Adam Rose/FOX

"SYTYCD" Season 16 Recap: And Then There Were Six

Eight dancers survived the first cuts last week. By the end of this episode, six remain. But first: two hours, two duets each, two group routines, and eight solos. Here's what went down.


The Opening Number

Oh this was fun and fancy! The Top 8 stepped out onstage in flashy feathers, fringe, neon, high heels, and higher ponytails. There were backflips. There were huge lifts. There were leaps, jumps, tricks, turns. There were glow sticks in the audience! So yeah, there was a lot, courtesy of choreographers Jonathan and Oksana Platero. Power to these eight dancers for keeping their energy up throughout what felt like a very long opening number! (Who caught your eye the most? Madison and Mariah were the scene stealers for us.) Welcome! To "So You Think You Can Dance!"

Anna & Benjamin, Tahitian with Tiana Liufau

First, how about a shout-out to "SYT" for really going above and beyond over the past 16 seasons to bring worldly dance forms to the small screen. Without this show, would mainstream audiences in the U.S. know about African Jazz, Tahitian, or Bollywood? As for this one, we're just going to say it: Benjamin totally out-danced Anna. He was lower, groovier, more hyped, just more. Anna looked lovely, but she was sweet and smiley where Benjamin was living. It just didn't feel like a balanced performance. Nigel said it didn't sit comfortably with him, Mary said something about calling the dance police (translation: she loved it), Dominic said their hips told him a great story, and Laurieann said a lot of stuff all indicating she was in favor of the performance. (Soooo none of the judges agreed with our assessment. All good!)

Sophie's Solo

Yay, solos, finally! A chance to see these dancers shine in their own styles and really go for it. Sophie's contemporary solo was sweet and stylized, with lots of quick spins. Stunning!

Madison & Ezra, Hip Hop with Randi and Hef

Fly me to the moon—but make it hip hop. Madison and Ezra were dancing astronauts in this piece, complete with spacesuits and a very cool descent down to the stage. Both of these dancers are fantastic, and they consistency excel at hitting every single beat in whatever choreography they're given. This was no exception. They were on point. But! Madison was super smiley, which seemed a bit out of place at times. Her dancing was so good! But a little too smiley! Mary was feeling some of it, but not all. Dominic noted that Madison is an awesome hip-hop dancer, and said she stood out for him. Laurieann dubbed it "out of this world." (Someone had to go there!) And Nigel said it was generally brilliant.

Gino's Solo

An Andra Day Hamilton cover ("Burn," specifically) and no fewer than 824 tricks in 30 seconds. Bravo, Gino. (Is anyone else really wishing Maddie Ziegler were a judge this season? #firstkiss #neverforget. But she was in the audience, so that's fun!)

Mariah & Bailey, Cha Cha with Dmitry Chaplin

These two have been dubbed the team to beat which, Mariah notes during rehearsal, adds a good amount of pressure. So why not throw them a challenging Cha Cha with a former "SYT" star to really see if they can stay on top? The rehearsal footage indicated that these two would be riding the struggle bus straight to elimination station. Instead, the pulled it OFF, trading a struggle bus for the Hot Tamale Train. Yes, Bailey is smaller than Mariah. Yes, he can still be a darn good partner and toss her around in some complicated lifts—and he proved it during this routine. These two are such dynamic performers and have so much chemistry. This wasn't their best performance to date, but it was solid. Dominic said Bailey struggled on those lifts, but said that was adorable, and that he fell in love with these two even more after that performance. Laurieann called it a "big girl, big boy" routine. Nigel used the words "greatness" and "brilliant" And Mary was all "CHOO CHOO," which means, yes of course, Hot Tamale time! (Also, Bailey gets Mariah flowers before every live show. Can we talk about that? LOVE THAT.)

Madison's Solo

Madison consistently dances with fluidity, with grace, with passion. She's a dynamic group performer and a strong partner, but it was a treat to see her do her own thing for 30 quick seconds. It wasn't anything particularly memorable, but 60-second solos usually aren't. This was strong and on par with everything we've grown to know, love, and expect from Madison.

Ezra's Solo

Conga! A bright red vest with matching pants and shoes! A shaking booty! Ezra is awesome, and this performance was fun and fabulous.

Sophie & Gino, Contemporary with KC Monnie

A new partnership! And wow. In this piece, Gino was telling new-to-"SYT" choreographer KC Monnie's story about coming out to his loved ones. And wow. Wow wow wow. This was really powerful and emotional, and the fact that it was set to "You Will Be Found" from Dear Evan Hansen almost felt cruel. Cue the waterworks, amirite? Sophie and Gino danced beautifully together. Their chemistry was immediate. This was just lovely. Laurieann called this pairing magical. (Agreed.) Nigel said their chemistry is magnificent. (Agreed.) Mary, through tears, said this routine will be remembered all season, and Dominic thanked Sophie and Gino for this performance.

Mariah's Solo

I want to be Mariah when I grow up. She used her half a minute to perform with life, passion, and purpose—as she always does.

