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‘SYTYCD’ narrows field to 10 dancers

Nigel just had to admit that the Chbeeb was never going to come within a country mile of catching up to the rest of the Top 10.
/ Source: Entertainment Weekly

You’ve got to hand it to Nigel Lythgoe. He may be an uncouth cad for that dig at Mary’s Botox use, and he’s certainly holding a petty grudge against that piddly little Russian folk dance routine, but the man is one wily fox at getting his way.

First, he takes to the public airwaves to bemoan the fact that a meanie recording conglomerate won’t release the rights to Michael Jackson’s music for a tribute to the man’s contributions to the world of dance. (Which is to say, if we’re not seeing the moonwalk on the “So You Think You Can Dance” stage by the end of the season, I’ll be quite surprised.)

And Nigel even managed to dismiss the Chbeeb while also swiftly hiring him back for the impending tour. Nigel just had to admit that the Chbeeb was never going to come within a country mile of catching up to the rest of the Top 10, and to keep him any longer on the show would undercut “SYTYCD’s” precious dance world integrity, which he’s so fond of touting to any who will listen. But we all know those “producers” of the “SYTYCD” tour had a “talk” with Nigel and, well, this is probably how it went:

Nigel: “Self?” Nigel: “Yes, self?” Nigel: “You can’t kick off Phillip before the tour; he’s the only bloody street dancer left!” Nigel: “I know that, you crusty old muffin!” Nigel: “Hey, I look right dashing for 60!” Nigel: “Well, so do I, but the fact remains that Phillip’s just bobbins at any style not his own.”Nigel: “Yes yes yes, and that isn’t even taking into account that bollocks Russian routine.” Nigel: “Right, so...wait, which one of us is supposed to be Tour Producer Nigel again?” Nigel: “I think I am.” Nigel: “Aha! So what if we kick Phillip off but make him one of the swing dancers on the tour?” Nigel: “My word! If I do say so myself, self, you are one bloody brilliant television show producer!” Nigel: “Thanks self!” Nigel: “Now, er, what’s a swing dancer again?” Nigel: “You’re Tour Producer Nigel! Shouldn’t you know it’s theater talk for understudy?” Nigel: “Of course I knew that! I was just testing your knowledge on the matter!” Nigel: “Oh, go suck an egg!” Nigel: “Gladly!” (Sucks on egg.) Fin.

Nigel might have been oddly obtuse about consulting himself on bringing the Chbeeb and Caitlin onto the tour, but he was bracingly forthright when talking about how he and the other judges came to the decision to kick these two off the show in the first place. Namely, he all but admitted that their “dancing for your life” solos pretty much did not matter, as the judges had already well made up their minds hours earlier.

Of the bottom six dancers, Caitlin seemed to take this admission closest to heart, delivering a dainty and perfunctory solo that might as well have been titled “I Give Up, But At Least I’m Still Cute.”

The Chbeeb, meanwhile, went out in style, reminding us all why we were so captivated by him ... two years ago. I actually half expected his “So You Think You Can Dance” “journey” montage to include a few glimpses at his true “SYTYCD” odyssey, like his very first audition, and his dance off with Robert Muraine in last year’s finale. (Which, by the by, the Chbeeb clearly won, judges’ vote be damned.)

But now it’s onto the Top 10, and, not to belabor this point or anything, but with the Chbeeb now gone, we’ve got the least diverse 10 dancers in the show’s history. So now that they’ve got to go it alone, dancing with a new partner every week, winning votes all by their lonesome, how will they all shape up? Here’s my gender-blind breakdown of the rest of the season anyway, based more on how I’d like them to stack up than their perceived voter popularity. So, in reverse order, my semifantasy “SYTYCD” season 5 Top 10 are:

10. Evan: He’s only one of two guys who have never hit the bottom three, so I’m swimming against the current here by placing the season’s Broadway babe dead last. But as I wrote yesterday, he’s by far the biggest disappointment for me this season. Perhaps watching his brother get cut right next to him at the end of Vegas week sapped Evan of that hellzapoppin’ crackle he exuded so naturally during the auditions. All I know is that the kid’s become deadly dull, and now he’s got a 75 percent chance of partnering with a woman who’ll tower over him in almost any routine. This does not bode well for Evan’s future.

9. Randi: She’s got more apparent personality than her old partner, but at this point in the show, that’s really the best I can say about Randi. Her standout moment thus far was in a Mia Michaels’ routine that sticks in my mind more due to the choreography than the dancing, and I somehow suspect that the reason she’s only one of two women not in the bottom three has everything to do with Evan’s considerable (and, to me, increasingly inexplicable) popularity. With such stiff competition from the other women, she’s going to have to really stand out next week to make it much further on the show.

