- The judges/producers pair dancers up.
- The judges/producers select a style for each pair.
- The judge/producer-selected pair learn a dance in the judge/producer-selected style and perform it on the air.
- The judges comment.
- America votes for their favorite pair, or at least the pair containing their favorite dancer.
- The bottom three pairs are announced on the results show.
- The six dancers comprising the bottom three pairs dance solos for the judges.
- The judges pick one male and one female dancer to go home.
- If your partner wasn't eliminated, you remain with your judge/producer-selected partner indefinitely, until one or the other of you is eliminated.
And it would seem by deductive reasoning (although no one has expressly said this yet) that:
10. The dancers whose partners were eliminated become a new pair.
Got it? This is, of course, a total 180 from last season, during which partnerships were random and forged anew each week, dance styles were chosen at random, the judges picked the bottom three couples, and America selected the bottom two based on the subsequent solos.
There's a one-word reason why they've made these changes: Blake. Blake, for those of you who aren't quite the SYTYCD historian that I am, was last season's clearly delineated frontrunner until he randomly drew his own preferred style -- lyrical -- week after week and was randomly partnered with the same couple of partners week in and week out. Although Blake doing lyrical was magnificent to behold, it got a little old by the umpteenth consecutive week, especially when other dancers (like eventual winner Nick) had the chance to show their versatility every week with a different partner and a different style.
So the new system theoretically prevents the problems with the old system. But of course, as with all planned economies, the new system comes with its own set of problems. And frankly, the new problem could easily have been averted, so I'm a little surprised at how tonight went down.
Most of the partnerships seem to have been based on the pairing of people with complementary strengths and weaknesses. Benji the Mormon Swinger and Donyelle the Jazz/Hip-Hopper (whose pairing could not possibly have been more actively pimped by the producers), Musa the Untrained Break Dancer and Natalie the Heavily Trained Lyrical Dancer, Ben the Contemporary Specialist and Ashlee the Popping Specialist, and so forth. Here's where the problem comes in. In nearly all cases, the dance style assigned to each pair was at least somewhat familiar to at least one of the dancers. So wholesome Benji had to do a raunchy Shane Sparks hip hop routine, but Donyelle was in her element, and Benji could feed off of her. Erin the jazz dancer had no idea how to do partnered ballroom dancing, but Stanislav the ballroom guy got her through the paso doble. In the few cases where the style was entirely new to both partners, the combined inexperience inevitably showed through, and the judges slammed them for it. Best example: Ben and Ashlee doing 80s disco (that's a genre?) when he'd never done a lift and she's a popper. It just seemed odd to me that you wouldn't either screw every couple with something brand new or throw every couple a bit of a bone by ensuring that at least one person had a clue. I guess that once you get rid of the more marginal dancers, this will be less of an issue, but I did find it rather jarring tonight.
Most enjoyable of the night: a tie between Benji/Donyelle's hip hop routine and Travis/Martha's Broadway Baby version of "Steam Heat."