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‘SYTYCD’ makes huge misstep cutting Anthony

I’m still upset that Burrell didn’t make it into the finals. And the more I think about it, the more I think the judges made a horrible, horrible mistake.
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Tonight, it’s all about the final ten, I mean eleven, which is exciting and I’m sure I’ll be thrilled once the episode gets rolling, but first, I need to vent a little. After today, I promise not to gripe about this one more minute, but I just have to say — I’m still upset that Anthony Burrell didn’t make it into the finals. And the more I think about it, the more I think the judges made a horrible, horrible mistake. Judging from some of the comments I’ve seen online, I’m not alone in this, so I hope you’ll just humor me for a moment.

I realize that yes, this is about finding America’s favorite dancer, not the best. But in this case, I think the judges and, I’m guessing, the producers made a decision that was not only cynical but simply bad for the show. Anthony was clearly a stand-out talent, and the producers made a clear mistake in choosing Anthony to dance next to Kent and Alex. It was impossible to ignore that Anthony blew Kent out of the water, and worse, the judges even said so.

So, for Kent to make the top ten when Anthony didn’t, well, it simply said to me that the judges (or more likely, the producers, because I don’t for a minute think they aren’t just as involved as the judges in these decisions, if not more so) think we’re all saps. That we value likability over talent, cuddliness over courage (I’d like to see Kent dance as well with a pulled hamstring), youth over hard-won wisdom.

The stories of these kids are important to voters, yes, but I think most of us want to vote for the best dancer at the end of the day. I’d thought this was one of the rare reality competitions that valued pure talent, but now I feel that was just wishful thinking on my part.

More importantly, I’d like to think that this show gives dancers an opportunity they may not otherwise have, and looking at the top eleven, well, I’m scratching my head. Kent is going to college to major in dance. Billy and Rob are already dancing with the Alvin Ailey Company, for crying out loud. Alex, as much as I love him, is a working professional dancer.

Though “SYTYCD” would give them opportunities, they might be similar to ones they’ll find on their existing paths. We weren’t given much of Anthony’s story, but it seems that, of all the dancers, he was the one for whom “SYTYCD” might make the biggest difference. Listening to him tell Mia how badly he needed this, it was a far different conversation than the giddy, weepy pleading from other, younger finalists.

I got the impression (and granted, it’s only an impression), that Anthony has taken some hard knocks in trying to make it as a dancer. The other finalists wanted this. Anthony said he needed it, and it felt like his last hope was being taken away. I can’t think I was the only one who noticed he was the ONLY person who wasn’t surrounded by family or co-workers when he got the news. Maybe that was his choice, or maybe he’s truly on his own, trying like hell and meeting roadblocks at every turn. And now, “SYTYCD” has just thrown up yet another in his way.

And I’ll just say this — I’m worried we won’t see Anthony again. That maybe this was one obstacle too many. That he’ll either get injured again, or the damage done to his hamstring from dancing through his pain will result in something more lasting and problematic. That he’ll just take this as a sign that this wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t see a family rallying around him to cover the bills, after all. I hope I’m wrong. I want him to come back next season and win this thing. Because he could. He’s just that good.

Some people have said that, well, Anthony won’t grow as much as some of the younger dancers on the show. I’d argue that Anthony may be hungrier and more eager than any of them, because he wants it so badly. And, at the end of the day, he was BETTER. And really, it should just be that simple.

Anyway, now that I’ve gotten that (mostly) out of my system, on with the show.

The opening number is a tea party set to “Fame” by David Bowie. And a croquet match. It’s an interesting routine, but I hate that it’s set to this song. Because I love this song, and this is kind of ruining it. So, good going, Wade and Amanda Robson. Now, whenever I hear Bowie, I’ll immediately flash forward to the cocaine-fueled 80s years when he kept wearing that stupid white suit like Colonel Sanders and the music sucked instead of remembering the Ziggy Stardust years. Awesome. Really, thanks for that.

