"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

Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by Jamayla Burse

Catching Up With Christian Burse, Comp Kid Turned Complexions Rising Star

With her nearly limitless facility, well-timed dynamics and incredible control, Christian Burse's future as a dancer was guaranteed to be bright. A student at the renowned Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, and at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, TX, Burse has consistently made waves: She won first runner-up for Teen Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals in 2019, received a grant for summer study at Juilliard from the Texas Young Masters program in 2020, and was named a YoungArts finalist for dance in 2021.

So, it wasn't all that surprising when Burse announced that, at just 17 years old, she would be joining Complexions Contemporary Ballet as an apprentice for the company's 2021–22 season.

Dance Spirit caught up with Burse to hear all about her first season with Complexions ahead of the contemporary ballet company's run at the Joyce Theater in NYC this month.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search