Ten years after its premiere, So You Think You Can Dance still has our attention: The reality show drew a total of eight Emmy nominations last week. But there’s something to be said for the good old days, and there’s no better time than an anniversary to look back on them. SYTYCD took a break from competing to celebrate a decade of dance on Tuesday, bringing together All-Stars from seasons past to recreate classic routines — and one new one.
The party started with a brand new Travis Wall original, featuring familiar faces Travis, Allison, Jamie, Brandon, Kathryn, Alex, Robert, Marko, Jenna, and Jasmine. The dancers came to life in the order that they appeared on the show, then blended into what might as well have been a painting; they practically recreated the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at one point.
From there, it was time for the judges’ (and Cat’s) all-time favorite routines. Which ones made the cut?
NIGEL: The Bench (Season 2) As the show’s longest tenured judge, Nigel went back to the start with SYTYCD‘s first Emmy-nominated routine, one so iconic it’s known only by the name of its set piece: The Bench. The Mia Michaels piece about rejected love, set to “Calling You” by Celine Dion, earned Michaels an Emmy and helped Travis Wall become Travis Wall. Travis originally danced the routine with Heidi, but he was joined for the special by All-Star Kathryn, who fit in like she’d been dancing it for years. But haven’t we all, really? This routine has always been a melancholy one; throw in some nostalgia for So You Think You Can Dance days gone by, and it was almost too much to take (in the best way possible).
JASON: Jasmine and Comfort, “Run the World” (Season 10) Jason would like everyone to know that this routine is also a favorite of Michelle Obama, though he insists that that’s not why he picked it. (Mmm-hmm.) “Run the World” is another Emmy winner courtesy of Tabitha and Napoleon D’Umo. The show’s first all-female hip-hop pairing put the ladies in the spotlight to let them do what they do best: Run. This. Place. Or bike it, if that’s what they’re feeling.
PAULA: Jamie and Hok, “The Chairman’s Waltz” (Season 3) Otherwise known as The Hummingbird and the Flower, this Wade Robson number is yet another (does this show get bored with its own excellence?) Emmy winner. If any time has passed since Jamie and Hok last performed it, there’s no way to tell: It’s like someone breathed life into a couple of origami sculptures. This show has made its name on emotional contemporary and crowd-pleasing hip-hop, but this is SYTYCD at its most artistic. Wade, we miss you.
CAT: Jenna and Mark, “I Am the Best” (Season 10) Our fearless host’s favorite routine is the one with the kiss-shaped couch. That feels right. Jenna and Mark took SYTYCD in a more avant-garde direction with this K-pop piece, choreographed by Mark himself. It’s got sunglasses. It’s got hair choreography. It’s got that couch. What would the couch think of The Bench?
And because this show has always belonged to the viewers before anyone, So You Think You Can Dance also ran a bracket of top routines from seasons past, allowing fans to narrow down their favorites. In the end, it all came down to two: one Stage, the other Street.
AMERICA’S RUNNER-UP: Robert and Allison, “Fix You” (Season 7) Travis’ emotional, Emmy-nominated love note to his mother captured lightning in a bottle the first time around, with the right dancers, the right look, and the right choreography to suck the air out of the room— and somehow, it keeps capturing new lightning every time. Try not to want to call a loved one when the song picks up and Robert and Allison start moving as one.
AMERICA’S FAVORITE: Alex and tWitch, “Outta Your Mind” (Season 7) There’s no arguing with this choice. Tabitha and Napoleon’s Emmy winner was so memorable that when Alex was later sidelined due to injury, none other than Ellen DeGeneres stepped in to fill his shoes in the finale. But it’s Alex, the ballet dancer who out-tWitches tWitch, who’s the real story of this routine. “Outta Your Mind” is SYTYCD‘s whole mission validated — it’s proof that dancers of different styles can come together to make something more exciting than either of them could make on their own.
In between dance routines and unnecessary Ryan Seacrest interludes, the special also made time for a few montages: the classic “people crying at auditions” montage was nice, while the equally dependable “big personalities at auditions” was less so. But when the show paid tribute to its biggest moments on the main stage, the segment was so good that it might actually have backfired: I came away from it missing how great this show used to be. It feels like it’s been a while since SYTYCD created a moment — where is Mary Murphy’s scream when we need it?
But there’s still time for this season to impress. Until then, there’s always The Bench.