‘So You Think You Can Dance’ recap: ‘Meet the Top 20’

It’s time to walk the green mile, dancers! This is the point at which the show finally starts getting interesting. Not that the auditions aren’t interesting, but it’s impossible to get invested in anyone when there are so many people (and so many of them go home). This is really the first time we get to see the chosen few with customized choreography, actual costumes (and not sweats) and the benefit of some rehearsal on a few hours of sleep. While Vegas Week seems to exist to test exactly how much crap they can put up with and still perform in a relatively good mood, we’re now at the part of the series where we can see what everyone’s got, without the “Survivor” element at play. 

If you simply can’t wait to see the final 20, go ahead and click here for our photo gallery. 

Our judges are Mary Murphy, Nigel Lythgoe and Adam Shankman. As always, I love Adam. Even more than Mary, he seems to really get emotionally caught up in the performances. Plus, he’s fun. He calls Cat a giant blonde disco ball, which seems about right. 

We cut to the top 33 waiting in a room to walk the green mile. I’m pretty sure about some of the dancers who are going through (Fik-Shun, Malece, Jenna, Tucker and Jasmine), but for 15 of the slots in the top 20 I have no clue. Which, I guess, is the point.

First to walk the mile is Du-Shaunt “Fik-Shun” Stegall, the Vegas street dancer. Nigel tells him his personality is fantastic. He’d love to put that personality in a trained dancer. But he’s not a trained dancer. Fik-Shun begs for a chance. Just wondering — do real choreographers and casting directors screw with people like this? Because it may be good TV, but it’s friggin’ mean and not all that dramatic. Honestly, I could do without it. Anyway,  Nigel is giving him an opportunity — he’s in the top 20. Fik-Shun gets lots of hugs from the other dancers, as they haven’t started to really panic yet. 

Emilio, the hip-hopper, also gets good news. We spend absolutely no time with Emilio, though, so something’s up. 

Marcus Shields hopes he makes it through, as he walked the green mile in season 4 and didn’t make it. But… Mary tells him she’s sorry, but it’s the end of his journey. But he’s so great, she says. Stop being encouraging if you’re sending him home TWICE. That’s just cruel. 

One last hip hop dancer is prepared to face her sentence. I mean, the news as to whether or not she’s on the show. There is something very death sentence-y about this part of the show. Mariah Spears is crying and nervous and nuts. TWitch tells her there haven’t been many successful attempts from female hip hoppers. But… she’s in. Then, she has to do that fake sad thing when she goes back into the room. What, is the fake out thing contagious with these people? Stop it!

Ah, now we know why Emilio was skipped over — he was injured after Vegas Week and had to withdraw. But oh, well. Fik-Shun and Mariah dance to Lil Wayne, and man alive, they are both crazy fun to watch. They’re excellent dancers, but more than that, they can perform and engage an audience, perhaps Mariah more so than Fik-Shun. He has a nice smile, but she works it. 

We also learn there’s a new hand gesture, courtesy of Fik-Shun, that means “roomies.” That’s a thing? Roomies? Not friends? Anyway, Mariah is his LOS; lover on stage. Nigel is excited to see Mariah do some good work on the show, as she was very strong. But he wants Fik-Shun to be a little stronger, especially when he works with a really strong girl like Mariah. The verdict seems to be that Mariah is very strong, and Fik-Shun needs to bring a little more to the game. I absolutely agree. 

Next up, we have Makenzie Dustman from the L.A. auditions, where her group dance got a standing ovation. She might cry. She’s in the top twenty, though Mia Michaels tried to scare the crap out of her. Judges! Stop! What do I have to say here? The judges are like mean kids in a fifth grade cafeteria. Jeez. 

Jasmine Harper is also in the top 20, and I would expect nothing less from Cyrus’ ex. But Ryan Johnson is not in the top 20. Nigel tells him straight up he isn’t going through. I blame the bad hair.

More bad news for quite a few people. Lots of crying. Poor ducks. 

