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It was a bad night to be a tapper on ‘SYTYCD’

Phillip and Bianca are both sent packing on a night of lackluster routines, while Legacy established himself as a frontrunner.
/ Source: Entertainment Weekly

I don’t know about you, fellow “So You Think You Can Dance” fans, but last night’s performance/elimination extravaganza has left me more depressed than Jon Corzine’s memory-foam mattress. (Topical humor!) Not only did our foppish British judge unwisely choose to cut our sole female tapper, but a just-ousted Phillip also informed us that his father had passed away little more than a week ago. Add those two sad pieces of information to the fact that last night’s performances left much to be desired, and you’ve got an episode worthy of the frown-y face emoticons Mollee likely texts to pals when her Tamagotchi runs out of batteries. :-( :-( :-(

Because, really, I was finding myself more interested in finding out exactly how Tyce manages to maintain that chinstrap than the performances last night — that is, until Karen and Kevin took the stage for their hip-hop number. And they were the sixth couple to perform. Sixth! When you have to wait until more than halfway through the show for things to start to pick up, you know you’re in trouble. And probably many of the first five couples — barring OMG Mollee and Nathan — thought they were in trouble.

But in my humble opinion, only four should have had reason to worry: Noelle, Victor, Phillip and, of course, Channing. Perhaps the latter dancer’s eyes really do possess some sort of magical, telepathic power that Phillip ascribed to them. (Obi-Wan’s looking good these days, huh?) How else do you explain how Channing evaded the bottom four? On stage, the contemporary dancer was clumsy, nervous, and as uncomfortable as a wedgied seventh grader for the second week in a row, and yet, Bianca — who I felt performed well enough to last another week — was put in danger, and eventually sent home.

Yes, I know Bianca wasn’t perfect. Her solo, while certainly enjoyable, didn’t quite leave my heart tap-tapping. (And that short jacket, which accentuated her tight shoulders, was far from flattering — girl was looking like Mike Wazowski in that wardrobe!) But the tap dancer was undeniably fun. And the competition will suffer without Bianca’s presence, if you ask me. Especially since the top 16 is filled with some seriously vanilla personalities. And I’m talking straight-up store-brand vanilla — not even the fancy kind with the bean.

Before we move on with the performances, however, I will address Phillip’s deserved — but no less sad — ouster. I never really managed to become a fan of the tap dancer, but it was nice to see a contestant who didn’t use personal tragedy for reality show gain. (Cough, Gokey, cough!) There was no mention of the tough week he’s had during the judges’ critiques. There was no mention of his overcoming any sort of non-dancing-related obstacles. And that’s sure impressive, coming from a show that has introduced us to contestants that would turn a hangnail into an obstacle of epic proportions.

On top of it all, Phillip sure went out with class, thanking an obviously devastated top 16 for attending his father’s funeral. So to that, I say: Attaboy, Attmore. Say what you will, but the guy can sure plaster on a convincing smile. And that’s more than I can say for Bianca, who looked so ready to clobber Nigel, I was prepared to call Steve Wilkos.

Now onto our dance numbers, eh? In ascending order, from worst to best:

Channing and Phillip: Yes, the contemporary dancer and tapper were at a distinct disadvantage after pulling a ballroom number for the second week in a row. (This time around, they chose a samba with Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin.) But I almost caught myself wondering whether or not I had accidentally changed the channel to ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” during the routine. And when I start to wonder whether or not our young, talented contestants are really deranged D-listers desperate for their final shot at fame, you know thing’s aren’t good. Channing did appear to be having a better time than she did during last week’s ballroom routine, but she still seemed to be traveling too low in her body. There’s too much plié in her step, and not enough lift. And she still hadn’t found synergy with partner Phillip, who struggled so much lifting her up, you would think he was hoisting up a George and Martha after a giant helping of split pea soup, and not a light — albeit muscular — dancer.

Bianca and Victor: Victor, in the couple’s introduction package, claimed that the best thing about Bianca was her sheer volume. “She’s like an alarm clock,” he claimed. Too bad he didn’t take enough advantage of this trait — he could have used a wake-up call during the Tyce Diorio Broadway number. Now, I won’t completely blame the couple for this routine’s failure. The speed of the song — “Maybe God Is Trying To Tell You Something,” from “The Color Purple” — didn’t quite seem to match the spirited, fast-paced choreography. But while Bianca channeled the enthusiasm of the number through her dancing, Victor looked about as excited to praise God as I was as young Catholic missing “Moondreamers” cartoons for Sunday mass.

Noelle and Russell: Props can really amp up a dance number. See: The axe in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’” barn-raising dance scene. The bench in Travis and Heidi’s season two Mia Michaels routine. The chicken in Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” music video. (Kidding.) But first-time choreographer Jamal Sims really lobbed an unfair challenge to Noelle and Russell when he asked that the duo dance with tennis rackets. We’re not talking a tiny prop like a necklace, or a feather. This is a tennis racket — a piece of athletic equipment whose sole purpose is to hit things hard. You might as well demand the pair dance on stage while shooting rolled up Hanes at each other from those T-shirt guns. Though I’d love to judge Noelle based on her poor performance during the number — she seemed far too stiff and uncomfortable — how could I properly critique her when she was sporting a prop that even managed to hinder the unflappable Russell? And as for those “Matrix” moves — Well, I’d say Neo and tennis go together about as well as Serena Williams and a fault-calling lineswoman.

