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‘SYTYCD’ In Vegas: All Bets Are Off

Lyndsey Parker
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Hampton "Exorcist" Williams quits

"So You Think You Can Dance" headed to Las Vegas Wednesday night, and if I were the betting type, I would definitely be broke by now. Why? Because many standout dancers that I'd totally assumed would make the top 20 surprisingly exited the show, sometimes even voluntarily. Sure, the remaining contestants still comprised a strong bunch--but I was deflated, and sometimes shocked, by what happened in Vegas this week.

Among the early exits were "exorcist" dancer Hampton Williams, whose audition on the Season 9 premiere was literally one of the best "SYTYCD" performances I had ever witnessed. This week, Hampton's solo for the judges was equally brilliant, so much so that Adam Shankman, Tyce Diorio, and Debbie Allen were all reduced to tears. But when Hampton struggled during the subsequent choreography round (a hip-hop round, even more bafflingly), he decided to quit and exorcise himself from the show entirely. (Cue Edvard Much-style scream now.) Nooooooooooooo! Hampton gave "SYTYCD" viewers a whole other reason to cry, with his disappointing decision.

Other early favorites who didn't make it were Gene Lonardo, the praying mantis man (I'd really been hoping that he'd be this year's Mark Kanemura, but oh well); jokester martial arts man Tim Conkel (that one was less of a shock, although I do think Tim would've been popular with voters); awesome hip-hopper Shafeek Westbrook (who probably got axed because of his not-so-awesome attitude); even awesome-er redneck hip-hopper Asher Walker (I'd completely predicted that Asher would be a fan favorite); and two of the three Dragon House dancers, Boris Penton and Andre Rucker. (Andre also chose to quit, sadly, although lone surviving Dragon House crew member Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer tried to talk him out of it.)

Bacon enthusiast Danielle Dominguez, whose quirky first audition was another one of my favorites this season, made it through initially, but when she got accidentally kicked in the head by her dance partner Giovanni during some Sonya Tayeh jazz choreography, and as a result had to go to the hospital for eight hours, she missed out on too much and never quite rebounded--so she too was sent home. (So was Giovanni, of course. No love lost there.) The whole situation was obviously not Danielle's fault, and I felt so very, very bad for her. And it brought sad new meaning to that old Sizzlean slogan, "Move over, bacon."

Other awesome ladies who unfortunately didn't make it through were blonde krumper girl Mariah Spears (damn, I really liked her) and exquisite ballet dancer Aubrey Klinger, whom the judges dubbed a "mini-Mia Michaels" (after praising her cute, prom-inspired choreography) before bizarrely cutting her like, five minutes later. I was almost as upset as the inconsolably sobbing Aubrey was.

However, I was much less dismayed over the elimination of burlesque hoochie Rachel Applehans, who spent most of her oddly S&M-esque solo stripping out of her menswear and biting down on her necktie rather than actually dancing. I had to agree with Debbie Allen when she coldly advised Rachel, in her best Fame lecture voice: "Next time, put on more clothes and dance." Oh, snap.

But then another one of my longtime favorites, repeat auditioner Teddy Tedholm, got cut again, for like the jillionth time (or at least the third), and my heart broke even more when he announced that he wouldn't be trying out again. "See you never," he grumbled. Le sigh. I will miss Teddy and his adorable bowtie, but I can't really blame the poor fellow for finally giving up on this show. Really, Nigel Lythgoe and company should have put Teddy in the top 20 several seasons ago.

I was also dejected to see another familiar face, Adrian Lee, get passed over yet again. Adrian tried out in Season 7 and made it all the way through Vegas, until Mary Murphy paid him a melodramatic home visit to inform him that he'd just missed making that year's top 20. This time, he didn't even make it as far as he had before. Adrian took his elimination news a lot more graciously than Teddy had, but I took it pretty hard myself. Brandon Dumlao--whom you may remember from the time that he replaced Billy Bell in Season 6 (after Billy bowed out for health reasons), but who was then eliminated from the show after being in the top 20 for literally a day and a half--was also cut again this year, sadly.

So, who DID make it? Among this week's surviving 35 hopefuls were sensual belly dancer Janelle Issis; plucky Louise Brooks lookalike Amelia Lowe (who, astoundingly, actually had to solo for her life to convince the split judges, mainly Sonya Tayeh, to keep her); beautiful ballet dancers Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, Eliana Girard, and Daniel Baker; ballroom BFFs Lindsay Arnold and Witney Carson;  and Dragon House's Glitch, after struggling with group choreography but easily saving himself with his absolutely amazing solo.

Contemporary dancer Alexa Anderson, another repeat auditioner--who almost made last year's top 20--also somehow won over the judges, despite her blank, zombie-ish facial expressions that had Adam Shankman viciously barking at her, "I'm sick of saving you. I'm past your beauty. We're debating putting you through because you are dead." I guess Alexa's chances aren't dead just yet. I actually have a hunch that this was all a ruse, anyway, just to set up some sort of triumphant story arc for this golden girl.

Which 20 of these 35 dancers will make it to the live shows? Will Glitch represent Dragon House and prove that he can adapt to unfamiliar choreography? Will Alexa come to life? Will Amelia win over Sonya? We'll all find out on next Wednesday's dramatic "Green Mile" episode. And hopefully by then, I'll have gotten over this week's dramatic cuts.

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