Nico Greetham and Tucker Knox are next. Nico was the one whose mom called out “Yes, Papi!” and Nigel thought she was hot. Remember that? I do, vaguely. Tucker was the guy who broke his back in a car accident. I definitely remember that. Anyway, they face the execution squad together. Nigel can’t criticize any single thing about Tucker’s work, and Adam thinks Nico is what the show is all about. So, duh, Tucker is a yes. Nico is… a yes. Good!

WIth a Stacey Tookey routine, Jasmine, Mackenzie, Nico and Tucker dance together. Because there are four dancers, it’s hard to really focus on anyone’s facial expressions (the camera is too far away). But the movement is exceptional. Well done. Tucker cries. He’s overwhelmed. I also think he’s probably tired. This process seems pretty exhausting.

Anyway, Mary thought their dance was beautiful. Adam was crying, but Tucker stole his thunder. Still, he has some criticism for everyone except for Mackenzie, who killed it. Nigel says it wasn’t as emotionally resonant as he hoped, but it was still good. I guess it wouldn’t have mattered where the camera was after all. 

Alexis Juliano is up against lots of tappers… so TWitch teases her about it, then tells her she’s in. Sigh. Curtis Holland, another tapper, reflects on his tough week in Vegas. 

When we spend this much time with a dancer on this episode, they’re going through. You can’t fool me, “SYTYCD”!

Curtis hopes the judges see he can dance from his heart. And yes, he’s in the top 20.  But then, we have Aaron Turner. He got knocked out at this point last season, too. But… he’s not making it this season, either. Mary wants him to come back, though. Sigh. Poor guy thinks he may not be right for the show, and it’s sad. I really wish the judges had a policy not to invite people back unless they’re absolutely sure they can make the cut. Okay, that’s unfair to them, but it’s so, so harsh.

But guess what? Aaron was number 11 on the judges’ list of guys — so he joined the top 20 when Emilio had to drop out. Yay! I’m so, so glad, even though I hate tap. Aaron seems committed to doing everything, though. 

Aaron, Alexis and Curtis perform a tap routine. They’re great tappers. But I still hate tap. Cat dubs it super cool. Whatever.

Adam thinks it was the best tap routine they’ve ever had on the show. Probably. Nigel calls Aaron Anthony.  Still, Nigel thought they had amazing chemistry. Mary thinks they’re all little treasures. Mary, stop acting like everyone’s mom! That’s a lot of responsibility!

Jade Zuberi and Dorian “BluPrint” Hector made it through Vegas, though Jade was not a great partner and BluPrint doesn’t emote. Come on, judges! Pick them both. I’m sure they will, but we have to drag this out because it’s a two hour show. 

TWitch tells BluPrint he needs to come out of his shell, and the partnering is a problem for little Jade. Mia argues that a good choreographer doesn’t let size limit a routine. So, Jade is in. And then, so is BluPrint. They animate to a routine by Christopher Scott. The mannequin thing works for BluPrint, as he doesn’t have to pretend to be expressionless, he just is. They are plain amazing to watch, though. Absolutely my favorite routine of the night, except for the Sonya Tayeh stuff, because I love everything she does. 

Nigel says the whole audience stood up during their routine, and it validates the decision to choose them both. Mary thinks they’re thrilling to watch. Adam is humbled by them. He thanks them for being part of the show. If they can get through the other routines, they are making the finals, I swear. 

Carlos Garland is top twenty. He promises to give the judges massages and scratches on their back. The judges are kinda grossed out, and I can’t blame them. 

David Lorenzo, cut. Hayley Erbert, the sexy dancer from the Austin auditions, is in the top 20, despite her insecurities. 

Malece Miller is next. He mom cleaned houses. Yes, yes, we know. We’ve seen this. Mia hears about the getting dropped in Vegas thing. But Mia points out she declined after the head dropping. Mia says she needs to fight. And Mia wants to see her fight, so she’s in the top 20. I am exhausted, aren’t you? This is just a long damn show, and the judges dragging out the reveals is plain stressful. 

