"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?

3) BABY VIRGIL.

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!

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