So You Think You Can Dance Top 8: Routine of the Week

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So You Think You Can Dance S09E11: "Top 8 Perform/2 Eliminated"

Now THAT was an episode. Last week's installment was solid and fun, but this week's was some next-level stuff. Seriously, if you have the episode saved to your DVR and you're wondering whether or not you should actually watch it, DO. Everyone—including the dancers, choreographers, and judges—were at the top of their game. And while the new format ended up rearing its particularly brutal head by the episode's end (someone from my favorite routine of the night got the boot), almost every routine was one worth standing and applauding for. Yes, from our living rooms. It was just that fun.

Now that there are only 8 contestants left, producers filled out the performance segment of the episode with the dancers' personal stories and then solo performances. Some backstories were as wholesome and seemingly problem-free as you'd expect (Lindsay, Witney, Tiffany) while others were surprisingly heavy (Cyrus losing his father, Eliana's hardscrabble teen years). Unlike most reality shows, So You Think You Can Dance, refreshingly, tends to not overdo the melodrama, frequently alluding to or glossing over personal tragedy almost out of respect for the dancers' privacy. Imagine that! But that means leaving tantalizing question marks over certain dancers' backstories. Like, Chehon and his two brothers getting adopted out of Chicago and relocating to Switzerland? I have a million questions! Unfortunately it's really none of my business.

Also, this show has always been coy about one issue in particular that many of its dancers seem to have in common, choosing instead to just generalize with "I was bullied" or "My dad wished I'd played sports." It's definitely not our business why dance "saved" Will's life—and it certainly may not be for the reason I'm assuming—but I'm a human being and mysteries make me curious! I wouldn't mind knowing specifics. I admit a big reason I fear that THIS particular issue (which will remain unnamed!) is glossed over is because it would somehow turn voters against dancers. I mean, I love my country, but I also KNOW my country. Ultimately, though, I think this coyness is fine because knowing too much backstory can be a distraction from the task at hand. I definitely admire this show for recognizing that.


ROUTINE OF THE WEEK

Let's be clear, the night was PACKED with amazing routines. The judges loved Chehon and Anya's Argentine Tango, plus Sonya Tayeh unleased TWO spellbinding routines. And nobody could fault you for preferring Tiffany and Ade's Mandy Moore routine set to the Celine Dion song. So much good stuff happened it was hard to dislike anything. But I'm going with an unconventional pick that the judges liked OK but didn't fall head over heels for... Man did I LOVE Will and Lauren's Christopher Scott lyrical hip-hop routine:

It's possible that choosing a favorite routine is like describing an inkblot—it probably says more about me than it does about reality—but I couldn't help but be moved by this piece's premise. Also I love when man-woman pairings aren't just traditional romantic relationships. You know? We've seen almost every variation on tortured romances, but I can't even remember the last time a platonic matchup in a routine made me so happy. Basically I smiled all the way through this routine and then watched it again immediately. It was nowhere near as dramatic and showy as some of the other routines in this episode, but it's the one that stuck with me after the credits rolled.

I also wanted to point out how much I loved Witney & tWitch's routine:

I don't know if this is foolish of me to declare at this point, but I think Witney might be my current favorite female dancer? "Favorite" being the key word here; as Nigel reminded us tonight, this competition is about rewarding entertainment value and not necessarily expertise. But in this routine she was dancing with tWitch—possibly the best male dancer this show has ever had—yet my eyes were on Witney almost the whole time. And as a sidenote, I love when hip-hop routines don't just totally objectify the female halves of the partnership. The costumers could've put Witney in booty shorts here, but her aggressive body language and countenance were much better suited for the Rhythm Nation outfit she was wearing. And even though her choreography was largely similar to tWitch's she still made it look ladylike. Yeah, I loved this routine and I'm now definitely Team Witney-and-her-possibly-CGI-Hair.


WHO WENT HOME

America must've been in some kind of mood last week as it pitted the two blonde best friends against each other in the bottom, plus seeming crowd-favorites Will and Cole.

Ultimately Nigel opted to let Lindsay and Will go this week and both evictions were kind of shocking. I wasn't totally sold by Will until his lyrical hip-hop routine earlier in the evening, but I'd already written him off as one of those contestants whom the crowd likes and who would probably coast on that into the finals. As for Lindsay, I can't remember her ever having a bad performance. There's a chance her and Witney's similarities split the audience's vote, but between the two of them I'm glad Witney got to stay. As solid as Lindsay was on stage, I think there's just more personality and presence coming from Witney at this point, particularly in her routine with tWitch in which she proved she's not just a Pamela Anderson, Jr.


JUDGING THE GUEST JUDGE

Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson returned to the guest-judge chair this week and reminded us just how fun non-expert celebrities can be. No offense to Benjamin Millepied—who is handsome AND knowledgeable—but this is a TV show and sometimes hilarious enthusiasm just works better than measured praise. More than anything Ferguson was an audience surrogate, heaping praise on the dancers and fanboy-ing the choreographers and All-Stars. Definitely a fun addition to the SYTYCD family.


ETC.

Speaking of the SYTYCD family, did you hear the rapturous audience reaction when Melanie Moore first appeared on stage before the commercial break? I AGREED with that audience. What a surprise and total pleasure seeing her smiling face up there again. She is probably my favorite winner of all time and her exuberant routine with Cyrus was just a reminder of how talented and charismatic she is. The best.

Oh, and this was cool:

During Cyrus' solo my cable glitched out and I was like, "Oh haha, I can't believe it glitched during Glitch's solo, how ironic." But now I feel all dumb because look at the Fox logo in this still frame: It was added on top of the distortion. So the glitching was INTENTIONAL. Oh, you crafty editors. Now I feel like a dummy. But if it was intentional, how many viewers do you think picked up on it? Second question, would this be some kind of indicator that the production is pulling for Cyrus? I don't know!

This episode also marked the last time the judges will be "saving" contestants. Next week we'll find out which four America most wanted to see in the finals, and then America will eventually choose its favorite guy and gal. I'm frankly already kind of devastated that we only have 3 more weeks with these kids. THEN what are we supposed to do? Watch The X Factor? NOT THE SAME.

What was YOUR favorite routine of the night?

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