So You Think You Can Dance Top 8: Routine of the Week

By Price Peterson

Aug 30, 2012

So You Think You Can Dance S09E11: "Top 8 Perform/2 Eliminated"

Now THAT was an episode. Last week's installment was solid and fun, but this week's was some next-level stuff. Seriously, if you have the episode saved to your DVR and you're wondering whether or not you should actually watch it, DO. Everyone—including the dancers, choreographers, and judges—were at the top of their game. And while the new format ended up rearing its particularly brutal head by the episode's end (someone from my favorite routine of the night got the boot), almost every routine was one worth standing and applauding for. Yes, from our living rooms. It was just that fun.

Now that there are only 8 contestants left, producers filled out the performance segment of the episode with the dancers' personal stories and then solo performances. Some backstories were as wholesome and seemingly problem-free as you'd expect (Lindsay, Witney, Tiffany) while others were surprisingly heavy (Cyrus losing his father, Eliana's hardscrabble teen years). Unlike most reality shows, So You Think You Can Dance, refreshingly, tends to not overdo the melodrama, frequently alluding to or glossing over personal tragedy almost out of respect for the dancers' privacy. Imagine that! But that means leaving tantalizing question marks over certain dancers' backstories. Like, Chehon and his two brothers getting adopted out of Chicago and relocating to Switzerland? I have a million questions! Unfortunately it's really none of my business.

Also, this show has always been coy about one issue in particular that many of its dancers seem to have in common, choosing instead to just generalize with "I was bullied" or "My dad wished I'd played sports." It's definitely not our business why dance "saved" Will's life—and it certainly may not be for the reason I'm assuming—but I'm a human being and mysteries make me curious! I wouldn't mind knowing specifics. I admit a big reason I fear that THIS particular issue (which will remain unnamed!) is glossed over is because it would somehow turn voters against dancers. I mean, I love my country, but I also KNOW my country. Ultimately, though, I think this coyness is fine because knowing too much backstory can be a distraction from the task at hand. I definitely admire this show for recognizing that.


Let's be clear, the night was PACKED with amazing routines. The judges loved Chehon and Anya's Argentine Tango, plus Sonya Tayeh unleased TWO spellbinding routines. And nobody could fault you for preferring Tiffany and Ade's Mandy Moore routine set to the Celine Dion song. So much good stuff happened it was hard to dislike anything. But I'm going with an unconventional pick that the judges liked OK but didn't fall head over heels for... Man did I LOVE Will and Lauren's Christopher Scott lyrical hip-hop routine:

It's possible that choosing a favorite routine is like describing an inkblot—it probably says more about me than it does about reality—but I couldn't help but be moved by this piece's premise. Also I love when man-woman pairings aren't just traditional romantic relationships. You know? We've seen almost every variation on tortured romances, but I can't even remember the last time a platonic matchup in a routine made me so happy. Basically I smiled all the way through this routine and then watched it again immediately. It was nowhere near as dramatic and showy as some of the other routines in this episode, but it's the one that stuck with me after the credits rolled.

I also wanted to point out how much I loved Witney & tWitch's routine:

I don't know if this is foolish of me to declare at this point, but I think Witney might be my current favorite female dancer? "Favorite" being the key word here; as Nigel reminded us tonight, this competition is about rewarding entertainment value and not necessarily expertise. But in this routine she was dancing with tWitch—possibly the best male dancer this show has ever had—yet my eyes were on Witney almost the whole time. And as a sidenote, I love when hip-hop routines don't just totally objectify the female halves of the partnership. The costumers could've put Witney in booty shorts here, but her aggressive body language and countenance were much better suited for the Rhythm Nation outfit she was wearing. And even though her choreography was largely similar to tWitch's she still made it look ladylike. Yeah, I loved this routine and I'm now definitely Team Witney-and-her-possibly-CGI-Hair.


America must've been in some kind of mood last week as it pitted the two blonde best friends against each other in the bottom, plus seeming crowd-favorites Will and Cole.

Ultimately Nigel opted to let Lindsay and Will go this week and both evictions were kind of shocking. I wasn't totally sold by Will until his lyrical hip-hop routine earlier in the evening, but I'd already written him off as one of those contestants whom the crowd likes and who would probably coast on that into the finals. As for Lindsay, I can't remember her ever having a bad performance. There's a chance her and Witney's similarities split the audience's vote, but between the two of them I'm glad Witney got to stay. As solid as Lindsay was on stage, I think there's just more personality and presence coming from Witney at this point, particularly in her routine with tWitch in which she proved she's not just a Pamela Anderson, Jr.


Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson returned to the guest-judge chair this week and reminded us just how fun non-expert celebrities can be. No offense to Benjamin Millepied—who is handsome AND knowledgeable—but this is a TV show and sometimes hilarious enthusiasm just works better than measured praise. More than anything Ferguson was an audience surrogate, heaping praise on the dancers and fanboy-ing the choreographers and All-Stars. Definitely a fun addition to the SYTYCD family.


