E: Every year, SYT does this awesome thing; during the finale reveal, instead of doing a lengthy guest star fest like American Idol, our show looks back on the season and gives us encores of the very best routines. This is one of my absolute favorite parts of the show. Who gets to decide which routines are reprised? It’s varied through the years. It used to be that all of the season’s guest judges (Tony Basil, Debbie Allen, Adam Shankman, L’il C etc…) would appear for the finale and each get to pick one. Now that we have a permanent judging panel, that wouldn’t get us to a very large group of routines at all. So perhaps the three main judges will get to pick more than one. Cat generally gets a pick, which often is a group number. Recently the top four get to redo their favorite routines. Some years, we get a Twitter choice, thought Cat didn’t mention that this time. Perhaps the Team Captains will get a choice, too.
So which pieces will we see? Here’s a list of good guesses, anyway — pieces that drew standing ovations and great praise, roughly in order of the likelihood of their appearance. I’m casting a wide net, since sometimes a judges’ favorite can be a bit of an outlier.
“Angel” Gaby and All Star Robert
There’s no way we’re not going to see Mandy Moore’s triumphant return to the show, in which Gaby stands in for anxiety and fear of the unknown and Robert tries to talk her down. We already know it’s Gaby’s favorite, if she gets a choice, but after the rapturous response and huge voting, I don’t expect any judge would leave it off, either.
“Your Day Will Come” Edson and All Star Jamie
The judges promised Edson that even though he was eliminated in the episode where this aired, it would be long remembered. Were they right? I can’t imagine they’re wrong about Travis’s emotional piece countering despair and depression.
“All Is Now Harmed,” Virgil and All Star Melanie
Absolutely gorgeous Justin Giles piece about a soldier having trouble letting his wife in after returning from war. Virgil displayed a level of acting outside his comfort zone unequaled in the rest of the season.
“Don’t Hang Your Head,” Gaby and Hailee
No, Nigel didn’t stand for this, but the open-ended story about the fear of coming out was clearly one of the best pieces of the season anyway. We don’t get a ton of pieces coming over from the performance finale, but this could be one. If Travis gets a pick, look for that one.
“Youth,” Jaja and All Star Alex
Tessandra Chavez gave Jaja what might be the best piece of her season and certainly her best contemporary effort as a woman in the ravages of early onset Alzheimers. It shows off her acting and growth beautifully.
“Promise,” Kate and Neptune
They’re probably not going to make it this far down the list, but I adore this Justin Giles piece. So many of the top routines come from the All Stars; it’s great to two actual contestants connecting on this level without a permanent partnership. In their work as a married couple facing a long separation, Kate and Neptune were an intimate revelation.
“Luminous,” Gaby, Moises and Derek
Stacey Tookey brought us this quietly lovely piece about the joy of finally making the joy and fully experiencing the moment. It was definitely the highlight of the first Top Twenty episode.
“You There,” Edson and Megz
Though unlikely to make the final list, this stunning Talia Favia story of temptation and awakenings was an emotional highlight for the two dancers, and particularly showed us the freestyler’s capabilities in a way we hadn’t seen.
“No Woman, No Cry,” Jaja and Jim
Team captain tWitch thought this Christopher Scott animation routine could be a staple of the season, and there’s no doubt he called his. It was Jim’s best work all season not only in hip hop but in connecting with his partner, listening to and understanding the struggles Jaja faces as a woman.
“I’m Really Hot,“ Gaby and All Start Joshua
When a geisha and a ninja fight, all hell breaks loose. Gaby blew us away with her fierceness, precision and twerking, and it remains one of Pharside and Phoenix’s top efforts as the go to hip hop choreographers of season 12.
“Let’s Go,” Virgil and All Star Joshua
And here’s another of their best pieces — perhaps their best, according to Paula — the performance finale’s show stopping answer to girls ruling the world. No, the idea of boy power doesn’t impress me (blunted a bit by Virgil’s inability to stop smiling), but the fierce choreography sure did.
“Runnin,” Hailee and Virgil
And, here we are again with Pharside and Phoenix, with the first of many successful collaborations between Hailee and Virgil. In fact, this piece showed us that Hailee can hip hop like a hip hop dancer. You go, girl! It also made me really, really nostalgic for Nigel jokes that they’d be replaying this clip in season 75; I think the comic and theatrical piece has a excellent shot of making it to a performance finale which hopefully, hopefully won’t be the show’s last.
