Champion On Tap: SYTYCD Season 12 Finale

It’s nearly two weeks later and I’ve come up for air from the whirlwind of new premieres (Dancing With The Stars, The Voice, the HAMILTON soundtrack). With well-meant intentions this was scheduled to drop on time the week after….but this in itself left me with so many feels I needed to take a moment with this as well.

Tap wins.

Tap. Wins. (By now y’all have to have seen the finale, so this spoiler shouldn’t mean anything.) Out of 10 years, 12 seasons and 12 tap dancers, one stands at the the top, and her name is Gaby Diaz.  Team Stage takes the final victory in this season’s So You Think You Can Dance as Gaby beats out fellow Stage finalist Hailee Payne and Street finalists Jana “JaJa” Jankova and Virgil Gadson for the title of America’s Favorite Dancer.


But before this historic decision is delivered, we celebrate the entire season with reprises and a collaboration with all of the Top 10 dancers and the All-Stars.

Top 10 + 10 – Contemporary
Choreographers RJ Durell and Nick Flores (Two Steps From Hell, Archangel)


Cat introduced it as “celestial,” so either the dancers were the gods and titans having an intergalactic battle or their namesake constellations dancing around the cosmos. Either way the costuming obscured any chance of picking out all of the dancers successfully.

Emmy result announcements are made–lighting and costume got theirs; choreographer Tessandra Chavez got one (the Alzheimer’s themed piece with JaJa and Alex was one of hers), as well as this up and coming fellow named Travis Wall, who snagged his first win after five nominations….and Cat got to present it to him. He and Tessandra Chavez shared their win with Dancing With The Stars choreographers Derek and Julianne Hough.

The reprises come from the judges’, coaches’, and Final Four’s picks….and you know Cat’s gonna get a pick, too. There are also a few highlight moments from the audition tour.

Judges’ choice – Jason
Virgil (with All-Star Joshua Allen) Hip-Hop
Choreographer Pharcyde and Phoenix (Song: Let’s Go, Trick Daddy featuring Twista and Lil Jon)


Run The World aside, given the crazed reaction Nigel and Jason had, a second night reprise was pretty much expected.

Audition Hero moment
Ladia Yates


Ladia Yates, the Memphis jooker with the bubbly personality and the youth dance team that got to perform for and with Jason Derulo at the Memphis auditions. She got to Green Mile this year so hopefully we’ll see her on next season.

Judges’ choice – Paula
Edson and Megz – Contemporary
Choreographer Talia Favia (Song, You There, Aquilo)


Paula’s first choice, fondly known as the “t-shirt dance.” I’m surprised by its choice only in that the intricate timing and placement required to work with those shirts could be an issue, but Edson and Megz both danced effortlessly through the choreography again.

JaJa (with All-Star Ricky Ubeda) – Broadway
Choreographer Al Blackstone (Song: Let’s Face The Music And Dance, Nat King Cole)


Another of Paula’s choices, it features JaJa in full Hollywood glam getting her Ginger Rogers on with Ricky Ubeda as gangster and moll. One of her more stellar acting jobs and a really fun routine.

Cat’s pick
Team Street – Hip-Hop
Choreographers Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo (Song: Ready Or Not Here I Come, District 78 featuring Cheesa)


The first time in the season Team Street threw down the gauntlet at Team Stage and said, in the manner of Sandman Sims, “CHALLANGE!!!!!!” More than likely it was a playback made to look live, but a repeat was definitely in order.

Captain’s pick – tWitch
Neptune and Gaby – Contemporary Choreographer Stacey Tookey (Song : Take My Hand, Precious Lord, Ledisi [from the Selma soundtrack])


An emotionally moving piece that gave Neptune and Gaby breakout performances, this was well received and due an encore.

Nigel announces a Dizzyfeet Gala special….a young lady named Lil Phoenix gets to do some animation with Cyrus. This little girl can’t be more than 9 or 10 years old–we might as well call this baby Lil JaJa, because she is KILLING it! (Song: Emergency, District 78)


Ugh! All of these extras–the season’s sexy moments hosted by a swim trunk wearing, shirtless Asaf. After he finishes stunting and Kate pushes him into the pool, we segue to Hailee describing the sexiness of her jazz duet with Robert Roldan, so Hailee’s “contestant pick” is Haunted, Beyoncé, by choreographer Ray Leeper. (We know that’s not the one she picked in last week’s interview but she and Virgil couldn’t very well pick the same dance.)


