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Plenty of drama, little dancing on ‘SYTYCD’

In previous seasons, viewers were given at least a glimpse of the top 20 dancers’ solos, so where were they last night? At least the judges provided a big moment of drama at the end.
/ Source: Entertainment Weekly

Hold on a minute. I did spend an hour last night watching "So You Think You Can Dance," right? So how come I feel like I sat through an episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"? There were cheers, hugs, and enough tears to put M'Lynn Eatenton herself to shame. But where was the dancing?

Of course, I understand that choosing each season's top 20 is a dramatic affair. And it is admittedly enjoyable to watch the judges give the dancers good news through cruel speeches like: ''You're a wonderful dancer...but we need to see you grow...and we think you will...but somewhere outside of the competition...as well as in the competition...Did I remember to pick up my dry cleaning?...That's right, I did...and I stopped at Wal-Mart on the way home and got a great deal on light bulbs...which shine almost as bright as you...and that's why you're in our top 20.''

But in previous seasons, we were allowed at least a glimpse at the top 20 dancers' solos. Last night? We only saw a few seconds of Billy Bell's solid solo, a routine that we'd already been given a chance to experience last week. Come on, SYTYCD! You could have cut all that footage of Mollee and Noelle playing MASH and Pretty Pretty Princess to make room for just a few solos, right?

So the lack of dancing in last night's episode left me unsatisfied. But the news the judges dropped on us in the show's final minutes left me utterly heartbroken. Just as I was firming up my prediction list — which we will get to shortly — the judges informed us that Paula Von Oppen declined their top 20 offer because she was already contractually bound to a film.

And to that I say: Hell to the no! My favorite female dancer of the season bows out of the competition? Please: Somebody deliver Tyce Diorio to my apartment right now so I can punch something! (Because you know you wanted to after hearing him smarmily reject a contestant by telling her, ''Please continue on your shining journey,'' a sentence that was less genuine than a pair of studs from Claire's). Watching Ashleigh replace Paula in the top 20 was a bit like watching blue M&Ms replace tan M&Ms: I understand that it was a necessary move, but I'd prefer the reliable to the flashy. Alls I got to say is that better be one heckuva of a movie, Paula. And good luck to ya!

Now, on to the dancers who survived the walk of truth to nab a spot in season 6's top 20. (The "Close Encounters" stage lighting was sure appropriate, considering Mia's new Ellen Ripley cut, eh?) Though it's tough for me to weigh in much about our dancers — thanks to the lack of, you know, actual dancing — take a look at my predictions for the season! (Keep in mind that I'm taking into account the fact that we lose both a girl and a guy each week. And keep in mind that these are my predictions, not a countdown of my personal favorites.) In descending order...

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19. Victor Smalley: I was on Victor's side in Atlanta. (Those pirouettes!) But Victor would have to magically transform into the Kool-Aid guy to break through this season's solid group of contemporary dancers. Especially since the judges forced him to shave off his Mohawk. (Perhaps they feared he'd accidentally get pulled onto the "Top Chef" set?) But that hair certainly worked for last season's Küpono and season 4's Mark. So, take my advice, Victor: Grow the hair back! Then, perhaps nostalgic fans will pick up the phone.

18. Karen Hauer: Karen is certainly easier to swallow than fellow ballroom dancer Ashleigh. But a severe lack of camera time over the past few weeks could hurt her chances to go far. Plus, when trying to think of something — anything — to write about Karen, I come up completely empty. And that's saying a lot, coming from the girl who could write a treatise about belly button lint.

17. Phillip Attmore: I love me my tappers. And I loved me my Phillip back in Los Angeles, when we first met the guy. But last night, we saw a glimpse of the dancer's slightly arrogant and defensive attitude in Vegas. (Funny that this is the first we've seen of it, right?) My guess is SYTYCD fans will be turned off by any semblance of an attitude. And this is real attitude — not Danny Tidwell ''attitude.'' Phillip could very well redeem himself with some seriously awesome moves, but he has to keep in mind that this is the search for America's favorite dancer, not America's insecure-to-the-point-of-douchbaggery dancer.

16. Ellenore Scott: Like Ariana, we have barely seen anything from Ellenore. But I'm rolling the dice here and placing her ahead of Karen nonetheless. And who knows? She could be the next Sabra or Jeanine, two winners who received barely any screen time prior to the top 20 performances. Plus, I'm on her side, if only because the name Ellenore reminds me of The McLaughlin Group. (''Eleanor gee-I-think-you're-swell-anore!'')

15. Legacy: Unlike some of the contestants above, Legacy has scored plenty of camera time. But will he be this season's Ivan, or this season's Jonathan? Based on what we've seen, Legacy has the passion, but not the technique. And without Mia on board to back him up for the rest of the season, I'm not sure if the b-boy will be able to impress judges, as well as viewers who already find him phony.

