“So You Think You Can Dance” Season 11 Recap: The Top 8 Perform

Let’s talk about the incredible power of Michael Jackson, shall we? First off: How many artists boast a collection of hit songs so large that it includes tracks appropriate for every dance style imaginable, from Broadway jazz to samba? And how many artists’ songs can elevate every single one of those dances to a different plane?

“So You Think You Can Dance” made last night’s episode a tribute to MJ, and the show’s energy level was off the charts—because the energy of Jackson’s music is insane. It’s a current of electricity that seems to spark dancers’ and choreographers’ passions and imaginations. Even choreo that might otherwise have been ho-hum got a giant Jackson jolt.

Here are my top five highlights from a pretty darn extraordinary show (with a pretty darn shocking ending).

1. Travis Wall made full use of Ricky’s gumby-ness. Set to Jackson’s moving take on Charlie Chaplin’s classic song “Smile,” Wall’s contemporary routine featured Ricky as a good friend helping Jaimie through some tough times. Wall described Ricky as a “positive light,” which is pretty much how I’ve felt about Ricky throughout this whole season. He also asked Ricky to “make his bones escape his skin,” which loosely translated to “do as much of this piece as possible in a full split”—and I’ll never say no to a good Ricky leg show. It was refreshing to see a contemporary routine that depicted a sweet friendship rather than a maybe-they’ll-actually-make-out-at-the-end romantic relationship, too.

(Photo Adam Rose/FOX)

(Photo Adam Rose/FOX)

2. Casey finally brought the drama. I’d been a tad underwhelmed by Casey up until last night; he’d always seemed like a brilliant technician who, when it came to stage presence, got by on his pretty Ken-doll face alone. But before #teamcasey starts screaming, let me state for the record: Do I ever I stand corrected. In yet another brilliant Pharside and Phoenix routine, Casey was the prey literally trapped in femme-fatale spider Comfort’s web, and the crazy concept brought both his body and his face to life in a way I’d never seen before. He got to be a true dramatic performer, instead of just that cute boy who can turn like nobody’s business. (Seriously, though—can we talk about that turn at the opening of his solo? Like fifteen pirouettes à la seconde that then spiraled into plié?? Unreal.)

(Photo Adam Rose/FOX)

(Photo Adam Rose/FOX)

3. Rudy! Rudy! Rudy! In a way, Rudy is the anti-Casey—he’s all heart and relatively little technique. But in the right routine, that big ol’ heart can utterly transport you. Ray Leeper’s violently angsty piece about an obsessed woman—the always-wonderful Allison—and Rudy’s efforts to push her away was the perfect showcase for Rudy’s brand of over-the-topness. If anyone can rival Rudy when it comes to intensity, it’s Allison, who brought out the charming goofball’s darker side. (Also, Allison, may we suggest you try out that fabulous ’80s superperm IRL?)

Rudy and Allison in Ray Leeper's "Dirty Diana" (photo by Adam Rose/FOX)

(Photo Adam Rose/FOX)

4. Jacque was unrecognizable, and I mean that as high praise. I’m still a bit confused about the premise of her Dave Scott hip-hop routine—we’re in a post-apocalyptic world? and dancing all nasty is the way those left behind are dealing with it?—but I kind of don’t care, because oh my gosh it was faaaaantastic. tWitch is always great at bringing hardcore classical dancers up—or, if we’re speaking literally, down—to his level (see: Alex Wong). With his help, Jacque was able to leave all traces of her pretty pretty princess side behind. She was gettin’ it, and this bunhead was lovin’ it.

Jacque and tWitch in Dave Scott's "Slave to the Rhythm" (photo by Adam Rose/FOX)

(Photo Adam Rose/FOX)

5. Control. Freakz. Period. We’re used to seeing poppers as superlative soloists, but the members of Control Freakz have mastered the incredibly difficult art of popping in unison. They’re working in a virtuosic style, but they aren’t look-at-me virtuosos; they’re a cohesive team. The effect is so good it’s positively eerie. I bow down to you, you amazing freakz of nature.

(Photo Adam Rose/FOX)

(Photo Adam Rose/FOX)

At the end of the show we were all sucker-punched right in the gut, because Nigel announced that both Rudy and Tanisha were going home. Seriously, I’m glad our office didn’t actually do a “SYTYCD” bracket, because in my mental version I had these two going all the way to the finale. I’ll miss you crazy kids.

What did you all think? Were you as shocked as I was about last night’s eliminations? We’re coming to the bitter end here—be sure to check back in next week for our recap of the Top 6 performance!

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