Audition Hero moment
Cody Carlson


The freestyle hip-hop dancer who just happens to have Down syndrome was one of the more entertaining and inspirational auditions of the season. His appearance impressed his idol, Jason DeRulo, and garnered Cody a spot on the Special Olympics dance team.

Coaches’ pick – Travis
Gaby (with All-Star Joshua Allen) Hip-Hop
Choreographer Pharcyde and Phoenix (Song: I’m Really Hot, Missy Elliott)


Gaby slayed this dance AND Joshua, both figuratively and literally. Was there any doubt?

Interesting to note that even though the pieces featured one of their team members, each coach picked a piece that was the other’s discipline.

Another special guest, Herman Cornell from the American Ballet Theater, performs a solo (Song: Le Corsaire: Act II: “4. Grand Pas., Var. Ali., Evergreen Symphony Orchestra), giving this new age audience some cultural exposure and some quality ballet appreciation time.


Judges’ pick – Jason
Team Stage – Contemporary Choreographer Travis Wall (Song: Beautiful Friends, Helen Money)

The ghostlight routine, which I’m surprised got picked for this particular show but I’m getting the feeling more and more playbacks are being employed, as I can’t see how those kids can change in and out of such specific makeup that fast. Still, it was a really good routine and on my personal favorites list.

Audition Hero moment
Thomas “Mr. Hollywood” Condello


*eye roll* At least he amused the judges….

Contestants’ pick – Virgil
Virgil and Hailee – Hip-Hop Choreographer Dave Scott (Song : Runnin’, Noahplause)

Like we didn’t see THAT choice coming…..


Apparently forfeiting his reprise choices this season, Nigel now introduces a dream match-up…..Asian ballet boys Alex Wong and Jim Nowakowsi perform a Travis Wall contemporary ballet piece to the song November, by Max Richter and Alexander Balanescu. The piece, about an estranged father and son who meet for the first time years into the young man’s life, gets the expected rousing cheers and fulfills the many fan wishes and requests.


Now for an elimination–Team Stage is brought out and narrowed to one team finalist…..and it’s Gaby. Hailee is praised and applauded for her journey and her performances.

Audition Hero moment
Eliazer Chapman


This young Bronx freestyler who danced his way through his struggles while living in a homeless shelter with his dad providing the season’s most shining example of tenacity and perseverance.

Judges’ pick – Nigel
JaJa (with All-Star Alex Wong) – Contemporary
Choreographer Tessandra Chavez (Song: Youth, Daughter)


OK, so apparently Nigel made ONE choice tonight–JaJa’s acting and dancing tour de force, she portrays the confusion of an Alzheimer’s patient poignantly and displays some strong contemporary dance skills, to boot.

We get a special performance from the whole of Academy of Villains, including this season’s shining star choreographers Phoenix and Pharcyde. (Song: Crunk, Noahplause)


The last guest performance of the night is a duet with Travis Wall and Jenna Dewan-Tatum (Choreographer Travis Wall, Song: Gimme All Your Love, Alabama Snakes) from the Dizzyfeet Gala. While I would have rather seen more of the contestants, I at least now see that Jenna’s credentials as a judge for this show were valid.


Eliminations for Team Street are up, and it is revealed that JaJa is tops on that team, so we’re now saying goodbye to Virgil.

Contestants’ pick – JaJa
JaJa and Jim – Hip-Hop Choreographer Christopher Scott (Song : No Woman, No Cry (Live Version), Bob Marley and the Wailers)


JaJa’s most empowering dance, in her opinion….and one of the better laid-back offerings from Christopher Scott.

There’s a video reprise of the Top 20 season opener (I know full well those children weren’t on the stage that night), but it was a perfect selection. Both the intro video and the stage mashup were excellently done, and almost ties with the Season 10 “Puttin’ On The Ritz” one take. Choreographers Christopher Scott and Jessica (Song: Revolt, Nathan Lanier)

More filler…Team Stage and Team Street have a rooftop showdown reading Twitter snaps against each other. It’s really amusing watching some of the Stage dancers try to be tough, especially the really button-nose cute ones.

Contestants’ pick – Gaby
Gaby (with All-Star Robert Roldan) – Contemporary
Choreographer Mandy Moore (Song: Angel, Sarah McLachlan)


Gaby’s most personally groundbreaking routine–it’s the one that she says made her realize the strength and power she had within her.

