Summer TV is usually nonexistent, with a lot of crappy shows and reality TV programs filling in for the good shows while they go on hiatus for a few months. But my absolute favorite summer show is So You Think You Can Dance. Now in its 11th (!!) season, SYTYCD has been the sole series bringing dance to the forefront over the past few years. The alumni have gone on to work for pop stars like Lady Gaga and Madonna, starring in movies like Step Up and Fame, and in general, just getting more recognition than ever before.
And while the entire competition is about finding the best male and female dancers in the country, like a lot of things in life, you improve when you build, connect and create with others. Every year there are exceptionally talented dancers who make it to the top 10, and their talent is ever apparent when they perform together.
So after a painstaking process of narrowing down my favorite numbers, these are the best (IMO) group routines over the past 10 seasons. You can catch new ones when SYTYCD returns on Wednesday!!!
Note: These are in chronological order, not ranked, only because I lit’rally wouldn’t be able to pick absolute favorites. I need help.
Choreographer: Wade Robson ♦ Song: Ramalama (Bang Bang) by Roisin Murphy
If you’ve been a fan from the start (or season 2, because that’s when I like to believe it really started), you know Ramalama is one of the iconic SYTYCD dances ever. This creepy zombie-like routine was choreographed by Wade Robson, who teenyboppers from the late 90s/00s know was the choreographer to both ‘N Sync and Britney Spears – and the rumored guy Brit cheated on from Justin. Yeah, that whole Cry Me A River song? It’s to do with Wade. Allegedly. Anyways, forget that and just watch this haunting routine instead.
Choreographer: Mia Michaels ♦ Song: Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap
Mia Michaels became the standout choreographer on the series from the start, creating memorable dances such as this one, and other duets, including the famous ‘Bench Dance’. While she had already long been a fixture in the dance world, she became known to the TV audience as an incredibly talented, unforgettable, challenging choreographer.
Choreographer: Wade Robson ♦ Song: SexyBack by Justin Timberlake
Hey, remember what I said about JT and Wade? Here’s Wade using JT’s then-new single for the final four group dance!
Choreographer: Mia Michaels ♦ Song: The Moment I Said It by Imogen Heap
I accidentally chose a lot of Mia Michaels dances. Oops. I remember this dance giving me chills the first time I watched it, and it still does to this day.
Choreographer: Mia Michaels ♦ Song: Hallelujah by The Vitamin String Quartet
Is it weird that I really enjoy when they yell ‘HUH’ in the middle of the dance? Again, Mia is known for pushing her dancers with extremely difficult moves. In this final four routine, it’s hard to believe that the two guys, tWitch and Josh (who went onto win) came in as hip hop dancers.
Top 8 + Judges
Choreographer: Mia Michaels ♦ Song: One from A Chorus Line
I swear, I really didn’t mean to put this many Mia dances on the list. In my defense, there’s a reason why she’s been nominated for so many Emmys. But can we just talk about the judges getting to dance in the finale? I just need more dancing Adam Shankman in my life, is that so much to ask?
Choreographer: Amanda and Wade Robson ♦ Song: Comanche by The Revels
Ah, season 6. The ‘lost season’. Like previously mentioned, SYTYCD airs in the summer, but for some reason, Fox execs decided to immediately air season 6 in the fall, directly after season 5 wrapped in the summer. I think because of this, many fans who would usually tune in, didn’t because their other programs were on and took precedence. And it’s frankly a shame because there were a lot of great dancers this season, including some of my all-time faves like Kathryn, Ellenore and Jakob. This particular dance is definitely in my top five.
Top 11 + All-Stars
Choreographer: Wade Robson ♦ Song: Fame by David Bowie
Season 7 brought the introduction of the All-Stars, which saw the return of standout alumni from the past 6 seasons. It was a brilliant addition to the show, and the very first show after the auditions was an introduction to the top 11, with this as the opening number. As a total SYTYCD geek, and definitely fangirled seeing some of the best former contestants from over the years dancing with the newbies. I may have kept this episode on my DVR for like 2 years just to watch this routine over and over again. Yes, I realize now I could have just been watching it on YouTube the entire time.
Choreographer: Mia Michaels ♦ Song: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic by Sting
This is about Alice in Wonderland. A concept that’s not as murky.
Top 10 Guys
Choreographer: Christopher Scott ♦ Song: Velocity by Nathan Lanier
As the seasons go on, I feel like the group numbers get bigger and props are involved more than ever. This one involves doors, so you know it’s going to be good.
Choreographer: Tyce Diorio ♦ Song: The Circus Sets Up from Water for Elephants soundtrack
To continue with the props, this one is like a full out stage production of Pippin or something. That being said, it’s still absolutely stunning to look at.
Choreographer: Christopher Scott & Sonya Tayeh ♦ Song: Torn by Nathan Lanier
I love when choreographers get together – and I love it even more when they’re two of my favorites. Christopher Scott and everyone’s favorite contemporary weirdo Sonya Tayeh collaborated on this epic dance where the only prop is… air. With Christopher Scott’s eye for cinematic storytelling and Sonya’s eccentric and distinguishable dance moves, this routine is one of the most impressive and memorable from the entire series.
Top 10 Girls
Choreographer: Travis Wall ♦ Song: Where the Light Gets In by Sennen
Travis! SYTYCD fans know that Travis is like the golden child of the series. He was a runner-up in season 2, then went on to make his choreographer debut in season 5, and soon became a favorite amongst not only the fans but the judges as well. His fluid choreography and emotional storytelling is almost like the second coming of Mia Michaels. Just not as intense.
Cyrus Spencer, All-Stars Comfort Fedoke, Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss, Choreographer Christopher Scott
Choreographer: Christopher Scott & Sonya Tayeh ♦ Song: Holy Ghost (Helicopter Showdown and Sluggo Remix) by Messinian
When a contestant is paired up with an all-star, that’s stressful enough – but to be put with two AND the choreographer, it must be daunting. But Cyrus, who was the runner-up this season showed no signs of intimidation in this number.
Curtis Holland, Alexis Juliano, Aaron Turner
Choreographer: Anthony Morigerato ♦ Song: You Really Did It (Live) by Jason Mraz
When I used to dance, tap was my jam. It has a special place in my heart and always will. So when this trio – of three tappers in the top 10! – did this routine, I’m pretty sure I cried a little because it was so good and I was just happy to see tap so well represented on the show for once.
Top 10 Guys
Choreographer: Christopher Scott ♦ Song: Sand by Nathan Lanier featuring Karen Whipple
This number involves sand. Like actual sand. As a prop.
Choreographer: Tabitha and Napoleon D’Umo ♦ Song: Puttin’ on the Ritz by Herb Alpert featuring Lani Hall
You know those lip dubs that was the cool thing to do like two years ago? This dance is like that but just with dancing.
Choreographer: Christopher Scott ♦ Song: The Gravel Road from The Village
So there were a lot of great group dances last season, so what? Christopher Scott killed it again with this routine by incorporating rocking chairs, but also using that motion in the moves as well. Meanwhile, I can barely choreograph my own daily life so I’m feeling super accomplished.
Season 5: Top 20 Hip-Hop/Salsa; Season 7: Ashley, Robert, AdeChike, All-Stars Courtney and Neil Contemporary and All-Stars Contemporary; Season 9: Top 20 Modern and Top 14 Contemporary; Season 10: Top 6 Girls Contemporary