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'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Newbie night

July 7, 2011 |  6:33 am

So You Think You Can Dance "So You Think You Can Dance" on Wednesday  was unofficially New Choreographer and New Guest Judge Night. As with any time you take a chance, there were a few hits and misses.   

Let’s start with the misses: You could argue that a few things seemed “off” Wednesday night, starting with the judges. Travis Wall was totally adorable as a guest judge (and I’m not just talking about his little velvet suit), and I’d love to see him back, but I don’t think Carmen Electra brought a lot to the panel. She seemed much more coherent than when she guest judged on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” but next to Travis, who sometimes gave actual technical advice, she didn’t contribute much.  Nigel also seemed a little odd, teasing Marko for once dressing up in drag and later saying, “I don’t want to think about your hips!” to Chris after his number: He came off as little less open-minded than I’m used to.

I felt bad for new choreographer (new to "So You Think You Can Dance," anyway) Shaun Evaristo, who choreographed a hip-hop routine for Sasha and Alex. I’ve doubted Sasha and Alex’s chemistry (sometimes, when he tries to be playful with her and she cringes, I wonder if she even likes him). Their dance about stealing a kiss didn’t improve their onstage connection. In fact, the judges seemed to criticize the dance itself as much as its performance. (I noticed they didn’t cut to Shaun during the critique the way they usually do to choreographers after a performance.)  Nigel was particularly mean, saying the dance looked like “hip-hop for dummies.”  I wanted someone to ask why that tree had to be onstage during the performance.

Although Ray Leeper’s Latin-flavored jazz routine for Marko and Melanie was better received than Shaun’s dance, it wasn’t quite up to the level I expected from the pair. (By the way, though Melanie has a boyfriend, it seemed she protested a bit much about how little it meant to her to kiss Marko.) “Americano” was fun and sassy, but it didn’t move the couple forward that much: I want the choreographers to demand a lot more from Melanie in particular. Her legs looked amazing, and it was clearly a difficult dance, but I’ve been so spoiled by her, I want to be amazed every time. I preferred Ray’s final sexy group number about the black widows. (What is it with the murderous women this season? Actually, I’ll take a dance about murderous women over another dance about a tough breakup.)   

I really liked the precise little moves Justin Giles incorporated into his contemporary dance for Clarice and Jess.  Yes, it was another dance about a relationship ending, but there was enough uniqueness that it was refreshingly different. And I think it served Jess and Clarice well; they've  lagged behind the other contestants to date in terms of chemistry and power.  The judges praised the partnership for moving in a positive direction.

But by far my favorite dance by a new choreographer was Chucky Klapow’s “zombie Zoolander” jazz dance for Ricky and Ryan, a dance I enjoyed so much that I temporarily put aside my inexplicable beef with Ryan . First, you can never go wrong choreographing a song to David Bowie’s “Fashion,” but moreover it was witty, it was funky, it was weird and sexy, and I wanted to learn how to do the dance myself. It put energy into a rather uneven episode, and I’m looking forward to watching it again.
Not all the choreographers were new. Liz Lira returned to choreograph Ashley and Chris in a salsa that felt strangely low energy. A friend of mine who watched it with me said that Chris’ shimmy “made me want to stab my eyes out.” That may be a little extreme, but I think this couple has stalled a bit the last few weeks. The judges weren’t in love with them, and I fear they may be in danger Thursday night (along with Sasha and Alex). 

I also wasn’t terribly in love with Jordan and Tadd’s Toni Redpath siren-themed waltz. It’s hard for me, a non-ballroom expert, to know when a dance like that is really right, but I trust my gut enough to know when one of those dances is truly special, and I didn’t feel anything in particular from it. Travis Wall said he had hoped for a bit more from the dancers, so I trust him.

A very popular dance of the night was by "So You Think You Can Dance" regular Mandy Moore, who choreographed a dance full of lifts for Catelynn and Mitchell. Mitchell made me laugh with his Chris Tucker-ish “I’m accepting! I’m accepting!” routine from the rehearsal footage of the first group number, so I was already feeling favorable toward him. I confess Mandy Moore’s dances don’t always do it for me -- they remind me of overly dramatic '80s music videos, and her use of a Celine Dion song didn’t change that perception. The lifts, however, were amazing, and the dance had beautiful energy, which the night very much needed.

Which of the new choreographers would you like to see return? Who do you think will be in danger Thursday night? And how badly do you want to try on Ricky’s “Fashion” costume?

-- Claire Zulkey

Follow me @Zulkey

Photo: Ryan Ramirez and Ricky Jaime perform a routine to "Fashion" choreographed by Chucky Klapow. Credit: Adam Rose / Fox