8. Jason: There’s something about this kid’s heart that I find tremendously appealing, even in the face of his consistently average dancing. His solo last night was manic and overwrought, and he’s never really had a Moment yet this season — well, if you don’t count how often he bares his torso, anyway. Still, I just have this feeling that of all the dancers left, he’s the one with the most untapped potential. He’s just running out of time to find it.

7. Kupono: He’s certainly the most strikingly handsome guy up there, and whenever the blithe Hawaiian is asked to go dark and/or weird, there’s maybe no better, more committed male dancer this season. (Yes, I’m including Brandon in that assessment, and yes, I’ll explain myself when I get to him, so y’all be patient!) But then Kupono gets asked to be a love-struck “West Side Story” hero, or tackle some hard-hitting hip-hop, and it’s like he’s just going through the motions. So he lands right in the middle of the guys, and trailing almost all the girls.

6. Melissa: In a season packed with serious female talent, this graceful and elastic-limbed ballerina suffers only in that I’ve caught a slight but perceptible caution to her movement — understandable in a 29-year-old closing in on the biologically inevitable end of her dancing career, but a handicap nonetheless when competing against girls with younger, more fearless bodies. Also, now that each dancer will most likely do a solo during the performance show, Melissa should perhaps choose songs that don’t sound as if they were recorded in the flatulence room of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Just a thought.

5. Ade: I was all set to put Kupono ahead of Ade on this list, since up until last night I was convinced mostly that the guy is exceedingly good at fluid lifts and generally making his partner look like the better dancer. But then Ade took to the stage and exploded with the best contestant solo I’ve seen in years of covering this show, and suddenly I finally saw what the judges had been talking about when they sang the pick-loving dude’s praises to the high heavens. It certainly would’ve been nice to have been allowed to see Ade’s talent during the audition episodes, but I guess we’ll just have to settle for whatever else he has in store this season.

4. Jeanine: It’s only been over the past two weeks that I’ve even noticed Jeanine, but she’s made quite an impression in just that time, handling chained-up hip-hop, Russian folk dancing, and the jive as if she was born to do all of them. If my suspicions are correct, Nigel and the “producers” will have Jeanine “draw” a partner like Brandon or Ade, someone truly equal to her level of skill and training, and then we’ll really see what kind of stuff she’s made of. (No offense, the Chbeeb, but I think you probably know what I’m talking about better than anyone.)

3. Kayla: She may end up this season’s Kherington, i.e., a classic beauty lauded by the judges and loathed by the bulk of the show’s real voting pool, for whom Kayla reminds them of the stunningly beautiful girl they not-so-secretly hate/hated in high school, who could master anything as easily as breathing. This all may be true, but it still doesn’t deny Kayla’s had so many blue-chip moments on the “SYTYCD” stage that I’ve kinda lost count of them all. Plus, the longer she sticks around, the more we get to see of her grandparents. It’s a win-win!

2. Brandon: Like Travis, Danny and Will before him, Brandon is this season’s preternatural wunderkind guy dancer, the one who can pull off practically anything and do it with panache. But that’s also his problem; the 19-year-old is all blinding virtuosity, and very little authentic feeling. To be fair, Brandon’s never really been given much emotional meat so far this season, but my Spidey sense tells me he’s well overdue to “pull” a Mia Michaels contemporary number and may very well find himself within her clutches next week. More the better for us, I’d say.

1. Janette: I’ve already written at length about why I think Janette’s due to become the first female ballroom dancer and only the second woman to win “So You Think You Can Dance” — as a refresher: “A winning presence in the rehearsal interviews, she has yet to deliver anything short of holy-effing-heck-that-was-awesome performances this season” — so I’ll only add this thought: If she can keep up with Brandon for five weeks, there’s not a man in this cast who won’t be significantly better the week he gets matched up with her. Now that’s a sign of a truly terrific dancer — America’s favorite, even.

So that’s my take on the Top 10 — what’s yours? Were you surprised to see the judges letting the Chbeeb go, at least until Nigel quickly announced he was making the tour anyway?

Were you as drop-dead in lurve with Cat’s teal dress and, um, well, I’m sure it has some official fashion world name, but I’m going to call it swooping, (costume) gem-studded, integrated necklace? After his hilariously off-kilter explanation for why he’s so “whimsical” — specifically “I mean, I am wearing a bow tie” — were you expecting Teddy Tellhome (sp?) from the season 6 Boston auditions would be just another train wreck?

Is it a good idea for the judges to start pre-pimping dancers before they’ve even finished auditioning all the cities? Did anyone else predict NapTab’s military rock-star group number was choreographed instead by Shane Sparks?

And was it just me, or did those backup dancers to Kelly “I want to be a gay rave diva” Rowland’s performance look like they were making up their entire choreography as they went along?