"SYTYCD" Season 12 Recap: The Top 18 Perform

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As "So You Think You Can Dance" began its second live episode, I couldn't wait for the magic to continue from last week. I was anticipating the beautiful contemporary pieces that leave me speechless and gritty hip-hop dances that make me wish I had swag. Instead, much of last night's episode left me wanting more. Of course, certain dancers (and pieces) did live up to the "SYT" caliber and hype we're used to.

Team Street's group piece, choreographed by Marty Kudelka (Adam Rose/FOX)

Here are my top five highlights of the ep:

1. Virgil Gadson and Hailee Payne #ftw. Pharside and Phoenix's robotic hip-hop routine came late in the episode, but it was 100 percent worth the wait. Virgil's personality got to really shine, and Hailee proved (once again!) that beautiful stage dancers are totally capable of holding their own in other styles. It was such intricate choreography, but she was a total natural. And you gotta love how both dancers were so committed to the character, they kept it going well after the performance—even during the judges’ feedback. Can we please see this again in the finale?

These two robots are everything. (Virgil and Hailee dominate Pharside and Phoenix's choreo; photo by Adam Rose/FOX)

2. Eddie “Neptune” Eskridge and Kate Harpootlian's heartwarming contemporary routine. The new "SYT" format loves keeping dancers in boxes, so it's super refreshing when a member of Team Street or Team Stage is successful in a style other than their own. And for the third week in a row, Neptune consistently showed off his amazing versatility. In preparation for last night's contemporary routine, choreographed by Justin Giles, Neptune said that he wasn’t as focused on the steps as he was on connecting with Kate—so it seems like he already has the mindset of a contemporary dancer, too. Kate also received some long-deserved praise from the judges for letting her performance speak for itself. All in all, the pair was safe from elimination and stole a piece of my heart.

Understated elegance (Neptune and Kate Harpootlian in a piece by Justin Giles; photo by Adam Rose/FOX)

3. Gaby Diaz, Burim “B1” Jusufi and Ariana Crowder's attack in Sean Cheesman's African Jazz routine. Not many dancers could have pulled this piece off, but this trio knew just how to bring those characters to life. A special shout out to tapper Gaby, who continues to wow us with anything and everything that isn’t her most comfortable discipline. And even though Burim struggled with the choreography, he stayed committed to his character and drew on his b-boy skills to help keep him in sync with the girls. It was a job well done.

FIERCE. (Gaby, Burim and Ariana in a piece by Sean Cheesman; photo by Adam Rose/FOX)

4. Team Stage’s group performance, choreographed by Jaci Royal. You don’t know athleticism and artistry until you see Jaci Royal’s choreography. Even some of the strongest stage dancers seemed to express that they weren’t used to this kind of movement. But with a little challenge comes a big reward. The judges gave this piece a standing ovation, and I bet we'll remember it all season long.

Team Stage in “For My Help,” choreographed by Jaci Royal (Adam Rose/FOX)

5. Jana "Jaja" Vankova's transformation into a contemporary dancer. This girl has been our favorite since forever, and watching her nail a technically challenging Stacey Tookey piece (along with Derek Piquette and Alexia Meyer) brought so much joy. Both Alexia and Derek are such strong technicians, it took some real guts for Jaja to even step up to the plate. You go, girl!

Alexia, Derek and Jaja in Stacey Tookey's contemporary piece (Adam Rose/FOX)

In the end, Burim and Moises Parra were sent packing. I’m sorry to see Burim go, and my heart certainly aches for Moises. The tears streaming down his face said it all—but I don't think this will be the last we'll see of the young contemporary dancer. It was also a pretty big surprise to learn that the judges saved Asaf Goren! Asaf's track record hasn't been the best, so we can only hope that his work ethic continues to improve and he comes back next week stronger than ever.

What do you think? Were the right dancers sent home? Which judge's comment resonated with you the most? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll see you back here next week when the Top 16 perform!

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