“Just My Imagination,“ Virgil and All Star Comfort
Okay, so maybe it’s not the flashiest, but Christopher Scott’s ode to a young couple moving in with each other is filled with affection, playful romance and fluid tricks. Just so lovely and impressive.
“Milk Was A Bad Choice,” Neptune and All Star Jasmine
The last piece to receive standing ovations from all the judges, poor Neptune got the axe after this crazy number about Frankenstein and his bride. It wasn’t my favorite from Pharside & Phoenix, but it was theatrical and fun.
Now, let’s face it. Pretty much all of the routines will come from the two styles mentioned above, but probably not every single one. But in case, here are the other options.
“Asht,“ Jim and Yorelis
If anything jazz shows up, my bet’s on the single piece Sonya Tayeh choreographed for individual contestants this year. The electically charged power play certainly shows off both contestants to the fullest, and the judging panel were ecstatic, but I have to admit, with that music? I don’t love it myself.
“Gorilla,“ Burim, Ariana and Gaby
I know it’s incredibly unlikely, but I was a much bigger fan of Sean Cheeseman’s spidery, monstrous African jazz, and would love to see Ariana and Burim again.
“Kintamani,“ Virgil and All Star Jasmine
Again, I don’t see it, but if the judges are looking for some variety, this incredible New Orleans-influenced African jazz in which voodoo wizard Virgil tries to seduce innocent Jasmine to do his bidding, but finds the task harder than he imagined, is a real gem.
“Beautiful Friends,” Top 8 Stage
Cat often picks group numbers, and this one feels like a top contender. It’s a great concept — the ghosts that haunt a theater come out and play at night with the ghostlight left on for them — it’s got great clothes, and is over all shivery-wonderful. Travis’s best group number in a season which saw the team captain working over time.
“Ready or Not Here I Come“ Top Ten Street
Team Street came out of the gate with blazing speed in this exciting, powerful Nappy Tabs military take on the competition. Pure awesome.
“Baila Como Yo,“ Top Twenty take 2
Pharside & Phoenix knocked it out of the park with this gorgeous Day of the Dead inspired stomper. From the costumes to the tricks to the Spanish guitar, it’s a winner.
“Let The Groove Get In,” Top 18
Just ecstatic, joyous fun in a folk, street-meets latin ballroom form, choreographed by Asiel Hardison and Reina Hidalgo.
“Dibidy Dop” Gaby and Zack, tap
Anthony Morigerato may have handed Gaby the win with this delightful routine. Dancing on box tops in an Old Hollywood style, Gaby and Zack made us gasp with delight and thrilled us with their prodigious skills.
“It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing,“ Hailee and All Star Brandon Broadway
Nigel called Hailee a Broadway baby; this stunning piece is definitely where we learned that. I thought choreographer Warren Carlyle was going to explode with happiness when this first aired. Who knows, it might even be Hailee’s favorite.
“Duo de Amor,“ JJ and Leonardo, Argentine Tango
Without question the most successful ballroom of the season, this ovation-gaining, sultry routine saw JJ paired with her choreographer (Leonardo Barrionuevo, working as usual with Miriam Larici) instead of injured partner Derek. Utterly swoon-worthy.
“Naacho Re,” Jaja and All Star Alex, Bollywood
Who didn’t like this energetic, joyous story of a princess trying to escape the guard keeping her in the palace? The first of Alex and Jaja’s two stunning collaborations this season, Nakul dev Mahajan harnessed his star’s charisma perfectly. It may have been her first time playing a princess, but Jaja proved her impressive ability to create characters outside her obvious wheelhouse here.
“Let’s Face the Music and Dance,“ Jaja and All Star Ricky, Broadway
Now that we know this is Jaja’s mom’s favorite routine, does it have a shot of appearing? I loved this little snuggly Josh Bergasse gem, full of old MGM style and glamour, with mobster Ricky convincing his petulant trophy wife Jaja that they should enjoy their moments in a holding cell before getting carted off to the Big House.
And there it is! Have I left anything off the list you think will make it through? Let me know! Compiling the list has made me even more excited to see some of these routines, and combing through the season to find the best bits made me happier about season 12 than I thought I would be to start. Well done, ladies and gents, well done.