And now, after dragging it out with even more montages….we finally, after 12 seasons and only 12 contestants in the specialty, have a tap champion. One of my readers said this was Gaby’s contest to lose, and given her tenacity from being REJECTED at her first audition, then shining and thriving in everyone else’s disciplines, it was pretty much written in the stars. Add that incredible, mind-boggling tap duet Anthony Morigerato gave her for the finale and I think that was a lock.  One of the best balances of technique and popularity in a contestant yet–and that it lies in a tap specialist gives a much-needed spotlight to the dancers in this discipline who struggle for respect and acknowledgment as a “real” dancer in this industry.  A rousing reveillie for Gaby–and for tap!


All Songs +1: Why HAMILTON the Musical Works | NPR

I have often questioned the same thing. I stopped once Bring It On: The Musical hit the stage.  Lin’s judgment will never again be challenged in this household.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Discusses How Hip-Hop Influenced Him and ‘Hamilton’ –

Fatal Four-way: SYTYCD Season 12 Performance Finale


This is it! The final new dances of the season from four ferociously fierce performers! The kids have five dances apiece tonight, so it’s definitely going to be nonstop action tonight.

(I know there was one year that time was short and they didn’t air a Top 4 group dance, but this has to be the first year I’ve seen them just not do one at all….hmmm…..)

Hailee and JaJa – Hip-Hop
Choreographers Misha Gabriel and Nick Bass (Song: Put It In The Bag, Kalenna featuring B. Simm)

A Hail-Ja reunion, with the girls as two outlaws running from the crime scene…and apparently Hailee has kicked her hip-hop game into another gear and JaJa is playing catch-up.

“My Homies Still” for 2015. JaJa was a little too in the pocket for me, but then again Hailee was trying too hard. They were both good, but I wasn’t wowed. Didn’t make me say Hail-Ja tonight.

Nigel didn’t think they were authentic robbers, but did say that they’d stolen his heart….. *groan* He did think it was a great fun routine and looked like they had fun working together. Paula thought the girls were equally matched and also noticed the complementary swagger and fun they brought to the dance. Jason was impressed and thought it was a strong performance, with Hailee playing the different personality levels and JaJa holding tight to her hard street facade–and both coming across beautifully.

Virgil and Gaby – Lyrical Hip-Hop
Choreographer Phillip Chbeeb (Song: Slip, Elliott Moss)

Before I even talk about the dance and the dancers, can I just say how much it thrills me to type the words “Choreographer Phillip Chbeeb?” I ♡ him SO much….

Gaby is embodying all of Virgil’s most beautiful memories that he has to let go of in order to move forward. Phillip is insane….don’t get me wrong, I adore his insanity, but the complexity of movement in this piece is definitely challenging.

Like most Phillip Chbeeb fans, I recognized this piece from the first move, and I purposely did not seek out his YouTube rendition until after watching the show. There’s a magic Phillip has that no one else can really capture. But I think Virgil and Gaby did a fine job of translating his vision and conveying the emotions of the piece. As expected, some of the transitions were a little bumpy, but you could get past a lot of that just by watching the pair’s connection with each other.

Phillip is pretty overcome though, so it’s safe to say that the choreographer thought they nailed it…..

Paula loved the complexity and texture Phillip brought to the piece, and thought Virgil and Gaby danced it brilliantly. Yummy, fun and interesting are her choice adjectives of the day. Jason appreciated the originality of the choreography and thought the two beautifully danced a great combination of the stage and street styles. Nigel was also duly impressed with the dancers and the choreographer and congratulated all on a job well done.

JaJa and Gaby – Jazz
Choreographers RJ Durell and Nick Flores (Song: Woman (Oh Mama), Joy Williams)

An expression of the duality within us all, JaJa and Gaby have flamenco-like skirts, twists, tangles and lifts to contend with in this number. (Nobody said Top 4 was gonna be easy….you gotta EARN this.) But Team Strage (really, Travis?) is coming with that power….

Loving these costumes right off the bat…they could easily bring that Top 20 Dia de Los Muertos piece on tour and segue into this one. But let me at least watch it to see if that should even be a possibility….yep. It would be an interesting musical segue, but that strong, forceful piece of music combined with these two ladies channeling their inner Frida Kahlo works very much for me. Gabi REALLY called on the ancients in her Latina blood to give the grand presence she gave in this performance, allotting the slightest of edges over JaJa. And I mean VERY slight, as JaJa was giving it her all and a couple of other people’s all in this dance as well.

Jason thought it was a strong number and said he enjoyed it “like two mojitos on a hot Labor Day.” Nigel thought the ladies matched the passion of the song and the choreography, and thought JaJa needed to relax her shoulders and be less tense in her power. But he also projected either of them to win, so…. Paula pretty much summed her critiques in this quote: “It takes an athlete to dance, but it takes an artist to be a dancer.” Great testament to how well these two strong women blend their skills and styles and create magic.

