The past several weeks of performances on So You Think You Can Dance 2011 have been so consistently good that the judges seem to have a hard time finding new ways to say, “You’re amazing, we love you.” Did last night keep it up, or did they finally expose some of these dancers weaknesses?

Judges: Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Carmen Electra (is this season sponsored by The Pussycat Dolls? But she has lots of dance background, so I’ll allow it), and Travis Wall.

Those who have been reading my recaps know I ADORE Travis and cannot let his being on the judges panel go by without a small freak out! So here it goes:SQUEEEE! I jumped up and down last night when he tweeted he was asked to be on the panel this week. He is also the first previous contestant to sit on the panel, so I’m extra proud! Ok, freak out over.

Once again, we are doing group routines as well as the couples. I’m not sure it added much last week, so I’m hoping it is more worthy of the time this week.

Top 7 Guys Group Routine

Choreographer: Justin Giles

Style: Contemporary

Justin is new to the show, so I’m very excited how he handles these guy and I have to hand it to Justin. He is the newbie choreographer tasked with making these guys look strong, and he did it. While they weren’t all in sync (or equally powerful, for that matter) when they were moving together, their individual “stories” were all very well performed. Justin wanted to highlight their strength, and he did that.The story he wanted to tell – the 7 stages of grief – was a little difficult to pick up on, but I will let that slide, because I think he didn’t even need a story – he showed these boys could be contenders. Marko stood out over the rest. But let’s be honest – that could be because he was the only shirtless guy. (I’m not shallow!!) But beyond that, he really seemed to be leading the group.

Melanie & Marko

Choreographer: Ray Leeper

Style: Jazz

Before we get to the dance – I love that Melanie’s boyfriend was in the audience last week during the kiss. Awkward. Another new choreographer! I guess it is about time to cycle in some fresh meat! In this story the two are eloping, so there were lots of mentions of the kiss during the rehearsal. I don’t know what to say about these two any more!! Each week is just another perfect performance. They hit each move with just the right amount of strength, they understand the importance of performance and they work in tandem as if they have been coupling in dance for years not weeks. I gush. And I have to give love to Ray – what a great way to start his SYTYCD career! And Travis has been taking Jazz classes from him since he was 9. Aw. The judges gush and gush. Travis says Mel is by far his favorite (yay). (Brief shout out to Billy Bell, Kathryn McCormick and Channing Cooke in the audience!)

Sasha & Alexander

Choreographer: Sean Evaristo

Style: Hip-Hop

In Alexander’s backstory he started to win me over talking about how his dad was an actor in the 70s and was on TV shows like Barney Miller, Hill Street Blues and TJ Hooker. Then Alexander said he has never heard of those shows. Horrible. I shook my head in shame. Also apparently he has no swag. Bodes well for the hip-hop routine…. which was put together by another new choreographer! Once again, Sasha out-danced Alexander. She had the moves and the rhythm down. She hit everything relatively well. Alexander looked like a contemporary dancer doing hip-hop, which isn’t great. Neither had much character. The judges felt the same. The audience boo’d the judges a lot. Travis liked it more, but wasn’t thrilled.

Jordan & Tadd

Choreographer: Toni Redpath

Style: Smooth Waltz

Hey look! A not new choreographer! I love Toni, she’s hardcore. After Toni explains the difference between a siren and a mermaid, they get on to the rehearsal. (Someone didn’t take Greek mythology in high school!) I enjoy when the choreographer comes up with a little more story when we get into the non-Latin ballroom styles. I think it helps the audience connect. I was a little iffy on this one, despite the clever story. They danced it well, but I felt something was missing. Overall, it was a nice waltz, but something just sat wrong with me.The judges seemed to like it, though Travis, feeling comfortable now, had several critiques about technique. They were all generally happy, but not overwhelming so.

Clarice & Jess

Choreographer: Justin Giles

Style: Contemporary

After Justin’s group number, I was excited to see what Justin brings to a duet. Plus I loved that he pet Jess when Jess was upset Clarice kept hitting him! I actually enjoyed this one a lot. I agree with Travis that it is their best routine to date. They seemed to be connected on a much deeper level this week. The musicality of the piece was fantastic – it bordered on lyrical hip-hop. I think Clarice was very strong and she had a great performance. While I still just don’t love Jess (I’m sorry!) I admit that he danced this really well and has been performing consistently better every week. Overall, a solid performance. Enjoyed it and I’m very excited for Justin to come back in future weeks.

