"SYTYCD" Season 12 Recap: The First Elimination Episode

July 20, 2015

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Sheryl Crow says the first cut is the deepest—and she doesn’t lie. Last night brought us “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 12’s first elimination, and it was tough. This early in the game, it’s so hard to say just what Stage dancer Darion Flores and Street dancer Lily Frias might have been able to accomplish over the course of the season, had they been given the chance to stay. And while both dancers are fabulous in their own way (imo), it is, alas, a competition. Luckily, there were some really amazing moments to help me get through the night. (And tonight’s “SYT” 10th anniversary special will be nothing short of amazeballs!)

The “SYTYCD” Top 20 in the Pharside & Phoenix opening number (photo: Adam Rose/Fox)

Here are my top 5 moments from the two-hour ep:

1. Jim Nowakowski and Jana “Jaja” Vankova’s animated duet.
This. Just this. (I’m definitely not saving the best moment for last!) Like Team Street mentor tWitch speculated during rehearsals, Christopher Scott’s routine might become one of the top pieces of the entire season. #Callingit. Set to Bob Marley and the Wailer’s iconic “No Woman No Cry,” it actually did make many people cry—including Nigel Lythgoe! Lythgoe got pretty emotional when he admitted this is the performance he’s been hoping for since he first dreamed up the whole show: a piece bringing together the individual strengths of a ballet dancer (like Jim) and a hip-hop dancer (like Jaja) to create something unique and fresh. It was reminiscent of Alex Wong and tWitch’s unforgettable “Outta Your Mind,” but the dancers’ theatricality and the choreography’s detailed specificity went a bit further. (It reminded me of some of Keone and Mari Madrid‘s best work.) I, for one, look forward to seeing this piece—and these dancers!—in the finale episodes. #Callingitagain.

2. Ariana Crowder and Derek Piquette’s classic jazz routine.
I’m going to quote tWitch again: “What team is Ariana on?” She’s supposedly Team Street—but I’m convinced this naturally technical dancer was born to grace the proscenium stage. This was one of two Ray Leeper-choreographed routines during the show, and I loved how much Paula Abdul relished its classic jazz vocabulary. She’s right: It’s refreshing to watch dancers both hit clean lines and really get into the groundedness of jazz.

3. Spencer Liff’s jazzy rendition of “All About that Bass.”
Um, can we talk for a second about how Kate Harpootlian totally channeled Jessica Rabbit this week? Just give her a red dress in place of that sparkly blue number, and it’d almost be a perfect match! In all seriousness, though, Liff’s sultry Broadway-inspired routine was no joke. I want to give a shout out to Eddie “Neptune” Eskridge, who dove head first into the challenging choreography—and did it well enough to save himself from elimination. Congrats!

4. Team Street’s group performance, choreographed by Christopher Scott and Phillip Chbeeb.
I’m not sure how Scott and Chbeeb came up with the idea to use four see-saws as props in this routine, but I’m sure glad he did. (Maybe Scott was fooling around with something similar for Teen Beach 2?) From the moment Virgil Gadson ran across the row of playground equipment, I was mesmerized. There wasn’t much story behind this one, but the unique and complex choreography allowed each dancer to create his or her own raison de danser.

5. Team Stage’s group performance, choreographed by the dancers’ very own mentor, Travis Wall.
Two words: Epic music. Set to a driving score by Woodkid, Wall’s choreography seemed like the finale to a larger work. There was so much unison, so many thrilling leaps and falls. True, it started to feel a lot like the choreo Wall creates for his own Shaping Sound Dance Company. But the audience—and the judges—ate it up. Standout moments? Alexia Meyer’s daredevil toss, and the entire group’s powerful group moment in second position grand plié.

In the end, Darion, Ariana, Derek, Lily, Neptune and Moises Parra were in danger. Neptune and Moises were saved by viewers’ Twitter votes; the judges saved Derek and Ariana; and Darion and Lily were sent packing.

What do you think? Were the right dancers sent home? Who’s your early favorite? Is Jason DeRulo totally hopeless as a judge? (Pretty much.) Let us know in the comments, and we’ll see you back here next week when the Top 18 perform!