Did ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ throw Chelsea under the bus with this unprecedented tap routine? [WATCH]

There’s a first time for everything. And maybe a last time too. It’s par for the course on “So You Think You Can Dance” that contestants would perform a wide variety of styles in their specialty and outside of it — except one. In the first live show of season 15 jazz dancer Chelsea Hough had to take on a tap routine with her partner and fellow contestant Evan DeBenedetto. As the judges noted during their critiques, this was the first time anyone on the show was asked to perform a tap routine when it wasn’t their own style. That’s because it requires such a specific skill set. And the results were pretty rough.

Fair is fair, you might say. Each pair of dancers on Monday night had to dance two duets, one in each partner’s style. Hough was paired with DeBenedetto, who had to perform a jazz routine with Hough earlier in the evening. But DeBenedetto is the only tapper in the top 10, so Hough was the only dancer who had to attempt a tap routine when it wasn’t her specialty. They didn’t even learn tap routines during the Academy round, so no one would have come to the live shows prepared for a live tap number except for Benedetto.

The judges heaped praise on Benedetto for his performance, and they even cheered Hough for attempting a “SYTYCD” first. Unfortunately, when America votes, this historic moment could cost Hough a chance at winning the competition. So was it fair to foist this on her in the first live show, or should she have been ready no matter what? Watch their routine above, and see what the judges had to say about it below.

Vanessa Hudgens: “Evan, your tap dancing is just another level. You have such beauty and grace when you tap, and you just hit those rhythms so brilliantly. Um, Chelsea, you did your best to sell it. There were moments where you were both tapping and I was like, ‘I only hear one set of taps. So I think we know this is a field you need to work on. Obviously it’s not your style, but good effort.”

Twitch: “Evan, of course you shined. You were awesome, sitting in the pocket. That was great. But I just want to say this too. It’s true, she is not a tapper, but y’all, she just did a tap routine! Every time that we’ve seen a hip-hop dancer have to do contemporary, or a ballroom dancer have to do hip-hop, this was along the same lines. And I just want to say, that was brave. Because as far as I know, that hasn’t been done.”

Mary Murphy: “Evan, that first turn that you did at the beginning, it was just like butter. I melted right into it with you. The routine wasn’t necessarily at all up to your level, Evan, but I will say to both of you, it was very simple, it was endearing, it was very sweet. I think a lot of people at home are going to just love this number. It was really sweet.”

Nigel Lythgoe: “We have never asked anybody who doesn’t tap to do tap, and there’s a reason for that. Tap is not as easy as people think it is. It’s a whole different subject. Anthony Morigerato, who choreographed this, is an absolutely brilliant tap choreographer. Evan is a brilliant tap dancer. He has diluted everything to try and make this work. And I’ve got to say, in the first few bars of it it really was working. Your body lines were beautiful. Later on in the routine it started to show that it wasn’t quite right. There were a lot of air shuffles and everything else. However, I’m just thrilled that we are attempting to get people to tap dance. From that point of view I’m happy. From this routine, I can’t wait to see Evan dancing with [Gaby Diaz].”

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