Sonya thinks you can dance

By Kelly Connolly
July 31, 2017 at 10:18 PM EDT
Adam Rose/FOX
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Dance fans, we’re a week away from meeting season 14’s top 10 — but let’s put a pin in that for a second and talk about Sonya Tayeh, Life Coach. Our side-shaved queen is ostensibly here to lead the top 30 through the jazz round. In actuality, she’s here to change my world. “Don’t look around,” she tells a stage full of hopefuls. “No one’s going to make you better but you.” THANK YOU, SONYA.

She has the occasion to drop these pearls of wisdom because Kevin (now Konkrete) is struggling with her choreography. He’s down on himself in a way that’s relatable but still not okay; Jenna dropped two of her dancers for him (tell him, girl!), and on a show like So You Think You Can Dance, there’s no room to be frozen by self-doubt. Sonya gives Konkrete a lovely pep talk, reminding him that being in this room is an honor and that it took work for her to get here, too.

Sonya’s future in the lucrative industry of TED Talks Performed in My Living Room isn’t the only surprise of the hour. Other revelations include…

  • Kiki’s glasses (I’m sorry, but the glasses have been on point at the Academy)
  • Absolutely everything about Jennifer, formerly of Team Robert. Taylor accidentally kicks her in the head while they’re rolling around on the floor Tayeh-style, and the cut above her eye is bad enough to require stitches. Since performing would open the cut, Jennifer opts to bow out of the competition and get medical attention instead. The stakes here seem extreme (how long does it take to get a few stitches in Los Angeles? Can’t we just…wait for her?), but our gal handles disappointment like a champ. “It’s just how life is,” she says. “Now I’m gonna get a fierce scar on my brow and I’m gonna be badass.” Come back next year, Jennifer.
  • Howard’s last name is Johnson! Oh buddy.

The jazz round knocks out 10 dancers total, one from each team (including Peyton Albrecht, Ramita Ravi, and Chris Andrews), bringing us to [Mary Murphy scream montage please] our top 20! And this is where things get sad. Most years, we’d be sending every one of these fine humans straight to the live competition, but this year, we still have to cut that pool in half. Ugh, that’s so many dreams to crush.

At least the top 20 get to duet with their All-Stars first. To narrow the field, the All-Stars have choreographed routines for their two remaining team members; they then dance with each of them, one at a time, to see where sparks fly. This is like screen-testing for the next big will-they-won’t-they procedural, and I love it. 

Of course, we don’t see every dance in full (release the footage, Fox! BONUS MATERIAL), and of course, everyone is good. Marko fits with Koine but surprises everyone with his connection to Sofia, who comes alive. Allison looks really good with Logan. Sydney and Kristina both shine with Paul, and Cyrus’ dancers are different sides of the same coin: Kaylee is better at choreo than personality, while Havoc has a big personality but takes a while to pick up the moves. Also, Mark, dancing with Comfort, is so much better than I expected. I’m starting to see why so many of the All-Stars loved him.

For my money, the most interesting choices will be Gaby’s and Jenna’s. Team Gaby is the battle of the unknown versus the early favorite: Lex was one of the standout auditions, and Evan’s audition didn’t get a spotlight at all. But in Sonya’s round, Evan shines — and Lex suddenly gets the Jim Nowakowski treatment. He’s so technically proficient, but can he get out of his head? Obviously he can (he taps the heck out of Gaby’s routine, and he’s not even a tapper), and it’s a safe bet that the show is just trying to keep the inevitable from seeming so inevitable. But here’s the thing: I really like Evan. If his performance in the jazz round and his partnering with Gaby are any indication, we should’ve seen a lot more of him before now. #JusticeforEvan

(Aside: Did Gaby’s choreography just make Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” sound like a good song? Maybe. Don’t quote me.)

As for Team Jenna, she’s the only one who choreographs two separate routines: a paso for Kiki and krump for Konkrete. I don’t know how everyone else is doing, but these routines made me FEEL. THINGS. Jenna takes herself this close to kissing each of them (live the dream, babe), and just when it seems like Kiki brought the fire, Konkrete (a) talks about his son and (b) does THAT, OMG. I can’t even explain it, but I teared up at how well he and Jenna fit. Maybe his earlier struggle with choreography lowered my expectations, but I like to think what he did here would have blown me away anyway. The guy’s got magnetism.

Who will make the top 10? Who should? We’ll find out next week. Until then, Sonya, call me.

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.
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  • 07/20/05
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