JaJa and Virgil – Contemporary
Choreographer Stacey Tookey (Song: I Love You (Acoustic), Woodkid)

A relationship that’s lost its spark, with Virgil being the one to remind JaJa of where their love began. (A little close to home right now, Stacey…..) And again, Stacey is not playing anything down…these two Team Street dancers are going to have to dig in and find some technical ease and still get the emotional punch across.

Are you serious right now? I mean, are you SERIOUS? A quick glance at the screen without the backstory would raise the question, “When did Amy Yakima go redhead?” We just watched Virgil–last week with Melanie and just a few moments ago with Gaby–so there’s not as much shock there…though I WILL say that manly presence shot up a hundredfold. But JaJa just transformed into a contemporary dancer right before our eyes. Any technical bobbles were infinitesimal because I couldn’t see them. These judges are going to have to reach to find a flaw here.

Nigel makes a small note about the lack of technique showing, but overall is so impressed by their high levels of commitment and performance he basically just gushes about their excellence. Paula is proud of their technical development and the amount of attention they’ve devoted to it, saying they’ve come leaps and bounds from where they started. Jason agrees wholeheartedly, saying many of the same things and equally expressing his pride in the two of them.

Virgil and Hailee – Broadway
Choreographer Josh Bergasse (Song: Billy-A-Dick, Bette Midler)

Quiet girl living in the city confronts noisy drumming upstairs neighbor, and mayhem ensues. Lots of character and new acrobatic moves that test the laws of physics and trust.

Now this is believable Broadway from Hailee. I still think the other genres suit her better, but she combined the moves and the character and really sold it tonight. The music wasn’t too far off from what was in After Midnight, so Virgil just landed himself in a very familiar pond and took off swimming.

Paula said they nailed the timing and the fun, and was really lighthearted. She also gave Virgil props for taking the note about getting more lift in his jumps. Jason concurs, but also comments that while Virgil nailed his character, Hailee was hit-or-miss in places, and also said while he enjoyed the number, he felt the pair had already performed better in previous numbers that evening. Nigel sees Jason’s point but did think their personalities really came out. And OH MY GOD DID HE JUST OUT THAT WOMAN’S PREGNANCY ON LIVE TV?!? Cat, I never would have guessed because that dress is amazing! Another DANCE baby!

Hailee and Gaby – Contemporary
Choreographer Travis Wall (Song: Do Not Hang Your Head, Elizabeth and the Catapult)

Well, if you’re gonna send Team Stage out on a high note, might as well put Coach Travis in the game. He’s having the girls portray the fear of not being accepted….”love has no boundaries, and we should feel the power of that.”

Right now I feel like Nigel right after Katee and Joshua did “No Air” for the first time in Season 4……that was really, really good. I noticed one slightly off moment in the synchronization but it wasn’t enough to pull my focus from the connection these ladies had. Very nice.

Jason said the girls brought life to Travis’s amazing vision. I get exactly where he’s coming from when he says “I’d pay money to see that” after a particularly effective performance–art is free but some art is just that worth it that you’re willing to give it that high a value. And I think this qualifies. Nigel acknowledged that the feelings they produced onstage were the most important thing, and thought it was beautiful to see. Paula was truly moved by the simple dignity and honesty of the routine and deemed it special…which prompted Nigel to muse about how it seems that guys are unable to achieve that same depth of comfortable connection with a number like that. Cat jumps in….and take note, Nigel–THIS is how you name check SYTYCD routines….and mentions Travis’s creation for Kent and Neil back in Season 7. Leave it to Paula, though, to bring this tangent train back to the station by expressing how nice it is to be able to manifest such concepts through dance.

A brief time-out between All-Star duets and contestant solos for the coaches to muse about their last two contestants standing….

Gaby – Magalenna, Sergio Mendes
This is NOT the song to tackle with a technical and intricately syncopated tap number. That is, unless your name is Gaby Diaz. From the moment she auditioned, got cut and determined she was hitting EVERY CITY until she walked away with a ticket to Vegas, you could see this girl was bound to do great things. There’s not one number of hers this season that has tanked–a few got some small critiques here and there but her skill has never been faulted. And of all of the contestants, she’s been the most versatile because (and I type this before her All-Star duet comes up) she is the only one who has not once danced in her own style outside of her solos and a couple of 8 counts in a Team Stage collaboration. This is her edge to win it.

