"SYTYCD" Season 12 Recap: The Top Eight Perform

Whew. We're really getting down to the wire here. It's so hard to see people go home when they've come so far, but it's a "SYTYCD" world and we're just living in it. Fortunately, we have people like Paula to keep us grounded. She nails it, week after week, giving the dancers concrete criticism. Even when someone goes home they know what they need to work on.

Without further ado, here are my top 5 highlights from last night's episode, featuring the Top 8 dancers.

1) Jim Nowakowski's solo.

(Photo via Fox)

I just can't even. So. Perfect. I think Jim was a bit shortchanged tonight—the judges wanted to see him connect, and then his Pharside and Phoenix duet with his All-Star partner Comfort Fedoke played off of the Medusa myth and prevented him from making eye contact. That's a little bit tough to work around. Fortunately, he was able to show off his mind-blowing facility through his solo. It's so wonderful to know that someone is just going to get better and better.

2) I can't get enough of Jana “Jaja” Vankova.

(Photo via Fox)

Her solo was INSANE. Her body control and physicality are unbelievable, but what's even more astonishing is her musicality. It's the same reason we love to watch tWitch, Fik-Shun and Cyrus: They're all instruments with their bodes. And may I just point out that I called her as a contender last year?


Has there ever been a cuter tiny dancer? (No.) It was obvious from his #throwback clip that Virgil Gadson has had star power since he was three years old. He's a born entertainer and it's absolutely no surprise that he's already had a career on Broadway. I think "SYTYCD" is a great chance for him to grow as a performer in other genres, but that dude is made for the Great White Way. Oh, and I called him as a contender too.

4) Jaja again.

That smolder tho (also, HIIIII Ricky)! (Photo via Fox)

She and her All-Star partner Ricky Ubeda blew me away in Al Blackstone's Broadway number. I really wasn't sure what to expect because I haven't seen Jaja embody the kind of fluffy lightness that ladies on Broadway are sometimes called on to perform. But of course, she killed it. As Jason Derulo said, and he was absolutely right, she looked like a 1920s movie star—her face and body language was so expressive. Paula pointed out that nobody creates a character quite like Jaja, and that's the truth.

5) Gaby Diaz and her All-Star partner Robert Roldan.

(Photo via Fox)

They were spectacular in a contemporary routine by Mandy Moore. (I saved the best for last.) Yes, the technique and partnering was exquisite. Beyond that, though, the dancing felt like real storytelling. It flowed through the two of them in a way that was so convincing and gorgeous that it seemed like a spontaneous expression of their emotions. Of course, they brought the house down and earned a standing ovation from the judges.

In the end, we said goodbye to Derek Piquette and Eddie “Neptune” Eskridge (sniff). Were they the right dancers to leave? Has America made a grave mistake? Let us know in the comments below. And check back here next week for our recap of the Top 6 episode!

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