FOX's So You Think You Can Dance kicks off its eleventh season on Wednesday, and while the series can't be said to be in its prime anymore — the judges don't really critique anymore, and the whole enterprise might be well served by starting the competition at 16 dancers rather than the traditional 20 — it's still your go-to program if you're looking for top-notch dancing on TV.
We put together a guide to maximizing your So You Think You Can Dance YouTube binge. In this case, we're offering our picks for the all-time best SYTYCD routines in its most popular genres. In Part 1, we covered contemporary, jazz, standard ballroom, Bollywood, and disco.
Hip Hop (Shane Sparks)
Runners-Up: In the early seasons, Shane Sparks was hip hop on So You Think You Can Dance, before he departed for America's Best Dance Crew and scandal. His best work from season two came, most improbably, from his collaborations with gawky Mormon swing dancer (and eventual season-two champ) Benji Schwimmer, including an early routine with Donyelle and a season-capping nerd-fest with Travis Wall. He managed to produce hip hop that was sweet (Sabra and Dominic's "Make It Work"), scary (Kayla and Jason's "They're Everywhere"), and stylish (the Matrix-y "Get Up" group routine). Still, his best-known routine still stands out from the rest, a Transformers-themed number from season three ...
The Best: Lauren and Pasha, "Fuego," season three
Hip Hop (NappyTabs)
Runners-Up: First off, can I just say how much the portmanteau "NappyTabs" grates on me? So cutesy I could kill myself. Married choreographers Napoleon and Tabitha have established a stranglehold on the SYTYCD hip hop genre, for good or ill. They manage to produce enough objectively fantastic routines to justify their tendency to repeat themselves or smooth out hip hop's edges (see next category). Their best true hip hop has been in group routines (season four's "Closer"; season five's "Seven Nation Army") or when working with great hip-hoppers in their own right: Russell and Kathryn's "I Can Transform Ya"; Twitch and Lauren's "My Chick Bad"; Comfort and Jasmine's "Run the World." Topping these all was another collaboration with Twitch, wherein they unearthed some swag out of a ballet dancer ...
The Best: Alex and Twitch, "Outta Your Mind," season seven
Lyrical Hip Hop
Runner-Up: The softness of some of Napoleon and Tabitha's routines began turning purists off to a degree that the show began branding certain routines as "lyrical hip hop," a blend of harder hip hop with more emotionally accessible contemporary. They'd been doing it all along, though, starting with Katee and Joshua's "No Air" in season four. Routines flirted with being overwrought (Comfort and Adechike's "Fallin'") or syrupy (Jess and Clarice's "Just the Way You Are," choreographed by Christopher Scott), but they more often than note hold the line, like with Melanie and Marko's sweet "I Got You." The best remains one of the first, from season four ...
The Best: Mark and Chelsie, "Bleeding Love," season four, choreographed by Napoleon and Tabitha
Hip Hop (everyone else)
Runners-Up: The emergence of Christopher Scott in the last few years has been a great development for the show, as he's infused a new life into the hip-hop routines, particularly with dude-heavy group routines in season eight ("Velocity") and season ten ("Sand"). Funny enough, it was (the unrelated) Dave Scott who held down the fort for the show in its early-to-middle years. Dave Scott choreographed infrequently but almost always brilliantly, from Lacey and Pasha's "In the Morning" in season three to Comfort and Twitch's "Forever" in season four, to Kathryn and Legacy's "On and On" in season six. By all rights, Dave Scott should be the cream of the crop here. But Christopher Scott went and made something real sexy in season eight ...
The Best: Sasha and Twitch, "Misty Blue," season eight, choreographed by Christopher Scott
Runners-Up: This bullfighting dance can look pretty same-y a lot of the time, so to stand out you have to be pretty flawless. Such was the case for Nick and Melody in season one, Travis and Heidi in season two (both choreographed by Mary Murphy before she retired from choreographing to become a hot-tamale-train conductor), Lindsay and Cole in season nine, and Alex and Jenna in season ten. To stand out as the absolute best, though, apparently you had to dress up like Neo and Trinity. Routines between the two best dancers in a given season always have a bit of an extra charge to them, and season five did not disappoint ...
The Best: Jeanine and Brandon, season five, choreographed by Louis Van Amstel
Runners-Up: There haven't been a ton of standout sambas through the years on this show. Jeanine and Ade doing "LoveGame" in season five comes to mind. Most notably, samba choreographer Dmitry Chaplin teamed up with Napoleon and Tabitha for a combination samba/hip hop to "Calle Ocho" that was sweaty and exciting. Chaplin would also choreograph the best pure samba of the series, teaming up tempestuous Lacey and Danny (who, pet theory, maybe hated each other?) ...
The Best: Lacey and Danny, "Hip Hip Chin Chin," season three, choreographed by Dmitry Chaplin
Runners-Up: A sparsely-deployed dance style, the rumba is generally thrown into the mix to see if a given pair can handle overt sensuality. The rumba is a sexy, sexy dance. Real-life chemistry helps, so Gev's crush on Courtney in season four was put to good effect in their "Wishing on a Star" routine. Another real-life crush helped the series' best rumba to date, though I won't deny that it mostly snagged the top spot because it inspired Debbie Allen to call the fire department ...
Runners-Up: Of all the ballroom styles, cha-cha has proved to be the most amenable to pairing with of-the-moment pop hits. Jean-Marc Genereaux loves doing this, and often does it quite well: Brandon and Janette's "Hush Hush" from season five; Lauren and Pasha's "Telephone" from season 7; Paul and Witney's "Live It Up" from season ten. The top routine is something of a ringer, since it featured a trio of ballroom dancers in their home style. But who's complaining?
The Best: Witney, Lindsay, and Nick, "Dance Again," season nine, choreographed by Jason Gilkison
Runners-Up: Well this is a silly little dance, isn't it? All leg-shaking and hopping around like little rabbits. Sure is fun to watch when done right, though. Such as with Clarice and Jess' "Ain't Nothing Wrong with That" from season eight, or Tiffany and Benji's "What I Like About You" from season nine. For the very best, though, look to Avril ...
The Best: Danny and Anya, "Girlfriend," season three, choreographed by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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