SYTYCD has amazing dancing on its ugly new set; Billy Bell “could possibly die” if he dances

Last night’s So You Think You Can Dance showcase episode, during which the top 20 performed in groups based upon their individual styles, was simply an hour of incredible dance and great music that puts Dancing with the Stars to shame and highlights all of American Idol‘s weaknesses. The choreography and performances were all pretty incredible, and while the three tap dancers seemed like the weakest, that was just because of the way the style contrasts with others like contemporary, not their skill as tappers.

Each group performance was followed by comments from a single judge, and no one offered criticism, really. For a while, I thought producers weren’t going to let new judge Adam Shankman talk at all, but he finally did. Speaking of judges, at the very beginning, Nigel Lythgoe mocked/goaded Paula Abdul by revealing that a chair next to him was labeled with her name. He said, “I’ve asked somebody to come along and be a guest judge whenever they can. So I’ve asked them to put a chair next to me in case she ever shoes up … I’m putting the pressure on.”

I kind of hate the new set, which could possibly be bigger than the old one, but it looks smaller: It’s now only open to the audience on one side, and the rest is surrounded by a giant thunderdome grid that is reminiscent of the American Idol set in all of the wrong ways. And the horseshoe lighting grid is just distractingly odd.

The top 20 perform for real tonight, and the judges will eliminate two of them. Brandon Dumlao will replace Billy Bell, who dropped out due to illness yesterday. His family released a statement to SYTYCDism that said, in part, “Billy was devastated when his doctors told the show that if he continued to dance on the show before he recovered, he could possibly die. It will take several weeks for him to recover and as a result, he will be unable to return to Juilliard as of right now. … Billy is still quite ill but was released from the hospital today. He’s feeling better but still needs to rest.”

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.