The Top 6 (plus All-Stars) in the "Ramalama"-esque opening number (Adam Rose/FOX)

"SYTYCD" Season 16 Recap: So Long, Sweet Summer—And Hello, Top 4

Summer is synonymous with "So You Think You Can Dance." For the past 15 seasons (because there was that rogue sixth season that aired in the fall, remember?), the onset of summer has signaled the start of the audition rounds. And Labor Day weekend has meant it's time to wind down.

But while we've reached that end-of-summer time, this year, it seems like the season should just be getting started. The live shows only began a few weeks ago! The chemistry is finally starting to heat up! Dominic has only cried, like, 12 times! Surely we can't already be down to the Top 4, can we?

We can. Last night, the Top 6 took to the live show stage for a partner routine, a solo, a mini group performance, and a duet with an All-Star. By the end, four remained—the four going on to compete in the grand finale. Here's what happened, and who's still in it to win it.

The Opening Number

If you watched this opening routine and thought to yourself, "Hmm, looks like there are more than six dancers underneath that magical sheet," you were correct—because the All-Stars were in the house last night! This Pharside and Phoenix routine delivered total "Ramalama (Bang Bang)" vibes, and was a fun, sensory-overloading way to open the evening. Love seeing that stage filled with dancers!

Bailey & All-Star Koine, Broadway with Al Blackstone

OK, so Bailey gets to dance with Mariah every week, and then he's paired with All-Star Koine?! Talk about hitting the duo jackpot. Bailey admitted he had never done Broadway before learning this Al Blackstone routine, but he was up for the challenge—and it paid off. As a very dapper waiter, Bailey was sweet, suave, and funny without being over the top. (Although that leap over Koine's head was over the top, literally and figuratively.) Dare ya to re-watch this one without smiling ear-to-ear! The judges gave it a standing ovation. Dominic said the performance was believable and not corny, Laurieann said "O-M-G," Nigel called Bailey outstanding, and Mary said he was the entertainer of the show.

Gino & All-Star Comfort, Hip Hop with Luther Brown

The last time Gino did a hip-hop routine, it wasn't the best. So this, he admitted, was his redemption round. And boy, did he ever redeem himself! Hip-hopping alongside Comfort is no easy feat for anyone ever—she just shines—but as the King Tut to her Cleopatra, Gino hit every move, every step, every mark. It was standing ovation-worthy! Laurieann called it amazing, Nigel said there was a lot of sauce on Gino's spaghetti (a good thing), Mary praised Gino for coming out fighting, and Dominic called Gino a star.

Madison & All-Star Lex, Jazz with Mandy Moore

DREAM. TEAM. ALERT. This sixties-inspired routine required a lot of acting, a lot of legs, and a lot of sass, which, check, check, check! Madison and Lex were perfectly in sync with their side-by-side leaps, their stylized walks, and every shoulder shimmy and hip shake in between. Nigel said Madison finally let her emotions go (a good thing), Mary loved the vibe and character, and Dominic called it Madison's best performance of the season, but Laurieann wanted Madison to let go a little bit more.

Sophie & All-Star Kiki, Samba with Pasha Kovalev

Sophie got All-Stars times two—a partner and a choreographer! And it was good to have that support system for this routine, because wow, the samba is hard. Sophie wore the heck out of that sparkly costume, and it's safe to say we'll never hear Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" the same way again, but this routine felt a bit clunky, if we're being honest (which we always are). That said, the judges gave the routine a standing ovation, so they saw something else. Mary said Sophie looked like a professional ballroom dancer, Dominic said Sophie is blowing up at the right time in the competition, Laurieann called Sophie incredible, and Nigel was glad Sophie relaxed into the fun of the routine. Fair points!

Mariah & All-Star Fik-Shun, Hip Hop with Misha Gabriel

Look, we want Mariah and Bailey 2gether 4life, but we have to admit we were very into her vibe with Fik-Shun during this hip-hop routine. Mariah's hat fell off just a few counts in (#relatable), but she kept dancing like a pro. And then the canes came out, and they had some fun with those, and there were no cane casualties. Dominic said Mariah, a contemporary dancer, is one of his favorite hip-hop dancers this season—interesting! Laurieann called it magical, Nigel didn't feel it and said it wasn't his favorite Mariah performance, and Mary then disagreed with Nigel, saying Mariah is consistently magical.