Ashleigh and Jakob: The saddest thing about Ashleigh and Jakob’s segment wasn’t the fact that Adam Shankman crazily critiqued Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin for showcasing Jakob’s beautiful jete en tournant. (The nerve!) No, the saddest thing is what Jakob chose to say was his partner’s best trait: her sweat. Oy. He really couldn’t find anything better? Her smile? Fashion sense? Ability to memorize all 26 letters of the alphabet? Anything? That’s adding some serious fuel to the Ashleigh-hating fire out there. But as one of those exact dissenters I’m referencing, I have to admit that the girl didn’t completely collapse during last night’s Viennese waltz. In fact, she was quite graceful, and caught up to her partner’s skill level (even if Jakob wasn’t performing in his own element). And the two partners — who clearly couldn’t be less romantically interested in one another — flexed their acting skills at the beginning and end of the routine when they planted a wet one on one another. In fact, the judges were so convinced of the romance in the moment, Mary wondered if Ashleigh’s hubby would be jealous upon sight of the kiss. Cut to: Ryan, backstage, obliviously benching 200-pound weights while eating grapes off his own pecs.

Mollee and Nathan: It’s hard to go wrong with Bollywood. And season 6’s cutest couple imaginable didn’t last night. But their cinema-esque number only served to remind us how much better Katee and Joshua performed the genre back in season 4. (Not to mention Caitlin and Jason last season — a couple that Mary seemed to have forgotten during her critique of Mollee and Nathan.) Sure, Nathan’s pirouettes were gorgeous, and Mollee did age herself past five years, thanks to more mature choreography. But I still can’t shake the feeling that I’m watching two ridiculously talented grade-schoolers perform in their garage for their parents. I blame the rehearsal footage: Mollee’s whole bladder problem just made me wonder if she pulled a Mannequin and was really Baby Alive come to life.

Pauline and Peter: Someone fill me in — were the judges claiming this Wade and Amanda Robson routine would be controversial because it involved the desecration of a piece of art? (Or is my sleep-deprived brain missing something more obvious?) If so, I disagree. How fitting is it that a choreographer would create a balls-out crazy routine based on a painting by a balls-out crazy artist? Whether you love or hate his quirky choreography, there’s no denying Wade is certainly creative. And, on top of that, our dancers clearly love working with the choreographer. Pauline and Peter’s “Starry Night”-inspired jazz dancing wasn’t perfect, but they looked like they were having a blast. And so, in turn, was I. No absinthe necessary!

Karen and Kevin: I hadn’t been feeling ballroom dancer Karen the past few weeks, so I figured I’d be out like a tequila-soaked VH1 contestant at the start of her and Kevin’s NapTab hip-hop number. But the number hooked me as soon as I saw the words “Ice Cream” grace the bottom of my TV screen. And then, lo and behold, Karen managed to hook me like a pint of Chubby Hubby! The dancer proved she could be sexy outside her genre, hitting her moves with the conviction of hip-hop dancers of seasons past. (Hello, Donyelle and Sara Von Gillern!) The girl predictably continued to rev the judge’s engines — which left poor Kevin to pick up only sputtering remainder compliments. But Mary has given him a first-class ticket on the Hot Tamale Train. So just go ahead and smize, Kevin.

Ellenore and Ryan: If Ashleigh has seen “The Bodyguard,” methinks she won’t be too happy about Ellenore calling Ryan her bodyguard. And if Ashleigh has seen “Species,” I don’t think she’ll be too happy about Ryan calling Ellenore an alien. Because, let’s face it, these partners have some serious chemistry. And nothing proved that more than last night’s Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo-choreographed Argentine tango, which was executed to near perfection, if not for that whole wardrobe malfunction. (Ellenore’s dress was caught on her heel for the majority of the routine.) I’m not going to pretend, however, that it was anywhere near as jaw-dropping as Jeannette and Brandon’s insane tango from last season. But Ellenore can rock an amazing attitude, and Ryan will continue to court man-hungry audiences, even with the drawback of having the personality of a lampshade. So get ready, top 10: Here they come!

Kathryn and Legacy: Ellenore and Ryan might have received a standing ovation from the judges, but I was cheering from my couch for this season’s most emotionally endearing couple, Kathryn and Legacy. How is it that the two people I felt were the human equivalent of nails on a chalkboard two weeks ago are quickly becoming my favorite “SYTYCD” couple? Last night, their Stacey Tookey routine about a woman struggling with fear, portrayed by Legacy, was nothing short of a revelation. I marveled at Legacy’s rapid improvement, and it was refreshing to hear a dancer like Kathryn understand what made Stacey’s choreography beautiful — her lines — and not just state the coolness of the routine to come. Yes, Legacy could have used some lessons from Kupöno on how to channel fear with his facial expressions, but let’s not dock this duo points on mere technicalities. Because, quite simply, they were lovely.

Tell me, “SYTYCD” fans: Did you think Bianca and Phillip deserved to go home? Has Adam Shankman been watching too many “Project Runway” marathons, or is he trying to steal Tim Gunn’s “Make it work” catchphrase? Are you glad that Billy Bell and Brandon will be given second chances next season? And, finally, which joke are you more tired of hearing: Why the chicken crossed the road, or why there’s an empty fourth chair at the judge’s panel?