Speaking of the SYTYCD family, did you hear the rapturous audience reaction when Melanie Moore first appeared on stage before the commercial break? I AGREED with that audience. What a surprise and total pleasure seeing her smiling face up there again. She is probably my favorite winner of all time and her exuberant routine with Cyrus was just a reminder of how talented and charismatic she is. The best.

Oh, and this was cool:

During Cyrus' solo my cable glitched out and I was like, "Oh haha, I can't believe it glitched during Glitch's solo, how ironic." But now I feel all dumb because look at the Fox logo in this still frame: It was added on top of the distortion. So the glitching was INTENTIONAL. Oh, you crafty editors. Now I feel like a dummy. But if it was intentional, how many viewers do you think picked up on it? Second question, would this be some kind of indicator that the production is pulling for Cyrus? I don't know!

This episode also marked the last time the judges will be "saving" contestants. Next week we'll find out which four America most wanted to see in the finals, and then America will eventually choose its favorite guy and gal. I'm frankly already kind of devastated that we only have 3 more weeks with these kids. THEN what are we supposed to do? Watch The X Factor? NOT THE SAME.

What was YOUR favorite routine of the night?

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  • cbasshuu Sep 04, 2012

    once again as Nigel opened his mouth to critique Lindsay it was clear that she was heading home. He's so annoying. I'm still better since Audrey left for no good reason

  • Purplecashcow Sep 03, 2012

    No glitches on East Coast feed.

    I really loved Cole and Allison this week, but I loved everyone this week! Hated to see Will go.

    My big concern is that Eliana will get eliminated this coming week since the judges have no say this week. Witney and Tiffany had the first and last routines and I fear that the quickstep was not a big vote grabber. It would be a travesty if Eliana does not make the finals, but if she doesn't it is partly the show's fault for putting that dance in there anyway,

  • Montana_Katana Sep 01, 2012

    I watched online and didn't see any glitches??

    I'm still a little bitter/annoyed that Matthew was sent home a few weeks ago. Rather glad to see Will go. I know a few people who are as hyperactive IRL as he seems on the show and they are EXHAUSTING to interact with. So I think my Will-dislike has always been colored by that.

    Not sure which guy I want to win, I like all three finalists. As for the girls, I hope Eliana wins.

  • JazDavies Aug 31, 2012

    No glitch on my downloaded version...

    I have been Team Witney from the beginning, soo glad they keep saving her. Not really sure why Witney has been in danger so often??

    Great episode. I have found this season to be somewhat underwhelming til recently, & now I'm discovering the greatness of some of the contestants far too late into the competition!

  • nabkawe Sep 01, 2012

    I believe that it's actually because they are all good for a change that you can't really tell when someone is doing great ... unlike past season which had some really terrible dancers in the top20

  • mac94102 Aug 31, 2012

    I don't really like anyone left.

  • thorswitch Aug 31, 2012

    That's weird about the glitching on your screen - I don't recall seeing it at all on mine....

    I really love Eliana and Cole - those are the two I'm rooting for the most. I kind of like that they're doing both a guy and a girl this year - I've often thought that it would be better if they did it that way.

  • ekwartler Aug 31, 2012

    I think at this point the judges are resigned to the possibility that Cyrus might actually win and are trying to salvage the show's credibility by praising his progress and presence onstage. I was flat out shocked when they said Chehon and Cyrus were safe; I was sure that they were going to save Chehon and send home Cyrus so someone who can actually do more than one style with any technical precision is assured to win. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of Cyrus's in general, but the fact that he's still on the show is a total joke.

  • thorswitch Aug 31, 2012

    The thing with Cyrus is that he's never been in the bottom 3 at all, so whether he deserves to be there or not skillwise, the judges have NEVER had the opportunity to send him home, even if they wanted to.

  • ekwartler Aug 31, 2012

    Jesse Tyler Ferguson should be the permanent third judge.

  • Mey Aug 31, 2012

    O my: what a show! Loved it, almost all of the routines are already in my sytycd favourite folder :p

    Before I neat-pick, nitpick and plain complain... :p

    Price, I'd like to speak up against your easy judgement of Lindsay's back story. The long blond hair, the tons of sisters, ALL with long blond hair, being really tight... Lindsay obviously is from a family of Svea Priestesses. She probably still is to this date in mortal danger of some awful beast made of rock killing her and her loved ones in order to release the worst plot line Angel has known in 5 years. I don't call that "problem-free" :p

    Haha, you curious mind, I have questions too about the backgrounds! :p I think the line between respecting the privacy and teasing can be a tricky one to dance on ;)

    Last week I went through all of Benji Schwimmer's 6 hours Mormon confession (Mormons are basically aliens to the French girl I am so that plus the SYTYCD backstage and classic gay issue I don't get (I really don't get why anyone would feel disturbed by their inner/felt sexuality, I am *that* innocent and sweet) made it all very interesting, those and the fact Benji just is a loveable person :-) and I thought, damn, tis so interesting to know all of what is put in the dancing, I thought all the contestants should do it. So, maybe you could pull a few strings Price and get the guy from Mormon Stories to interview Chehon? We'll totes respect da privacy if he asks (although from personal experience the Swiss are pretty open :p) but we need to ask you know ;p

    Seriously I don't know if it's respecting the privacy or just teasing to give more gravitas the persona they build for each dancer but I'm more of a tell or don't girl.

