So You Think You Can Dance: The Top 20
I’m not sure where those others guys went but Las Vegas will only get to see 172 dancers audition. Oh well, if there’s any dancing at all then I’m not complaining. To join Nigel and Mary on tonight’s esteemed panel of judges is Lil’ C, Mia Michaels, Adam Shankman and choreographer and once TV star Debbie Allen.
Day One begins with solos that the judges don’t critique after each performance. Once they’re all done, the judges get together and make their first big decisions as a whole. Some superstars include: Alex Wong who I remember getting through to this round but REALLY don’t remember being so athletic, technical, intense and dramatic. WOW!
Tony Bellissimo focuses more on entertaining the judges with gags focused on pictures of Nigel’s face popping all over the place than on his dancing, but we all know that the judges don’t only love great dancing but they love them some personality too. If you’re fantastic but boring, it’s pretty much as bad as being bad and boring.
With the solos over, the judges thought with the talent they had, they might not even cut anyone this round, but it didn’t turn out to be so. In fact, they were disappointed that some people weren’t up to par, and they cut 45 dancers after one dance.
Next is the first round of choreography and YAY! It’s hip hop with Napoleon and Tabitha. And with only an hour to master the “not slow at all” dance routine, it’s do or die time.
The first dancer I remember seeing, Gabi Rojas, a beautiful and different contemporary dancer, has a hard time and doesn’t make it better when she’s put in her group and completely loses the steps. Even the ones she hits are pretty much awful. In total, another 37 dancers are cut, leaving 96 contestants left.
Day Two brings us ballroom in the form of a waltz with Jean Marc Genereaux and France. That cute import from Asia Nobuya Nagahama is the first good thing we see, at least in those who are clearly not trained. He even breaks down in tears (so cute!) thanking all of his teachers who helped him, even when he faltered.
Philip Chbeeb is a judge favorite but doesn’t do so well this round. Adam even looks delighted that he can’t stop isolating and popping even when doing fluid arm motions. He’s clearly trying and that wins them over. And his friend Arielle is cut, being a big disappointment to the judges when they know she’s had more training and is capable of more personality.
In the end, 16 more bite the ballroom dust. I guess they’re a little more forgiving when it comes to something so technical and not as open to interpretation. Next up, Jazz with Sonja.
Two of the judges’ “almost made it in 2008″ favorites Natalie and Brandon shine during rehearsal but when they get up to do the dance, the judges, surprisingly, don’t really care for them.
Natalie, who I thought was a shoe-in, is one of the first to get cut, and it puts a fire under the butts of all the other dancers. Brandon is next, and though he disappoints Mia and Lil’ C so far, Nigel still has faith in him, and he goes on to the next round.
Gaby Rojas had the luck of being in the last group, therefore she was able to practice longer or watch the dance over and over again, but it didn’t seem to help her even though it should have been the type of style right up her ally. She’s the first dancer asked to dance for her life, and she has to win over at least 3 of the judges. Luckily for her, she’s absolutely gorgeous and enrapturing doing her solo, unanimously being sent onto the next round.
Seven dancers are cut after Jazz, leaving 73 contestants to continue on. And now it’s pressure time. They are given all night to choreograph a routine to a random pick of songs. But we as avid watchers know it’s not the song, but the meshing of dancers who love and know different styles and all have different personalities.
During Day Three, the first group was mired by not really getting along and not having any clue of what to do, and the finished product reflected that. The best group is the final one, containing (and most likely mostly choreographed by) Evan Kasprzak. They’re called Nerdography, and they’re in sync. It’s fun and upbeat and they showcase each other.
68 dancers moved on to the next stage. But from Group One, Eric aka “Silky” danced for his life, which he was counting on because he didn’t believe in his group, but maybe he should have focused on making his group better because they didn’t see the fire in him or enough of something new.
How they fit SO MUCH of Vegas week into one episode, I do not know, but it’s Day Three and it’s contemporary time with Mia Michaels. Be ready to get your butts worked hard, dancers.
One of my favorites, Nobuya just isn’t good enough to make the cut this round. Of the two sisters of the group, Megan and Caitlin Kinney both make it through. Megan passes without problem, but Caitlin dances for her life, only getting three of the necessary votes to get through. Unanimous or not, she lives to dance another day.
Tony B. has shined throughout the auditions but contemporary does him in, and in an unusual move he’s asked to not only dance for his life but to do it by repeating contemporary, his toughest routine of the day. They are impressed with the changes he made in just a short time, and he gets through bringing him to tears. And I love Cat. She says what we’re all thinking. She loves to see a grown man cry.
