The latest episode of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE was a double feature of sorts. Not only did the series reveal the all-stars’ top 10 picks, but viewers were also treated to SYTYCD season 14’s first live performances. With a brand new stage, works from some favorite choreographers, and the return of the judges’ panel, the August 7 showing might just be the place where SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE’s 2017 truly began.
You know the drill, dance lovers: Big announcement from Cat Deeley, opening group dance, a little bit of chatter, and then it’s down to the business of finding this year’s hot tamales.
Before revealing season 14’s top 10, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE opened with a group number that featured this season’s all-stars and no one else. We’ll allow it as a way to keep the contestants’ identities secret until the last possible moment; but here’s hoping an all-stars-only piece doesn’t become the norm like it did during the kids’ season. It’s just not necessary, and the competition should be about watching the first-time contestants’ journeys, not reliving past successes.
With that being said, Mandy Moore’s contemporary choreography was as beautiful as ever. And her piece, set to Raign’s rendition of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” managed to work well on all the all-stars. Even Comfort Fedoke and Jenna Johnson, who were never exactly known for being contemporary whizzes, stood out in a positive way. That’s the mark of both brilliant creative work from Moore and dedication from both dancers.
Tonight’s introduction wasn’t all about triumph and talent, though. Unfortunately, Cat Deeley was force to be the bearer of bad news: Allison Holker was unable to join her fellow all-stars in Mandy Moore’s piece due to an injury. On the plus side, she sat this one out instead of doing something potentially controversial.
Bad news out of the way, Cat moved on to welcoming the “jedges,” specifically Mary Murphy — “she’s back home, where she belongs” — to the first live taping of SYTYCD season 14. That warm welcome for Mary even included teasing Nigel Lythgoe: “And with Mary back, he’s got a new pacemaker!”
So, everything was back to that trademark level of hilarious, yet somewhat awkward. Let’s get to talking about some dancers then.
The first big reveal came courtesy of Team Fik-Shun.
When we last saw Fik-Shun, he had a tough choice to make: Kyle Bennett, Jr. or Inyoung “Dassy” Lee? Ultimately, Fik-Shun chose Dassy as his contribution to SYTYCD season 14’s top 10. So, I guess his weird comment about how her movement could be “a little soft sometimes,” which was a “drawback,” meant nothing.
As it should have.
Dassy debuted on the SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE live stage with her all-star partner, dancing to a fun piece choreographed by the one and only Popin Pete. If Fik-Shun is known for his personality (he is), then this duet with Dassy lived up to that reputation — and then some.
The only complaint, besides the fact that the number didn’t last longer? I spent a weird couple of minutes wondering whether or not this pair had missed the memo that they were performing on SYTYCD, not trying to do some sort of weird Carmen San Diego cosplay.
Judges’ comments: Mary Murphy, in her first chance to “jedge” official contestants in years, “loooved it!!!” And the praise didn’t stop there. More from Mary because, honestly, this is quality content right here:
- “I’m so excited to be back, and I’m so excited for this partnership.”
- “Fik-shun, you have finally found your match.”
- “Dassy, you are a hard-hitting ‘it’ girl.”
- “You are my poppin’ favorite, and you’re poppin’ into my heart.”
Up next, Nigel Lythgoe told Fik-Shun and Dassy that they moved more body parts than he knew existed, and Dassy made SYTYCD stronger by coming from Seoul and putting her soul into it. (Get it?)
Lastly, Vanessa Hudgens chimed in with her own praise: “You just shine up there, and I’m so excited to see you do more. You shine, girl.”
Before her injury kept her from actually dancing with him, Allison Holker had her own top 10 selection to make.
By the end of Academy Week, Allison’s final two dancers were Zachary Downer and Logan Hernandez, “who is a crazy interesting mover. But at the same time, he’s only eighteen.”
Logan earned that coveted spot of Allison’s partner, but don’t worry about Zachary Downer: He took over for Ricky Ubeda in CATS.
Yes that Ricky Ubeda.
