TV Time: SYTYCD Season 11 “Top 6 Perform”

I sincerely apologize for not posting a recap of last week’s episode. I spent most of the week traveling, so I didn’t have a chance to watch the Top Eight episode until Tuesday night. I hope this recap makes up for it!

How is it already almost So You Think You Can Dance finale time? My heart always ends up broken when it gets to the Top Six eliminations because, by this point, I’ve fallen in love with all of these dancers for one reason or another. This season was no exception. While I was fairly indifferent toward Jacque, I’d grown to love Casey. Watching him grow to become the confident, poised dancer he is every time he takes the stage now was a pleasure.

With that being said, I am ecstatic to see not just one but two tappers in the Top Four. In case any of you missed this the other 8 billion times I’ve made my bias known, I’m a tapper, and I get ridiculously attached to any and all SYTYCD tappers. I remember the days when there weren’t even any tap auditions shown, when any tapper who actually made the show was eliminated before the Top 10, and when “tapper” was basically a dirty word that the judges said with disdain (which still happens sometimes, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why). To see Aaron make the Top Four last season and be asked back as an All Star is incredible, and the sense of pride I feel when I think about his success only grows when thinking about Valerie and Zack both bringing the style I love to audiences in a SYTYCD finale. I know Ricky is probably going to win (and let’s be honest—he should win), but it’s incredible to see the style that has meant everything to me for 21 years represented in half of this season’s Top Four.

I cry at every tap solo on this show, so I can only imagine what a mess I’m going to be next week watching so much tap on that SYTYCD stage.

In a shocking turn of events, my favorite solo of the night actually belonged to Ricky and not one of my beloved tappers. I still think Zack is otherworldly in terms of the rhythms he creates and the ease with which he carries himself onstage (he’s also a noticeably better tapper than Valerie, actually), but Ricky danced with such abandon in his solo. His technique is flawless, but what astounds me the most about his dancing is the incredible emotion and passion he gives to each movement. He is poetry in motion. I thought Jacque’s solo was creative and cute; Casey’s was pretty predictable but still impressive with all of his turns; and Jessica’s was much stronger than Nigel made it seem. However, Ricky is just in another league. It’s a true joy to get to watch him dance every week.

Ricky and Valerie: Broadway
These two are still a match made in dance heaven. Ricky’s technical brilliance makes Valerie a better dancer, and Valerie’s effusive joy makes Ricky a better performer. That was true during their first weeks as partners, and it was true in their reunion, too. Is Valerie the most graceful dancer ever? No. But I can’t help but get caught up in how happy she looks onstage, and it’s a happiness that comes from within, a light that can’t be faked. Valerie shows on her face what I feel when I dance, and that pure, radiant joy was such a great fit for this routine. It wasn’t the night’s most memorable dance, but it did exactly what it was supposed to do: It made me happy.

Casey and Jessica: Disco
I couldn’t take my eyes off Jessica in this dance (and not just because of her amazingly huge hair). Once again, I got caught up watching someone who looked like she was having the time of her life doing a dance style completely unfamiliar to her. Her infectious enthusiasm and sharp movements helped make this one of my favorite discos in recent memory. (Although nothing will ever top Sara and Neil’s back in Season Three).

Zack and Jacque: Foxtrot
I definitely liked this routine more than the judges did. However, I also know very little about ballroom technique. I thought both Zack and Jacque had a nice grasp of the style (I didn’t feel their faces were staged like Christina Applegate did), but they did lose the smooth quality of their upper bodies and feet when they were in hold. It would have made a fantastic Broadway number, but the parts that seemed to be actual foxtrot technique faltered a bit.

Valerie and tWitch: Hip Hop
I’ve been waiting for one of tWitch’s partners to step up this season and really match his energy level, and I was so pleasantly surprised to see that it was Valerie who was the perfect match for this show’s resident performance master. Hip hop suits Valerie really well, especially a hip hop routine that allows her to show off her personality. She’s not the lightest on her feet or the most graceful, but not every good dancer has to be those things. Instead, she can get down and find the groove of a particular dance really well, which I think comes from her tap training. What no training can teach, however, is the sense of fun Valerie brings to her routines, especially this one. And how can anyone dislike a dance done to “Yeah!” by Usher?

Jacque and Will: Contemporary
Sometimes props are great, and sometimes they’re a distraction. Sadly, this dance fell into the latter category. I initially loved the way the ball was used in the choreography because it allowed for new, creative ways of moving. However, all the balloons at the end were too much for me because it felt like the focus shifted to the balloons and not the beautiful dancers walking around them. I wanted more dancing and less balloons, which is a sentence you will only read in a SYTYCD recap.

Jessica and Ade: Jazz
There are some choreographers you inexplicably love (give me all the Mandy Moore and Stacey Tookey dances), and there are others you can never warm up to for reasons even you can’t figure out. I just don’t get Ray Leeper’s style of jazz. I’m not sure I’ve ever really loved any of his dances. This routine just fell completely flat for me. It didn’t help that both Jessica and Ade seemed to lose steam about halfway through. I think this dance needed an intense amount of energy to really make it work, but that energy was missing for most of it.

