So You Think You Can Dance Recap: The Top 20 Finally Pair Off and Perform

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Yay! The Voice may be rising in my esteem, but this week saw the serious kick-off of what is my favorite talent reality show: So You Think You Can Dance.

Why do I likee so much? Because these kids are super-talented? Because there is a constant variety of expression through different styles of dance. Because the dancer who may be hot stuff at one style must handle being the student on other keeps them humble and means there is always significant growth and surprise. Because even during the audition sequences, when most reality talent shows focus on the lame and loser, this show stays pretty positive...and the other auditioners in the audience support folks who may not be great dancers, but show great heart. So yay! #SYTYCD is back.

The Top 20 show kicked off with a group number, a Mad Men-style Jazz number by Christopher Scott. (I think people should check out the original Bob Fosse choreography for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying to get a similar, and authentic, take on that era and scenario.)

Kenny Ortega joined Nigel and Mary as this week's guest judge. And we finally get to see how this Top 20 was paired off.

Word of warning: Yes, there are still just too many of them. Too many to really pick people out during the group numbers, and too many to remember everyone's face and talent, even at the end of the episode! But here's my best shot.

1. Whitney (Ballroom) and Chehon (Ballet): Samba by Louis Van Amstel

He did really well for a ballet dancer, but he was definitely missing some of he looseness of the hips. She, of course, was right at home. I thought I saw a few shaky handholds, but overall it was great. I think she's pretty safe, and he should be too, although he's more at risk than she is.

2. Tiffany (Contemporary) and George (Contemporary): Contemporary by Sonya Tayeh

Wow, they really pulled off a level of intimacy, despite how early in the season it is. This felt authentic. I thought it was just lovely. Later on in the evening there was a quite similar-feeling Travis Wahl number, and usually I'm all about the Travis. I thought this choreography *and* this couple far outshined his similar routine. I hope they get the credit they deserve and aren't forgotten in the rush to canonize any Travis number! I'm going to bet they're both totally safe.

3. Janaya (Contemporary) and Brandon (Stepper): Hip Hop by Tabitha and Napoleon

These guys are in trouble. Neither got a ton of airtime, nor a ton of support in building a following in all of the early episodes. The choreography on this one had a totally been-there, done-that (and been and done better) feel about addiction. On top of that, their execution wasn't 100%. When they were supposed to be synched, they really weren't. On the plus side: I think they got the story and emotion right. And yes, it was all about smooth, not hard-hitting hip hop, but I thought that worked. One of my favorite NappyTabs numbers ever was the Mark/Chelsie routine to "Bleeding Love," and that wasn't all about hitting hard, either. I just think it wasn't memorable at the end of the night. I think both are in trouble.

4. Alexa (Contemporary) and Daniel (Ballet): Jazz by Sean Cheesman

Yikes, I think these too are in trouble too. It was totally impressive, but I wouldn't say I liked it. I got that it was fast and very very hard, but it was just too nonstop with the tricks for my taste. Add into that that Daniel wasn't one of the more featured dancers during all the lead-up episodes, and I particularly think *he* is in trouble...Alexa may pull through, based on all her screen time so far.

5. Amber (Contemporary) and Nick (Ballroom): Viennese Waltz by Jason Gilkison

This was very nice. He, unsurprisingly, really shined. She kept up, which was kind of a victory in this case, and looked almost graceful enough. I am really curious to see how she does. I thought that when they showed her package during Hollywood Week -- a petulant pout after not making the cut the previous year, which Nigel underscored with a sharp remark -- it was setting her up to be unlikeable. We haven't really seen that much else about her. For this reason alone, I think she's at risk.

6. Amelia (Contemporary) and Will (Contemporary): Hip Hop by Tabitha and Napoleon

I was predisposed to like this, since "The Love Cats" was one of my very favorite songs in college. (Yes. I'm dating myself.) But this didn't really live up to my anticipation. I didn't feel there was a lot to it. It was cute and quirky. It just wasn't very dancey. And my random question for this recap: Why did they dress her so it looked like her control top pantyhose lines were showing? She's already not the leggiest dancer in the group...I thought the outfit cut her into pieces. But you know, that's a side note. I think he's at risk, because Amelia far outshined him.

7. Janelle (Belly Dancer) and Dareian (Contemporary): African Jazz by Sean Cheesman

Overall it was quite entertaining, but there were parts of it where she seemed to be almost marking compared to him. I didn't feel like she was going full-out at all. I think they're probably safe nonetheless, but I'll be curious to see if she amps it up this week.

8. Eliana (Ballet) and Cyrus (Animator): Broadway by Tyce Diorio 

Fun and charismatic! Very slyly choreographed by Tyce, of whom I'm not usually a huge fan. He really knew how to leverage their respective strengths (and weaknesses). And you know Cyrus is the underdog everyone is rooting for. Expect them to be safe.

9. Audrey (Contemporary) and Matthew (Contemporary): Contemporary by Travis Wahl

©2012 FOX Broadcasting Co. Cr: Adam Rose

Honestly, that felt a bit more violent than romantic to me. (See my notes above re: Sonya's piece vs. this one). Sometimes that contemporary style can get a little flingy, and this was the epitome of that. Not up to Travis's usual standards, IMHO. But he's going to pull these two through, even so.

10. Lindsay (Ballroom) and Cole (Martial Arts Modern): Paso Doble by Jason Gilkison

This had tremendous intensity. Sometimes he seemed to be looking at his feet a bit, but overall I thought it was fantastic. They are going to be safe safe safe. And every choreographer is going to want to make sure Cole's shirt is OFF moving forward. [Oops. Was that my outside voice?]

Bottom line for the Bottom Four (Two boys and two girls):

Should go home: Will, Daniel Janelle, Janaya 

Will go home: Brandon, Daniel, Janaya, Amber

But what do YOU think? 


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