So You Think You Can Dance can split the dancers into teams and throw a Twitter save into the mix and design a stage that might one day require a blood sacrifice, but it can’t change one thing: Cat Deeley. Our fearless host was the true star of the night, introducing the “jidges” for old times’ sake and then ribbing them all night long. Sometimes I think all eight of this show’s Emmy nominations should be for Cat. (Nooooo, everyone’s great. But I’m glad one of them is for her.)
Happy 10th birthday, SYTYCD. It’s time to mix up those Stage and Street dancers and get down to our first elimination.
Hailee, Darion, and Yorelis
Choreographers: Oksana Dmytrenko and Jonathan Platero, Salsa
Song: “Blucutu” by Saamara
Houston, we already have a problem. Travis noticed in rehearsals that Darion was sleepwalking his way through this routine, and if there’s one thing a dancer can’t sleep through, it’s a salsa trio with death-defying lifts. Something goes wrong mid-routine, and Hailee is left hanging — literally. She pulls through with a combination of professionalism and superhuman ab strength, and the routine continues without issue, but Darion still can’t rise to his partners’ performance level. Nigel calls the ladies “spicy” and Darion “yogurt.” I never knew yogurt could be such an effective put-down.
Derek and Ariana
Choreographer: Ray Leeper, Jazz
Song: “Cry Me A River” by Michael Buble
Just on a purely aesthetic note, if you’re going to do a routine about “two people who’ve come together to share in the pain of losing a loved one,” maybe don’t dress them like Oompa Loompas. Derek and Ariana overcome a truly unfortunate suspender/ turtleneck combo to make the best out of a routine that feels like it was designed by a committee. The look and sound of the piece never really blend, which might explain why both dancers could use a little more light behind their eyes. That being said, they look good together, and Ariana “shocks” Nigel. (Everything Nigel says to the Street team is a little bit backhanded, isn’t it?) He also praises Ariana for her reaches. Remember when he hated reaches, like, last week?
Alexia, Megz, and Virgil
Choreographer: Dee Caspary, Contemporary
Song: “Until We Go Down” by Ruelle
This is the small group routine of the night for me, despite the fact that Caspary tells Virgil he’s going to be dominated this week and is thus “not going to be the man.” I’m not even going to think about those implications. Let’s focus on how GOOD everyone is. Megz, who felt sloppy last week in her own style, excels outside of it; she and Virgil look like they belong in this contemporary routine. But it’s Alexia who really impresses me, stepping outside her Little Ball of Energy box to do something much more raw and mature with this piece. I also love how genuinely proud she is of the Street dancers on stage with her. To quote Cat, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.” They did it.
Lily, Burim, Edson, and Gaby
Choreographer: Nakul Dev Mahajan, Bollywood
Song: “Dhol Baaje,” Ek Paheli Leela (Soundtrack)
Edson calls this routine a “celebration of life.” The dancers and team captains are really feeling this one in rehearsal, but they don’t light up the big stage with quite as much energy as they could, except where their costumes are concerned. Nigel shrugs that he didn’t really learn anything new about the dancers, which just about sums it up. Gaby is as graceful as ever; Burim keeps up with a new style; Edson is sharp (he’s got a cheerleading background); Lily’s arms could be sharper, but she’s got the personality to almost make up for it. Really, the best part of the segment is when Jason repeats Gaby and calls their “Slap the booty” move by the wrong name. Emmy-nominated host Cat Deeley, earning her Emmy nomination: “You know how to do that, Jason.”
Kate, Neptune, and Asaf
Choreographer: Spencer Liff, Broadway
Song: “All About That Bass” by Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox feat. Kate Davis
Now that we’ve got our Twitter save, where’s our “You had to listen to the worst song on repeat all week” save? These three all deserve it. I was really expecting to get a little Guys and Dolls action out of those suits, but once I set aside that disappointment, I was all in for this routine. Neptune is as smooth as any Nathan Detroit out there. The judges still feel like Kate is holding something back, but I don’t see it — for the second week in a row, she’s left standing up there with a pasted-on smile, nodding at critiques and wondering how she ended up here. As for Asaf, he manages to keep up, even though he struggled with the choreography in rehearsals again. Paula tells him to get used to it. He has to look back on how far he’s already come and make the struggle his friend: “Enjoy the process. You’ll never have anything like this ever again.” She’s talking about dance, but I think she’s also talking about life.
NEXT: Maybe next time he’ll dance before he cheats