    About the show

    Trust Sonya Tayeh to bring out improbable yet kick ass music, I mean she has a knack for pulling songs that are super popular, at least in their genre (like Possibly Maybe ? I listened to Post for hours as a teenager!) and yet that would have never have me thought of dancing. Bless the woman, it does not stop her, her creativity is boundless, wonderful routines :-)

    Lindsay was a favourite, I'm not happy she went home, especially over Witney. More about Witney below.

    Cole definitely is another favourite this year, I'm pretty sure he can expand to other areas than dark and psychotic but he's got that, not so much in the acting performance but his body, he gets to a dark place physically and combined with Allison's amazing acting talent and physical perfection (I mean, I am not as into her as the judges are, I'd take Jaimie Goodwin over her any day but isn't that girl just ridiculous ? Her control, her lines) great dance, loved it, classic Tayeh ;-) There was a holy trinity of matches, male dancer, female dancer, routine.

    Love the recap's pick and I very much feel the same about the Rorschach it is to pick a favourite, tis why I most often can't pick one. Like tonight I could easily say the argentine tango because WOW but if it weren't for a nurtured love for ballroom and limitless admiration for Anya Garnis, I could have fallen just as much for Sonya Tayeh or Mandy Moore's pieces or the lyrical hip-hop which I thought too had a freshness to it that really thrilled me :) Hi Melanie, Hi Twitch, can we see those two every week on every show? Like, I want them on Teen Wolf next year :-)

    But ballroom heart :p I am so thrilled Anya was given this argentine tango. First it's always a pleasure to see her legs live their life independently :p As an artist I assume it's very pleasing to be able to do something different and that may be my favourite thing about the all-stars, the choreographers get one extra pro in their genre which allows them to maybe be a bit more daring creativity wise, which in ballroom isn't always possible, especially on this show. So happy that Miriam and Leonardo made this earthy, airy, watery, fluid yet deeply anchored piece with such a subtle pace progression; and I am elated that my favourite dancer got to dance it because there just simply is no one like Anya, she brings soul to the stage that I've seen no other ballroom dancer bring, she's my star :-)

    Chehon was quite amazing too, in a way I expected a ballet dancer to deal with tango the best (out of all ballroom dances, might be the easier to translate into) but I very much loved how he went in with Anya. Even if one of the points of ballroom is to make the girl look good, it can be a killer to have such a wonderful partner cause you could be forgotten. Fortunately the argentine tango is one of those wrestling thing where the partner has a better shot and boy Chehon took it, he was there and gracious and strong in a humble way that magnified him.

    Cyrus to me has been all-starred. Yes Melanie Moore has such identity (see production ? You can cast people who may have something to bring to your beloved "deep" contemporary pieces, just saying) but I thought Cyrus would bring more, I felt she channelled all his popper swag and left him empty. Anyway, I always love a little Mandy Moore, goddess sacred keeper of the jazz hands, and fists apparently too ;-)

    Seriously, can we send Witney home already ? I have nothing against Mormons but the girl is so hyped up, it's blatantly ridiculous. Seriously, watch her routine imagining she has no hair, there's no energy at all, it's like she's not moving. And Mary, as much I love you, I grew up in the street, Witney wouldn't stand a sec there. This is no street behaviour at all. Just stop. The girl is a star, the camera loves her, she moves well but she's hardly the sexy versatile mature bombshell they've all been selling from day one. I would have loved this dancer for what she was had the production not tried to force shove her down my throat like this :-( I will see you later Witney Carson and I will love you; but now I'm tired of you and I want to give you away as bad as I'd do an unwanted litter of sick kittens.

    At least that routine brought my dose of Twitch love :-) I adore Twitch :-) <3<3<3 He's one of those who warms up the stage with sweet kindness before he even begins to dance, such warmth, such glow and such an amazing dancer and performer :-) And what a sweetheart, whether during the competition or in the post show interviews, Twitch is a gentleman :-)

    All in all: great week! xD

    O and is it just me or is anyone else also feeling the idea of a winner in each gender is lessening the stakes now we're coming closer to the finale?

  • Phoenix1781 Aug 31, 2012

    So glad someone else loves this show as much as I do. Thanks for reviewing the show Price, it is so refreshing to watch true talent on TV.

    Favourite routine: Ade and the girl (sorry don't remember her name)

    I think Eliana will be in the top 4 and it was great to see Cyrus do what he does best, he clearly has talent and personality.

  • Mey Aug 31, 2012

    Tiffany! :-) I LOVED Ade and Tiffany, someone on Twitter said she looked like a Disney Princess: how true! :-) I wanted to be her when she danced, she was in her genre, she was beauty, GREAT routine :-)

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