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'So You Think You Can Dance': Top 20 revealed and new format

Something about this season of "So You Think You Can Dance" just feels special to me.

Maybe it's the way the show unveiled this year's top 20. It could be the hybrid mix of having a top 20 with the All Stars making an appearance at the top 10 mark. Could it be the addition of Robin Antin, who is providing me with a source of plenty of plastic surgery rants at the pleasure of my facebook friends. It's most likely this year's new crop of talent, which is pretty strong from top to bottom.

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Whatever it is, this season has the makings of an entertaining show.

Anywho, back to last night's happenings. The episode starts with a revelation that the Top 20 will be announced through footage of the judges breaking the news to the contestants. The Top 20 are then organized by dancing genre and perform choreographed group routines.

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We find out pretty early in the episode that Sasha Mallory makes it into the top 20. Her sister Natalia does not. (Natalia takes the bad news in stride and seems overjoyed for her sister.)

A number of dancers who haven't gotten much screen time during the auditions get the ax. (It's hard to feel any emotion for them because there is no real back-story for them.)

The first group is comprised of contemporary dancers.

Ricky Jaime—the one who started dancing as a child at his mother’s wedding—is the only male in the group. He is joined by Miranda Maleski. (All we really know about her is that she has gorgeous red hair and a killer smile.) Melanie Moore, the pixie-haired graceful dancer with the southern drawl, and Sasha Mallory rounds out the group.

They dance a Stacey Tookey routine to “In This Shirt” by The Irrepressibles. The number feels so rich and dreamy. The dancers are dressed in beige/nude hues and seem to float across the stage. They show superb technique. Their lines are stellar. And they all appear to dance with plenty of emotion. Host Cat Deeley is right on the money when she says that the routine is a “piece of heaven.” The judges also gush about the choreography and technique.

Next up are the hip-hop dancers. I’m disappointed that not one female hip-hop dancer makes it into the top 20. Heck, none even make it to the pins and needles room of potential finalists.

The hip-hop dancers who make the cut include Robert Taylor, Jr., aka the "Woowho" man. He’s joined by  Wadi Jones, Tadd Gadduang and Chris Koehl. (Is it just me, or does it seem that we really don’t know anyone from this group?) Pint-sized favorite Lil O doesn’t make the cut.

Neither is the dancer known as “The Professor” because of his repeated use of the word “indubitably.” (Does he know

ANY

other word?)

The fellas perform a Dave Scott routine to “Everyday (Collin’)” by Swizz Beatz featuring Eve. It’s entertaining, but I’m not absolutely blown away.

Iveta Lukosiute, gets the distinction of being this season’s lone ballroom dancer. She’s paired with All-Star Pasha for a hot Paso Doble choreographed by Jason Gilkison to “Ven A Bailar (On The Floor)” by Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull. The routine is fast and spicy. But Pasha really steals the show. The judges—Mary Murphy in particular—pile on the praise. Mary goes as far as crying. (It's got to be better than her annoying shrieks and screams.) She explains that Iveta is a two-time world champion ballroom dancer who has tried out for the show on a number of occasions. Iveta also starts to cry, and vows to make a good showing for the ballroom dance community. (Oh brother! Next!)

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The lyrical jazz dancers are announced.

This group includes stripper Jordan Casanova, who has not left a good impression with me in the few times I’ve seen her. (She’s selling more sex than substance in my opinion.) She always strikes me as sleazy. (Clearly she’ll be a favorite of judge Nigel Lythgoe.) Missy Morelli also appears to be cut from the same cloth. Clarice Ordaz, who got some screen time in Las Vegas for her legitimate dancing technique, and male dancer Marko Germar round out the group. (Marko is the contestant who has a bullet lodged in his shoulder.)

The four perform a Sonya Tayeh choreographed number to "Vanguardian" by Steed Lord. Since it’s a Sonya Tayeh number, it’s a little out there—but in a good way. Marko steals the show. His lines are flawless. He’s able to lift the girls with ease. He moves with confidence, and he nails that routine.

Next up, we have Jess LeProtto, the entertaining Broadway dancer, and tap dancer Nick Young. The two perform a Christopher Scott choreographed number to "Funkier Than a Mosquito's Tweeter" by Nina Simone. This is my least favorite routine. It’s self-indulgent and boring. Both dancers have excellent technique, but it just feels so darn stuffy. And can I add that I think it is completely unfair for the judges to repeatedly comment on Natalia's weight while letting Jess skate through without any mention of his lack of height? What happens when he’s partnered with a taller female dancer? (Basically everyone else.) Will it be another awkward paring like we saw last season with Kent?

Ryan Ramirez headlines the final group of contemporary dancers to make the top 20. She’s joined by Ashley Rich, who I predict to be a very strong contender this season, Caitlynn Lawson, who hasn’t gotten much face time since Nigel anointed her a favorite, Mitchell Kelly and Alexander Fost. (The two guys are relatively unknown, which I blame on the show’s producers. It’s an unfair disadvantage that I’ve ranted about for years.) Anywho, the five dance a Travis Wall choreographed routine to “Moth’s Wings” by Passion Pit. The routine is coma inducing. The one thing that sticks out is that Ryan is prominently featured for most of the routine. Heck, she’s even dressed in a different colored costume than the other two women.

If you didn’t get enough dancing, all the men then perform a Christopher Scott choreographed hip-hop routine to "Velocity" by Nathan Lanier. All the men wear suits and ties and weave in and out of a number of doorways positioned on stage. The concept reminds me of the agents from “The Matrix” movies. (In fact Nigel makes the same comparison.) The routine is nuanced, slick and utterly cool. Can you tell it is one of my favorite routines of the night?

Next up is my favorite routine of the night. The top 10 women dance a Sonya Tayeh jazz routine to “Pop Drop & Roll” by Chonique Sneed and Lisette Bustamante. The dancers are all dressed in elaborate geisha garb. Their makeup is fantastic. And the routine really pops. Sonya has the dancers dropping to the floor one minute, popping and locking the next, and throwing in dainty geisha poses a second later. The routine is a real treat.

Tyce Diorio choreographs the final number of the evening for the entire top 20. The group dances a jazz routine to “Little Bird” by Annie Lennox. The number is high-energy and entertaining. (It doesn’t reek of the Broadway cheese that usually dominate Tyce’s numbers.)

Enough from me! What did you think? Were you outraged by any omissions this year? What do you think about the new hybrid format? What All-Stars do you hope pop up this season? And what the heck do you think about the addition of Robin Antin? Comment away!

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