There have been some whispers of discontent that perhaps it's not fair that the judges have full knowledge of the bottom six vote-getters before they even perform. I suppose that's a valid complaint, but only if you assume reality competition judging has always been fair. For example, does anyone think that the judges' panels on Top Chef or Project Runway could ever overrule the producers' wishes for who goes and who stays? At least in the case of So You Think You Can Dance, Nigel Lythgoe IS the producer, so the fact that he states up front that he has knowledge of the previous week's vote is actually a pretty honest and transparent compared to most other shows. This is in contrast to, say, Lythgoe's OTHER competition series American Idol where he keeps most voting results to himself; we never know, for example, just HOW many fewer votes anybody gets, but we can be darn well certain those numbers affect how the singers are presented to us the following week.
The reality of SYTYCD Season 9's voting system is that the secret bottom six are actually dancing for their lives all night. It means that the judges are most likely paying extra special attention to those dancers, and their critiques should be interpreted as foreshadowing or, at the very least, explanation of, the judges' impending decision. It's possible that the people hurt most by this system are the dancers who aren't on the chopping block: The judges giving a glossed-over or half-hearted critique might de-motivate viewers to vote for that person later in the night. But this all may be too soon to tell. At least from a results standpoint, this week's Top 16 round certainly made the case that the current system works just fine. It also saw the return of one of my favorite SYTYCD elements of all, the Dance For Your Life segment:
There's just something so frantic and beautiful about these brief, improvised snippets from each dancer's skill set. Each of the bottom six did a terrific job of reminding us who they were as individuals and the two dancers sent home at the very least went home after triumphant solos. No shame in that.
Although I love this season so far, I'm worried about the lack of originality in some of the routines we've seen. Matthew and Audrey's Cha-Cha was fun, but their traditional sequined outfits were like something out of the Dancing With the Stars Lost & Found bin. And while the judges went nuts for Chehon and Witney's contemporary "shirtlessness & big leaps" routine, to me it felt like cheating that it was set to Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." I don't know, that song is just so loaded on its own that it'll overpower ANY accompanying visuals. So it was surprising to me that after Tabitha and Napoleon had unleashed the night's worst routine (George and Tiffany's bizarre day-glo Hip-Hop child-rearing thing), they went on to choreograph my favorite one—Cyrus and Eliana's robot-meets-ballerina piece. Oh, and their intros were insane:
I'm partial to weird, so for me this was the one routine I watched twice. As guest judge Christina Applegate pointed out, Cyrus was SUPER lucky that he got this routine as it was smack-dab in the middle of his specialty area. But if we're being honest, the TRUE routine of the night was this one, a special performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater:
Holy moly was that amazing. I've honestly never seen anything like it! Captivating stuff, seriously.
The bottom three boys were contemporary dancer George, stepper (!) Brandon, and tiny hunk Dareian...
...while the bottom three girls were contemporary dancer Amber, ballroom dancer Lindsay, and ballerina Eliana.
Ultimately (and after repeating his new favorite mantra, "This is so hard!"), Nigel opted to send Brandon and Amber home. Though both dancers had had a fantastic night (and excellent solos), I think I agreed with this decision. Brandon can presumably console himself with the knowledge that he's already IN the new Step Up movie. You've made it, Brandon!
Christina Applegate was one of last season's best celebrity judges, and she was even better this week. She obviously has a great, low-key personality perfectly suited for a circus like this, but Applegate also takes the judging role pretty seriously. Her critiques were surprisingly thoughtful, specific, and not always positive. The fact that she had professional dance experience as a child probably helped, but I just found her to be a likeable, mellow, and thoughtful presence on the panel. Bring her back!
On the subject of the panel, apparently Nigel thinks that Emmys are the same as Oscars? And did you catch Mary calling Witney 'Lindsay'? Oh, you interchangeable blondes. But anyway, big congrats to Cat Deeley for her Emmy nomination! One of the biggest pleasures of this show is how fun and in-the-moment Cat is, while still able to rattle off entire paragraphs of call-in information like it's no big deal. Give this woman tons of Emmys, Emmy givers!
What was YOUR favorite routine of the night?