14. Kathryn McCormick: Hey, "Price Is Right" fans: Do you remember the game ''Cliff Hanger''? The one where the contestant must make the yodeler ascend the mountain without falling off? Do you remember that tense feeling you get watching the yodeler climb the mountain? You kind of rise up in your seat watching him go higher, and higher, and higher...That's the feeling I get listening to Kathryn speak. Oh my god, was that annoying or what? Yet, at the same time, hilarious. That's why I'm hoping Kathryn sticks around long enough to officially transform into Stewie Griffin.

13. Peter Sabasino: Like others, Peter could suffer from lack of camera time. But I sure hope he doesn't. He's cute, Italian, and a tapper. What more could you want?

12. Noelle Marsh: We haven't seen much of Noelle either, but the contemporary dancer will at least benefit through her association with Mollee. Of course, since Mollee turns plenty of fans off, Marsh could also get bogged down, thanks to the friendship. Are Mollee and Noelle a dream team, or a nightmare pair? Only time will tell.

11. Kevin Hunte: Three tappers, and only one hip-hopper? Kevin could fare well being the only person in his genre to nab a spot in the top 20, and his versatility certainly doesn't hurt either. But with so many strong male dancers, Kevin could land just short of a top 10 finish.

10. Ashleigh Di Lello: My, my, this girl is somehow hammier than the hammiest of Moon Over My Hammy breakfasts! Whether or not she deserves a place in the top 20 is certainly debatable — she probably got as far as she did purely for the whole will-they-separate-the-husband-and-wife-team? drama — but some SYTYCD dialers like them their pretty girls. (Season 3's Lauren Gottlieb, anyone?) Not to mention Nigel. Based on how much I predict the pervy judge will be drooling this season, I'd invest in the handkerchief business if I were you.

9. Jakob Karr: Message boards already love the contemporary dancer — and we've hardly seen him do anything more than tondu. But he's got the looks, the technique, and a strangely spelled name — a must for SYTYCD — so I'd say he's got a good chance at top 10.

8. Channing Cooke: Channing might whip up a strong finish, thanks to her all-American charm, and sheer strength as a dancer. But Nigel hinted that Channing needed to hone her partnering skills. And you can only rely on your 30-second solos for so long, right Phillip?

7. Ryan Di Lello: Ashleigh's other half is a more talented ballroom dancer, and has strong enough abs to impress Sparta. But SYTYCD fans might prefer their hot dancers to be on the market. And really, every ballroom dancer on SYTYCD has been a let-down after Pasha. Sigh.

6. Mollee Gray: Yes, she's polarizing. But look at how far that got Kherington Payne. I've never been a fan of Mollee, but it's obvious the producers are. Why else would they be setting her up for a whole coming-of-age story arc? No, thank you — if I want to hear a good coming-of-age story, I'll just re-read "The Catcher in the Rye." But I bet plenty of viewers will buy into it, especially since Mollee's poised to hopscotch right into Nigel's heart. (He wants women here, did you hear?)

5. Nathan Trasoras: He's young, insanely talented, and has that whole Taylor Lautner vibe going on. So let the inappropriate crushes begin!

4. Bianca Revels: I'll admit it: I'm taking a bit of a gamble here. But it's not just because I have an unabashed love for tap dancers. (Okay, maybe it is.) Bianca has proven that her dancing is just as strong as her personality, and I'm prepared to revel in her ability to bring the total package to the SYTYCD stage. Of course, she could fall apart in the first few weeks, in which case I'll bite on my tongue with the force of the MGM lion. But that will hurt, so let's just hope she does well, yes?

3. Paulina Mata: I'm not really sure how Paulina will fare. But video footage of her solo that played as she walked up to Nigel & Co., seemed to indicate that Pauline exhibited a certain passion lacking in some of our other contestants. Plus, her name is kind of like ''Paula,'' so that will help me cope with the loss of my favorite female contestant.

2. Billy Bell: He makes the judges cry. And his legwork is perfection. Billy, however, has to prove that he can truly perform; that is, impress audiences through more than technique. Though I have often commented on the contemporary dancer's technical prowess, I've realized that Billy has yet to draw me in using his face. Now, I'm not suggesting he start smizing or anything, but he has to learn to command the stage with his whole body in order to stand out. That being said, the guy's a tough one to beat after Vegas week. In fact, I only think one person can do it, and that's...

1. Russell Ferguson: Really, unless Russell makes like Mariah and has an ice-cream-cart-style meltdown, he's pretty much a lock for the final four, if not the win. Who doesn't love the underdog? No, seriously, tell me who doesn't. Because then I'd like to invite that person over to my apartment so I can ask him/her, ''Do you have a heart?!'' before forcing him/her to watch a slew of feel-good, inspirational movies like Remember the Titans, or Pod People.

So tell me, fellow SYTYCD fans: How wrong or right am I? Can anyone beat Russell? Who do you hate? Who do you love? And are you sad about any of the ousters?