Virgil (with All-Star Joshua Allen) – Hip-Hop
Choreographers Phoenix and Pharcyde (Song: Let’s Go, Trick Daddy featuring Twista and Lil Jon)

Oh shit–the dudes’ version of Run The World! This is already awesome. (Virgil, you cute and all, but step on my boo thang one mo’ gin….)

That was almost “Hello, Good Morning” worthy right there….the first solid bit of macho aggression I’ve seen out of Virgil yet. Neptune had better get with Joshua and start practicing….

Nigel has been possessed by the spirits of Mary Murphy and Ozzy Osbourne simultaneously, and is standing and yelling and clapping and throwing up old man gang signs. I’m not sure, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say he liked it. I mean, he has hollered himself hoarse, y’all. Paula is calling this her favorite of all of Phoenix and Pharcyde’s pieces this season, and acknowledges the heroic, powerful tour de force that is Virgil Gadson. Jason just jumps up and gets juiced like his British homie to the left, so judging from that AND the standing ovation, I’mma say the love is unanimous for this piece.

Virgil – A Beautiful Mine, RJD2
You know, it’s such a shame this boy doesn’t have the charisma or the tenacity to survive and thrive in this business…..I’m telling you, if this boy doesn’t blow up in a major way 2 months after this tour, the casting agents just really don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Virgil’s life is going to be spent in entertainment one way or another, and we’re all going to love it.

Hailee (with All-Star Marko Germar) – Jazz
Choreographer Ray Leeper (Song: All Night (Don’t Stop), Janet Jackson)

Total jazz spotlight for Hailee….with her all up on my man again. You and Gaby are gonna make me sneak y’all…..

A couple of rough transitions, and I’d have liked to have seen her do this in those boots Gaby wore. But we all know Marko is about to teach Derek and Jim this routine for the tour.

Paula said Hailee dances with ferocity and intensity, and that’s what makes her stand out….though she thought, as difficult as the choreography was, that Hailee wasn’t as challenged in this one. Jason said she brought the power required for the dance and the music, but would have preferred more fire and grit. However, he does commend the level of excellence produced by her in the five routines performed this week. Nigel said she brought the fire and gave her 100%.

Hailee – Cold Hearted, Paula Abdul
The biggest bang you can go out with is to use a judge’s song and start your routine at the bridge of said song, throwing all that talent at America’s face like, “Let’s do this, Brutus!” Best solo I’ve seen from her yet.

JaJa (with All-Star Cyrus Spencer) – Animation
Choreographer Christopher Scott (Song: Kaolo, Yellow Claw)

The minute they said animation I dared not hope I’d see Mr. Spencer back on the stage….but he and Christopher Scott were the only logical choices for this….which makes Chris’s decision to continue the story from Cyrus’s finale duet with tWitch that much more serendipitous. Animation 3.0 coming at you…..

Cyrus is really little….he’s lost weight. That’s about all I got here because there’s no use in vomiting words over words about how JaJa MURDERED that dance and outshined Cyrus AND tWitch in the process. Nigel’s right….this fight is coming down to Gaby and JaJa, and it’s going to be a close one because JaJa is throwing haymakers.

Jason is standing, so it’s safe to assume this one wowed him. That and the stuttering. Nigel was not as wowed with the sequel as he wanted to be, saying JaJa is so proficient in her style that the inherent promise of “bigger and better” implied by the word sequel did not deliver. (I can actually see his point there–as intricate as the lab smash automation section was, it didn’t carry that same impact as that opening glass shatter of the original routine….which in turn, showed as status quo for JaJa instead of groundbreaking.) He didn’t deny, however, that JaJa was impeccable in her movement and brilliant in the routine. Paula acknowledges that the choreography plays to JaJa’s strengths, but does see Nigel’s point as well.

JaJa – Street Side, 20 Killz
JAJA. IS. BRINGING. THE. BIG. GUNS. She is not playing, y’all. She has mastered street dance and is invading the stage disciplines with all the heart that little body can muster. And while Russell Ferguson still stands as the only fully untrained dancer to win, there has yet to be a female in this rare air….until now.

Gaby (with All-Star Zach Everhart) – Tap
Choreographer Anthony Morigerato (Song: Dibidy Dop (Swing Mix), Club Des Belugas featuring Brenda Boykin)

I KNEW they weren’t going to let me down! Gaby gets a tap routine, and of course, no one else could have done it but Anthony Morigerato. And now that I see the concept, there was no other choice than Zach Everhart….he’s already tackled stairs with Valerie Rockey, so what’s a few boxes 2 feet off the ground? This is the showstopper here, and whether it was practically or strategically placed last, these next two minutes may well seal this contest for Gaby.

