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So You Think You Can Dance recap: Top 16 Perform & Elimination

At last, I think they can dance.

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So You Think You Can Dance

TV Show
Reality TV
run date:
Nigel Lythgoe, Cat Deeley, Mary Murphy
Current Status:
In Season

Is this it? Is this when season 12 finally starts to feel like So You Think You Can Dance? The Hot Tamale Train is back. The judges are giving out standing ovations like candy. We’ve got iconic set pieces and dancers personifying mental illness, and Cat is asking the important questions. “Who was nearly kidnapped by a serial killer, and who loves doughnuts with peanut butter?” I HAVE TO KNOW. QUICK, TO THE DANCERS…

Hailee and Jaja

Choreographer: Ray Leeper, Jazz

Song: “Endangered Species” by Dianne Reeves

We should probably have a talk about the male choreographers this season championing Strong Women™, but only when they’re in bondage or straight out of the wild. Someday. For now, let’s focus on the power couple that is “Hail-Ja.” Hailee (who is not a natural blonde) and Jaja (who is engaged!) have emerged as leaders on their respective teams, and they killed this jungle-inspired routine with the fire of a thousand pop divas. I kept expecting them to slide right into the wings, but they never did. Fierce.

Alexia and Neptune

Choreographer: Dave Scott, Hip-Hop

Song: “Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)” by Rich Homie Quan

SYTYCD loves a good set piece, and it doesn’t get much better than a padded wall. That wall is living its best life. Alexia and Neptune twerk on the wall, hang from the wall, and even hold hands while hanging on the wall. They hit hard and never quit. It’s possible that Alexia could stand to take a few of her facial expressions down a notch, but she is playing a crazy person, and it’s hard to argue with how much fun she and Neptune are having. “It was twerking at Wal-Mart,” says Paula. “Now it’s twerking at the padded wall.” Was it ever twerking at Wal-Mart, though?


Choreographers: Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo, Argentine Tango

Song: “Duo De Amor” by Astor Piazzolla

First, the bad news: Derek hurt his back rehearsing a lift and is forced to sit out of the competition for the week. Assuming he makes it through to next week, he’ll be in the bottom six by default. Now for some good news: This might have been a breakthrough week for JJ. Sure, her “fun fact” about herself is the weakest of the bunch (she likes top knots, as if we hadn’t figured that out), but she excels in a routine that puts her way outside her own style. JJ exudes elegance and control, and her flick kicks are fast. Nigel even declares that if Mary Murphy were still here, she’d put JJ on the Hot Tamale Train for sure. Come back to us, Mary. Jason looks bored anyway.

Jim and Ariana

Choreographer: Sean Cheesman, Contemporary

Song: “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Lorde

More than any of the night’s other routines, this one feels designed to be remembered. Ariana is cast as the depression looking to rule over Jim’s world, leaving Jim to fight her—and eventually defeat her, because this is not Mia Michaels’ addiction routine; what are you talking about?—with the aid of some very cool lighting. Cat can’t concentrate on any of this because she’s caught up in Jim’s obsession with bubble baths. But the baths are working; the height Jim gets on his tour jete is almost rude. Also, why do we keep sending Ariana to the bottom six? What more do we want from her? Maybe the judges should stop acting like they’re surprised when she “holds her own.” It’s not a surprise anymore.

Gaby and Virgil

Choreographer: Al Blackstone, Broadway

Song: “Where or When” by Sammy Davis, Jr.

Travis comments in the rehearsal footage that this might be Gaby’s week, which is surprising; hasn’t every week been Gaby’s week? But he’s right. This is Gaby’s week. Without even realizing it, I was holding a little something against her for the way the judges fawn over her versatility, and I’m done now. She’s that appealing. Gaby and Virgil—actual Broadway dancer and, apparently, lead vocalist in a jazz band—are the perfect pair to take on this classy routine, and their little bit with the glasses at the end actually makes me laugh. Nigel takes the opportunity to act like he has always thought Broadway is the bee’s knees. (He’s just trying to impress Sammy Davis, Jr.’s son.)

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