Hayley, Malece and Carols dance while dressed like they fell out of an early “Mad Men” episode. This is fierce. Beautiful. No one has sucked so far, I’ll say that much. If I wanted to get nitpick I guess I could, but not this early in the competition. Love this piece. Mia Michaels back in the house!

Adam thinks they were fine technically, but they needed to go deeper. Nigel thinks they’re all going to get better and better, though Malece needs to mature some. I’m not sure I got that, but okay. 

Ballroom dancers Brittany Cherry and fellow ballroom dancer Serge walk the green mile together. Serge will not be going through, but Brittany will. Oh, poor duck. Jenna Johnson is not going through. Oh, wait, yes, she is. Mary, that was mean! Jive dancer Paul Karmiryan is also through. Top 20 is filling up!

The Bersten brothers are the last two boys — and there’s only one spot left. Mary gets weepy. Only one of them can make it, and I agree with that — their votes would be split otherwise. And… Gene isn’t going through, so Alan Bersten is in the top twenty. She doesn’t know how to be happy about it! Nigel asks Gene to come back. I think he should make the cut next season, so he shouldn’t feel too awful, although the look on his face is kind of terrible. I think he wanted it more than his brother, which surely makes this sting. 

Alan, Paul, Brittany and Jenna perform. This is a really fun, high energy performance, which we don’t always get for ballroom. 

Adam thinks the ballroom talent is pretty formidable this season. He wants the guys to fill out every movement going forward. The girls, they’re just spectacular. Nigel says Jenna ran off like a velociraptor after she learned she was in the top 20, which, when we see the footage, is kinda true! She may be a great dancer, but for every woman there is a heel too high. Adam also wants both guys to be stronger. 

There are two spots left for girls. Amy Yakima goes in. She was the Detroit dancer whose dad danced. Aaaaang… she is the beast, and she is in the top 20. The last spot goes to… not Marisa. Or Tessa. Or Gabby. 

So, the final spot goes to Meghan or Jasmine Mason, who both walked the green mile in Season 9. They walk in to face the music together. Adam is weepy. He’s shaking. He hates that one of them will be taking the other’s spot! So, Jasmine… is in the top 20. Meghan is going home. Aw, this sucks. And there’s no sudden, oh, there’s an extra slot for you! Nope, she’s gone. 

Amy and Jasmine perform. They bring out the sexy. To Bjork. Is this Sonja Tayeh? It feels like Sonya. And it is. It is angry and primal and gorgeous. I love everything Sonya choreographs, all of it. Nigel says Jasmine may not the best technician, but she’s powerful. 

More dancing to come! The guys dance together for the first time after the break! They’re doing a Christopher Scott routine. They dance with sand. The judges are more in love with this than I am. But, okay. Nigel wants them to dance with his ashes like that when he dies. These guys are great dancers, but this didn’t wow me. 

The girls are doing a Ray Leeper routine, and it’s going to be “Mad Men” themed. Oh boy. How is this “Mad Men”? Oh, it’s that one dress Don Draper’s wife wore earlier this season dress, maybe. But not really. And there are gogo boots. Just because something is ’60s-themed does not automatically make it “Mad Men.”  Whatever. Not “Mad Men,” Ray Leeper. This song is so distracting I can barely notice the dancing. But what I do notice isn’t great, either. It’s one step removed from stripping. Adam Shankman thinks it was a ’60s inspired variety show thing, which is much more accurate. Nigel thinks it’s up to America now, because all the dancers are so unique. This is his way of saying “many races are represented.”

Finally, we end with a routine for the entire top 20 — by Sonya Tayeh! Yay! Now, THIS is a group routine. So many moving parts! Such an incredible use of space, and especially pulling out specific dancers to show off their skill sets, and of really painting a picture with depth of field. Amazing. 

So far, so good. I think we have some really strong performers. I love the animators. A few of the ballroom dancers and contemporary dancers are phenomenal. The tappers don’t even bug me. I can’t wait for next week, can you? 

Who did you like? Who do you think will be the first to go? Is there anyone you knew would make the cut from the very beginning? And be sure to follow me on Twitter @HitFixLiane for more “SYTYCD” updates!