Oh, and here’s Cat Deeley dressed as a pastel flapper. I’m sure this dress is expensive, but the colors make it look like a cheap beach cover up she bought in Palm Beach. She has a lot to say, but none of it’s as interesting as she’s trying to convince us it is, unfortunately. Oh, the show’s gone hi-def. Um, yay.

The judges tonight are Adam Shankman, Mia Michaels, Nigel Lythgoe and apparently the Robsons are just sitting next to them for no reason. I’m sure this will be explained at some point.

First up, the finalists will dance in their own genre before the competition starts for real next week. So, this is just kind of a fun episode, which is fine, because God knows these kids could use a break. Alexie and Melinda will do Broadway, but first Lauren and Kent will do jazz.

Oh, and before that, each dancer gets eleven seconds to talk. Eleven seconds doesn’t seem like much. But then again, I’ve found a lot of these dancers are more interesting when they’re enigmas. It’s sometimes hard to buy fierce, wild animal crawling around on the floor when you know the dancer is, like, super duper nice and collects teddy bears. Just saying.

Lauren gets her eleven seconds. She is 18, from Phoenix and she’s ready to take on the world. And she’s friendly. It’s impossible not to like Lauren, honestly.

Kent is 18, fresh out of high school and he’s single. And they play the theme from friggin’ “Deliverance” or “Hee-Haw” or something behind his eleven seconds. Okay, I get it, he grew up on a farm, but it’s starting to be insulting to not only the audience, but to him. They’re literally turning him into a caricature.

Okay, I love this routine, but why do we have two couples dancing with one another? I’d love to just see Lauren and her partner or Kent and his partner, but as it is, I hardly know where to look. But suffice it to say, it’s a great routine. I want to see all of it, and it’s just not possible. Choreographer Travis Wall explains it’s about Paris in the 1920s, and I have to say, Travis done good.

Then Cat has to talk to the dancers about their eleven seconds, namely, asking Kent what he’s looking for in a girl. Big assumption that he’s looking for a girl, but okay. Kent would like to date someone like his mom. Or Beyonce. Yeah, I’d love to see him take a girl like Beyonce back to meet mom and dad. I’m just saying, Beyonce doesn’t tend to wear pants.

Now, it’s time for the judges to give the dancers a pep talk so they won’t hate them for tearing them apart next week. Adam tells Kent he’s going to get a lot of votes, and he loves Lauren. I think it’s notable that Adam tells Kent he’s going to get a lot of votes. Why don’t they just slap a sticker on Kent’s forehead that says “MIDWEST RATINGS GRAB” and be done with it? Good thing he’s an amazing dancer, because otherwise this would be depressing.

More eleven seconds. Alexie was a Laker girl, she’s a UCLA grad and she’s been trying to get on the show for years. I give Alexie big props for never giving up. Even if she is a Bruin.

Melinda is from Thousand Oaks, Calif., she’s an artist, an old soul and she’s her own invention. I think Melinda’s kind of irritating in a hippie dippie way.

So, we now get four girls on the stage, as Lauren and Alison are the all-stars on the stage. Thank God for contrasting dress colors. Cat wants to be in their gang. I don’t think that would be a lot of fun, because even though this was well-danced, it was a little dull. I’m thinking Melinda could easily be the first girl out of the competition. Of course, I’m wondering why, if this is about dancing to your strength, she didn’t tap.

Interesting — after each routine, the choreographer gets to talk. Toasty, in this case, is the choreographer. He thought they were great, because Toasty is always encouraging and smiley and seems to be a glass is half-full person. Nigel says he couldn’t tell who was an all-star and who was a competitor, but they both need to find the fire. No kidding.

More eleven seconds, and let me tell you, these eleven seconds are starting to feel long. Jose is 21, he’s from Miami, he’s confident, smooth and explosive. And I think he said he was homo, which I’m thinking I misheard, unless that’s a new slang thing I wasn’t aware of. Oh, wait, he said humble. That makes more sense. Yeah, definitely more sense.

