Finally, finally, finally! It’s time for So You Think You Can Dance to really get started. The Top 20 are paired up tonight and ready to perform their first dances that actually count for votes. Things are different this year with no elimination show tomorrow night… but we’ll get to that.

Before anything gets started, there is a group routine tonight. One of the first things I notice is that Matthew does look a lot like Gosling with his hair slicked back like that….. I’m sorry, I got distracted. Anyway, the routine…. I like the way the dancers really felt like a group and moved as one. Buuuutttt, I didn’t really “get” it. However, before Cat told us later, I knew it was a Christopher Scott routine without a doubt. I think there is something to be said for that, right? He has a very strong voice as a choreographer on the show which is impressive given how few routines he’s done.

I have to admit there was a certain excitement to seeing the group do their introduction 5 second dances for the first time this season. It was also interesting to gauge audience reactions to them. All I know so far is how I’ve felt about them, what my very good friends I talk to about this show think about them, and what you lovely readers have posted as comments. It seemed Matthew, Lindsay, Nick and Witney received some pretty loud cheers. But the way the sound was, it was difficult to tell.

Oh! And there begin the difficulties with the live show – the announcer seemed to forget what show he was announcing. Maybe he was having a Don Pardo moment and wanted to say “Saaaaturday Night Liiive.” It made Cat giggle. She is looking gorgeous in her gold dress, by the way! She also had a bit of slip up and went to say Mia Michaels instead of Mary Murphy! (We miss you Mia!) Nigel Lythgoe was, of course, also at the table. And the guest judge – legendary choreographer and director, Kenny Ortega. You kids may know him as “That Guy Who Directed/Choreographed the High School Musical Movies.” But I know him as the guy who choreographed Dirty Dancing. And directed some of the best episodes of Gilmore Girls.

Anyway, Nigel is off to explain how things work. So… the voting is indiviudal, not couple. You can vote by phone, text and online. And next week 2 boys and 2 girls are going home! EEK! Votes determine the bottom dancers and then the judges will take into account the dances from this week, next week and choreographer input to decide who gets the boot. I’m not in love with this scenario, and I suspect Nigel isn’t either. But he had to do what he had to do in order to get Fox to keep them on the air, and I’ll take this weird version of SYTYCD over no version, am I right?? (I’m right.)

But enough of these rules – let’s get to the dances. The intro into each routine gives every dancer nine seconds to tells us about them.

Witney & Chehon

Louis Van Amstel — Samba 

What we learn about Witney is that she’s musical, athletic and afraid of crickets. Chehon thinks in two languages, which I feel would cause a headache. On to the dance – How lucky for Witney to pull a Latin Ballroom number her first week out of the gate! I mean, someone somewhere really likes that little girl! Chehon didn’t find it as lucky. And those reactions show in the routine for both. It was a little like watching a Dancing With the Stars routine (ironically enough since Louis was choreographing!). Witney was dynamic – a firecracker, as everyone mentioned. She was perfect. Chehon seemed nervous and stiff. He tried so hard to be right on step instead of being loose.  Witney is smooth sailing through the first elimination, you can bet on that. Chehon is hoping someone screws up a lot.

Tiffany & George

Sonya Tayeh – Contemporary

This pair wanted to share obvious things (Tiffany has small hands, George is George II because his dad is George I) and random pet (Tiffany has a duck, George has a frog). On to the routine – It was a lovely piece from Sonya. The chic is a wack-a-doo sometimes but she also pulls out these beautifully romantic moments. This routine was chock full of these little moments that were just perfect. Like when Tiffany spun up onto George’s hip. And when she was in a sort of bent handstand while he was under her. They were both in every single moment and it never felt like it was forced. They flowed through making these teeny tiny pieces of movement (not unlike Tiffany!) seem simple. Kenny made a great point saying it must have been so special to build it together with Sonya and sort of learn from her genius.

Janaya & Brandon 

Tabitha & Napoleon – Hip Hop

So, Janaya wants to meet Shamu and Chucky (the doll) is her worst nightmare. Brandon said some stuff but then mentions pazookies (pizza cookies) so now I’m distracted and want one of those. NappyTabs prepared an addiction routine, and I’m not going to lie – the first thing I thought was “But Gravity…. it can’t top that!” That routine really meant something to me, y’all. Of course, this is nothing like that, and I’m a (non-)professional and can judge this dance on its own merit. That said, I thought it was… okay. They “told” the story well, as Kenny mentioned. But the dancing wasn’t as strong as it could be. Brandon was really good. Janaya was the weaker one, but she was good. She just wasn’t as sharp and gritty as she could be, which Nigel and Mary made clear. (Also – congrats to the very pregnant Tabitha! You’re looking adorable, girl!)

Alexa & Daniel

Sean Cheesman – Jazz

Miss “I really really have a personality, OKAY??” Alexa loves her red lipstick (as the snarky side-notes stated — duh!) and enjoys sprinkles.  Mister “the guy with the sexy Australian accent” Daniel just listed a bunch of Australian cliches. Cute, but who aaaare you??? (Just kidding… did we really learn anything about these dancers?) The video shows that the choreography is crazy tough. Hey… they are daning on scaffolding. I’m disappointed the song choice isn’t Cold Hearted Snake. Once I get over that, I kind of understand why they had so much trouble with the choreo – it just seemed frenetic and nonsensical. Also, the red! I felt better that Nigel seemed to have issues with it as well. The good news is that these two amazing dancers are obviously loved by the audience. They did a great job handling the crazy and hopefully that is enough.

