"SYTYCD" Season 15 Recap: When 10 Become 8
And then there were eight. Just as we were starting to get attached to the Top 10, those pesky "So You Think You Can Dance" rules came into play and forced us (er, the judges) to slash two of the finalists from the competition. How rude! (But, Nigel announced ever-so-proudly, the entire Top 10 will be going on tour together once the season wraps.) Before the eliminations, each couple performed twice—and never in any dancer's own style. "So anything could happen," explained Cat Deeley, clad in a splashy, sequined floral minidress and a massive hair bow. And oh boy, a LOT of things did.
The Opening Routine
Choreographer: Luther Brown
Song: "Yummy" by Gwen Stefani ft. Pharrell
First, give it up for the throwback jam. Then, give it up for the "SYT" glam team and those super dramatic, painted-on eyebrows. Finally, give it up for Cole's ab reveal. (That was Cole, right? It would be helpful if, for just these first few episodes, the contestants wore name tags during the opening routine, don't you think? We're still getting to know each other!) This routine was fun, fabulous, quirky and clean.
Magda & Darius
Choreographer: Nakul Dev Mahajan
Song: "Badri Ki Dulhania" by Badrinath Ki Dulhania (soundtrack)
The good thing about delivering a killer performance during the first week of competition is that you get to set the bar for the entire group. The bad thing? You set it just as high for yourself. Magda and Darius shone last week, which meant they had to be even better this week. As the first couple out of the gates, they exploded onto the stage with a burst of energy and neon-splashed costumes. Their energy faded a bit as the performance went on (understandabl,e considering how intense Nakul's routines are every single time), but that kiss at the end? "Now that is how to do Bollywood," Cat remarked. Nigel said the routine was like "a Vegas buffet" and praised the couple's energy, while Vanessa loved "how joyous that was" and also Magda's hands. tWitch noted the celebratory feel, and Mary thanked the duo for getting the party started. In other words: rave reviews.
Chelsea & Evan
Style: Lyrical hip hop
Choreographer: Christopher Scott
Song: "Love on the Brain" by Rihanna
Not only did Chelsea have to master a tap routine last week, she also suffered a bit of an injury. So girl's got this game stacked against her a bit. But Chris Scott threw her and Evan a bone with this choreography, which was about a couple breaking up and moving out of their shared home. They were so emotional, so committed, and so into it, and the result was angsty and raw. Vanessa appreciated the emotion and the prop work, while tWitch said he still wanted more connection from the couple. Mary said it wasn't bad and that it was better than last week, but wanted it to be more Mr. & Mrs. Smith-esque, and Nigel said it was the most he'd seen Chelsea and Evan connect but that it still wasn't enough.
Hannahlei & Cole
Choreographer: Joe Brown
Song: "Pump It Up" by Joe Budden
Stepping on "SYTYCD!" Yes! Joe Brown's routine marked the first time a couple performed this style on the show—and Hannahlei, a former cheerleader, took to it naturally. The choreography was super-intricate—between the rhythmic stepping, the constant arm choreography, the clapping, and the occasional développé or side aerial—but the duo stuck with it. Were they perfectly in sync? Not the entire time. Did Hannahlei totally steal the show, with her extra-large personality packed into her itty-bitty body? Yes. tWitch acknowledged that the energy was there while the rhythm was lacking, particularly from Cole. Mary loved the style and said they did it justice, particularly Hannahlei. And Nigel told Cole to, "Keep working at it, bro."
Jensen & Jay Jay
Choreographer: Jaci Royal
Song: "Lost Without You" by Freya Ridings
The plot here was that Jensen broke up with Jay Jay, but now she wants him back. Jay Jay called it "a doozy," and it was—a beautiful doozy. The intricate partner work was nonstop, and Jensen and Jay Jay matched each other nicely. Overall, it was a solid technical and emotional performance by two solid dancers. It was enough to get Mary choked up, and for her to declare it the best performance of the night so far. Nigel said he knew it was good because Mary and Vanessa were both crying, and praised Jensen for being a powerhouse and Jay Jay for being a strong partner. Vanessa said, "It was like, perfection," and tWitch wrapped things up with "nothing but praises."
