"SYTYCD" Season 16 Recap: The Live Shows Begin!

August 12, 2019

We did it! We made it to the live competition shows!

The “we” in question, of course, being the viewers and voters at home, the four hardworking judges, and—yay!—the Season 16 Top 10. Last night, the top five guys and the top five women took to the “So You Think You Can Dance” live stage for the first time, performing for viewer votes. Which is no small feat, as evidenced by the past 15 seasons.

And to kick off the live shows, we had a little something new! Gone are the days of the top dancers strutting onstage to perform a solo eight-count before coming together as a group for that sassy step-ball-change walk downstage and that final “here we are!” pose as Cat Deeley bellows, “Welcome! To So You Think You Can Dance!” Nope: Season 16 is all about that tech. The 10 finalists started onstage, performing those aforementioned eight-counts accompanied by crazy laser beams that were seemingly passed from one dancer to the next. Then the dancers united to perform a joyful routine to “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman, choreographed by Mandy Moore. It was totally lovely and happy.

As for the rest of the episode: Each member of the Top 10 performed once with a partner and again as part of a mini group. Up for grabs this season are $250,000, the cover of Dance Spirit (!!!), and the title of America’s Favorite Dancer. Here’s who’s most likely to take it all after last night’s episode.

Mariah and Bailey, Jazz with Mandy Moore

Team small but mighty! During rehearsals, Mandy admitted she wanted to push b-boy Bailey and contemporary dancer Mariah—and oh, did she ever. Her routine, set to the B-52s classic “Love Shack,” was seriously speedy and super fun, and it played to Mariah and Bailey’s strengths as individuals and as an early front-running pair. The tiny duo delivered a larger-than-life performance. Bailey was a great partner, who held his own—and Mariah—in every single one of those lifts. Laurieann lost her voice screaming, she loved it so much (“boom kack, honey!”). Nigel noted that they were small in stature, but enormous in heart. Mary hopped on the love shack train and called Bailey “the biggest shock tonight.” Dominic was blown away and said he was extremely jealous of their chemistry. Season 16 standard: set!

Stephanie and Gino, Hip Hop with Luther Brown

Is this partnership even fair? It seems unfair: It’s too much talent! Stephanie and Gino are both highly-trained, dynamite ballroom performers. So how’d they fare in this swaggy Luther Brown hip-hop routine? They did…well…fine. It was good. It was solid. But ultimately, especially after Bailey and Mariah’s high-energy routine, it fell somewhat flat—nicely done, but forgettable. Dominic said it was OK, Laurieann loved it, Nigel was #TeamDominic (and made a Frozen pun!), and Mary was in favor. A mixed bag all around.

Anna and Benjamin, Cha Cha with Emma and Sasha

Benjamin is a contemporary king. Anna is a hip hopper. So, they did ballroom, of course! (To be fair, Benjamin has done some ballroom training, so he’s not a total novice here.) Despite plenty of drops and falls during rehearsal, these two pulled. it. off. Benjamin performed with confidence, ease, and personality. And for a hip-hop dancer, Anna did pretty well, though her footwork was sloppy at times. (Not surprising, maybe, given that this was only her second time in heels!) Mary said they looked like they were having the time of their lives. Dominic loved it. Laurieann called them “humble warriors.” And Nigel said it was beautiful to watch.

Madison and Ezra, Contemporary with Talia Favia

The first emotional contemporary routine of the season, hooray! This number started off strong, with a huge lift, a series of jogs in place, slow and robotic movements, and a gorgeous penché from Madison that felt like it went on for six full minutes. Ezra is a stunning dancer, but it was hard not to watch Madison throughout the piece. Girl threw down. All four judges gave the pair a standing O. Nigel was proud of the performance, Mary called it pure, honest, and glorious, Dominic said it was his favorite routine of the night, and Laurieann called the pair powerful.

Sophie and Eddie, Jazz Funk with Brian Friedman

Sushi delivery, anyone? Sophie killed this super-fun routine, and Eddie definitely tried to kill it. Ultimately, though, he was out-danced, in terms of both technique and personality. Laurieann said it was well done. Nigel noted that the routine was based on personality, and that Sophie succeeded but Eddie made him uncomfortable. Mary agreed. Dominic thought it was a good time, but said Eddie looked weak.

The Top 5 Girls Group Routine, Choreographed by Travis Wall

Well, this was lovely! Travis Wall has many (SO MANY) incredible skills, and he really thrives creating these group routines. The sections when all five women were dancing in unison were beautiful, but Travis also gave each individual a chance to shine in small-yet-powerful moments throughout the piece.

The Top 5 Guys Group Routine, Choreographed by Luther Brown

And then, in pretty much the exact opposite of what we just saw: The Top 5 men donned Halloween-worthy firemen costumes and got down and dirty. They were somewhere between “about to start a fire” and “ready to extinguish a fire”—a fun line to walk (and pop, and lock). These men are all strong individually, but Brown’s routine didn’t have the same group chemistry that seemed to come so naturally to the Top 5 women.

Remember, your vote counts, so click and dial accordingly! See you back here next week for more dancing, and the first few eliminations.