Nigel Lythgoe: Eliminated Dancer 'Alienated' 'SYTYCD' Voters

Photo: Kelsey McNeal//Fox/PictureGroup

After three consecutive weeks in the bottom three Melinda Sullivan was sent home on So You Think You Can Dance Thursday night, tap shoes in tow. Week after week the judges kept coming back to her lack of vulnerability and her inability to relate to the audience, which was ultimately her downfall.

Nigel Lythgoe, who has been Sullivan’s biggest cheerleader from the start, said that he was “heartbroken” that she was leaving but cited her personality as her biggest flaw in the competition. “She looks as though she’s confident,” he said after the elimination. “That’s New York girls – they’re not always confident but they sometimes alienate the audience that’s voting.”

Sullivan, however, considers her confidence one of her strongest assets. “I was giving my all as an artist,” she told PEOPLE. “As a confident, young, strong woman, I was pleased with my performances.” As the only tap dancer in the competition, Sullivan is grateful for the experience and the chance to prove that “tap can be edgy and sexy and hip as opposed to old-school.”

Though Sullivan’s elimination wasn’t a big surprise, Billy Bell and Robert Roldan joining her in the bottom three came as a shock to the audience – and the judges. Adam Shankman told PEOPLE that he doesn’t understand why Roldan isn’t connecting to the audience.

Lythgoe agreed: “Robert surprises me,” he said. “He has great charisma when he’s dancing.”

With two girls and all six boys remaining, the judges are nervous about the coming weeks. But they do agree that Alex Wong has inspired them on a new level. “I have never ever seen a classical dancer dance like that,” said Lythgoe. “They always look like me – like grandpa dancing. But his performance this week worked brilliantly.” –Mussarat Bata

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