SYTYCD: So You Think You Can Choreograph? - Jeannine Poggi

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Cover image for  article: SYTYCD: So You Think You Can Choreograph? - Jeannine Poggi

Every Wednesday night following the So You Think You Can Dance live competition round, we scrutinize the contestant's every pirouette, rond de jambe and arabesque. We debate how well any given contemporary dancer is able to handle hip-hop and if a bboyer can pull off the quick step.

But the analysis doesn't stop at the contestant's dancing technique. We then go on to assess their performance, nit picking on every face pull, smile and sultry stare.

If they pass both of these test, and on top of that (or sometimes more importantly) America likes their personality, we may pick up the phone and vote.

When everything goes well and the contestants move Mary Murphy to either tears or screams, the choreographers are profusely praised for their artistry.

But only rarely do the judges (or America) place the blame on the choreographers when the dances fail. Instead, the contestants told they didn't interpret the choreography properly (which in translation generally means the dance wasn't very good).

Of course, this is a dancing competition, where one talented (and lucky) contestant wins the title of America's favorite dancer. The title of the show isn't So You Think You Can Choreograph (though Fox should probably look into that), so in theory there's no reason for the choreographer's work to be judged by the expert panel.

But dancing is a group effort. You can be an amazing dancer, but be given choreography that doesn't properly show off your assets. An uninspiring Waltz or Rumba can come across as boring on even some of the best dancers.

On the other hand, you can be a mediocre dancer who is given moves that highlight your strengths and mask your weaknesses (we have seen many a bboyer get through contemporary routine by pretty much walking through the dance).

So far in Season 8, several strong couples have ended up in the bottom three due to mediocre choreography.

Tyce Diorio, who is typically one of my favorite choreographers, has been unimpressive, while week after week Sonya Tayeh's dances have been just too quirky for my taste.

On the other end of the spectrum, the standout choreographers -- for several seasons now -- are Tabitha and Napoleon. The husband-and-wife team have turned hip-hop into a true art form, creating stories that are moving and at times more eloquent than some contemporary routines.

Time and time again it has been proven that the choreography (and even the music) can make or break a routine.

So each week we will turn the tables on the choreographers, critiquing their dances. Here's a look at the choreography from the top 14.

Justin Giles (Top 7 boys):Justin Giles made a great first impression, opening the show with a strong boy's group number that chronicled the seven stage of grief. Top 7 boys

Ray Leeper, jazz (Melanie and Marko):Another new choreographer? What happened to some of our old favorites? Leeper's style is too similar to Sonya Tayeh's in my opinion, and did nothing to highlight Melanie and Marko's pure talent.

Shaun Evaristo, hip hop (Sasha and Alexander):New to the SYTYCD family, Shaun Evaristo didn't make a great first impression. Nigel Lythgoe called the routine hip hop 101. But not all the blame should be put on Evaristo. While Sasha has been a standout, she has been carrying Alexander, who in my opinion has been the weakest of the male dancers week after week.

Toni Redpath, Waltz (Jordan and Tadd):It's always hard to criticize a ballroom number, especially the Waltz. This one, in particular, was especially boring.

Justin Giles (Clarice and Jesse): In his second routine of the night, Giles once again impressed with a lyrical/contemporary/hip hop fusion. Travis Wall praised Giles' "musicality."

Liz Lira, salsa (Ashley and Chris):The world salsa champion, Liz Lira called this routine the "toughest" dance she has choreographed. I'm not going to blame this mess of a dance on the choreographer, Chris and Ashley tried really hard, but were awkward for the most part.

Chucky Klapow, jazz (Ryan and Ricky):Another weird jazz routine (seriously why aren't the producers finding someone that does a style different than Sonya's!). Ryan and Ricky easily pulled off the number, but it wasn't hot tamale worthy.

Mandy Moore, contemporary (Caitlynn and Mitchell): Leave it to the vets. This is the perfect example of what happens when all the stars align. Moore's routine to Celine Dion's "To Love You More" sat perfectly with these beautiful contemporary dancers, reminiscent of a routine she choreographed in Season 2 for Ivan and Allison.

Ray Leeper, jazz (Top 7 girls):The girls routine couldn't hold a light to the boy's number. Here's hoping this is Leeper's first and last time choreographing (I don't care if Travis has trained with him since he was 9).

Jeanine Poggi is a financial journalist by day, TV addict by night. She started her blog, Too Much To Tivo, in April 2010 as a way to dish about her favorite shows and characters. The series currently recording on her TiVo include So You Think You Can Dance, The Big Bang Theory, Vampire Diaries, True Blood and American Idol. Jeanine can be reached at

Read all Jeanine's MediaBizBloggers commentaries at Too Much To TiVo.

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