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On ''So You Think You Can Dance,'' the judges once again unfairly penalize a woman contestant by focusing on her male partner's performance

So You Think You Can Dance | THE BITTER HALF Melissa got stuck with bottom-feeder Jamile
Image credit: Melissa Vella: J. Viles/FOX
THE BITTER HALF Melissa got stuck with bottom-feeder Jamile

''So You Think You Can Dance'': Man trouble

Not to get all Gloria Steinem on you, but...actually, let me get all Gloria Steinem on you, just for a minute: So You Think You Can Dance has a problem with women. More specifically, the show's judges consistently ignore the contributions of female contestants when deciding which duos to send to the bottom two.

Take this week's episode. Ashlé and Melissa are clearly the best of the four women left in the competition, and yet, in another numskull move by the judging panel, they're on the chopping block instead of Melody and Kamilah.

Part of the blame for this travesty lies with the show's producers: They've cornered the judges into nominating two couples for elimination each week, instead of four individuals. That means a contestant like Melissa, who blew away the judges (and me) with her wickedly disparate hip-hop and paso doble routines this week — Dan deemed her ''wonderful,'' Nigel said she was ''tremendous,'' and Brian called her ''Ballroom Betty'' — can be pushed to the brink of elimination solely for drawing the wrong name from a hat (the one belonging to the struggling Jamile, natch).

What's even more annoying, though, is that the judges seem to weigh the male partner's contribution more heavily than the woman's, an imbalance that dates back to the first week of the finals. In early rounds, the sorely missed Snow paid the price for getting paired with Allan and then Ryan, even though in the latter case her ballroom technique was flawless; Melody twice landed in the bottom two as well when she got paired with those same guys, even though the judges told her it was no fault of her own.

Yet if a woeful teammate can drag you down, how come Nick and Kamilah aren't in this week's bottom two? Dan told Nick he ''danced circles around'' his sexpot partner during the mambo, and Nigel concurred, yet Kamilah's lackluster effort wasn't enough to stop the couple from receiving a free pass into the final six. Surely, the judges weren't that bedazzled by the duo's contemporary routine to Sting's ''King of Pain.'' Dressed like ridiculous black-and-white cookies, Nick and Kamilah looked like they were stiffly channeling that mid-'80s Puttin' on the Hits contestant. You know, the guy who was half Diana Ross, half Lionel Richie, all lip-synch machine to — oh, what was it? ''Endless Love,'' maybe?

Still, I enjoyed Nick and Kamilah more than Blake and Melody. Mind you, I'll never be a huge Blake fan, not after witnessing his smarmy audition-rounds arrogance, but I'll begrudgingly admit he's been one of SYTYCD's most consistent performers. That said, his lyrical and disco routines with Melody this week were stunning cases of the emperor showing up butt booty nekkid. Neither dancer seemed remotely connected to the music, to the crowd, or to each other, during their dance to DJ Sammy's ''Heaven.'' Perhaps it was because Blake was wearing a sheer blue hoodie, or maybe it was because he was forced to pull off twice the amount of pirouettes and leaps as his partner, but the chemistry was not happening. And anyone who has to fake an expression of joy while working it out to the Bee Gees' ''You Should Be Dancin','' probably shouldn't be dancin' at all — at least not disco. Melody, on the other hand, is a heartbreaker whenever she flashes her pearly whites, but other than that patented leg lift, she's not the most compelling mover.

I was secretly praying that loopy Mia Michaels would show up for the judging panel to remind Blake and Melody that dance is more than just performing a series of tricks and awkward lifts — it's about expressing something to the audience — but instead, Dan, Mary, Brian, and (for the most part) even Nigel drank the Kool-Aid and declared the couple's efforts to be ''great,'' ''classic,'' and ''beautiful.'' How about: What-ever!

Oh, and getting back to butt-nekkid contestants, the evening's most wrongly maligned couple, Ashlé and Artem, not only outdanced everyone with their seamless foxtrot and cha-cha (perhaps they made it look too easy?), but they also flashed enough skin to satisfy the series' more prurient viewers (not that there's anything wrong with that). Ashlé's turquoise contraption had a skirt so tiny it'd make Kelly Monaco look away, while watching open-shirted Artem thrust his hips and lick his lips during his quick-steppin' freestyle was something out of a Chippendales finale. At least the guy has a place to go if the ballroom circuit doesn't pan out.

Funny thing is, though, not even Artem and Ashlé wowed me this week the way Destini and Jamile did with last week's hip-hop spectacular, and yet it was Destini (along with Ryan) who ended up taking a hike before the performances began. Note that once again, the eliminated contestants had not danced together the night they were nominated, which could spell trouble for Ashlé. If we assume Jamile is headed home (given the way the audience screams for Artem the way Oprah's audience screams for smoked turkey legs, it’s a good bet), this voting pattern dictates Melissa won't be joining him.

What do you think? Who will and should be sent packing next week? And what in the name of all that's holy was going on with judge Brian Friedman's revolting new hairstyle? Was he imitating David Spade as Martha Stewart?

Originally posted Sep 15, 2005
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