For many loyal So You Think You Can Dance watchers, this is the week when they really start paying attention and get involved for the remainder of the season. This week the show moved back to Los Angeles along with the remaining 33 to announce who made that critical last cut into the top 20.
*Click on dancer name for their story and social media links*
Cat Deeley, looking like a big blonde disco ball according to guest judge Adam Shankman, welcomes America with a roaring crowd to the Hollywood stage and introduces Adam, Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe. Nigel prepares everyone that they’ve decided to invest in dancers this year, even if they are unsure how they will handle the rigors of the show. Cat made her way backstage to the holding room where the dancers were waiting with baited breath to get the news whether they will be sent home just short of the limelight, or will finally get their feet firmly planted onto the live stage for the first time.
The first dancers to hear the good news and perform were in the hip-hop group. Du-Shaunt ‘Fik-Shun’ Stegall came as no big surprise at all, but Mariah Spears was a welcome surprise to see a genuinely hard-hitting female krumper dancer make the top 20. Cat informs us that Emilio has injured himself during practice and cannot compete as part of the Top 20. These two should do well in the competition because of their will to fight for it, Fik-Shun has been fighting to keep at the forefront throughout the auditions so far, and Mariah fought back after not making the cut last season. They performed a Luther Brown routine to Ball by T.I. and Lil Wayne and get the first standing ovation from the crowd of the season.
Fik-Shun tells us Mariah is his “Lover on Stage” (L.O.S.), which quickly catches on like wildfire through social media.
The next group to get the green light was a contemporary group. If you are used to the judges style of selecting talented men who are subdued and timid, then the two guys Nico Greetham and Tucker Knox didn’t come as any surprise. Makenzie Dustman was a huge surprise because she is not the typical girl they put through, but a welcome surprise because of her depth in talent and infectious personality. She really needs to get on the social media train and get in touch with her fans though. With so much build, everyone expected Jasmine Harper to make it through, but it yet to be seen if she will get out from under the shadow of others and find her own individual confidence to shine. They perform a beautiful routine to Sleeping At Last’s Goes On and On choreographed by Stacey Tookey, where Tucker and Makenzie really stood out.
The biggest shocker of the night came when the next group was announced, the tappers. A dancer that showed loads of talent, but seemed to fall short in his capability and personality was Curtis Holland, so he will be one to watch. There must be a lot more to him the judges see than what the cameras have shown the audience so far. Alexis Juliano was the one tapper everyone expected to make through because of her range and bubbly personality. However, after Emilio had to back out due to his injury, the one tapper that seemed to work the hardest and most deserved, Aaron Turner was included into the top 20. It’s puzzling how he could not have been considered in the top five with his height, strength and range, but he will be great for the show now that he made the cut. They performed to to You Really Did It by Jason Mraz and choreographed by Anthony Morigerato, and America probably stood up and agreed with Adam Shankman when he said it was the best tap routine ever for the show.
Despite the hype and drama the producers continued to build around Dorian ‘BluPrint’ Hector and Jade Zuberi, everyone knew in their heart of hearts that both of these animators would be put through to the Top 20. Unfortunately, without some kind of miracle from the Dance Gods, neither are prepared to handle what lays ahead and will likely not have the kind of fan support needing to go deep into this competition. Jade lacks the height and range needed to partner well, BluPrint lacks the personality to capture an audience, and the both lack the tedious skills required to earn a loyal audience through social media. They performed a Christopher Scott number to Kezwik and Mel Presson’s Trigger, that tWitch critiqued BluPrint’s lack of facial expression ironically in a piece choreographed to be about a group of mannequins, then Nigel, Mary and Adam spoke about investing in them, being humbled by them and how they are not from this planet, like they are some kind of sideshow freaks. How insulting is that?
Drumroll please… This season’s ballroom busters will be Brittany Cherry (WooHoo! Sure hope she gets a decent partner), Jenna Johnson (third time is the charm), Paul Karmiryan (possibly the strongest guy of the season) and Alan Bersten (heartthrob, heart breaker and pantie dropper). They perform a unique Louis Van Amstel group ballroom routine to Little Mix’s Wings that Adam, Nigel and Mary all comment how the girls outperformed the guys. Not sure what they were watching, but sometimes they don’t see past the last three minutes. The fact is, the women are up against a deep field of very strong contemporary dancers, whereas the men are two of the strongest of this season. As far as partnering Aaron is probably the strongest guy, who backed into the Top 20 due to an injury, with Nico coming in a distant fourth.
The next contemporary group to be put through is Carlos Garland, which came as a huge surprise, Hayley Erbert, the mid-western phenom with the killer smile, and baby face funny girl Malece Miller. They were fortunate enough to be paired up with choreography God, Mia Michaels performing to Stay by Rihanna. Carlos is probably the only one that really has anything to worry about, because men tend to be forgotten in Mia Micheals’ piece, though this performance was phenomenal. Nigel gave excellent advice to Malece that she may need to mature more quickly than her peers, because although she is the same age, so appears and acts much younger. She should also be taking snapshots on her phone and posting them to social media with funny comments like a… well, like a teenager trying to fulfill her dream.
Okay folks, this is the moment we’ve been waiting for. The Jazz group is made up of Amy Yakima, the multifaceted performer this column has predicted as a front-runner from day one, and Jasmine “Jazzy” Mason, finally breaking into the Top 20 with her quirky smile and gorgeous hair. Now the moment I have been waiting for, the perfect pairing of Sonya Tayeh choreography with Amy Yakima’s dancing that seems retrofit for it. They both suitably perform to Björk’s Enjoy and dance becomes a magic show where gravity does not apply and everyone stands in awe as they try to understand the illusion. Nigel thinks both girls are stunning and praises Amy’s technique and Jasmine’s dancing ability. Mary calls the piece her favorite of the night and says the girls are princess warriors. Adam comments that he can’t wait to see Jasmine grow this year and tells Amy they nicknamed her “The Truth” in Vegas, and she is still bringing the truth to the stage.
The group numbers were show stoppers, starting with the Top 10 guys performing a Christopher Scott number to Sand by Nathan Lanier and Karen Whipple that actually involved sand. Mary said she thinks this is going be the craziest season ever and Nigel said this is why the show wins Emmys. The Top 10 ladies performed to a Ray Leeper piece to Let’s Have a Kiki by Fanny Pak and District 78. Adam calls it a Bob Fosse style number and says he can’t wait to see what happens this season, while Nigel observes that it will be very difficult for America to pick a winner this year. The final group number including the entire Top 20 was choreographed by Sonya Tayeh and performed to Ghost of Sky by Steed Lord. Although there wasn’t enough time left for Cat to allow the judges to respond, it was an amazing finale performance that set the stage for an incredible season and showed that Sonya Tayeh continues to push personal and industry boundaries to create choreography innovation.
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