Anna & Benjamin, Broadway with Al Blackstone

Did anyone else get The Notebook vibes from this performance? It was slow and sweet, with all the signature, stylized elements that make a piece distinctively Broadway, but without the flash, the jazz, the sparkles, the spotlights. It felt almost indulgent to linger in the moments of stillness, of quiet, of calm. Nigel called it gentle and beautiful, but said it wasn't what people are likely to vote for. Mary said it was played just right, with just the right amount of magic. Dominic used the word genius! And Laurieann said, "THAT WAS AMAZING." All caps implied.

Madison & Ezra, Argentine Tango with Leonardo and Miriam

This style is, historically, a potential death sentence on this show. (Fittingly, the choreographers explained, Ezra represents death in the piece.) Ezra, of course, is a bona fide ballroom babe. But, he admitted during rehearsals, this style is one in which he has zero training. And yet, they pulled it off. These two really do dance well together. They're so strong individually, that when it comes time to move in unison, it seems almost...easy? Nothing about this show is easy, but these two make it look that way every week. (Quick question: Can Madison get an Emmy for Best High-Kicking Legs? Holy cow.) Best Argentine Tango ever on "SYT?" No. It wasn't particularly remarkable or memorable, but it was good. And that last lift was excellent. Mary noted how difficult the choreography was, with all the complicated combinations, lifts, and tricks—and said they did it all beautifully. Dominic gave Ezra some love, which was nice to hear. Laurieann called it intense and cinematic, and Nigel said it was well done.

Benjamin's Solo

Shirtless with a skirt and slicked-back hair. You win, Benjamin, All the solos were good, but Benjamin really went for it. This was so energetic, so explosive, so much. It was the only solo of the night we were begging not to end!

Anna's Solo

Does anyone else keep forgetting that Anna is a hip hopper? Every week, she has proved that she can do other styles really, really well. This solo was a nice, if somewhat tame, reminder that she's an OG hip hopper.

Mariah & Bailey, Contemporary with Mandy and Elizabeth

"Being small, it's hard to find love." —Bailey, during rehearsals. Bailey! Could not possibly love this guy more. Meanwhile, Mariah said she was pumped to get to finally dance in her style. And OMG. These two. This piece. The rooftop prop was a lovely touch, and something the show, in its 16 seasons, has never seen. Mandy and Elizabeth really created something special here. And Bailey and Mariah danced it so beautifully, really giving into the choreography without letting the prop take over the routine. (This isn't easy!) It was reminiscent of Katee and tWitch's door routine. Remember? This was just really nice to watch. (And again, Bailey, crushing those lifts, proving HEIGHT AIN'T NO THANG!) Dominic said this was one of his favorite routines in all 16 seasons. (Wowowowow!) Laurieann called Bailey brilliant and said "Muffin" (Mariah) did well, too. Nigel said they are still the team to beat, and Mary told the world she wants Mariah and Bailey to be partners for the rest of their lives. NO PRESSURE, THOUGH.

Sophie & Gino, Jazz with Jonathan Redavid

In this piece, Gino and Sophie were tasked with, uh, being a new couple getting to know each other. Pretty fitting for the pair dancing together for the first week! And oh baby, was this a way to get to know each other! (I, personally, have never had a first date twirl me around quite like Gino twirled Sophie. Anyone else?) Sophie was sharp and sexy, and Gino was strong and swaggy. The first half was flirty, and the second half was high-energy. There was one lift that was a near-miss, but Gino salvaged it! Look, we were sad to say sayonara to Steph and Eddie, but it meant getting these two as partners, which is an absolute treat. What fun! Laurieann said it was soulful and called Sophie and Gino the new couple to beat. (!!!) Nigel agreed, saying Mariah and Bailey have "great opponents." Mary gave them tickets to board the Hot Tamale Train, and Dominic said it was the best performance of the season for each of them.

Bailey's Solo

OMG THE FUNNEST. Bailey for President. Bailey for everything. We said Benjamin's solo was the best of the night so far, but then Bailey came out and did this. So...yeah. Tough call. Loved 'em both.

Contemporary Group Routine by Talia Favia

Madison, Mariah, Benjamin, and Gino, clad in black hoodies and dancing to Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy," came out ready to throw down. They were serious, but alluringly kind of sexy. Mysterious and angsty. And by the end, Gino and Benjamin were shirtless. Mary called it strong, powerful, and tough. All the judges loved it, and notably loved the shirtless part. Dominic talked a lot about the abs. Everyone laughed a lot. But yeah, unanimous praise and loads of giggles.

Pause for results!

After last week's votes, Cat chimed in with an update: Gino was safe, meaning Benjamin was in danger. Mariah was also safe, putting Madison in danger of leaving. WE HATE THIS PART RIGHT HERE.

African Jazz Group Routine by Sean Cheesman

Sophie, Bailey, Anna, and Ezra's group routine had a totally different vibe than the contemporary crew. It was primal and exciting. It started slow, then built to a high-energy explosion of tricks and really, really, really fast choreography. This looked exhausting. Mary was feeling it, Dominic thanked the dancers, Laurieann welcomed them to the dream, and Nigel...praised Bailey's solo. Can't blame him!