Ezra & All-Star Gaby, Contemporary with Robert Roldan

Robert as choreographer?! LOVE THAT! Ezra really broke through during this performance; it felt like he finally let out the breath he's been holding all season. And the partnering in this piece was dynamite, especially after things picked up about halfway through. After that point, it was on—on fire, on point, on the mark. The judges gave it a standing ovation and Ezra collapsed into tears at the end, and this show! We are all always crying! Laurieann called it breathtaking and fantastic, Nigel praised Ezra for being honest with himself, Mary said this was Ezra's night, and Dominic called Ezra inspiring.

Sophie & Gino, Broadway with Warren Carlyle

These cuties just kicked off their partnership a week ago. But already they are [insert a million fire emojis]. And they dove right into Warren Carlyle's joyful choreography. Sophie called it the most fun dance she's ever done on the show, and we have to agree. It was sweet and cute and technical and challenging and truly the total package—sealed with a KISS! Swooooooon. Nigel loved that they used the entire stage, Mary compared Gino to Gene Kelly, Dominic wanted to know what's up with the kiss (SAME), and Laurienn gave it a "boomkack."

Mariah & Bailey, Jazz with Ray Leeper

Bailey is into Mariah. Mariah is leading him on. That was the story behind this sexy routine. The couple to beat was determined to stay on top, and boy did they dance. this. OUT. Honestly, it was kind of nice to just sit back and watch a classic jazz routine that wasn't packed to the brim with over-the-top tricks. The judges lost their minds for it. Mary called it an unbelievable masterpiece and said they were still the couple to beat. Dominic was blown away. Laurieann gave it a "well, well, well..." followed by a very dramatic laugh. And Nigel called Mariah and Bailey the most sensational couple.

Madison & Ezra, Disco with Doriana Sanchez

Disco: speed, accuracy, detail, and "a lot of challenging, acrobatic lifts," according to Doriana Sanchez—which is exactly what this routine was. And it was great! There was one clunky lift, but we'll let that slide, because the rest of it was great (and surely exhausting.) Dominic recalled how challenging disco was for him on the show, and therefore praised Madison and Ezra for their performance. Laurieann said Madison killed it and called Ezra amazing. Nigel was mad he didn't get the email to wear glitter, but appreciated the sparkle in the routine. And Mary said it gave everyone disco fever.

The Top 3 Girls, Group Routine with Ray Leeper

We always support head-to-toe pleather costuming! This legalicious routine felt very every-woman-for-herself. Sure, it would've been feel-goody to see some warm and fuzzy chemistry—but instead, each of the remaining ladies got a chance to dance her best. Lots of all-around strength here, and some exceptional technique. It brought the judges to their feet, with Laurieann calling it brilliant, and Nigel admitting it wouldn't be an easy task sending one of these three home. Mary delivered a very sweet "you're all winners" sentiment, and Dominic acknowledged what an honor it's been watching these three women throughout the competition.

The Top 3 Guys, Group Routine with Talia Favia

When does Talia Favia get her Emmy?! This piece for Bailey, Ezra, and Gino was simply beautiful. That stillness at the beginning (did you hold your breath the whole time?) was mesmerizing. And then, when the stillness broke, everything was explosive, wild, and intense. Biggest props to the Top 3 guys for bringing it all to life so perfectly. (And for the group hug at the end! Aw!) Nigel called out Gino specifically for standing out in the group. Mary said it was wonderful. Dominic praised all three men for living in the moment. And Laurieann said this was the power of dance—speaking without opening their mouths. So basically, we all loved this.

But now...the sad part. The hard goodbyes.

Your Season 16 Top 4

Ultimately, based off last week's votes (good job, America!) and the most recent round of performances, the judges sent Gino, Mariah, Bailey, and Sophie through to the finale. So that meant a difficult, tearful goodbye to Madison and Ezra.

Here we GO!

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

Enter the Cover Model Search