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'So You Think You can Dance' recap: Top 20 night

DanceMusicPetsZooey DeschanelDebbie Allen

It's the 200th episode of "So You Think You Can Dance" and also the night on which the Top 20 will be revealed.

Cat calls herself "the gift that keeps on giving." You're not wrong, doll. Judges tonight are Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and Zooey Deschanel.

Two winners this year: one male and one female. I have a whole rant about how the women are "girls" and the men are "guys" instead of "boys," but I'll spare you.

Alexa Anderson is the first up, and after a recap of her failure to make the Top 20 last year and her badgering by the judges this year, Tyce gives her the good news that she's made the Top 20 this year.

George Lawrence II is next up. Debbie Allen delivers the good news that he's in the Top 20. Will Thomas is also in, but doesn't get a recap because he's a cute white boy and doesn't need it. Megan, a cute blonde, gets told pretty quickly that she's out. As is Colin Fuller.

Amber Jackson, who made it to the Green Mile for Season 6 and was cut early in Las Vegas in Season 7, is elated to make the Top 20 this year.

So that's four contemporary dancers, who'll  be dancing a contemporary routine from Tyce Diorio to Jessie J's acoustic cover of "We Found Love." There's a bench and lots of writhing. This song is awesome when it's Rihanna. It's irritating in this permutation. 

So far, my favorite of this bunch is George. Oh, wow, Will's taller than Cat -- you don't see that often on this show.

Nigel tells Will he's got to move as quickly as the smaller dancers. Then he gives Amber a speech that basically boils down to "You're prettier when you smile." Alexa has "found her performance" and George is a shining star.

Mary praises George's leaps and notes that the women will all be excited to get him as a partner. Zooey is not offering much in the way of meaningful critique -- let's hope she warms up as the night goes on.

Editor's note: Zooey Deschanel is an android programmed to be cute.

Back to the Top 20 reveals -- this time we'll be focusing on ballroom dancers. First up is Nick Bloxsom-Carter, who breaks down in his interview, prompting me to yell, "There's no crying in ballroom!" And then he bawls in front of the judges and they let the poor kid go on way too long before they tell him he's in the Top 20.

They're sending the blonde ballroom friends Whitney Carter and Lindsey Arnold in front of the judges together. Mary, being the ballroom expert, does the talking and tells Whitney she's in the Top 20 and then fakes out Lindsey up for a few looooong seconds before telling her she's in the Top 20 as well.

So these three ballroom dancers are together to do a cha cha (to "Dance Again" by Jennifer Lopez featuring Pit Bull) choreographed by Jason Gilkinson. This triple dancing is weird, but they're doing their best with it -- Nick even manages to death spiral a woman with each arm at one point. There's a really weird bit of choreography that has Lindsey kind of crouched on all fours humping the ground in front of Nick's feet.

Mary makes me reach for the mute button (not the first, nor the last time this season). Mary wants Nick to be a little bit "stronger" and then gives no constructive criticism to Lindsey and Whitney.

Zooey is having trouble using her words and gives no real judging whatsoever. We must already be running short on time because Nigel doesn't get to talk at all.

Now we're going to see three "classically trained" dancers - Daniel Baker, Eliana Girard, and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp. First up is Eliana, who describes herself as "a clusterball of emotions." She's through. We find out that Daniel and Chehon both put professional careers on hold to audition for this season of the show.

They bring Daniel and Chehon out together in front of the judges and they give Daniel the good news, fake out Chehon and then give him the good news.

All three ballet dancers are out to dance, the men in shiny metallic pants and the woman in a metallic tutu and en pointe. The music starts out sounding very "classical" but changes into something more electronic midway through.

I'm really liking this routine -- it's graceful and powerful and just a touch weird. Ah, it was choreographed by Dwight (Rhoden) & Desmond (Richardson). I've loved every routine they've ever given this show.

Cat remarks that Eliana's skirt could be a deadly weapon. Cat adds that it looked like a "tough routine" and Nigel confirms it. There's brief commentary from Nigel and Mary, with none from Zooey.

Jazz dancers Tiffany Maher and Audrey Case are up next. Audrey helpfully points out how much she and Tiffany are alike so that I don't have to. Tiffany's up first and she's in! Audrey's up next and she's also in.

Abigail, Caitlyn, Katie, and Rebecca are all dismissed. Apologies if I spelled the names wrong; without on-screen graphics, I'm not even attempting surnames.

Next up is bellydancer Janelle Issis. And she's the first belly dancer ever to make the Top 20.