With 13 dancers cut, 54 contestants are left for Day Four, and Tyce Diorio is ready to run these guys ragged with some West Side Story Broadway.
For the first time, the auditions are separated into male and female groups. While the girls learn their “I love to be in America” routine, the guys lounge by the pool. A lot of people who seemed to be shoe-ins are cut including Bianca Revels, Megan Kinney and Gabi Rojas, leaving 16 girls to shake it one more time. And then while the girls get the time in the sun, the boys get down and “COOOOOOL”, leaving 16 boys left as well.
THE FINAL TOP 20 REVEAL
But after all that Vegas madness, I know what you really want to know. Who will be the dancers we’ll be falling in love with and voting for?
Janette Manrara is the salsa dancer who’s been down on her luck, but this turned up from the moment she brightened the judges’ day in Miami with an upside down, in the air split.
Kayla Radomski has the cutest grandparents who sacrificed so much to get her dance classes, but she can also captivate anyone so it’s no wonder they support her so much.
Brandon Bryant has the judges yelling at and over each other. Mia and Lil’ C still don’t like him, but it doesn’t matter because he’s through. And I think he’s fabulous. And he even lets his foes know that if he gets the chance to choreograph with them that “it’s on!”
Jason Glover was my call from the beginning. He’s just a gorgeous dancer who always emits emotion. I’ve got to see more of his personality, but I love him already though I know so little.
Phillip Chbeeb epitomizes a sure bet. He’s got the crazy unique, hip hop style we all love to watch because we don’t understand how someone’s body can move that way, and he’s tried enough of the other styles that he will have an okay time picking them up and fun trying to do so. He’ll be a fan favorite, no question.
Evan Kasprzak is the younger of the sibling pair, but I believe he is the better one in terms of overall dancing. Although his brother Ryan choreographed him, I think Evan has tighter skills, and the judges did fall in love with him when he almost made it last season.
Kupono Aweau put some of the judges off in Seattle with his early auditions, and can ANYONE learn to pronounce this boys name? But he took the criticism and built on it, so that’s always a good sign.
Paris Torres is a former beauty queen who knows how to work the screen. I remember her first audition, but she’s been focused on very little since. Can she lose the perfection and bring her real persona out.
Tony Bellissimo may not have the dance chops, and the judges put him on blast to step it up, but they love to watch people grow and have faith in him.
Max Kaptitannikov is one of those guys who does Latin ballroom well, and magically did everything else well too, but he’ll need to turn on the sexy to get the ladies to pick up the phone.
Caitlin Kinney has hip issues as well as some confidence issues, plus without her sister, she may lose steam, but no one can deny that she’s a fantastic dancer. Hopefully she won’t be her own hardest obstacle.
Randi Evans loves unitards. We got so see a montage of them so it can’t be denied, and we didn’t see her very much since the beginning, but the judges have faith in her strength.
Asuka Kondoh. We know the judges love her, and she can definitely move with flair, but can she do the other styles well enough to keep her in the competition?
THE RARELY SEEN
Vitolio Jeune from Haiti has the talent but needs to bring out that personality if people are going to pick up the phone for him.
Jeanine Mason is a contemporary dancer and one of the youngest competitors at 18.
Karla Garcia has been on Broadway so we know she should kill that area, but since we saw so little, what about the rest?
Ade Obayomi got some early time but has been absent since so will he have the fans going in to stick around long?
Jonathan Platero is apparently a world champion in salsa but we hardly got a glimpse of his skills.
Melissa Sandvig is that ballerina who always gets through but disappoints during her solo because she doesn’t bring enough “ballet,” plus she got so little screen time and doesn’t seem to have the most exciting personality, so she may see some problems.
Ashley Valerio, a dancer I can’t even recall from the beginning, but I’ll cross my fingers for her.
Alex Wong knocked my socks off Vegas Week. I was like, where did this come from! He’s in a ballet company where we know they are strict about focusing on their one field and not so much about messing up the technique with trying others. I though after Wednesday he would be a sure bet, but he is under contract to the Miami Ballet company. Nigel asked their artistic director if he would let him out of his contract for the time of the show, but the meanie just wouldn’t. To see him cry, broke my heart.
So that’s our top 20. I think overall, their skills would kill last season, and that says a lot because I was OBSESSED with last season’s contestants. I can’t wait to see next week performances and what styles of dances the producers pick for the first go round!
Season 5, Episodes 4&5: Vegas Callbacks (originally aired June 3&4, 2009)
For another take on this episode, check out Robin Reed‘s review here.
For more on So You Think You Can Dance, click here.
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8/7c on Fox
Photographs courtesy of Fox and IMDbPro