Ashley & Chris

Choreographer: Liz Lira

Style: Salsa

Ok, first of all, when Clarice and Jess are done, Cat throws it to commercial with a tease that Ashley and Chris are up next with a Salsa routine. As usual, the pair standing on the side of the stage do a little mini dance. Chris does a shoulder shimmy that is pathetic. I’m immediately frightened for this routine. Then Liz says this is one of the toughest routines she choreographed. At this point I paused it and went to poor myself a large glass of wine to get through this one! Turns out I needed it. Somewhere Miranda and Robert are at home saying, “Wait, why did we get sent home last week??” Travis put it well – lifts were good, but any time they were apart they were off and there was no chemistry. Travis also gets boo’d and he kinda liked it. I think that they were both scared of the routine and held back instead of giving it their all. They were so scared of the choreographer, they seemed to just learn the steps and not the feeling of the dance. It was disappointing.

Ryan & Ricky

Choreographer: Chucky Klapow

Style: Jazz

I was excited for Ryan’s background video because I knew there would be lots of Mia love. And bonus – Hugh Laurie pictures. Then we found out that Ricky was a cheerleader. Which made me think of this scene from Bring it On and I giggled a lot. Oh, and there is ANOTHER NEW CHOREOGRAPHER! Did everyone quit last week? Anyway, It’s another zombie routine, so I’m hoping it goes better than last week’s. And I thought it did. They weren’t always in sync, but they seemed to be having fun with it. It wasn’t the greatest jazz, but it was well danced and I enjoy the quirky routines, as both Mary and Nigel point out. They both performed “zombie” really well, which I think helped sell the dance. Plus because Travis being on the panel means we got a Ramalama shout out. (If you have not seen Season 2’s Top20 perform that Emmy winning Wade Robson routine, please check it out!)

Caitlynn & Mitchell

Choreographer: Mandy Moore

Style: Contemporary

These two danced a truly lovely routine. They were powerful – which you kind of have to be if you are going to have a Celine Dion song as your music. Like her or not – that crazy French-Canadian has a mighty powerful voice and this dance had to not be outperformed by it. They received a standing O from the judges, and it was well deserved. Mary starts to have one of her crying fits. It was a wonderful routine. Lots of gushing from the judges. I think these two are ones to watch. They are both incredibly beautiful dancers. Quick side notes: Robert was an assistant in rehearsal. If he is not an all-star, I will be SO MAD. Also, Cat said before they went to judges that it was “almost like Joshua and I at 4th of July.” Cat had a pool party for all the dancers on the 4th including a lot of the alums. If video exists of Cat and Joshua dancing… I. Must. Have. It.

Top 7 Girls Group Routine

Choreographer: Ray Leeper

Style: Jazz

The story of this routine is the guys trying to rid the world of evil men. Which I believe is the theme of the season because the girls are just killing it. While I loved the boys routine they were lacking in spot: synchronicity. And the girls, well, they move as a unit. Even when they were doing their own thing, they managed to move together. It was phenomenal. I’m going ahead and saying this now: if a girl doesn’t win this season (preferably Melanie) I’m going to be pretty surprised. And a bit disappointed. Unlike Idol, SYTYCD has been fairly even so far in the wins: Guys: 4 Girls: 3. It’s a girls turn to even it up! Oh, and I really enjoy Ray. Can’t wait for him to return again!

Before we get to my bottom 3, huge congrats to Kathryn McCormack who earned a role in Step Up 4. I assume not a background dancer because those movies are produced by Adam Shankman and half the dancers in them are SYTYCD alum now. I’m guessing she has a role with lines and everything.

So my guess on bottom 3: First, the no-brainer (sorry guys): Ashley and Chris. Second, I have to go with Sasha & Alexander. He didn’t bring the swag and neither brought the performance or connection. Third, I’m going with Jordan & Tadd. The judges liked them, but I thought it was missing something, so they are my third couple.

Who are your guesses to be in the bottom tomorrow night? Who did you love? How much do you want to hug Travis?

Written by Melissa Miller. Find her on Twitter: @serrae

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