In Season 5, I was really blown away by the female talent: Jeanine, the eventual winner, but also Janette, who in any other season would have been in the top three, Melissa, the adorable ballet dancer, and even Kayla, who I really didn’t like at first, but was technically superb. There were good male dancers, especially Brandon, but I wasn’t really “rooting” for any of them.

My favorite couple was Janette & Brandon, probably one of the strongest combinations we’ve seen in terms of technical skill from the get-go. One-third of the recorded dances I saved from the couples round are theirs, including a disco (“Loving Is Really My Game”), cha-cha (“Hush Hush; Hush Hush”), and a Wade Robson jazz piece about bank robbers (“Ruby Blue”).

Their Argentine tango was one of the best we’ve seen on the show:

Janette & Brandon are a great example of the diversity this season. Even though this is where we start to see contemporary overtake ballroom in the numbers (with ballroom dropping to 35% of dances and contemporary/jazz climbing up to 30%), when I think of my favorite dances from this season, they are a wide range of styles (as exemplified in the group number below, which is a mix of hip hop and samba). And there were a lot of favorites; it was very difficult to select clips for this post. Please click on the many links to see more.

Although there were no Top Ten dancers specializing in either standard or Latin ballroom (Janette’s specialty was salsa), Season 5 had some of the most memorable ballroom numbers of any season. Choreographers didn’t hesitate to challenge these dancers in a variety of styles: Melissa & Ade had an incredibly sexy rumba (“Emotion”), Asuka & Vitolio had a dreamy Viennese waltz (“Dreams Are More Precious”), Janette & Brandon killed in both their cha-cha and Argentine tango, Karla & Vitolio danced in an adorable quick-change quickstep (“Puttin’ on the Ritz”), Caitlin & Jason’s displayed smooth elegance in a jazz-age foxtrot (“Minnie the Moocher”), and Jeanine & Brandon danced a dramatic paso doble (“Tetsujin”) in the finale.

Standout contemporary numbers in this season were Kayla & Kūpono in “Eyes on Fire” by Sonya Tayeh, Jeanine & Jason in “If It Kills Me”, which marked Travis Wall’s debut as a choreographer, Melissa & Ade in “This Woman’s Work” by Tyce Diorio, Kayla & Brandon in “All I Want” by Stacey Tookey, and Kayla & Kūpono in “Gravity” by Mia Michaels, the dance about addiction that still makes me sit up and watch each time I see it.

Mia Michaels only choreographed three competition pieces in Season 5, but they were all spectacular. I loved her interpretive piece for Jeanine & Kayla in the finale (“The Four Sections”) and her “Koop Island Blues” for Randi & Evan was a fabulous match of dance to dancers.

Two of Tabitha & Napoleon’s numbers also stood out. The ingenious “Love Lockdown” for Jeanine & Phillip…

… and the show’s first funk number in “Love Sex Magic” with Janette & Ade.

But my favorite hip hop was Shane Sparks’ brilliant zombie routine:

Going into this project, I wouldn’t have suspected that Season 5 would be my favorite, but reviewing them all in close proximity it is, by a long shot. Great dancers, some great partnerships, and great choreography.

By the way, if you want to get a good overview of any particular season, I encourage you to check out the YouTube playlists that Luan Derick has created. You can watch most dances from all seasons (except 2) strung together.

In the meantime, I leave you with the Top 6 in “Send in the Clowns”:

To be continued…

For previous posts in this series, see The Best of SYTYCD: Season 1, The Best of SYTYCD: Season 2, The Best of SYTYCD: Season 3, and The Best of SYTYCD: Season 4.