J. Lo, have you met Gaby? You will.

Game, set and goddamned match.

Nigel is tickled pink and bowled over by Gaby’s talent and tenacity. Paula (and I keep forgetting we have at least two tappers on the judges’ panel) throws out adjectives like relentless, magnificent and awe-inspiring. Jason (and that’s why I said at LEAST two tappers) kept it short and simple and told Gaby that he’s in love with everything she does, and proceeds to give her another standing ovation….from atop the judges’ table. High praise indeed, with absolutely no pun intended.

That’s a wrap to the night and the season, folks! Just a short wait to see who lands in the champion’s circle this year….four very worthy opponents have thrown their gauntlets and shattered every TV screen in America from the inside. Let’s see who’s standing at the top.


HAMILTON’S Renee Elise Goldsberry Is Living and Making Musical History

If there’s anybody I ‘ship more than Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s this lady. This lady singing Lin-Manuel’s words is my personal nirvana.

itskalisa | Why “Hamilton” Meant So Much to Me

You see? We’re everywhere.!Why-Hamilton-Meant-So-Much-to-Me/cy97/55ecdde40cf29a3653c2cf0c

Everybody Hurts Sometimes: SYTYCD Season 12, Week 8 Hollywood


The semifinals are here–and two dancers are going to fall just short of their opportunity to claim the coveted title of America’s favorite dancer.

Top 6 Comtemporary
Choreographer Mandy Moore (Song: Everybody Hurts, Jasmine Thompson)

Each dancers is putting their hearts and souls on the floor tonight, showing their inner selves to the viewing audience to convey the anguish in this piece.

55% of the vote goes to Team Stage, so Coach tWavis is back on top this week.

Two duets tonight–one with an All-Star and one with one of their fellow competitors–as well as their solos. AND the votes from this week roll into the next week and count toward the championship vote.

Gabi (with All-Star Marko Germar) – Jazz
Choreographer Ray Leeper (Song: Emergency, Icona Pop)

Sexy, steamy jazz….with a lot of “booty-ography”

Thank the LORD it’s not a Beyoncé tune…and there’s a good bit of technicality in this piece. The “booty-ography” is actually minimal–what’s impressive is Gaby hanging on to that choreography in those high heeled boots.

Nigel agrees with me, and thought the number and Gaby were marvelous. He even goes so far to say she’s one of the best dancers of not only this season, but across the seasons. Paula said it was absolutely “bootyful,” calling it lighthearted and fun, and has managed to make the most difficult choreography look as easy as breathing. Jason enjoyed it, but thought the star quality she usually carries diminished a little bit….which prompted a vehement argument from Paula in disagreement, and a short joke from Nigel at her expense.

The solos tonight honor the contestants’ mentors and feature a meaningful piece of music.

Virgil – Rock The Bells, LL Cool J
Clyde Evans, Artistic Director of the Chosen Dance Company is Virgil’s inspiration–and his solo is inspired by the summer block parties and backyard barbecues where they would freestyle and just generally have fun. Virgil eloquently channels that feeling and a shade of LL swagger into this solo.

JaJa (with All-Star Alex Wong) – Contemporary
Choreography Tessandra Chavez (Song: Youth, Daughter)

JaJa and Alex team up again, with JaJa portraying a woman dealing with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Tessandra is determined that JaJa dance up to the challenging choreography and embody the character, and JaJa seems to be embracing it.

JaJa has a very expressive face, and whatever thoughts and emotions she was channeling conveyed the complex mental and emotional struggle that was supposed to be happening in her head. The confusion, elation and fear that flitted back and forth was tangible and believable, and the reassuring assist from Alex was a beautiful complement.

The standing ovation probably says it all, but let’s go to the judges’ table anyway….Paula applauds choreographer and performer, giving JaJa praise for her imaginative performances. Jason appreciates JaJa’s commitment and intensity, and was moved to sentimentality by the number. Nigel compounds on Jason and Cat’s mention of The Notebook and notes her ability to relay the emotions through her face and movements, and congratulates her for taking full advantage of all of the experiences afforded to her through the competition and adding to her growth.

Hailee – Elastic Heart, Sia
Mandy Shaw, Hailee’s dance teacher who helped her develop her dance abilities and stepped in as a “second mom”, is Hailee’s honoree. Her solo is an homage to all the people at home supporting her that she misses dearly.

The Hough siblings pretty much laid claim to this song in last season’s Dancing With The Stars, so of course my view of this solo is going to be tinged. The power Travis wanted to see in this number? A little subdued, in my opinion. But well put together and emoted.

