This is going to be an unusual recap of So You Think You Can Dance. For one, I watched the whole thing unfold live and in person, sitting in the audience a few rows back from the choreographers. (If you ever noticed a bespectacled, gangly, geekish-looking guy in a striped long-sleeved polo with a reporter's notebook tucked under his arm, that may have been me, or Christopher Gorham. Probably me. Okay, definitely me.) For another, I have not yet had the pleasure of watching the show back on television, so I may be sharing things with you that you did not see on your TV, and my impressions of the routines will be unmitigated by any trigger-happy SYTYCD camerawork -- a blessing for some numbers, a curse for others. One thing I think we can all agree on, though, is that whether you were at home or in the studio, Mary Murphy's aggressive blond bangs were an all-too-welcome distraction from her bellicose décolletage.
The evening began with what may be the first less-than-stellar Melanie routine this season. The Napoleon and Tabitha hip-hop number with All Star tWitch cashed in on the fairy-tale craze with its "Red Riding in the Hood" theme, but both dancers seemed more than a touch winded and rushed through much of it. (I also had the pleasure of watching the couple rehearse the number earlier that morning, and I can report that Mel and tWitch may have peaked at 8:10 a.m. PT instead of 8:10 p.m. ET.) The judges -- including guest celeb Christina Applegate and guest choreographer Lil' C -- subsequently found themselves in a bind: criticize Melanie too pointedly, and there is an outside chance she may not make the finale, which would be like accidentally denying the sun its right to shine. So they punted, and spoke in general about how great Melanie is and only focused on how refreshing it was to see her at times Kewpie sweetness (attempt to) get down and dirty. Melanie's solo, on the other hand, was a thing to behold. Don't know how it came across on TV, but in person, I could feel that electric charge that can shoot through an audience when it’s witnessing something truly extraordinary. I mean, the woman did a full back bend while in splits; the fact that she apparently dreamed the whole thing up at the last minute makes me both terrified for her ligaments and hopeful about a postdancing career for her as a choreographer.
In the ad break after Mel and tWitch's number, a relieved Napoleon took off his jacket, while an anxious Tyce Diorio began to lean closer and closer to the edge of his seat. I'd be anxious too if I knew the best routine I'd ever mounted on So You Think You Can Dance was about to start. Yes, you read that right: I was nothing less than floored by what Tyce created for Sasha and Kent, so much so that last night I posted a public (semi-)apology to Tyce for calling him "the Michael Bay of SYTYCD choreography." It was the least I could do, really, in response to something so uncommonly graceful and powerful and tender and heartbreaking. Maybe Tyce was simply inspired by the chance to create for Sasha? "You put your finger against a wall, and you break my heart," gushed Christina Applegate, causing Tyce to snap in affirmation in the audience; I know how they both feel. And by the way, who else thought Ms. Applegate was the most successful celeb judge the show's had to date? She's comfortable with dancing vocabulary like développé and port de bras. She's funny without trying to devour the camera. She's not afraid to give constructive criticism, and she truly cares about the dancers and the show. Is that too much to ask for in a celebrity judge on SYTYCD?
NEXT: But I digress, because I really should be singing Sasha’s praises