Ricky and Anya: Cha Cha
First of all, can we all agree to never call Anya a “beast” again? It was super awkward. Second, could she get any hotter without actually setting fire to the stage when she dances? And finally, how is Ricky so good at everything? Like Christina Applegate said, it takes a lot to draw my attention away from Anya, but Ricky did that. He looked so comfortable in that style, and it’s rare for a contemporary dancer to look that effortless at Latin ballroom. It wasn’t just a sense of ease with his feet, though; it was a comfort that extended to every aspect of his performance. He didn’t look like he was thinking about steps or hold position or making the right facial expressions; he just looked like he was enjoying every moment of that dance.

Casey and Makenzie: Contemporary
As I said earlier in this recap, I love Stacey Tookey. I think her routines really let her dancers shine, and that’s exactly what happened with Casey in this piece. He was so raw and emotionally honest, and this routine was one of the few times this season where I genuinely believed the connection between dancers in a contemporary piece. And I thought both Casey and Makenzie displayed wonderful musicality throughout, especially when the music hit noticeable accents. It was the kind of dance I hold my breath while watching because I don’t want to break the spell, and it was the perfect way for Casey to exit the SYTYCD stage.

Zack and Fik-Shun: Hip Hop
I adore Zack, and even I didn’t know he had this kind of performance in him. To do hip hop is one thing; to hold your own alongside one of the show’s best hip hop dancers is something else entirely, and Zack did exactly that. Like Cat said later on, he didn’t try to do exactly what Fik-Shun did because that’s impossible. But he made that dance his own, and, in doing so, he proved why he belongs in the finale. He’s the most versatile dancer of the season, and he always seems so eager to learn and grow as a dancer. Zack makes me proud to be a tapper, and, even though I know Ricky is going to win, it’s Zack who I’ll be rooting for once it’s time to watch the finale.

Standout Performers: Zack, Ricky

Favorite Routine: Ricky and Anya’s cha cha

9 thoughts on “TV Time: SYTYCD Season 11 “Top 6 Perform”

  1. Ricky and Zack were tied for best solo for me. Watching Ricky I’m usually gasping and emitting other weird noises and trying to pick my jaw up from the floor. I’m a dancer too, and Ricky’s facility is just the stuff of dreams. Like, I have legitimately no idea how he can pull off some of the thing he does. However, watching Zack tap dance just makes my heart sing. Watching him you can tell he loves tapping with every part of his being, not to mention he’s so damn good at it. I heard somewhere he improvs his solos, but don’t quote me on it since I have no idea if it’s actually true or not.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts, and I love what you had to say about both dancers. Zack makes my heart sing too; that’s the most perfect way to describe it. And I’ve heard he improvs his solos, too, which—if it’s true—is just insane in the coolest possible way.

      • Zack pretty much confirmed in a post show interview with pacificrimvideopress that he freestyles his solos. That’s pretty crazy and I think goes to show that he’s probably the best tapper this show has seen.

  2. I am shocked that Valerie beat out first Tanesha and now Jacque. Tanesha is a Melanie in the making and Jacque’s technique and lines are breath taking. Valerie is precious but she does not have the presence or technicality that Jacque and Tanesha have.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us! I will agree that Tanisha should be in the Final Four. I was devastated that she went home. I think she had the best stage presence of any dancer in the Top 10. I wasn’t as sold on Jacque as most people were, though. Her lines were lovely, but a lot of her facial expressions felt forced to me. That’s where I think Valerie beat her. I always have to remind myself that this isn’t a show meant to determine America’s best technical dancer; it’s about who people find the most entertaining to watch. And I think people have really connected with Valerie’s genuine sense of joy.

  3. I am all in for Zach. Period. He’s my Sabra this season. He came out of no where and charmed the pants off of me week after week and I could watch him tap everyday as a source of joy. From the six that remained I think the correct four are moving forward. I have no real favorite among the girls this year. None of them have emotionally connected. But like you said about Casey, I felt like Jacque grew the most. She came into her own as a dancer, particularly when you look back at earlier points in the season where she just seemed overwhelmed by the experience.

    Now as you know, Valerie has not been among my favorites but you are DEAD ON about her routine with Twitch. She rose to the occasion and jumped all over that routine. It was terrific to watch and if I had to hazard a guess I would say that she tapped into the purity of joy that Twitch possesses whenever he dances. I’d pay money to see a Zach/Twitch number next week.

    Speaking of Zach, not only is he my favorite. He’s my dark horse to win. Because even though you are absolutely correct, Rickey is in a place all his own talent-wise Ricky for me loses something in the performance translation. He lacks that bit of joy and freedom that past winners (and many of my favorite dancers possess). He had a great moment with Anya this week, but Rickey reminds me a lot of Danny (who I adored) he’s simply a beautiful dancer. But it was rare to see his heart. I feel like the same is true this season. I see and feel Zach’s heart every time he dances. It’s authentic and wonderful to watch. And frankly when I think about watching a revival of On The Town Zach is who I see in it!

    • I am so happy I won’t be alone on the Zack Train while watching the finale. I completely agree with your assessment of his performances versus Ricky’s. While Ricky is clearly the best dancer of the bunch that’s left, Zack is the most engaging. As you said, he’s just so charming. And for as much as I adored both Aaron and Nick, Zack is the best tapper this show has ever seen. He’s a genius in his style—the kind of clear, creative tapper I’d show as an example to my students. And his easy charm is the perfect fit for On the Town.

      The best technical dancer is usually never the dancer that wins this show, and I’ll be interested to see if that’s the case again with this season.

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