So You Think You Can Dance – My top 20 dances of all time to celebrate season 8’s top 20

Tonight, the top 20 dancers will strut their stuff and officially kick off season 8 of So You Think You Can Dance.  Spurred on by Entertainment Weekly, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and rewatch my favorite dances from the past.  It was a lot harder to narrow down than I though it would be, and it also hit home just how strong some seasons were vs. others.  For instance, I only chose one dance from season 6 vs 4 from season 4 and 5 from season 5 (huh.  How appropriate.)  One note before I get into the videos: stupidly, I didn’t watch the first season of this show, so I have not chosen any of those dances.

My favorite number of all time is a group number, so I’m including it as a bonus.  Wade Robson’s choreography for “Ramalama” (season 2, top 10 results show routine) has stuck with me ever since it first aired.  I love the characterization that each dancer brings to the performance and feel like I’m watching an 18th century zombie ball which is just nuts.  I know it’s a bit derivative of the choreography from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, but I really don’t care.  Wade adds his own flair to it and it is just bursting with energy.

And we’re off!

#20  Kayla & Jason “They’re Everywhere” zombie hip-hop choreographed by Shane Sparks (Season 5):  This is one of those dances that is more memorable for the costumes than the dancing, but it is still totally memorable.  I love that Jason and Kayla seem like they are characters ripped straight from a comic book.  And the part at the end where Jason kills Kayla?  Brilliant.


#19 Janette & Brandon “Ruby Blue” jazz choreographed by Wade Robson (Season 5): I adore Wade’s choreography and this routine is a perfect example of why.  It is fun, quirky, silly and utterly engaging.  Plus, Brandon and Janette fit into it perfectly.


#18 Will & Katee “Imagine” Pas de Deux choreographed by Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden (Season 4): There are really only four main styles represented on the SYTYCD stage – contemporary, jazz, hip hop and ballroom (although many times, jazz and contemporary are indistinguishable to me).  I love when the show has the right dancers and the right choreographers at the right time and are able to highlight something a little different, like this modern ballet piece.


#17 Jesus & Sara “Cabaret Hoover” jazz choreographed by Wade Robson (Season 3): Another quirky entry into the Wade cannon.  I think this one stuck with me because I was such a big Jesus/Sara fan during season 3.


#16 Travis & Heidi “Calling You” bench contemporary choreographed by Mia Michaels (Season 2): This was the routine that changed it all.  Looking back, it’s fairly simple, but it packs quite a punch.  Mia worked to the strengths of her dancers and created a piece that told a distinct story with simple, beautiful choreography.  It was the first routine on the show that really moved me in some way.


#15 Billy & Ade “Mad World” contemporary choreographed by Stacy Tookey (Season 7): I was not the biggest fan of season 7’s inclusion of the all stars, but it did make for some pretty great pairings including the one between Billy and Ade.  They both look like they are made of rubber as they maneuver around each other in this beautiful Stacy Tookey routine.


#14 Chelsie & Joshua “A Los Amigos” argentine tango choreographed by Dmitry Chaplin (Season 4): Ballroom is notoriously difficult and usually puts the dancers in the bottom of the pack for the week.  However, this argentine tango was expertly performed by Chelsie and Joshua.


#13 Hok & Jaimie “The Chairman’s Waltz” AKA “Hummingbird” contemporary jazz choreographed by Wade Robson (Season 3):  Wade called this routine his take on ballet and it was spellbinding to me.  Hok (a hip hop dancer) really pushed himself in this routine and he and Jaimie created fully realized characters in the span of only about a minute and a half.


#12 Sabra & Neil “Sweet Dreams” jazz choreographed by Mandy Moore (Season 3): Mandy Moore is one of my favorite choreographers (and no, it’s not just because she shares a name with my celebrity girl-crush, singer Mandy Moore).  She tends to use songs from the 80’s and brings a great, fun vibe to her routines.  I’ve noticed her choreographing more serious pieces as of late, but I would really like to see her return to form.