Let’s break it down here, actually, because Allison’s decision came down to a strange set of coincidences. Ricky was America’s favorite/best/most versatile/whatever-they-were-calling-it-at-the-time dancer in season 11. Although not his first post-SYTYCD role, his post-win credits include a turn as Mister Mistoffelees in the CATS revival. His replacement, as announced in July (and again by Nigel tonight), is Downer.
…but that’s not what makes Allison’s dilemma interesting. The real kicker here is that the SYTYCD all-star had a choice between two different men with connections to Ubeda. Logan Hernandez’s link? He received his training from the same place that Ricky did: STARS in Miami. (This is also where Diana Pombo of WORLD OF DANCE fame learned how to be fabulous.)
Just a little dance world tangent for you there, folks. Now, where were we? Right. Live performance night.
Because of Allison’s injury, Logan wasn’t able to show off Tyce Diorio’s choreography to Leon Else’s “Protocol” with the all-star who’d selected him for this season’s top 10. Instead, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE veteran Audrey Case, from season 9, joined Logan in the contemporary number.
(If someone can hit me up in the comments with a way to close the Ricky Ubeda loop here, my inner dance nerd will do 32 fouettes.)
Put two beautiful contemporary dancers together, especially when one has the technique pedigree that Logan does, and you have an immediate success. The chemistry wasn’t quite as strong as I might have liked, but given that Audrey was a last-minute replacement, the progress the duo made was admirable.
Judges’ comments: Nigel thanked Tyce for the routine, as well as for giving Audrey a crash course in his choreography on the day of the performance. He was both grateful to, and impressed by, Audrey because of her hard work in learning the piece so quickly.
But we’re here for the new contestants. For SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE season 14’s Logan, Nigel had this to say: “You are a stunning dancer, young man. Good luck.” He also encouraged the young contestant to show both personality and technical proficiency in the competition.
Vanessa followed up Nigel’s comments by gushing over Logan’s age. He’s “only eighteen,” after all. (Meanwhile, the top junior dancers in the world are chugging tea because the “only eighteen” thing is just none of their business.)
Finally, Mary Murphy told Audrey it was “a blessing to see [her] back on the show,” and I lost track of everything that followed because I was thinking how much I’d like to throw that comment right back at Mary herself.
Jenna Johnson totally picked Konkrete, the dancer she went to great lengths to save, right? Umm…nope.
As you’ll recall, Jenna cut two dancers at The Academy so she could snatch up Konkrete after another all-star had let him go. Jenna kept him in mind as a potential contestant right until the bitter end; but Kiki, a fellow ballroom dancer, was Jenna’s top 10 choice.
Jenna and Kiki’s partnership debuted to a piece choreographed by SYTCYD alum Dmitry Chaplin. While they were an entertaining couple to watch, something was just slightly off: It was difficult to focus on Kiki with Jenna as his partner. Will that spell disaster for Kiki? Only time will tell. Depending on how the format changes from here, we already know Team Jenna had better hope not to get assigned anything remotely resembling hip hop.
Judges’ comments: Mary Murphy fanned herself after the performance, so all is well in the dance world. And then Cat Deeley, not Nigel Lythgoe, teased Mary, imitating her infamous “I’d like to dance the paso doble with him, I tell you” line from auditions. With that, Mary turned at least six shades of hot tamale red.
Once Mary recovered from Cat’s teasing, it was time to actually critique Kiki’s first work as a top 10 dancer. Mary said he blew her away, adding, “I loved watching you dance! We’ve been waiting for a Kiki on our show! I’m glad you’re here! Wooo-hooo!!!!!”
(I’m glad you’re here, Mary.)
Nigel Lythgoe complimented Jenna for choreographing two routines for the final rounds at The Academy, but he admitted to having trouble taking his eyes off of her on tonight’s SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE live taping. Nigel directed his biggest concern to Kiki, though: “I just worry that the audience is not going to see a lot of your incredible, world-class style.”
Vanessa Hudgens, on the other hand, wasn’t particularly concerned. “You have a certain vibrancy on the stage that really shines,” she told Kiki, prompting yours truly to wonder whether taking a drink every time Vanessa mentioned anything related to shining might be a terribly dangerous endeavor — especially if it involved moonshine.