Amber & Nick

Jason Gilkinson – Viennese Waltz

Amber likes bunnies and sleeps with stuffed animals. Nick says stuff boring stuff but closes with the fact that his dad works at the Playboy Mansion. Now I have a million questions for Nick. Nick pulled his own style which makes two ballroom kids getting ballroom! Is Mary pulling in the fix??Jason was a meanie to Nick during rehearsals. Nigel says he was like Abby Lee Miller from Dance Moms (who is in the audience). HA! Besides Jason being tough, I felt a little bad for Amber. This is not her style, she has barely had any screen time until this point and the Viennese Waltz isn’t exactly flashy and going to bring in the viewers attention and votes. They did a very nice job, but all of these other things are going against them. It was just the bad luck of the draw, I feel.

Amelia and Will

NappyTabs – Hip Hop

Again, NappyTabs?? She’s pregnant! Isn’t she tired? Anywho – Amelia’s named after Amelia Earhart. Will, the loveable goof, loves orange, says something about Simba from The Lion King and then “ummmmms” for the rest of the time. Oh, Will… He is also a big goof in rehearsal and can’t keep a straight face. To be fair, the routine is about an alley cat or something and involves Amelia shaking her booty at him a lot. But he did a great job in the performance. I don’t really know if this was Hip-Hop. Nigel says it was more like Jazz or Broadway. Either way, it was a lot of fun and lively without being spastic. We don’t really know Will and I’m not in love with Amelia, but I really enjoyed the routine. I was smiling the whole time.

Janelle and Dareian

Sean Cheesman – African Jazz

Janelle says she loves to cook and loves the color purple (the color? the book? the movie? Be specific Janelle!!). Dareian can talk like Donald Duck and ran away to join the circus. He’s a bad cliche!! Janelle was nearly killed during rehearsals (which is par for the course for our clumsy belly dancer) because Sean likes to do ridiculously tough routines. But man, whatever they did to her during rehearsals worked. I love this one. It was intense, but not as frenetic as Sean’s last routine. Janelle and Darian both looked to be having a lot of fun as they danced it too. I think it would be hard not to have fun dancing that routine. These are two of my favorites so I’m hoping they stick around for awhile!

Eliana & Cyrus

Tyce DiOrio – Broadway

Eliana loves True Blood and Cyrus loves shoes. I love both things. Let’s be friends, kids! So this duo is… weird. Right? An animator and ballerina? I really enjoy both of them as they were two of my favorite auditions, so I was still hopeful. Overall, the routine was a lot of fun! I love the show Hairspray!!  Cyrus…. Cyrus my darling boy. Look at you bringing it with the freaking choreography! I just love that kid, and so does Mary. Her critique almost made me cry. Is he the best dancer? No. But my goodness, does he want to be. He wants to learn. He immerses himself in it and gives it everything. Eliana I wasn’t surprised to see do well because she’s a ball of energy. She may be a ballerina but you can tell she’s well trained in other styles. I can’t wait to see her do her thing. (I need this pair to stay on the show and dance a Travis routine!)

Audrey and Matthew

Travis Wall – Contemporary

Audrey brings up the neck farting again. Stop it, Audrey. Matthew is scared of the mannequin in the room. Then said mannequin rolls in, seemingly on it’s own, so I’m a little freaked out too. (Calm down, I know someone rolled it in…. Sarcasm doesn’t always translate, I’ve been told) Travis came up with a routine based on Titanic. It could have been based on Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill – if Travis is choreographing it, I’m going to be excited. And as it turns out, I had every right to be. You guys… I can’t even really express how much I loved it. It basically encompasses everything I love about Travis. These two kids barely know each other and he inspired them to dance in a way like they had been together forever. Travis Wall, you are my favorite forever. And Matthew and Audrey – WOW. Just gorgeous. They handled the big and the small with equal care and focus. And the performance (acting, not dancing) was just spot on.I will be rewinding and watching that routine a few (hundred) more times.

Last, but (hopefully) not least….

Lindsay & Cole

Jason Gilkinson – Paso Doble

Lindsay can’t make Mac and Cheese. Cole is a ninja. Nothing else matters. Holy crap – all three ballroom dancers were given ballroom the first week. SHENANIGANS!! But Paso Doble is far and away my favorite ballroom style, so I’m hopeful. I think Cole’s martial arts will transfer well with this dance. Turns out, I’m right. Wowza, that was good! They were both so freaking intense! This style is very sharp and they both hit it so hard. Just perfect. He threw her around like she was nothing (and they are basically the same size) and her eyes when she was supposed to be “attacking” him – goodness! Go back and watch it again. Brilliant.

Well, that was quite the opener, wasn’t it? Those last two dances alone have my heart going at quite the clip! I wish I could say we’ll be right back here tomorrow, but no. But I will be seeing you in one week! Please vote. Remember you can vote up to FIFTY times online! Next week FOUR dancers go home. I’m not ready to say goodbye, are you?

Tell me in the comments who was your favorite? Who do you think should go home? Who do you think will go home? (It’s not always the same!)

Written by Melissa Miller. Find her on Twitter @serrae

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