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'SYTYCD' recap: Top 20 perform

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So You Think You Can Dance

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

The live performance round has only just begun, but we’ve already learned so much. None of the judges understand squad goals. Cat Deeley liked Jurassic World. Michelle Obama liked Jasmine and Comfort’s hip-hop routine. Cat and the First Lady should be the judges’ squad goals.

We’re ushering in a new era of So You Think You Can Dance, and it calls for a new stage—one with a few more moving pieces than the last. The slightly smaller venue brings back some of the intimacy of the early seasons, but I wish they’d brought back stairs while they were at it. The best choreography always seemed to incorporate those stairs.

After Cat bids a quick farewell to injured Hurrikane (noooo) and welcomes back Asaf, the top 20 break in the stair-less stage (I’ll get over it) with an energetic group routine choreographed by Christopher Scott and Jessica Lee Keller. It’s time for season 12 to really get going.

Megz, Neptune, and JJ (Team Street)

Choreographer: Dave Scott

Song: “The Illest” by Far East Movement feat. Riff Raff

The night begins with a superhero-inspired routine that never really clicks into place, which is frustrating mostly because it puts me on the same page as Jason. I just want the best for these dancers! Neptune works to connect with the rest of the group; he feels like someone a partner could trust. JJ has the most effortless connection with the audience. Megz doesn’t have the sharpest moves of the group, but she’s got her character all figured out. If she were a superhero, she’d be the unlikely one who keeps accidentally saving the day without trying.

SIDE NOTE: It’s been a while since I took Latin, but I’m pretty sure that Neptune is not the god of peace.

Gaby, Derek, and Moises (Team Stage)

Choreographer: Stacey Tookey

Song: “Luminous” by Max Richter

Stacey says that this is a routine about embracing inner light, but it might also be a dramatic interpretation of what goes on in the Cloud. There’s a lot of fog hugging the stage at the start of the performance, but it clears quickly, allowing us all to revel in just how much Gaby is already slaying it. She looks right at home in a contemporary routine with two contemporary dancers. I don’t mean to agree with Jason again, but he’s right: The moment when they fall into sync is something special.

Lily, Jaja, Burim, and Asaf (Team Street)

Choreographer: Christopher Scott

Song: “Easy (Switch Screens)” by Son Lux feat. Lorde

Because we’re apparently in an alternate reality, I’m also feeling suddenly endeared to Asaf. He asks for the mic in order to thank his teammates after their performance. I’m fully aware that I’m being manipulated. I don’t care. After he was cut, Asaf apparently took 17 classes in two days, and I’m choosing to believe that his brush with reality humbled him.

But even given Asaf’s surprising chemistry with fellow breaker Burim, this performance—like Team Street as a whole—belongs to the ladies. At one point, the guys are spinning on their heads, and the cameras just gradually zoom in on Lily and Jaja. Cat ends the routine with Chris Pratt’s raptor pose, but it’s too late. These girls are their own alphas.

NEXT: Drop and krump me 20[pagebreak]

Hailee, Marissa, and Alexia (Team Stage)

Choreographer: Brian Friedman

Song: “New Dorp. New York” by SBTRKT feat. Ezra Koenig

Friedman says that he “want(s) to show that women can be strong,” like he only just figured this out about women yesterday. He then holds out a pair of heels, so we know where he stands on the Jurassic World shoe controversy. This is not a jazz routine that’s light on sensuality, and at different points, it threatens to overwhelm each of the girls. Nigel reminds them to pull back their performance: “Sex just straight out there tends not to be that sexy.” We’re getting a lesson in sexy from Nigel, co-signed by ’80s pop sensation Paula Abdul. What a world.

Darion and Jim (Team Stage)

Choreographer: Benoit Swan Pouffer

Song: “Blood and Stone” by Audiomachine

Travis calls this routine possibly the hardest one he’s seen on So You Think You Can Dance. I hate to say it, but it almost shows. Darion and Jim are powerful enough to smash through the stage/ your TV screen/ those terrible costumes (“Ballet boys represent”), but they’re not always on the exact same count. That being said, Darion and Jim a half step off from each other are still a step up from almost everything out there, and the judges aren’t kidding when they say that it’s a privilege to watch these guys dance. Let’s just do away with the little waist fringe next time.

Ariana, Virgil, and Yorelis (Team Street)

Choreographers: Phoenix and Pharside

Song: “Locked Out Of Heaven” by Bruno Mars

This routine is all personality and story in the best way possible. Virgil’s at the gates of heaven (score one for a literal interpretation of this song), and he has to choose if he’ll follow an angel or the devil. After a bouncy good time, he chooses the devil, leading to Cat’s best line of the night: “Don’t worry about it; they deserve each other.” The judges then give Ariana some backhanded compliments about how surprised they are that she didn’t fall short of her teammates. That’s encouraging.

Edson and Kate (Team Stage)

Choreographer: Travis Wall

Song: “Shaped Like a Gun” by Tailor

At last, we get a full Travis Wall routine all to ourselves. The Stage captain hands his dancers the story of a relationship gone bad. It’s a mature piece—which is fitting, because they’re the two oldest dancers on the team. (At 27, Kate’s already being called “mama” by the younger girls.) But kids, sometimes growing old means locking emotions away. The judges see something hesitant in Kate and Edson’s performance and encourage them to feel what they’re dancing at a deeper level. You can’t go halfway with Travis’ choreography.

SIDE NOTE: If his All-Star-studded performance of “Cheyenne” is any indication, Jason must love “Ramalama.”

Team Stage Top 10

Choreographer: Warren Carlyle

Song: “Body Language” by Queen

Carlyle gives everyone on Team Stage a moment in the spotlight—and a prop to go with it—with this Fosse-inspired Broadway routine. Gaby gets to tap, as does Moises. Jim does a flip. Kate is lifted toward the ceiling in a chair. Alexia gets the best compliment of all: “She doesn’t always know what she’s doing, but she does it 150 percent.” Is she Andy Dwyer?

Team Street Top 10

Choreographers: Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo

Song: “Ready Or Not Here I Come” by District 78 feat. Cheesa

Consider the mic dropped; the first performance round goes to Team Street. NappyTabs manage to draw military levels of discipline out of the top 10 and have fun in the process. This routine is so sharp it could cut glass. And, as always, the women kill it. Just assume they’ll continue to kill it until proven otherwise.

FINAL COUNT: 20 dancers, one botched Roman mythology reference, and five confirmations that Michelle Obama has excellent taste in everything. See you next week for the first eliminations, America.