Razzle-dazzle time on "So You Think You Can Dance"

Getting to know the 11 finalists means a return to the sparkly, spangly, sometimes twisted dancing we love

Published June 11, 2010 11:20AM (EDT)

Some of the Season 7 contestants on "So You Think You Can Dance"
Some of the Season 7 contestants on "So You Think You Can Dance"

I am so glad I waited to write about this week's "So You Think You Can Dance." I was hemming and hawing over writing two recaps, ignoring the rest of Vegas week, doing an intimate dissection of the (now) Top 11, calling my family in Visalia to see if they know this Ashley Galvan girl and if they might lightly stalk her family and pry them with questions ... you know, I was doing writer-y stuff. After the Wednesday night show, with the sometimes painful reveals of the finalists (Anthony Burrell? No?), I felt like I had a good grasp of the backstory of each dancer from the manufactured hearth-and-home interludes. I was ready to get to the actual, you know, dancing. I wanted the "SYTYCD" meat. The goods. The talent portion of our program. And that was Thursday in a nutshell. The dancers got to celebrate their art form and celebrate their wins. They made it to the show, and they were soaking in it. No fickle Americans voting with their tween-age thumbs, no serious criticism from the judges, no hair-pulling competition, just straight up showing off. How cool is that?

And to be gifted with Wade and Amanda Robson, right off the top, was delectable. The costuming, the hand flourishes, the shoulders, the production detail, all of it carries purpose with them. Sublime. The new coterie of dancers stood out, held their own against an excellent cast of returning favorites. My pet All-Stars: Mark, Katherine, Anya and Pasha. But I was reminded that the major drawback to the newer set is how cramped everyone feels, limiting my ability to really get a look at individuals when they're all on stage. I was put off last season by the combination of hyper direction (just put a camera in a really good spot and leave it there for longer than a blink -- stop with the switchy-switchy) and the less-than-360-degree view. I'm hoping the new director they introduced will get that under control.

Thursday night, everyone delivered. They would have to, seeing as how they each danced their own style (except Melinda the tap dancer, but that girl's got skills), but all of them really owned their part of the floor. I was able to develop more complete impressions of the dancers, to get a feel for them. Among the pieces that stood out (and all of them were compelling): the "Sweet Charity" Broadway number, for sure. I love Broadway, and it summed up what I feel for Alexie and Melinda very neatly, too. Alexie is too Laker Girl pretty for me, her dancing too floaty. I like my girls a little gritty, like she knows the difference between Glenlivet and Cutty Sark. Melinda dances like she's that girl. Another high spot was Cristina's ballroom with Anya and Pasha, in which the new girl managed to avoid being entirely invisible.  No easy feat when you share the stage with the two of the only All-Stars that instantaneously make me think dirty, dirty thoughts. Their chemistry is brain-boiling, but little wide-eyed Cristina was able to keep up. She doesn't inspire lusty feelings, though, not like Pasha taking his shirt off. I actually raised my fist in the air, on my couch, and hung my head in a silent "yesssssss."

Here is where we discuss The Freak and The Beast, the Pre-Ordained Masters of All That Is Bendy-Limbed. Billy Bell and Alex Wong are indeed freaky and beast-y, respectively, exquisite dancers for very different reasons. But it's not going to matter. It's not enough to be the best, as we all know -- you have to be loved. And for whatever reason, contemporary dancers in this competition have to work extra hard, and have an extra bit of winningness about them if they want to cut through the more esoteric aspects of their dance style. It's not hard to get behind a hip-hop or swing dancer when we're all much more familiar with that kind of expression, but contemporary can be a little artsy-fartsy for the mainstream. So those dancers have to radiate a little more than the rest to win. Alex and Billy are singular dancers, and I will love watching them every week, but in the shining-light department, little Kent Boyd is kicking their asses. That guy's going to take the whole thing.

Other random thoughts this week: if Alex Wong is a "crazy goofball," I'm the Maharishi. I had Billy Bell's haircut last year, but I don't know what that says about either of us. I didn't remember Robert Roldan at all from auditions. Not at all. And Ashley Galvan's legs are unreal. Lauren Froderman is going to have to pull out the stops to beat that extension. I actually felt a twinge of sadness when Mary wasn't introduced as a judge, although the show seemed to move along at an even clip without all the extreme emoting. And did anyone else notice how incredibly polished and shiny the All-Stars were? Grown-up, confident, and totally on. Sniff.

Next week, first blood is spilt on the dance floor! Recaps will post on Thursday mornings, after the performance show, with an update on Fridays after the elimination. I'm having a great time so far.

By Christine Mathias

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