"SYTYCD" Season 12 Recap: The First Elimination Episode

Hey, “SYTYCD” fans: Want to win a trip to see the finale episode LIVE in L.A.? Of course you do! Click here to enter our “SYT” finale sweepstakes.

Sheryl Crow says the first cut is the deepest—and she doesn't lie. Last night brought us "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 12's first elimination, and it was tough. This early in the game, it's so hard to say just what Stage dancer Darion Flores and Street dancer Lily Frias might have been able to accomplish over the course of the season, had they been given the chance to stay. And while both dancers are fabulous in their own way (imo), it is, alas, a competition. Luckily, there were some really amazing moments to help me get through the night. (And tonight's "SYT" 10th anniversary special will be nothing short of amazeballs!)

The "SYTYCD" Top 20 in the Pharside & Phoenix opening number (photo: Adam Rose/Fox)

Here are my top 5 moments from the two-hour ep:

1. Jim Nowakowski and Jana "Jaja" Vankova's animated duet. This. Just this. (I'm definitely not saving the best moment for last!) Like Team Street mentor tWitch speculated during rehearsals, Christopher Scott's routine might become one of the top pieces of the entire season. #Callingit. Set to Bob Marley and the Wailer's iconic "No Woman No Cry," it actually did make many people cry—including Nigel Lythgoe! Lythgoe got pretty emotional when he admitted this is the performance he's been hoping for since he first dreamed up the whole show: a piece bringing together the individual strengths of a ballet dancer (like Jim) and a hip-hop dancer (like Jaja) to create something unique and fresh. It was reminiscent of Alex Wong and tWitch's unforgettable "Outta Your Mind," but the dancers' theatricality and the choreography's detailed specificity went a bit further. (It reminded me of some of Keone and Mari Madrid's best work.) I, for one, look forward to seeing this piece—and these dancers!—in the finale episodes. #Callingitagain.

2. Ariana Crowder and Derek Piquette's classic jazz routine. I'm going to quote tWitch again: "What team is Ariana on?" She's supposedly Team Street—but I'm convinced this naturally technical dancer was born to grace the proscenium stage. This was one of two Ray Leeper-choreographed routines during the show, and I loved how much Paula Abdul relished its classic jazz vocabulary. She's right: It's refreshing to watch dancers both hit clean lines and really get into the groundedness of jazz.

3. Spencer Liff's jazzy rendition of "All About that Bass." Um, can we talk for a second about how Kate Harpootlian totally channeled Jessica Rabbit this week? Just give her a red dress in place of that sparkly blue number, and it'd almost be a perfect match! In all seriousness, though, Liff's sultry Broadway-inspired routine was no joke. I want to give a shout out to Eddie "Neptune" Eskridge, who dove head first into the challenging choreography—and did it well enough to save himself from elimination. Congrats!

4. Team Street's group performance, choreographed by Christopher Scott and Phillip Chbeeb. I'm not sure how Scott and Chbeeb came up with the idea to use four see-saws as props in this routine, but I'm sure glad he did. (Maybe Scott was fooling around with something similar for Teen Beach 2?) From the moment Virgil Gadson ran across the row of playground equipment, I was mesmerized. There wasn't much story behind this one, but the unique and complex choreography allowed each dancer to create his or her own raison de danser.

5. Team Stage's group performance, choreographed by the dancers' very own mentor, Travis Wall. Two words: Epic music. Set to a driving score by Woodkid, Wall's choreography seemed like the finale to a larger work. There was so much unison, so many thrilling leaps and falls. True, it started to feel a lot like the choreo Wall creates for his own Shaping Sound Dance Company. But the audience—and the judges—ate it up. Standout moments? Alexia Meyer's daredevil toss, and the entire group's powerful group moment in second position grand plié.

In the end, Darion, Ariana, Derek, Lily, Neptune and Moises Parra were in danger. Neptune and Moises were saved by viewers' Twitter votes; the judges saved Derek and Ariana; and Darion and Lily were sent packing.

What do you think? Were the right dancers sent home? Who's your early favorite? Is Jason DeRulo totally hopeless as a judge? (Pretty much.) Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you back here next week when the Top 18 perform!

Latest Posts

Meet the dancers of MDC3: Madi Smith, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Mather (left to right). Photo by Joe Toreno. Hair by Marina Migliaccio and makeup by Lisa Chamberlain, both for the Rex Agency.

Meet MDC3: The "World of Dance" Winners Who Defied the Odds

In March 2020, the same day the "World of Dance" cast got word that production would be shutting down due to a global pandemic, MDC3 artists Madison (Madi) Smith, Diego Pasillas and Emma Mather stood shoulder to shoulder onstage, bracing to hear the final results of the competition. The champion title and $1 million prize money were within reach, decided entirely by the three celebrity judges sitting in front of them. As their competitor's scores dropped from the lips of Derek Hough, Jennifer Lopez and Ne-Yo at roughly 2 percentage points below their own, viewers watched realization dawn. MDC3's mouths dropped into gigantic Oh's before their hands slapped over their faces in disbelief. Sparklers shot up while confetti rained down, and the announcer shouted, "MDC3, you are the winner of 'World of Dance'!"

It was an impressive accomplishment for any group of dancers, let alone three teenagers who'd faced rejection from the show three times over. Despite their youth (Madi is 18, Diego is 17 and Emma is 16), this moment was hard earned through years of dedicated patience.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Mason Evans assisting at New York City Dance Alliance in Orlando, FL (Evolve Photo & Video, courtesy Mason Evans)

5 Dancers Share What It's Really Like to Return to Competitions Right Now

For the first time since the coronavirus hit the U.S., competitions and conventions are meeting in-person once again (brimming with safety precautions, of course), and dancers couldn't be more thrilled.

We asked five standout comp kids about their recent experiences attending competitions around the country—and how they're taking advantage of these long-lost opportunities.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Because the future of Black dance is happening right now (Braylon Browner photographed by Rhiannon Lee, courtesy Braylon Browner)

Celebrating Black Futures Month: 4 Up-and-Coming Black Dancers Making History Right Now

Throughout the month of February, many Americans celebrate Black History Month, a period of the year dedicated to honoring the contributions of Black figures to American culture and society.

The lesser-known Black Futures Month, which is also celebrated in February—and often in conjunction with BHM—looks to art and artists to envision an equitable future for Black Americans. At Dance Spirit, we're celebrating #BlackFuturesMonth by spotlighting four young Black dancers whose dance journeys are proving that the future of Black dance is bright.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search