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Utah dancer steals judges’ hearts in first half of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ finale

SHARE Utah dancer steals judges’ hearts in first half of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ finale

Roy jazz dancer Hailee Payne performed in the first part of the "So You Think You Can Dance" season 12 finale Monday night, earning rave reviews from the judges.

Payne started off the night playing an outlaw in a hardcore hip-hop duet with krumper Jana "JaJa" Vankova.

The judges loved it.

Pop icon Paula Abdul said the duo "killed it" and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said that they had "stolen (his) heart."

The next time Payne came to the stage, it was was in what choreographer Josh Bergasse called an "acrobatic" broadway duet with hip-hop dancer Virgil Gadson.

"(Payne) plays this nice, quiet girl who lives in the city, but she lives below (Gadson), who is the nightmare neighbor who is also a drummer," said Bergasse.

After they performed the fast-beat duet, Abdul complimented the duo's timing, but R&B artist Jason Derulo said he thought Payne went in and out of character in the piece.

Payne followed up the upbeat routine with an emotional contemporary piece with tapper Gaby Diaz.

"This piece is about the fear of not being accepted," said choreographer Travis Wall. "(Diaz) is struggling to be herself and (Payne) is the one to come in and comfort her."

"If we inspire one person to accept who they are, I feel like we've done our job," said Payne.

The judges raved about the piece.

Abdul called it "quite special" and Lythgoe said "it was beautiful to see."

Payne's fourth dance of the night was a jazz duet with former contestant Marko Germar.

"I'm the last jazz dancer standing," said Payne. "I just really want to show America what I can do in jazz."

Payne received mixed reviews from the judges for the piece.

Derulo said that he thought Payne danced the piece powerfully, but he would have liked a little more "fire" and "grit."

Lythgoe commended Payne for giving "100 percent" throughout the entire competition.

Payne's final dance of the night was an upbeat jazz solo to Abdul's "Cold Hearted." The judges gave her a standing ovation.

The second half of the season 12 finale will air Monday, Sept. 14 (FOX, 7 p.m. MT). Tune in to find out how Utah's last remaining dancer will fare.