Previously: two (TWO!) weeks ago, the Top 20 dancers performed in their own styles -- except for belly-dancer Janelle, who was sick -- and were generally thrilling and promised an amazing season. THIS week, though ... remember before how I said that Vegas Week for SYTYCD wasn't quite what Hollywood Week is for Idol. Hollywood is the pinnacle of the Idol season, where everybody has the utmost promise and we're discovering something or someone new every few minutes. In my opinion, the first week of pairs dancing -- i.e. TONIGHT -- is the pinnacle of any SYTYCD season. The thrill of seeing who gets paired with whom! Their first routines together (which they have more time to prepare for than at any other point in the season). Think of how many of the best routines in the history of the show happened right away at Top 20: Lacey and Kameron's contemporary (that LEAP), Melanie and Marko's statue dance, Kathryn and Legacy's caveperson hip-hop, Katee and Joshua's "No Air," Benji and Donyelle and the too much booty in the pants? I live for Top 20 week.
Before we even get a chance to prepare ourselves, we get a pre-credits group dance. The Top 20 are all sitting at desks, slaving away at something while certain dancers take the role of stern taskmaster bosses. This is so Christopher Scott (he of the doors routine last season), all Kafka-esque order and first-half-hour-of-The-Matrix menace. The routine makes use of the numbers on stage to show something massive and institutional, and it's a lot of fun.
Notes from the opening round-off: BIG cheers for Daniel, Dareian, Lindsay, Matthew and Witney. I also enjoyed the loving spin Cat puts on "and this ... is Will." And after eight seasons of it, I still love that "these are the gulls, and here are your guys" part. Cat -- looking tanned as hell after a couple weeks away -- nearly calls Mary "Mia Michaels" as she introduces the judges, including guest judge Kenny Ortega, who never brings much to the table, but at least he has some expertise.
Nigel walks us through this brave new one-show-a-week procedure: fans will vote for individuals right from the break, instead of voting for pairs. After this week's votes, two boys and two girls will leave, as chosen by next week's judges based on America's bottom three boys and bottom three girls. Ughhhh, eliminating two of three makes me so nervous! Also, just to jump ahead a bit, the phone numbers have changed, including the fact that you now have to text the name of the dancer to the designated number. Which makes me nervous because texting children are SO stupid, you guys. Suddenly I have to trust them to be able to spell "Chehon."