We hardly got to see what Evan DeBenedetto was made of on “So You Think You Can Dance.” He only got to perform one tap routine during the live shows, and it had to be watered down because his partner Chelsea Hough wasn’t a trained tapper. The two of them were eliminated the very next week. But judge Nigel Lythgoe knew what a missed opportunity that was, so during the season finale on September 10 he had choreographer Anthony Morigerato create a brand new tap routine for him. And he was joined by season 14 champion Lex Ishimoto. Watch their performance above.
DeBenedetto and Ishimoto performed their impressive routine to an old classic: “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” by Mel Torme. It was an impressive performance by Ishimoto especially because his background isn’t in tap. It’s in contemporary and hip-hop. But Ishimoto was actually mentored last season by all-star Gaby Diaz, who made history in season 12 by becoming the only tap dancer ever to win “SYTYCD.” In fact, when Lythgoe criticized Hough for her tapping in the first live show he said he wished he could have seen DeBenedetto dance with Diaz instead.
Do you think tap gets a fair shake on “SYTYCD”? Despite Lythgoe’s obvious affection for the dance form, tappers have struggled to advance. Besides Diaz, only four other tappers have ever even made it to the final four, and all of those were in just the last five years: Aaron Turner (runner-up, season 10), Valerie Rockey (runner-up, season 11), Zack Everhart Jr. (fourth place, season 11) and Emma Hellenkamp (fourth place, season 13). Even more than other styles of dance, tap’s skill set is so specialized that it’s hard to translate to other performers who aren’t specifically trained for it, hence Hough’s struggle.
But Ishimoto proves that there’s hope yet for another tap champ and for other non-tappers to successfully tackle the form. This wasn’t the year. But maybe in 2019?