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'So You Think You Can Dance': Chains, aliens and ballet shoes

July 1, 2009 |  9:27 pm

Caitlinjason This has been the episode of "So You Think You Can Dance" that I've been waiting for all season. While I liked some performances more than others, I really enjoyed parts of every dance, which means I'm growing closer to the contestants, which means eliminations will be more difficult, which means the dancers are going to have to step it up more and the show can only get better.  Thank goodness.

I knew it would be a good episode with Mia Michaels sitting on the judges' panel. Cat Deeley (wearing a fun, flirty fuchsia dress with a black studded belt) asked Mia if she had anything to say since the last time she was on the show, and Mia rubbed her hands in anticipation and said, "Without naming names, my opinion has changed for the better." She was obviously talking about Brandon Bryant, who she took to task last time she was on the show for his "attitude," but Nigel Lythgoe egged her on by saying, "Would this be for a small male dancer? Were the initials Brandon?" 

So Brandon and his partner Janette Manrara got to show off for Mia with a cha cha cha choreographed by Jean-Marc Généreux.  I feel like in his auditions Brandon portrayed a strong, dignified contemporary dancer, but he can really show off fast and fun dances like this and disco. And I really like Janette: There's something about her (probably her hair) that just reminds me of another era, and I like that about her. Their chemistry is really coming together on stage as well. All the judges were effusive in their praise of the dancers, with Mary (who was actually rather subdued this evening compared to others) screaming at the top of her longs. Mia also took the moment to tell Brandon that she's hard on him because she knows how good he can be. So the evening was off to a great start. 

Next, Kayla Radomski and Kupono Aweau performed a contemporary dance choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. The story of the dance involved two vampires, she pulling away from the world of death, he pulling her toward it. I loved it from the beginning, as Kupono dragged a writhing Kayla across the stage by her foot. She was constantly escaping him; he was constantly capturing her and tossing her around. I found it captivating and by far the best choreographing by Sonya this season. The judges agreed with me about both the dance and the choreography, and Nigel took the time to praise Kupono ahead of his usual pet, Kayla. 

I'm not sure if Joey Dowling has choreographed for "So You Think You Can Dance" before (if she did, it was before I started watching), but I liked her: She's a no-nonsense lady. She taught Randi Evans and Evan Kasprzak a "not traditionally Broadway" routine that was Fosse-esque in its moves: Evan and Randi had to pretend fight, and I like it when cute dancers get not-cute material. I thought it was smooth and subtle, although the judges were rather lukewarm in their reactions: "Good job, not bravo," Mia told the pair. I think I liked it more than the judges did, but I can see where they were coming from -- they didn't build on last week's performance (but I don't think it was a significant slip down, either).

If Randi and Evan's dance was "non-traditional," then who knows what to call Caitlin Kinney and Jason Glover's pop-jazz dance as choreographed by Brian Friedman. Caitlin, dressed sort of like an S&M porcupine, played an alien who attacked Earth and came down to procreate with the last man standing. While I wished that Caitlin had really gone for her part more, I enjoyed the piece: her domination over Jason, her gymnastics, Jason's skill in making it seem like he was being controlled by Caitlin. Nigel and Mary didn't quite seem to get it, however, which I thought was a shame. Mia was counted on to "get it" more, however, which she did. 

Jeanine Mason and Phillip Chbeeb next performed a Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo hip-hop dance. At first I thought the conceit for their performance, enacting the relationship between the paired-up dancers on the show via a prop chain, was cheesy, but the piece was darker and edgier than I usually expect from Nap and Tabs (and the Kanye West song "Love Lockdown" helped too).  I thought the last part of the song, when Phillip produced a key, was a little corny and too literal, but I was pleasantly surprised by the performance. (Do I even need to mention that with Phillip doing hip-hop, the dancing was great?)  The judges loved it. 

Now, what I know about classical ballet is, well, very little, but I felt goosebumps watching Melissa Sandvig and Ade Obayomi's pas de deux (or as Cat calls it, "Puh duh duh") set to "Romeo & Juliet."  The dance had me from the first smile Melissa and Ade had for each other, and their intertwined hands, and it was lovely to see Melissa, en pointe, in her element. For the first time ever, Mary Murphy perfectly articulated the way the dance made me feel by saying that it put her "in a dreamlike state." Gorgeous. 

Before we finished the show, Nigel was proud to announce the formation of the Dizzy Feet Foundation, which you can learn all about here. To celebrate, Katie Holmes will be performing a Tyce Diorio-choreographed tribute to Judy Garland and donating her performance fee to the foundation. This guest appearance has been talked up to a level I don't quite understand, so I'm now looking forward to it because it's possible that Katie Holmes is a SPECTACULAR dancer and I just haven't been aware of it until now. 

Finally, we finished off the evening with a quickstep by Karla Garcia and Vitolio Jeune as choreographed by Généreux.  It was a sassy, fun, debonair performance, and do I need to mention that Karla wore an amazing magical dress that went from cute-and-practical black and white to a pink glittery gown with a flick from Vitolio? It was probably something of a gimmick, but I was sucked in. I enjoyed it immensely and the judges liked it as well, although Mia advised Karla to work on having more confidence in her face.

I don't know who should go in the bottom three tomorrow night, but based on the judges' reactions I imagine it might be Evan and Randi and Caitlin and Jason, although I can't imagine who would round it out. It should be an interesting episode -- plus, Kelly Clarkson is performing!

--Claire Zulkey

(Photo: FOX)