#11 Ellenore & Jakob “Tore My Heart” jazz choreographed by Sonya Tayeh (Season 6):  This is my only selection from season 6.  Not because season 6 didn’t have great dancers/dances, but because it was the miserable fall season that just felt completely out of place.  However, not even that could put a damper on Ellenore and Jakob’s intense Sonya Tayeh number.


#10 Neil & Kent “How It Ends” contemporary choreographed by Travis Wall (Season 7):  Another great all star/contestant pairing that came from season 7’s changes.  Both Kent and Neil showed an amazing amount of power and agility in this routine choreographed by season 2 contestant Travis Wall.  It has been an absolute joy to watch him grow as a choreographer and I’m really looking forward to what he does next.


#9 Jeanine & Jason “If It Kills Me” contemporary choreographed by Travis Wall (Season 5):  Oh, I adore this routine so much.  It has so much passion and requires so much precision.  Jeanine and Jason were paired together for the first time when they danced this and they were just oozing chemistry.


#8 Mark & Courtney “The Garden” jazz choreographed by Sonya Tayeh (Season 4): Another quirky Sonya number that brought me to my feet.  I love how weird and powerful Sonya’s choreography is and even though Courtney wasn’t one of my favorite contestants during her season, this number went a long way toward changing that.


#7 Katee & Joshua “No Air” hip hop choreographed by Tabitha & Napoleon (Season 4):  Season 4 probably had the strongest group as a whole and it shows in how many of the dances made an indelible impact on my psyche.  Another thing season 4 had that the previous three didn’t was hip-hop choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon.  They brought grace to hip hop and yet didn’t sacrifice any of its edge to do so.


#6 Danny & Lacey “Hip Hip Chin Chin” samba choreographed by Dmitry Chaplin (Season 3):  Sexy, sexy, sexy.  That’s all you really need to know about this samba choreographed by season 2 contestant Dmitry.  I don’t know why it impresses me when former contestants come back to choreograph, but it feels like we have seen them graduate to something bigger and better (I feel the same way when I see a former contestant on Glee or Dancing With The Stars).


#5 Allison & Alex “Hallelujah” contemporary choreographed by Sonya Tayeh (Season 7):  Oh my god is this dance gorgeous and totally unexpected from Sonya.  Alex Wong might be the single most talented dancer to ever appear on SYTYCD and I still consider it a great tragedy that he got hurt after only the third episode.


#4 Jeanine & Kayla “The Four Sections: IV” contemporary choreographed by Mia Michaels (Season 5):  This seems sort of like an out of left field choice, but it just got a foothold in my brain and I can’t get it out.  I find this performance totally cool and hypnotic and expertly performed.  Mia gets a lot of praise for the “bench” dance from season 2, but I think this underrated gem might be her best.


#3 Mark & Chelsie “Bleeding Love” hip hop choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon (Season 3): I love the way this dance is smooth and yet sharp at the same time (the moves are smooth, the emotions are sharp).  It is a really powerful performance and perhaps the first time that Mark and Chelsie really gelled as a partnership.


#2 Alex & tWitch “Outta Yo Mind” hip hop choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon (Season 7):  I have never thoroughly enjoyed a dance/performance more than this hip-hop routine.  The juxtaposition of Alex’s ballet training with tWitch’s street dancing was fantastic as was the realization that Alex is just an out of this world amazing dancer.  He brought so much personality to the routine, he almost eclipsed tWitch!


#1 Kayla & Kupono “Gravity” contemporary choreographed by Mia Michaels (Season 5):  Perhaps more emotionally affective than any other dance on the show, I still get chills whenever I watch this Mia routine (dubbed the “addiction” dance).  Kupono hadn’t really impressed up to that point and Kayla had been stuck holding her partners up so this dance gave them both an opportunity to really shine.

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