Genessy & Slavik
Choreographer: Sharna Burgess
Song: "Jump, Jive An' Wail" by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Last week, these two quickly became the couple to beat. This week, the hip hoppers were tasked with jive's fast and fancy footwork—which, it turns out, was NBD for them. Their chemistry is, as we saw last week, undeniable, and they're all about show quality, but they have the chops to back it all up, too. That lift at the end? Crushed it—earning them another standing ovation from the judges! In the immortal words of Vanessa Hudgens: "Literally, oh my god, you guys, what?!"
Magda & Darius
Style: Smooth jazz
Choreographer: Mandy Moore
Song: "Fever" by Peggy Lee
Class, elegance, and style: that's what Mandy Moore was going for here, in a very La La Land way. And not only did it work, it werked. The oh-so-dapper outfits? That sizzling eye contact at the end? This chic but simple routine was downright steamy. Vanessa loved the control and personality, tWitch appreciated the effortless power of subtlety, Mary liked the "just perfect" shimmy at the end and the "hot sauce," and Nigel dug the elegance and sophistication.
Chelsea & Evan
Choreographer: Travis Wall
Song: "Snowing" by Sonya Kitchell
A Travis Wall contemporary routine! With actual snow onstage! JACKPOT. The premise, Travis explained, would be simple, but the choreography? Not so much. Travis forced Chelsea and Evan way out of their comfort zones (as he does), trying to get them to that breakthrough moment. Did they find it? Well, it was definitely lovely. The emotion was there. The snow was very pretty. And the choreography was, as the world knows to expect from Travis Wall, stunning. tWitch said it was beautifully done and to keep chasing that connection, Mary said both dancers are super talented and that they found their chemistry together in this piece. Nigel loved their courage. Vanessa said it was gorgeous but that she didn't feel as much as she wanted to.
Hannahlei & Cole
Choreographer: Doriana Sanchez
Song: "Last Dance" by Donna Summer
"I don't know anything about the seventies, but I know how to have a good time," Hannahlei said during rehearsal. Cole promised they'd collectively bring the razzle and the dazzle, and did they ever. The opening death drop spin, the splashy costumes, the sassy hip shaking, the big lifts, the beaming smiles, Hannahlei's larger-than-life (and larger than her entire body) hair: It was all fun, energetic, and high-flying. Mary gave it a breathless standing ovation, Nigel called it scintillating, Vanessa said they brought it to another level, and tWitch praised Cole's strength as a partner.
Jensen & Jay Jay
Style: African jazz
Choreographer: Sean Cheesman
Song: "Run" by Hybrid Core Music & Sound
"They are an African totem pole come to life," Cheesman explained. And that concept involved Jensen doing the lifting—so it's a good thing she recently picked up a boxing habit. Again, major kudos to the "SYT" glam team and the costume department, because this look was a lewk. And props to Cheesman for this insane choreography, which packed the intensity of a 45-minute SoulCycle class, a 60-minute Barry's Bootcamp class, and a 90-minute ballet class into a single two-minute routine. It was so awesomely wild, so heart-pumping, so much. The judges gave it a unanimous standing ovation, with Nigel in particular praising just how difficult the choreography was—and calling Jensen and Jay Jay the strongest couple on the show. Vanessa said it was "dumbfounding" and animalistic, and tWitch tried to convince viewers at home to recreate the routine at home to prove its difficulty, which, hard pass, but point made. Mary called it the best number of the night.
Genessy & Slavik
Choreographer: Al Blackstone
Song: "Someone to Watch Over Me" by Ella Fitzgerald
What a lovely way to end the evening! (Before the results, that is. Those are less lovely.) This piece was slow, sweet, and sentimental, and played perfectly to Genessy and Slavik's undeniable chemistry while also allowing them to slow down and luxuriate in moves as simple as walking across the stage or holding a flower. Vanessa sobbed ("You did Broadway, and you told a story!"), and Mary tearfully said she wanted to give them a Tony for their "tender" performance.
Then it was time for—gulp—the results.
The bottom four: Chelsea, Magda, Evan, and Cole
ELIMINATED: Chelsea & Evan
We'll miss those two! See you all next week for more great performances—and more tearful eliminations.