Well, isn’t this inevitable, us comparing the Di Lellos, Ashleigh and Ryan?

Of course. It’s not really often that we see a married couple audition for So You Think You Can Dance, and more so, see both make it to the Top 20. And, in this case, the Top 10, too. What I find interesting, though, is how the two have grown throughout the competition, and how their fates have literally flipped over.

If I remember correctly, it was Ryan who got a lot of praise from the judges during the auditions. At least I had that impression while watching him try out. The judges liked Ryan’s versatility, while his wife Ashleigh always seemed lacking, or at least, struggling to get out of her husband’s shadow. No, it’s not anything marital–it’s just that the two have danced together for so long, and by the time they have to dance as individuals, it was Ryan who came out on top. I mean, explain the fake-out during the Top 20 announcement, of Ryan going in first, and everybody waiting for Ashleigh even if it seemed she wouldn’t make it, until she did because Paula Van Oppen backed out?

So, I thought, Ashleigh would be the first of the couple to drop out. I didn’t really have high expectations for her, as opposed to Ryan, who seemed to be able to carry anything on his really muscular arms. In the first week, Ryan churned out a pretty good routine, while Ashleigh was inevitably overshadowed by partner Jakob. Ryan was, predictably, getting all the praise, while reaction to Ashleigh wasn’t as fond.

And then, in a snap, things practically reversed. Ryan isn’t the versatile dancer we thought he would be. Sure, he’s still got good routines (remember why he was called the best contemporary dancer to have ever done ballroom on the show?) but we started to see cracks. There was, of course, that disastrous hip-hop routine that sent him and Ellenore to the bottom three. And then there were his solos, which still leave a lot to be desired.

Ashleigh, on the other hand, was showing growth–arguably as much as Legacy, who was getting more attention. Her routines were way out of her ball park, and yet she eventually performed them with ease and grace, just as you’d expect a ballroom dancer to bring. Soon she’s getting a lot of praise for good dancing and good characterization. And the only solo we’ve seen her do is, admittedly, a much better ballroom solo.

The show is, of course, a search for America’s Favorite Dancer, and while technical prowess is a huuuge chunk of the whole thing, it’s undeniable that you can’t make it far without charisma. That, of course, spelled the difference between last season’s Kayla and Jeanine, or Evan and Brandon (although the results for the guys turned out different). Ryan, while good technically, didn’t really carry the required charisma: I think he’s gained my attention because of Ellenore’s quirky, other-worldly personality. Once he was paired with Noelle last week, even if he did much better on Nappy Tabs’ routine, I wasn’t as sold because he looked very blank–the same problem Noelle faced.

The opposite was happening to Ashleigh: in later routines, she was sizzling. Sure, it could be because she underwent a slight image change–have you seen a fan’s theory on how a change of lipstick color changed opinion of her?–but in the end, she became a person we could totally love, rather than be intimidated at. I’ll go as far as saying she was magnetic in her more recent routines, giving enough attention to her personality as much as Legacy’s b-boy skills. Sure, Ashleigh is not as loud as Mollee or (to an extent) Ellenore, but she sure is bringing a lot of herself to the table. Not to mention, I think she’s got the “sexy” role down better than Karen.

Both Di Lellos are still in the Top 8, and it’s interesting how things will pan out for both of them. Surely I’m not alone in betting that Ryan has, to put it gently, a smaller chance of winning the competition? I actually thought Ryan would be going last week, until all fingers pointed at Nathan’s fans abandoning ship. The one thing I’m sure of is, with next week’s finale featuring six dancers rather than the usual four, Ashleigh will make it in, and certainly make a splash.

On to you then: Are you a fan of Ashleigh’s vibe? Are you a fan of Ryan’s god-like presence? Who is the better Di Lello?

(Images courtesy of Fox)

Henrik Batallones

Staff Writer, BuddyTV