Megz (with All-Star Joshua Allen) Hip-Hop
Choreographer Christopher Scott (Song: Freedom, Pharell Williams)

Chris is trying to show the full range and freedom of hip-hop dance, and Megz is struggling for yet another week. That it’s her own genre is a bit alarming, but Coact tWitch is hopeful that she’ll settle into the moves and do well.

The last time I saw power and swagger this well matched was back in Season 6 with Dominic and Jose’s Excalibur themed routine. Megz can hit as hard as any dude in the business, yet can still bank her feminine mystique at the same time….and to hang tough with Season 4’s champion is a huge accomplishment.

Jason applauds Megz–and the rest of the contestants as well–for being able to maximize the very limited amount of time given to learn and rehearse the dances onstage. He also thinks that while Megz was really good this week, with it being down to the Top 6 it’ll be a tough battle for her. Nigel dubbed it a “jazz hip-hop,” and thought the mix allows Megz to prove herself an all-around dancer, stating that he could easily see her cast in West Side Story…as anybody. ANYBODY. Not Maria, not Anita, not third girl at the dance–ANYBODY. Pretty high praise. Paula agreed and feels that Megz was in her element with this number, adding that if she continues to dance with that same energy and dangerously that she’ll discover more and more layers of identity in her dancing.

Gaby – It’s Your Thing, Christian McBride featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater
Gaby’s passion for dance is fueled by her love of family, and one family in particular–her late great-uncle Renaldo “Titi” Silva–was a successful dancer in Cuba and persevered in continuing that career in a move to the States. And this certainly is her thing–lots of funk, noise, sass and syncopation.

Jim (with All-Star Anya Garis) – Samba
Choreographer Dmitry Chaplin (Song: Chillando Goma, Fulanito)

A ballet dancer pulls his first Latin dance–and the hardest one, at that. But he’s apparently nailing the choreography; he just needs to grasp the flavor of it.

It reminds me a lot of “My First Kiss” from Season 7. It’s very technically sound, and he’s really keeping up the energy…he just needs a little more WD-40 for those hips.

Nigel recognized the fun Jim was having in that routine and that he largely captured the samba, with the exception of the looseness being more in his shoulders than his back. Paula thought Jim was a strong partner and struck a nice balance between partner/audience connection, but also commented on the lack of hip swivel. Jason was shocked at how much Jim actually did open up and get loose, and congratulated him on that.

JaJa – Laundry, edIT
JaJa was actually mentored BY Ceasare “Tighteyez” Willis, krump originator and legend. Enough said. Iron sharpens iron, greatness begets greatness.

OK, this is telling my age….you know that short-lived sitcom Small Wonder, with the little robot girl Vicki? Imagine she grew up and learned how to dance. That’s what JaJa just did, and it’s very impressive. That “chameleon of dance” tag Nigel put on her last week is no bullshit.

Virgil (with All-Star Melanie Moore) – Contemporary
Choreographer Justin Giles (Song: All Is Now Harmed, Ben Howard)

An emotional routine portraying what happens when a soldier comes home from the war. It’s already gut punching Virgil in rehearsals, so it ought to be really striking once it hits the competition stage.

That got me. That almost Turn To Stone got me. Virgil might not be able to manifest sinister but he nailed complex and tortured. He wallowed in this piece, and held strong with the choreography and partnering while doing it. This is a breakout moment for him. Good job, man.

Paula thought Virgil gave a beautifully executed, mature performance and matched Melanie step for step. She also called it unbearably vulnerable and had to dig for an actual critique in having him improve the lift in his jumps. Jason said the humble and honest persona Virgil brought to the stage is what gave it that extra level of connection. Nigel marveled about the high performance level Virgil gave and how it covered any lack of technique.

Jim – Ra, Nathan Lanier
Timothy Draper, founder of the Rochester City Ballet, introduced Jim to the world of ballet at age 11 and helped to groom his technique. Judging from the depth of emotions Jim is dealing with just trying to talk about his late mentor speaks volumes. Reminiscent of the harsh winters in his upstate New York, Coach Travis calls it impeccable, stunning and gorgeous in rehearsal….let’s see what it looks like on stage.

It certainly moved fast and was way too short….but it displayed every facet of Jim’s technique. Beautiful piece.

Hailee (with All-Star Robert Roldan) – Jazz
Choreographers RJ Durell and Nick Flores (Song: Haunted, Beyoncé)

Hailee is the angel of death reincarnated as a crow, sent to deliver Robert his last fatal kiss. Lots of tricks and character…..and Hailee is a ball of giggles trying to rehearse those kiss moments. She says she’s getting it together though…..

