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So You Think You Can Dance Review: Top 20 Meet & Greet

ballroomSYTYCD_Top_20-Perform_0605The dance fates of 10 women and 10 men were determined this week on So You Think You Can Dance, and just in time, because things were starting to get a little predictable and I’ve been craving a real show. Though I worried for the series’ longevity after the network cut the live show, I’ve seen the ripples of changes coursing through the still running reality dance competition. It’s given the show a sense of urgency. The auditions don’t drag out too long, and they don’t need two whole hours of just the top 20 green mile unveiling, we’re just thrown right into it – and if that’s how I feel, I can only imagine how these dancers felt.

This week’s episode is always a high energy treat because we get to watch the performances of 20 amazing dancers, in their own fields and choreographed by the best creative minds in their field. There couldn’t be a better showcase of the season’s contestants. However, it’s clear that the theme of this season is going to be “faith.” The judges reminded us time and time again that these contestants haven’t really proven that they’ll be able to master many styles. Only time will tell… Twitch, Adam and Mia joined Mary and Nigel to deliver the news, while Adam joined the two on the panel for the live show.

The Hip-Hoppers
Mariah Spears and Fik-Shun Steagal kicked off the show with a Luther Brown number to “Ball,” by T.I. featuring Lil Wayne. Unfortunately Emilo “Millie” Dosal was supposed to join the duo but had to withdraw from the competition due to an injury. The number was fun and energetic, but Mariah got more of the critical praise, while Fik-Shun received reminders of how great of a personality that he has. I actually thought they were very evenly matched, but that Fik-Shun will always be at a disservice for his small stature. It just doesn’t command the same presence as someone the size of Twitch. However, I don’t think girls suffer the same standard. I still think Fik-Shun will go far if he continues to get styles that meld more easily with his own. I was surprised by Mariah who received very little airtime during the audition process, but came off as likeable instantly. And Nigel is right: that it’s exciting to see a female hip-hopper, a rarity, on the show who has the capability to go far.

The Contemporary Crew
Makenzie Dustman, Nico Greetham, Jasmine Harper and Tucker Knox made up the first batch of more classically trained dancers. (If you wanted to know, the classically trained dancers made up a whopping 45% of the semifinalist, including jazz.) Stacey Tookey created a piece for them to “Goes On and On,” by Sleeping at Last, and after one performance, this was the moment that I finally felt like the show started. Limbs for days is all I can say. I was less looking at the dancers than the endless lines they made from one arm to one leg and on to the next – extension, extension, extension. I couldn’t tell you what the number was inspired by but I felt all kinds of passion. Each dancer made it clear why they deserved to make it during the auditions; everyone got a good chunk of time, Makenzie and Jasmine especially. Out of the group, Makenzie definitely garnered the most positive reinforcement. (Adam even gave constructive criticism to everyone but her). But I was impressed by how un-raw and finished Jasmine danced.

Hayley Erbert, Carlos Garland and Malece Miller rounded of the usual suspects. I’m looking forward to what Carlos and his outlandish personality will turn out, but Hayley and Malece were both foregone conclusions. The green mile did uncover Malece’s waning shine after her almost-concussion, but it was all for dramatic effect since Mia put her through. There’s really no beating a Mia Michael’s piece, and with “Stay,” by Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko, the trio were strong and sexy as one man stuck between two women. Carlos commanded the stage, and Malece drew my eyes constantly. Hayley kept up for sure; I just didn’t care to watch her much for whatever reason.

The Tappers
Curtis Holland, Alexis Juliano and Aaron Turner made me smile. Aaron took the open space in the top 20, so we sadly saw his goodbye televised before it became obvious that he was guy number 11 on the judges’ pick list. Good for him! I really have no basis to critique anything about this performance, except to say whether I liked it or not. And, well, I did. I worry for them always because it’s so hard for tappers to progress in this competition – even when NO OTHER contestants could do what they do when they are constantly being pushed out of their field. What Anthony Morigerato did well as the choreographer was pick a current, beat driven song, “You Really Did It (Live)” by Jason Mraz, so the music drove the tap musicality and then you saw certain off-beats as obvious extensions. Plus, he kept the three in almost total synchronicity, allowing a few moments for them to shine individually.

jazzSYTYCD_Top_20-Perform_0689The Animators
Dorian “Bluprint” Hector and Jade Zuberi were unveiled in the middle, a smart move since they were both forgone conclusions. I’m surprised the producers even thought it necessary to show us flashbacks. I’m glad all the judges commented on Bluprints lack of face and Jade’s lack of partnering skills, two big components on the show. However, it will serve as a reminder to viewers when they do grow. Even in this short period of time, the two have shown growth! With a Christopher Scott routine to “Trigger” by Kezwik featuring Kel Presson, these two once again came to life, this time as mannequins instead of living robots. They killed.

The Ballroomers
Alan Bersten, Brittany Cherry, Jenna Johnson and Paul Karmiryan were the group I was the least excited about, having nothing to do with their talent, just the impressions they left on me. The ladies were really the only ones I could remember, and Jenna was the only one I rooted for. After Louis van Amstel’s “Wings” by Little Mix Salsa number, I really couldn’t even tell which girl was Jenna, let alone the difference between the guys! Again, having nothing to do with their talents, but they put them in matching outfits with an accent color differentiation. Really they did not help the contestants out here, but the ladies were super fiery and unassailable – it was there dance. The guys were great partners, but I’m still waiting on those two.

The Jazzettes
Jasmine Mason and Amy Yakima didn’t not get a lot of airtime during the audition process, so I’m happy to see them close out the revue-like portion of the show. It really placed the spotlight on the two who have been briefly shown doing AMAZING things, but may not have the kind of personalities that warranted larger packages. Both of them are beautiful dancers, and if their mission was not make me believe in their story and their skill then fait accompli. Plus, the two were greatly aided by the earthy, warrior Sonya Tayeh piece to “Enjoy,” by Björk.

After seven spotlight routines, 75% of the show down, I started to get my dance shakes; withdrawal was kicking in. And then they hit me again with a top 10 Guys number by Christopher Scott whose routines have grown into more and more of a gorgeous mesh of hip-hop and classical. Also, there was sand being tossed around awesomely. The girls got Ray Leeper jazz routine that was all about the quirk in his style with a remix of “Let’s Have a Kiki,” which inspires me to vogue every time and is a great pump up song when you’re getting ready ladies. Finally, the whole group closed the show with another jazz-contemporary mashup routine by Sonya, putting a stamp on letting us know just what this season will be all about. Fantastic dancing, duh!

All kidding aside, this group of competitors is an interesting grab bag of genres and a group of very unique dancers. The top 20 is always a roller coaster of emotions for me because America can be very fickle and fantastic tap dancers always go home early, and the cards always seem stacked against the beautiful contemporary dancers who didn’t get as much screen time as others. But my opinion and votes are only one of the many. And nothing’s decided until they pick a genre out of that hat and are paired up with an All-star. What do you think? Sound off below!

Season 10, Episode 7: Meet the Top 20 (originally aired June 18, 2013)

For more So You Think You Can Dance, check out our other reviews.

SYTYCD airs Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 8/7c.

Images courtesy of Adam Rose/FOX.

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