“So You Think You Can Dance” Top 16: Red Hot Chili Pantsuits

Get this, I loved last night’s spectacular, versatile episode of So You Think You Can Dance, even though I disagree with the judges about three key elements: I don’t cry when Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” comes on, I hate hip-hop routines about babies, and I think bright red pantsuits should be worn only by the Kool-Aid Man’s elder aunts. You’ll see why these are important truths momentarily.

We dropped from 16 competitiors to 14 last night, and I’m pretty homicidal about the outcome. You too? Fine. Let’s rank these performances and cartwheel back to sanity.

8. Tiffany and George

Consider it tragic foreshadowing that I wrote about Rugrats yesterday, because this hip-hop baby routine was pretty much a Tommy Pickles dirty diaper dance set to a radio beat. And man, the set’s garish Crayola Washables color scheme was no help. This is the second week in a row where the leading routine of the night was a hokey, literal, and gross display of cartoonish thrusts, and worse, it wasn’t even all that memorable. The talented Tiffany certainly jutted for her life, flung stank around the room, and got nasty on cue, but she couldn’t outclass the lame choreography. George, meanwhile, wasn’t even expressive enough to warrant consideration. His face was blank, and his stank was stunkless. (Or something.) I’d worry about these gyrating infants next week.

7. Audrey and Matthew

First of all, I’d like to extend a giant “Yikes” to those heinous, Robert Palmer-video-lipstick red outfits. Audrey and Matthew looked like two old wounds out there, dappled with just a touch of Neosporin. Next, I’d like to groan for about a year, because that was one of the slowest and most sluggish salsas I’ve seen on this show. Naturally part of the problem is the choreography, which was at once too simplistic (Am I wrong, or did Matthew do almost nothing here?) and too kitschy. (The swivel-up tornado? That occurred at about 3 mph. You could stroll away from that tornado and not jeopardize your expensive assets.) They’ll have to survive this vote based on likability alone, because nothing onscreen felt virtuosic or true to their exceptional talents.

6. Janelle and Dareian

“Call Me Maybe” is still the whitest song of 2012, but I’ll give the flirty Janelle and the drop-dead sexy Dareian credit for proving that the summer jam is indeed danceable. This cha-cha-cha was about as traditional as anything you’d see on Dancing With the Stars (which makes me want to sexually punish choreographer Pasha Kovalev, who is perhaps the sexiest living organism aside from Anthony Perkins, whose bones I reanimated in 2007), but the beaming duo got airborne with some of those impressive, twisty lifts. I concur with Mary Murphy that the couple’s lines and transitions were awkward, though I’m (sadly?) a bigger fan of electricity than technicality, so for me, it wasn’t a failure. Carly Rae Jepsen, I am still on the fence about you, girl.

5. Amber and Brandon

Hope you hate justice, because these two sultry dynamos were both sent home this week. Fuuuuuurious.Amber and Brandon squirmed with the sweaty, chair-humpy passion of a hundred backup dancers from Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted” video, and you know I juke in approval at that. Ray Leeper’s choreography pretty much combined writhing and wrestling, and that kind of sexuality is rarely seen on network TV. I guess the finest compliment I can give is that Amber and Brandon showed us exactly what we’ll be missing without them, and that’s sharp, libidinous theatricality.

4. Witney and Chehon

Now I’d like to extend my second “Yikes” of the night to the judges, who bawled at this routine. Hmmm. Hard for me to accurately convey my own reaction, because all I can come up with is “weirded out.” The eyeroll-inducing song choice of “I Will Always Love You” paired with the melodramatic Dirty Dancing lifts and spins felt not only cliche, but — and I hate having to use this word — dated. Like it was designed to make 75-year-olds bawl. And the coup de grace? I thought the “catch-jump thingy” (quoth Mary Murphy) was bizarrely timed. It didn’t gel with the song’s moment of vocal impact, and it really needed to. This isn’t to say that Chehon and Witney didn’t nail the choreography and spill fire at random — God knows I’ve touted the hell out of them on this site — but I just didn’t get swept up in this teary Bodyguard smut at all.

3. Amelia and Will

Do they give awards for “snakiest” routine? Because the star of this performance was Amelia’s damn legs, those wildly expressive, often slithery, seemingly rubber appendages that snapped like eels this week. Muscular, smiley-faced Will lifted and launched Amelia where she needed to go, but I couldn’t take my eyes off her helicoptering thighs and ankles. Popping up, rolling back, shooting into the ceiling — those legs did it all, and in work-safe trousers. I have to disagree with Nigel about the duo’s connection as they wriggled and bounced; Amelia looked buoyant and alive, and Will seemed vibrant too. For me, it was not only a successful routine, but a memorably offbeat, even exotic one. (And can I just say: Amelia’s ’90s-ass Cathy Dennis hair and outfit were killer.)

2. Lindsay and Cole

Though Charlotte Martin’s maudlin cover of “Wild Horses” accompanied this contemporary routine, all I heard was Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing.” This performance was so shadowy, Cole and Lindsay looked like they were illustrating ghost stories on a cave wall. Beyond that, Cole — my favorite dancer in the competition, my current husband, and the most aerodynamic man since luge legend Markus Prock — played his nefarious edge to the hilt. Such grace, charisma, and above all else, open-shirtedness. Yes to that forever. Lindsay, my gorgeous Maureen McCormick-in-training, was downright striking when juxtaposed against Cole’s jagged jolts. She felt twice as balletic and airy. Another triumph for this vivacious team.

1. Eliana and Cyrus

Well, good on Cyrus for dusting off his old “animator” shtick and oiling up his electrified robot limbs, because they were sensational here. Truly, the man moves in a damn unusual way, and I’m sure mirroring his tight convulsions proved a daunting task for the slippery Eliana. Yet I have to give Nigel’s critique kudos here; her partnering skills were better and more surprising than Cyrus’, and though she lacked the otherwordly cyborg cred of Cyrus’ technique, she was wonderful — though not flawless — at cohering their styles. Props to Nappy Tabs for both song choice (a creepy music box cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”) and the choreography, which suited both parties generously.