Hailee was most certainly fierce, technically sound and deep in character. But Jordan Casanova did it better a couple of seasons back. Not my favorite.

Jason enjoyed it thoroughly, and thought she had the character and strength required for this piece. Nigel thought Hailee was on point technically but seemed to have difficulty accepting her characterization given her usual outgoing personality. Paula called the performance a perfect mixture of finesse and fury and found her wickedly seductive, but cautioned her to smooth out her transitions.

Megz – Let It Go, James Bay
Cynthia Geffon, Megz’s dance teacher, seems to give as much credit to Megz for shaping her as a teacher as Megz gives her for helping mold her dance persona. There seems to be a running theme with Megz’s musical selections tonight…..

Wow. And I said that BEFORE that last hinge pose. It wasn’t elaborate or throat-grabbing but the freedom of it is what made it so compelling to watch. This contemporary/hip-hop mesh that Megz does suits her beautifully. Best solo I’ve seen from her.

Jim and Gaby – Broadway
Choreographer Josh Bergasse (Fever, Michael Bublé)

“Gaby is lovesick and stuck in bed…and Jim is the hunky, fedora-wearing man of her feverish dreams.” Hey, that’s what they said, y’all…. Action packed with lots of character development.

Gaby’s got character in spades, and the dance acumen to back it up. Jim is opening up a lot better with his dance persona but still needs a little more push with it. I think he’s fairly introverted as a person–going big with the personality is challenging for people like us, especially when we are called to be performers. He’ll get it, though.

Nigel thought it felt more nightclub than Broadway–that the transitions felt corny and their chemistry wasn’t right. Josh isn’t the only one who’s gonna club you for saying that….. *eye roll* Paula dubbed them the perfect technical partnership, but agreed with Nigel that something was a bit off with the feeling of the piece. Jason also missed the chemistry with the pair, and thought Jim lacked the strength expected of a leading man persona. However, he thought Gaby “oozed with greatness” in this performance, as opposed to his opinion of her earlier duet.

Megz and Hailee – Contemporary
Choreographer Stacey Tookey (Song: Sarajevo, Max Richter & Sara Leonard)

Two inseparable sisters being torn apart and forced to say their final goodbyes. Both coaches and choreographer are stressing the importance of balancing strength and elegance in both ladies.

These are two of the most physically powerful female dancers in this season’s cast, so it’s interesting to see them temper that power with the fragility asked of them. It’s a very delicate balancing act, especially considering the number of partnering moves that require said strength. For the most part, they balance it well, but there were some parts of their characterizations I wasn’t quite certain of their intent.

Paula thought they did a very nice job and that Stacey played well to both of their strengths. Jason said it was a beautiful and solid performance, and was particularly impressed with Megz as he could clearly see her intention as she moved. Nigel was also impressed with both girls, marveled at Hailee’s final emotive collapse at the end and at Megz’s overall growth, giving her solo high praise. Almost made that girl all verklempt, Nigel….

Virgil and JaJa – Hip-Hop
Choreographer Pharcyde and Phoenix (Song: If You Crump Stand Up, edIT)

These two come straight out of the storybooks…”through the hip-hop looking glass” in Cat’s words. So basically JaJa in Wonderland…’ve got the right two for that.

I had to mentally reset the minute the song came on, because if I remember correctly that was Fik-shun’s audition piece. As it is, Virgil reminds me so much of him in personality, so I had to force myself to focus on the story in front of me. Fortunately, in The Amazing Tales of JaJa and Virgil, that was not a difficult task. I hope there’s room on that tour truck for this big ass book….

Jason thought they did a great job but not “through the roof” good. Nigel was reminded of Paula’s “Opposites Attract” dance duet with MC Skat Kat. Paula called them a jolt of electricity and the most affable performers on the stage, but did advise them to be mindful of embracing the musicality.

I did a Periscope before last week’s show in which I predicted the final four to all two members of my audience. And I made the right call. Based on tonight’s performances–and the solos in particular–Jim and Megz should still be in the running. But looking at the overall picture based on the entire season’s performances and the contestants the audience tends to gravitate toward, they were the only logical choices to go. The greatest thing is that we’ll not only get to see them on Tour, but I believe their development as dancers is going to be astronomical and very fruitful.


So it’s down to easily the four biggest personalities in the competition–Virgil, JaJa, Hailee and Gaby. This is going to be one high energy finale!