So now the three will be dancing together in a routine choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. Except Janelle was sick during rehearsal and has to sit out tonight's performance.

It's a typical Sonya routine -- twisty, bendy. I spend most of the routine trying to figure out what bits got changed to go from three dancers to two.

Cat says next to Audrey and Tiffany, she's the "BFG" -- "Big Friendly Giant." Zooey tells them they were "amazing" and calls Tiffany "strong" and Audrey "graceful." Nigel thinks they look like two Pebbles from the Flintstones.

They show us the clip of Joshua Alexander landing on his head again and it made me gasp all over again. He comes out in front of the judges and Nigel says, "Let's see you do a backflip for us again." Mean, Nigel! But Josh takes it in good fun. He's told he won't be making the Top 20 this year but they strongly encourage him to come back next season.

Blake, Jasmine, and Daniel are also quickly dismissed.

Up next is Matthew Kazmierczak, the kinda sorta Ryan Gosling looking guy. He's in the Top 20. Next is Dareian Kujawa, he of the bad feet. He's in.

Janaya French is crying in her interview -- she and Nick should bond. Without finding out her fate just yet, we're reminded of flapperish Amelia Lowe and Jill Johnson. They've done the math and realize there are two spots left for three women.

When Janaya comes back in ecstatic, we know Amelia and Jill are fighting for the last spot. After Tyce says the judges are looking for "star quality" it's a shoo-in that Amelia gets the last spot.

Janaya, Matthew, Dareian, and Amelia dance a contemporary routine choreographed by Stacey Tookey. I'm a little nervous for Amelia after this routine; compared to Janaya on the same stage it was no contest.

Zooey says stuff. It doesn't matter. Mary points out that Dareian is the shortest male competitor, but his partnering skills are nevertheless strong.

There are three spots left for male dancers and seven men still in the stew room. Cole Horibe, with his martial arts inspired dance, is in the Top 20. Tappers Aaron and Zach are out.

Steppers Devon McColluch and Brandon Mitchell are sent out to the judges together. Debbie says only one is going into the Top 20 -- it's not Devon, so it's Brandon.

Felicano Turk and Cyrus Spencer are the two men left for the final spot. Now, I don't remember Feliciano at all and we've seen A LOT of Cyrus, so safe money is Cyrus is in the Top 20. 

Lil C takes the long way 'round to not tell us which one is in the Top 20. And, unsurprisingly, Cyrus is in the Top 20.

So Cole, Cyrus, and Brandon are doing a Christopher Scott hip hop routine. It's a baseball themed routine and each dancer gets a PA announcer intro, each showcasing his own style - which is really cool and a benefit for these dancers.

It's an interesting routine, blending the stepping that Brandon does, the "animating" Cyrus does, and the martial arts moves Cole does.

There are still three routines left, even though we've now met all 20 dancers. Cat teases a Travis Wall dance with the top 10 women, so I'm guessing there will also be top 10 men, and a routine with all 20.

Promotion of National Dance Day, if you're into that sort of thing.

Travis's story for the dance is that it's the gateway to the next world, kind of a "move into the light" thing. I'm quickly realizing I'm not going to be able to tell Tiffany and Audrey apart for a while.

The dance starts with a white door on stage with a very strong spotlight behind it. Throughout the routine it's sometimes difficult to watch the routine because one of the camera angles shines the spotlight straight at us.

At the end of the routine, one dancer stands on the spotlight side of the door, and surprise, surprise, it's Alexa. They're going to try to make us like her like they tried to make us like Ryan last year, aren't they?

Sonya Tayeh is back for a second choreographing gig tonight, working with the top 10 men. She says she wants blood, sweat, and tears in her dance. The first thing she does is makes the men take off their shirts. I approve. Will's a little embarrassed by his "jiggle."

The routine starts and it's almost a little more balletic than I would like. I'd like to see something a little bit more aggressive, more into the floor with their steps, more confrontational in their moves toward one another.

Nigel gets the line of the night when he criticizes the costuming as "maternity pants." And then we get a little bit of a joke about Will's jiggle again. Mary points out the assisted lift that sent George flying across the stage.

And now it's a routine for all 20 choreographed by Mia Michaels. Because Janelle is not performing, Brandon is left by himself during the partnered moments. Poor guy. That was an odd routine from Mia -- it almost felt like it was just getting started right as it ended.

See you next week, when the dancers will be paired off, the judges will be meaner, and we get to vote.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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DanceMusicPetsZooey DeschanelDebbie Allen
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