More results!

Ezra and Anna found themselves in danger. Sophie and Bailey were sent to safety.

And finally...

Ultimately, the judges saved Madison and Ezra, which meant Anna and Benjamin were the next two voted off the island. And then there were six...

Latest Posts


Photo by Lindsay Thomas

Ashton Edwards Is Breaking Down Gender Barriers in Ballet

When Ashton Edwards was 3 years old, the Edwards family went to see a holiday production of The Nutcracker in their hometown, Flint, MI.

For the young child, it was love at first sight.

"I saw a beautiful, black Clara," Ashton says, "and I wanted to be just like her."

Ashton has dedicated 14 years of ballet training in pursuit of that childhood dream. But all the technical prowess in the world can't help Ashton surmount the biggest hurdle—this aspiring dancer was assigned male at birth, and for the vast majority of boys and men, performing in pointe shoes hasn't been a career option. But Ashton Edwards, who uses the pronouns "he" and "they," says it's high time to break down ballet's gender barrier, and their teachers and mentors believe this passionate dancer is just the person to lead the charge.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo Courtesy of Apple TV+

All the Hollywood and Broadway Musical Moments to Look for in “Schmigadoon!”

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of about two dozen dancers got the rare opportunity to work on an upcoming Apple TV+ series—one devoted entirely to celebrating, and spoofing, classic 1940s and '50s musicals from the Great White Way and Hollywood. "Schmigadoon!", which premiered on AppleTV+ July 16, stars Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, who get stuck inside a musical and must find true love in order to leave. The show features a star-studded Broadway cast, including Aaron Tveit, Ariana DeBose, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Jane Krakowski and Dove Cameron, and is chock-full of dancing courtesy of series choreographer, Christopher Gattelli.

"The adrenaline was pretty exciting, being able to create during the pandemic," says Gattelli. "I felt like we were representing all performers at that point. There were so many who wanted to be working during the pandemic, so I really tried to embrace this opportunity for all of them."

Gattelli says it was a dream come true to pay tribute to the dance geniuses that preceded him, like Michael Kidd, Agnes de Mille, Onna White and Jerome Robbins, in his choreography. Each number shows off a "little dusting" of their work.

Dance Spirit spoke with Gattelli about all the triumphs and tribulations of choreographing in a pandemic, and got an inside look at specific homages to look out for.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

Shouldering the Load: What kind of dance bag should dancers use?

Walk into any dance convention, audition or class, and you'll see a vast variety of dance bags lining the walls. But can the style of bag you use (and how you wear it) have an impact on your dancing?

Don't worry—you won't have to shoulder the load alone. Dance Spirit spoke with two physical therapists who specialize in working with dancers to find out what dance bag is best.

What should dancers look for in a dance bag?

Dr. Meghan Gearhart, physical therapist and owner of Head2Toe Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC, recommends dancers opt for a backpack-style dance bag rather than a duffel or cross-body bag.

"A bag that pulls the weight all to one side creates a side bend and rotation in the trunk," Gearhart says. "That is going to lead to muscle imbalances that will affect dancers while they're dancing, as well as just in regular everyday life." Muscle imbalances can mean limited mobility on one side of your body, as the muscles on one side are overly contracted and the other side is overly extended to compensate.

Gearhart suggests dancers pick a backpack made from a lightweight yet durable and breathable material, such as cotton, linen, nylon or polyester. Straps should be wide enough to not dig into your shoulder muscles, so avoid drawstring styles with rope straps. Adjustable and padded straps are best, so you can wear the straps at a length where the bag rests at the middle of your back.

Dr. Bridget Kelly Sinha, physical therapist and founder of Balanced Physical Therapy and Dance Wellness in Matthews, NC, emphasizes the importance of finding an even weight distribution when choosing a dance bag.

"If a dancer has a lot to bring, like when heading to the theater for a full day of rehearsals and performances, then I recommend a rolling suitcase to offset the load," Sinha says.

How should dancers wear their bags?

Even if you've selected the perfect dance bag, it's important to be mindful of how you wear it.

Gearhart advocates wearing both straps when carrying your backpack. She also suggests placing heavier items towards the back of the bag, where they will sit closer to your body. A bag with straps that are too loose (or a bag that is too heavy) can create an increased arch in the lower back or cause a dancer to compensate for the weight by leaning forward. Ideally, Gearhart recommends a dancer's dance bag weighing no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

"I usually tell dancers to use their common sense. If you don't have tap today, you don't need to bring the tap shoes," she says. "If your water bottle makes the bag too heavy, just carry it." If your studio offers lockers, take advantage of that storage space to lessen the number of clothes, shoes, and dance accessories that live in your dance bag.

And if you think your bad dance-bag habits have given you alignment issues, seek out a dance physical therapist to prevent further injuries.

"As a dancer, your body is working so hard all day," Sinha says. "It does not need excess strain from your bag."

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search