. tonight's results are the most absurd thing i have ever seen on this show. they are trying to save a season on a downward spiral, but they are just making things worse

I was so frustrated with the judges tonight when they didn't send Billy home. He is a prima donna and he could have danced but chose not to! That was absolutely not fair to the others. The judges have their favorites and Billy is one of them so they couldn't find the guts to eliminate him. He needs to learn there are consequences for some decisions we make but if it had been Jose, or Robert who chose not to dance - they would have been gone in a heart beat!

What is annoying about the judges is their obvious faves. Look, why did they pick Jose if he's just not trained. Maybe we (the audience at home) like street dancers.

And sometimes it's the choreographer that doesn't "hit" it but they'll give the choreographer all the acholades when it goes well but none of the blame.

And some of the dances that moved the judges wouldn't have done so if the choreographer hadn't told them it was about cancer or abuse.

I am shooting for Lauren. Last year I loved (and still do) Katheryn. The guys are ok but Lauren is fun and sexy in a wholesome sort of way; I see her as another Katheryn.

I think Billy made the best decision since TPTB have allowed two of the best dancers to get hurt. Even Nigel admitted that they will re-evaluate to avoid future injuries. After an injury a doctor may clear the dancer but Billy knows that the live performance is far more dangerous than a rehearsal. Since he has probably figured out that he will not win this year, why jeopardize his future? I believe the judges knew Jose should go (PLEASE) but felt there would be a backlash.
I predict Jose will be assigned either hip hop or crump next week in order to justify his staying power.
By the way, Lea DeLaria was the vocalist not the choreographer. They always credit the musicians and then announce the choreographer after the dance.

Oh, brother!

The judges have painted themselves into a corner with their policy of suspending an injured dancer, any injured dancer, for one week pending the outcome of some supposed miracle recovery. When the injury is severe, or when it happens late in rehearsal, there is no realistic time for recovery and the show must go on.

In the real world of dance, an injured dancer is replaced by an understudy and that's that. The diva who can't perform gets dumped and the door opens for someone else. Sorry, boys and girls, that's what the judges needed to do first with Alex, then with Ashley, and certainly with Billy when he demurred from performing of his own accord.

Remember, there's no down time between a Wednesday or a Thursday and the next round of rehearsals. Realistically, medically, if you are too injured to perform tonight, you are too injured to rehearse tomorrow. End of soap opera.

The judges need to be careful here. Judging from the impassioned tone of many blog posts, "America" as they call us, is very, very proprietary about its votes, which for three weeks have meant nothing because of bad luck followed by fudging.

So, Judges, be as hard hearted in sending an injured dancer home immediately as you would be in the real world. Can't dance tonight? Go home tomorrow. No fake suspense. Just say sorry, that's life.

Will this cause an injured dancer to cover up when he or she is hurt? It happens all the time in the cutthroat world of dance. That's when the grown ups who run the show need to take charge and give their doctors the up or down responsibility of ruling on the dancer's fitness to continue. Partners know who's injured, the choreographers know, too. It's time for the "jigges," as Cat calls them, to bite the bullet and pull the dancer before and not during the results show.

I understand what you mean about Billy, but nevertheless I'm very happy that the judges opted to keep him. I'm just tired of Jose - yes, he's a good breaker, nobody's disputing that, but he has shown basically no growth or improvement in any other dance style and it's just not good enough. Obviously you can't compare him to the other dancers in the competition, but you can compare him to previous breakers/hip-hop dancers of seasons past and it's just plain to see that Jose is not a good all-round dancer - not in the slightest. I think the judges should have just sent him home for his part in the paso doble alone.
I think that next week will see Billy & Jose leave the competition anyway, so this reprieve was very temporary.

Great post.

Can you imagine dancing your heart out Wednesday, finding out that you made it through on Thursday, and then standing there and finding out no one's been eliminated and you're ALL competing to avoid elimination of TWO next week? I personally thought this was a bit unfair to Kent and Lauren.

Did you notice Kent's and Lauren's faces when the camera was on them, immediately after Nigel's announcement? They looked a bit concerned. Maybe they're both so popular that they aren't in danger of being eliminated next week--not sure. (Do the judges know the numbers of call-in votes that each contestant is receiving?) Still, anything could happen now.

Dear Claire:

We all hope you have googled the name Judith Jamison . . . .


A Great Big Fan of Judith Jamison!

Jose was not in the opening number either for two weeks in a row. So what's his excuse? Just because the Doctor's felt that Billy is okay, it doesn't mean that he's not in pain. I'm sorry but it looks to me that it's okay for them for Jose not to dance because he can't learn the choreo. but it's not okay for Billy not to dance because he's hurt?

Lady Jane, thanks for the heads up! Judith Jameson, thank you for reading and commenting!

I am not local to L.A. myself: I live in Chicago. I actually have no dance background, probably because neither of my parents had any and thus I was rarely exposed to it growing up. I realize it may seem curious then that I cover "SYTYCD" but I argue that that's the beauty of the show, bringing dance to people like me who would probably remain completely ignorant without it.

I believe the judges are afraid of giving their TRUE feelings lately. THEY are bombarded if they do give and if they do not give... I believe the judges get whammed for crtiquing Adechique, now... he is such a BABY and cannot take a critic. ROBERT IS A FANTASTIC DANCER and is overlooked. Billy could have danced? Why did he NOT dance? BILLY... You are a dancer, dance! Cat has been good lately, and NOT chatting too much. SYTYCD is Great! Keep on GOING!!!

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