Jose is dancing with three other hip-hop all-stars. And of course, they put the all-stars in bright colors and the finalist in black. Yes, that’s a good idea. Oh, he’s wearing a colorful T-shirt under his hoodie, I take it back. This is fine, I guess, but I keep watching Twitch. After they finish the routine, Dominic takes the opportunity to feel up Cat. Yes, the focus is clearly on our finalist. I had been kind of excited to see the all-stars back, but I’m starting to feel like they’re unintentionally stealing the thunder of the new kids because they’re so comfortable being there, and it’s honestly bumming me out,

The Dumos tell Jose he’s great. So, the choreographers are basically on the panel to be a rotating cast of Paula Abduls. Adam loves Jose. And says he’s representing. Oh, Adam, you’re so street.

Moving on. Cristina is 24, she’s a salsa dancer, she’s from Mexico, she goes to college and works and she teaches salsa. Cristina is overcommitted, so “SYTYCD” is probably a vacation for her.

She has to dance with two all-stars. Huh? When did salsa become a threesome? Just let her dance with Pasha and call it a day, people. Instead, we get salsa line dancing. Have to hand it to Cristina, she brings the fire that was lacking in the last few performances.

Jason Gilkison, the poor guy who was stuck choreographing Latin dance for a trio, thought Cristina was amazing. Do you see a theme here with the choreographers? Nigel thought Cristina held her own with two of the best Latin dancers in the world, but says Cristina has slightly lazy feet. Oh, hey, Cristina has invisible braces, I think.

And another eleven seconds. Alex! Alex is 23, from Miami, he got cut in season 5 because of his ballet gig, he’s a crazy goofball who likes to sing and dance a lot. I think I don’t want to know too much more about Alex, because he’s an amazing, intense, meticulous dancer whom I don’t want to think of as a guy who likes plastic vomit and sticking straws up his nose.

Billy is 20, from Palm Beach, and he got sick during season 6. Billy basically tells us only what we already know. But, that’s probably for the best. Stay an enigma, Billy!

I would like to see what Mia’s shoulder tattoo is. Alex and Billy dance with Ade to a Mia Michaels routine. It’s an incredible routine, and Alex and Billy are friggin’ amazing. Seriously, amazing. I think Alex brought more passion this time around, and Billy just has no bones in the most incredible way. I have to say, these two may be my favorites to win the whole thing.

Mia was honored to work with Alex and Billy. And she calls Billy a freak of nature, but in a nice way. She calls Alex a beast, but also in a nice way. Mia’s crazy, but in a nice way.

Now, our final three. Adechike is from Brooklyn, he is the underdog, he’s been fighting since day one. I think Adechike is a little too hung up on almost getting eliminated.

Ashley is from Visalia, she’s a lyrical dancer, she loves to shop, and likes cinnamon bears and popcorn. If I didn’t know better, I’d think Ashley was twelve. What’s a cinnamon bear, anyway?

Robert is from Thousand Oaks, always has a smile on his face, he used to play baseball and he’s a good bad dancer. Again, something I don’t want to think about, Robert. Please don’t be that guy who goes to parties and thinks it’s funny to do the robot. It’s never funny to do the robot.

So, we have three finalists dancing with two all-stars. This is going to be a mob scene. But it’s a mob scene in a good way, even if I can’t tell who’s who. I think Ashley’s surprisingly fierce, unless I’m confusing her with the all-star, because their costumes look just the same, right down to the matching hair.

Sonya Tayek tells the dancers they conquered the routine. And she tells Adechike he’s not an underdog, because he’s here doing it. She tells Ashley and Robert they pushed themselves, and she’s excited. Sonya also has an interesting shoulder tattoo. Maybe she and Mia can post something online about what exactly those are, because it might be interesting. Or not.

Next week, the competition starts. Eeeeek! Even though this episode was kind of a mess in that too many people were on the stage at all times, I’m glad we at least had this opportunity to see the top ten in action without the stress of competition and, most importantly, showing us what they can do in their chosen genre.

And if anyone gets meningitis or breaks a leg, I’m hoping they have Anthony on speed dial. Just saying.