The best of So You Think You Can Dance

One of my favorite shows is ending this week  and my favorite guilty pleasures is starting back up. I’ll get to the farewell later this week, but I have to celebrate the start of So You Think You Can Dance.

Yes, it’s a reality show. Yes, I could be handing meals out to the hungry or saving homeless kittens instead of investing 2+ hours each week, but it is the best reality TV show out there. I have a girl crush on Cat Deely, the host, and I’ve even come to adore the Hot Tamale Train scream from Mary Murphy.

The following are a few of my favorite dances in no particular order. They are a primer on your way to becoming a super fan and saying things like, “That pas de deux lacked extension and your turnout looked like you had clubbed feet.” Audition rounds start tonight at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Cyrus audition, Season 9: The only audition that I squealed, rewound, called my sister and didn’t care if he floated through. He’s just awesome and I’m so glad this Atlanta guy shared his talent with others.

Allison and Ivan, Season 2: This dance was the first reason I stopped the TV at this show. I was more shocked later to find out Tyce Diorio – Tasty Oreo – and the guy that puts out a lot of crap routines, put this together. I didn’t know Ivan was B boy because he just emotes so well. I wanted to send this to my mom to show her that dance class was more than just booty shaking – also known as the reason I never took classes.

Lacey and Danny, Season 3: Season 3 was epic for many reasons. There wasn’t one in the top 10 that I didn’t love and every week they  just continued to nail routine after routine. It was just too much. Lacey and Danny’s samba was sexy and there were bonus points that hottie Dimitry choreographed. The staccato beats just built the sexual tension on stage. There was a lot of Mary Murphy screaming and me wondering why I didn’t make an effort to sign up at the local college for dance classes. There has to be someone there, right?

Top 10 group dance, Season 3: Wade Robson choreographed this zombie, gothic southern party that Johnny Depp is throwing. The song is what made this routine, but you know this couldn’t work with out camaraderie on stage among all this loud personalities. It was a great moment and probably my favorite routine.

Mark and Courtney, Season 4: This was one of Sonya Tayeh’s first victories on stage and I think it fueled the oddities that have come out of the show since. There are some fails, but I like that the producers and dancers are willing to fail to offer the audience something different. Mark never looked so sinister and I felt a little bad that all these men would eventually ogle Courtney. I still play “The Garden” in my car once a week. It’s so steamy.

Chelsie and Mark, Season 4: Lyrical hip hop? I’m still not sure what that is other than giving white people a chance to not look like idiots when popping and locking looks like they’re having a seizure. But this routine to “Bleeding Love” with a double scoop of “No Air” the same night solidified Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo as choreographers that were also family friendly enough to be household names. The camera work on this one also adds to the swirling emotions.

Katee and Joshua, Season 4: This is the first time I heard Adele…but before I even noticed her song, I was mesmerized by the emotion Katee and Joshua turned out. All season these two had been pushed because they had the potential to be winners, so everything got nitpicked. But when Katee did that assisted run and then jumped into Joshua’s arms blindly, it was magic. I feel sorry for the poor dancers that followed because they just had to jump and leap higher.

Jeanette and Brandon, Season 5: I honestly could just say watch Ovation to find reruns of seasons 2-5 and you’ll see the best of everything. Season 5  is also the last one performed on the old stage, which is why I picked this piece. This piece was my favorite because it was playful, used the stairs and different stage levels well and turned from the usual dramatic, overwrought contemporary and jazz pieces. Plus, you knew Wade Robson choreographed it before it even begins…and not because he’s in the previous clips. Come back, Wade!

Ellenore and Jakob, Season 6: This is another Sonya piece that has the dancers doing crazy extensions. I’m pretty sure Jakob has no hip bones. The song is haunting, “Somewhere you’re fast asleep/I hope you’re terrified/ because you tore my heart.” Dang. Love. It. I also love how Sonya uses the downbeat to make the movement quicker and a little spastic.

Kent and Neil, Season 7: Season 6 was a little weird because it was on in the fall, the judging was rushed, the finale had zero exposition about the choreography. The new stage swallowed everyone. Season 7 was a small return to form. Dancing hero, and expected winner Alex Freaking Wong was out early, but lots of good stuff came even after his exit, including this piece. This song was over played by this point, but the play of the light and dark forces in your life is still poignant, even if it is a little on the nose. Wouldn’t everything be better if we could just dance it out to some great music?

Lauren F. and Twitch, Season 7: Speaking of awesome stuff coming out of Season 7, we got the All-Stars. That meant Stephen “Twitch” Boss and Allison Holker and Travis Wall and all these past fan favorites came back in force. Lauren is one of those “cute” dancers, but I think this piece solidified her win among the tweens. She’s parent friendly and a bad-ass that wants to grown up to be a teacher.

Robert and Allison, Season 7: This is one these exact pieces that I think having the vets around elevated the contestants. Robert was under the radar. I would forget who he was half the time and call him Andy because he looks like my friend Andy. But armed with an emotional story from choreographer Travis Wall, a Coldplay song that most people do love, and Allison on his arm, he couldn’t be forgettable. Travis, a contestant in Season 2, has many commendable pieces. I also suggest watching this one from Season 5.

Sasha and Twitch, Season 8: Another example of an All-Star elevating the contestant. Twitch smolders with any of his partners. Taking a song that just exudes heat and frustration and pairing it with Twitch had to get some kind of emotion of the girl who was trying to be so tough every week. It was one of the few weeks I was glad she was better than eventual winner Melanie Moore, because I thought it made Melanie work harder.

Melanie and Neil, Season 8: OK, there’s nothing cheesier than what I’m already writing about, right? Well add a topping of white pants and a white flowing dress and Bonnie Tyler and it’s just beyond ridiculous. So is Melanie’s freaking jump. It’s amazing. I’m pretty sure girlfriends were flinging themselves off the couch and face-planting when their boyfriends didn’t understand what had gotten into them.

Eliana and Alex, Season 9: I listened to “Bang, Bang” for a week straight after seeing this. This was probably one of the first routines this seasons where Eliana was truly matched with someone at her skill level and you could see her just soak up every moment in the routine. Her and Alex’s motions just kind of hang in the music like no one else exists and they are really a couple at the end of their relationship. It’s beautiful.

Have a favorite routine? I know I didn’t include them all because there really could be a Top 50 list. So, hit the comments and share your links. You can also click here to watch Nigel Lythgoe’s top 15 dances from the first five seasons.

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