So far, the SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE all-stars had all picked contestants that matched their personal strengths. But Cyrus Spencer has never been one to follow the crowd.
Cyrus’ last two dancers standing were Havoc and Kaylee. Havoc was a street dancer, who would have complimented Cyrus well. And Kaylee Mills? You might remember her by a different name: “Impavido.” Or maybe you just recognize her as the contemporary dancer with the blue hair that we met in the New York auditions. Either way, she was Cyrus’ choice to “be rocking with [him] on the show,” which meant Havoc was sent home.
Kaylee and Cyrus executed a Tassandra Chavez contemporary duet with a few hiccups. The style was obviously not Cyrus’ strongest, but he held his own as a partner. Kaylee, whose technique initially seemed up to par, had some missteps here. For one thing, I would love to have seen some better articulation through her feet, especially when Chavez had her doing so much alternating between flexing and pointing them.
And yet, perhaps it’s because of the merging of styles — or maybe it’s just that both dancers are so unique, even within their own specialities — but there’s something really intriguing about Kaylee and Cyrus. So, let’s hope they stick around for a few weeks — especially if it means more compelling choreography like what Tassandra Chavez gave them here.
Paging Sonya Tayeh: I need you to do something weird with this duo. Please and thank you.
Judges’ comments: Mary thought that Cyrus did a “noble job,” but she had hoped that he’d be even stronger. For Kaylee, she had a much more positive message: “There’s something so real, and honest, and authentic when you dance. You’re a very fascinating person, and I can’t wait to see more.”
Nigel wished Cyrus luck before delivering a warning to Kaylee: “I think you need to raise your game a little bit.” After taking a sidebar to talk about throwing shoes at people — just like in the piece! — Vanessa provided some helpful critique. She advised Kaylee to exhibit more weightlessness and breath in her movement.
Gaby Diaz represented Nigel Lythgoe’s only chance to be Tap Fanboy Lythgoe in SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE season 14.
She…didn’t quite deliver on that opportunity, but she didn’t exactly delete tapping from this season all together, either.
By the time the hot tamale train got ready to leave The Academy and conduct its way to the live shows, Team Gaby consisted of Lex Ishimoto and Evan DeBenedetto. Despite concerns about Lex’s lack of personality, Gaby chose the contemporary dancer over tap specialist Evan.
Luckily for Tap Lovin’ Lythgoe, Lex is still capable of tapping, something that SYTYCD’s narrative wants everyone to think is a big surprise — even though quite a lot of dancers study tap as part of their early training.
Team Gaby’s first duet of season 14 was choreographed by Anthony Morigerato and was just the type of clean, classic Hollywood-style tapping fans can watch to soothe what ails them. As Cat Deeley aptly put it, the piece was very “Fred and Ginger meets James Brown.”
(Let’s just forget the weirdly awful splits that got thrown in toward the middle or so there.)
Judges’ comments: Obviously, Nigel’s thoughts came first here. Before warning Lex to work on his personality and his performance quality “just as much as [his] steps,” Nigel took a moment to, well, fanboy: “Anthony Morigerato’s choreography always reminds me why I love show business.”
Somewhere in all of this, Nigel also reminded the audience of Lex’s work in Travis Wall’s Shaping Sound…making this dance lover wonder how fair it’s going to be to have Travis choreograph for Lex at some point in the season, already being way better acquainted with his own guy than with any other contestant.
Following Nigel’s criticism, Vanessa Hudgens defended Lex’s personality: “There was, like, a really sweet, fashionable, charming thing about you!” I’d tend to agree. Regardless of any previous concerns, Morigerato’s piece brought something out in Lex. Now, he just has to keep that up.
Mary Murphy reminded SYTYCD viewers that the judges had gotten the whole personality game wrong in the past anyway: Remember that time when Chehon won, despite having the judges warn him to come out of his shell more for most of the series’ ninth season? But Mary wasn’t done yet. After some not-so-subtle prompting from Cat Deeley, Mary put “Mr. Talented,” as she called Lex Ishimoto, on the hot tamale train.
AND IT’S BACK. Woo-wooooo!
Still with us? Click through to the second page to see who the remaining five dancers in SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE’s top 10 are.