Our Pick for SYTYCD Routine of the Week Is...

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So You Think You Can Dance S09E08: "Top 20 Perform Part 2"

Although Season 9 started way back in May, this week's episode of So You Think You Can Dance was the first in which we finally learned how the show's new voting format will work. For the record, it goes like this:

1. All dancers performed last week and the audience voted for their favorites immediately after the episode.

2. This week the dancers performed AGAIN, and then we learned the results of last week's audience vote; the bottom six vote-getters were then revealed.

3. From that pool of six, the judges factored in both weeks' performances (and also apparently consulted with the choreographers) and then "saved" one dancer from each gender group.

4. The remaining low-voted dancers were driven out to the countryside where they were abandoned by the side of the road.

5. Now the audience will vote again after this episode, which will determine the bottom six for next week, whereupon the judges will save dancers from that batch. And so on and back and forth forever.

Get it? I probably just made it seem more complicated than it is. The main thing I'm happy about is that with this new system SYTYCD maintains its tradition of only trusting America to nominate losers, with the judges getting to make final decisions. I like that! No offense, fellow citizens, but sometimes I think we don't choose talent-show winners correctly. Except for Phillip Phillips, I liked him. But other times not!

Anyway, if this episode is any indication, the new system is HARSH. To be fair, this week's double-elimination probably had something to do with with the skipped episode on July 4th, but still. Did ANY of us expect the bottom six to be so stacked with talent? At least TWO of the evictees had winner potential! But before we talk about who got sent home, let's focus on who danced the best.


ROUTINE OF THE WEEK

For my money it was the Matthew-Audrey contemporary number choreographed by Sonya Tayeh (see video below). Sonya's been my favorite choreographer since Wade Robson left, so it's no surprise I dug one of her routines the most. She just has a knack for skirting that line between beauty and grotesquerie, not to mention she's a genius for song-selection. Add to that two excellent dancers in Matthew and Audrey and I was mesmerized for three minutes. That being said, a lot of dancers did strong work tonight—just not enough to be particularly memorable. I expect that'll change as the season goes on.


WHO WENT HOME

Like I said, this was a particularly shocking first elimination. Losing FOUR dancers guaranteed we'd be seeing some surprising faces in the bottom six, but come on, America. WITNEY? CHEHON? Apparently the judges agreed that those were ludicrous candidates for dismissal and spared them, which meant that Alexa, Janaya, Daniel, and Nick were all out of luck.

I was particularly shocked by the exits of Alexa and Daniel, two dancers who received a lot of face-time in the audition rounds and truly seemed to have what it took to go far (specifically skills and camera-friendly looks). I can't help but think that perhaps this was a case of voters forgetting to vote for frontrunners. It happens all the time on American Idol, so it's not out of the question. Or maybe people just plum didn't like them as much as I did. Who knows? I'm not a scientist.


JUDGING THE GUEST JUDGE

Full disclosure: I'm not the hugest Adam Shankman fan. Too frequently he treats his role as a judge like it's some kind of Tennessee Williams monologue. But tonight he actually did a solid job of articulating exactly what the dancers were doing wrong or right. Technical terms and everything! As much fun as it is seeing a celebrity on the bench offering friendly encouragement, I genuinely appreciate the expertise Shankman offers (when he decides to offer it).


ETC.

Not only did this episode feature a lengthy advertisement for spotlight on Step Up: Revolution, much of the cast graced the stage for a genuinely impressive group number. And how cool was it seeing so many familiar SYTYCD alumni getting involved in the movie business? Unless I'm going crazy, it seems like Mia Michaels herself might actually be ACTING in this movie too? But anyway, yeah. OPENING NIGHT. Who's coming with me?

What was YOUR favorite routine of the night?