OMGoodness, City Kids! What a drama-filled night we had in Vegas. The SYTYCD auditions are done, and the announcement of the top 20 will come next week--but only after a grueling four days, and six rounds of competition, in Vegas.
We’d like to think that the live shows, while difficult, are not nearly as exhausting as the Vegas callbacks, but the judges have to put the contestants through the ringer to see what they can handle. They have to make some cuts, so might as well test the contestants' mettle.
Adam Shankman and Stephen “Twitch” Boss again joined resident judges Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe, along with first time judge, hip-hop singer Jason Derulo. The 200 dancers mentioned at the end of last week’s episode had been pared down to 159, dropping out for mostly unknown reasons, but they showed Taylor Ward’s Alien-like knee dislocation two more lovely times.
The dancers’ first assignment was to perform a live-or-die solo after only 10 minutes of warm-up and before even unpacking their suitcases. No time to relax until you’ve survived the first cut. It’s the deepest, as they say, at least in terms of numbers. They cut 53 dancers, including our favorite nerd, Caleb Brauner, who seemed to do the same routine as his Memphis audition. Lesson #1.
Day 2 brought the hip-hop round with returning choreography team Tabitha and Napoleon. The dancers were raring to go, especially Detroit animator Jade Zuberi who attacked the Nappytabs routine with tons of swagger, earning a direct Napoleon compliment. But Jade’s Vegas journey would not continue so smoothly.
After lunch, the dancers took on Sonya Tayeh’s jazz routine. It’s so fun watching the language that choreographers and teachers use. Sha sh-shoo sha! Ba! You tell ‘em, Sonya. That SNL skit, which most non-dancers didn’t get, is absolutely, hysterically true: The sounds help you get the rhythm and the steps just snap into place--but not this time. Sonya felt the dancers weren’t good enough after the allotted learning time, so she gave them the night to work on it.
Shenanigans. The point of auditions is to see how quickly dancers pick up steps and styles. So why give them the whole night? Just to drum up drama and make them even more drained for the group dances.
New Judge and New Girl Hannah Simone replaced Jason Derulo for Day 3. She was announced as a "dance enthusiast," but we wonder what her expertise in dancing is. Derulo probably dances hip-hop in his concerts but we’d still like a reminder. It’s good to know that they’re not just taking anyone.
Poor Malece Miller. She stunned the judges during her Los Angeles audition and again in the first round of Vegas cuts, but she had a rough night practicing the jazz routine. During one fateful early-morning run-through, her partner lost his grip and dropped her—on her head. Of course, the producers had to show this moment eight times. At least two of those with a loud THUD. (Fortunately, and surprisingly, they didn’t show that poor guy puking more than once.) After spending the night in the hospital, Malece was cleared to compete, and survived the round.
Animator Jade hit his first bump during the jazz round too, when his partner publicly dissed him because he was shorter than she. The judges made him dance for his life but they gave her a talking to and let her through. It’s disappointing that they essentially rewarded her for—as reality competitions frequently say—throwing him under the bus. But it’s OK; Jade easily made it through with a minimalistic routine to that great aria from The Fifth Element while she was let go after the next round. Lesson #2.
After a quick summary of the ballroom round and a reintroduction to its star, Jenna Johnson, we were on to the always dramatic group round, where the dancers create their own routines. They focused on three groups, the first of whom blew everyone away with their moving tribute to the Boston Marathon bombings. The five dancers—including Jenna and contemporary dancer Jasmine Mason, who auditioned in Season 9 with her brother Marshea, sometime after a devastating car accident left him in a coma—started spread out in separate positions on the stage, simulating a slow-motion run in place. After fantastic partnering, including two women supporting each other, the group came together by routine’s end, slo-mo jogging in one close-knit supportive group.
The two other featured groups had a little more trouble. The group with contemporary dancers Jennifer Beals…er Jones, Amy Yakima (not Amy Acker), and Tucker Knox couldn’t accommodate Latin ballroom dancer Mariia Lebedava, but they pulled their routine together and all survived the round. However, “Facts with a little Fik-Shun,” which featured Cyrus’s ex Jasmine Harper, and popping-locking star Du-Shaunt "Fik-Shun" Stegall, whose musicality, originality, and performance quality blew the judges away in the live-or-die round, wasn’t as lucky. Chrystiane Lopez played group leader and probably spent more time drilling them than practicing herself, and Derek Tibarda declared, with two hours to spare, “I did my part.” Not surprisingly, the performance was a mess, and Chrystiane and Derek were both sent packing (Fik-Shun and Jasmine were deservedly safe). Lessons #3 and #4.
As we reach the long-awaited “contempry” round, as Cat Deeley says it, only 54 dancers remain. More brutal cuts are made, including Jennifer Jones, who we thought was a sure bet for the Top 20. But lightning-fast tapper Curtis Holland is still holding strong. Jade is forced to dance for his life—again, this time doing battle against Dorian “BluPrint” Hector, the animator from Cyrus’s Dragon House. Leaving it to choreographer Stacey Tookey to decide, she of course lets them both through to the next round. (We wouldn’t want to call it either.)
So next week comes the Big Reveal: The Top 20. A few names seem obvious if only from the amount of exposure they’ve had so far: Malece, Amy, Jenna, and Jasmine Harper. Perhaps Jasmine Mason as well. We also suggest Curtis Holland, Tucker Knox, Makenzie Dustman, Alexis Juliano, and Nico Greetham, who was present but didn’t get much airtime. We still wonder about the unnamed female krumper, who seemed to be there and may get in for novelty, and we still have hopes for quirky horror dancer Dannon O’Brien, though he wasn’t shown at all. Fik-Shun, BluPrint, and Jade all seem important enough to make the Top 20 but only if the judges decide to take three hip-hop dancers. I suspect they’ll cut either Jade or BluPrint. Fik-Shun ain’t going nowhere but the top.
So City Kids, who were your favorites? Who are your obvious Top 20 dancers? Are you excited for the Big Reveal?