We’ve finally made it, City Kids! After weeks of auditions and four grueling days (for the dancers; only one night for viewers) in Las Vegas, they’ve finally revealed SYTYCD’s Top 20 dancers for Season 10. And it wasn’t the least bit surprising.
Last week, we correctly guessed 14 of the Top 20 dancers, based partially on their talent, but mostly on the amount of exposure they’ve received so far. There were no surprises. Contemporary dancers Amy Yakima, Malece Miller, and Jasmine Harper were all sure bets, as was ballroom dancer Jenna Johnson. We also pegged tappers Alexis Juliano and Curtis Holland, contemporary dancers Jasmine Mason, Tucker Knox, Makenzie Dustman, and Nico Greetham, who is rapidly becoming a favorite (yes, already), and both animators Jade Zuberi and BluPrint.
Fik-Shun was first to be revealed in the Top 20 along with the blond female krumper Mariah Spears (though they didn’t say her last name). Cat Deeley reminded us that “we first met Mariah in Austin and she’s been shining ever since," yet this is the first time they’ve mentioned her name. She was clearly a strong dancer, and a female hip-hopper is novel enough that we knew she’d be Top 20.
The six dancers we missed included tapper Aaron Turner, who replaced the injured Emilio Dasal, contemporary dancers Hayley Erbert and Carlos Garland, and ballroom dancers Brittany Cherry, Alan Bersten, and Paul Karmiryan.
The always gorgeous, always stylish Cat hosted the evening's live show looking "like a giant disco ball," according to guest judge Adam Shankman. She is by far the best reality show host on television, with a quick wit, great humor, and such empathy for the contestants. The love and concern she has for them all is clear, but it’s been long enough since her first seasons that the audience doesn’t remember her saying, "Please welcome your jidges."
Fik-Shun and Mariah started the performances with a Luther Brown hip-hop routine. As adorable and engaging as Fik-Shun was during auditions, Mariah stole the stage. It was an effort to watch Fik-Shun because Mariah grabbed all the attention with her exacting power and thrust. He may have his work cut out for him this season.
The first four contemporary dancers, Makenzie, Jasmine Harper, Nico, and Tucker, danced a gorgeous Stacey Tookey routine. The judges wanted more artistry and emotion from the dancers, though they loved Makenzie. Nico and Tucker fell out of sync at the end. Adam wins the award for best, dead-on judge’s comments, telling Jasmine to use clarity and specificity, Nico to dance from his back more, and Tucker to let himself go. We love when they give constructive criticism without worrying about whether the audience will understand. It’s one of the many reasons this show is so great. Viewers learn about dance without realizing it.
It’s so exciting to have strong tappers! Tappers have yet to really impress on SYTYCD, but Alexis and Curtis could go a long way. Adam is totally right again: Curtis displays an "unbridled joy" that’s a pleasure to watch. He’s obviously having fun. Aaron, however, is an unknown quantity: He was not initially chosen for the Top 20, and he looked awkward (or nervous) and worked hard during Anthony Morigerato’s thrilling routine. What terrific choreography, with musicality, great use of space, and exciting slides and toe stands. Love that Jason Mraz too; the swing in his songs lends itself so perfectly to percussive foot beats. Another reason we love this show: It features real dance for dance's sake and not only themes and gimmicks (though they certainly use those).
Christopher Scott (two first names) graced us with two terrific routines, the first showcasing animators Jade and BluPrint. Scott knows how to work to his dancers’ strengths, so much so that we have to wonder how much of the choreography is his and how much the dancers bring to it. Jade and BluPrint played mannequins coming to life but not like seductress Kim Cattrall in Mannequin or killers on Doctor Who. Still, they were seductive and they did kill it.
Mia Michaels came back for the second contemporary routine. Mia is one of the show's strongest choreographers (and a personal favorite) who also dishes out brilliant critiques, but this routine was lacking. While some of the chair movements were reminiscent of Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16, the jagged, unflagging movements became repetitious, and the Don Draper love triangle theme was distracting. We half expected them to play twister on that rug.
The two ballroom couples performed Louis Van Amstel’s mixed-style routine, featuring excellent double Samba rolls. Nigel’s comment about Jenna running back up the Green Mile “like a velociraptor” was odd and confusing, especially because she shone in the routine. The other three dancers all but disappeared. You’re good, Velociraptor. Rar.
With the reveal of the last contemporary girls, the music—recognizable from Doctor Who because it’s reminiscent of Titanic—tried to build some tension. Again, it was utterly unsurprising that Amy and Jasmine Mason took the last two spots. They danced a Sonya Tayeh routine, matching each other perfectly right down to their two high chignons. And we saw Sonya’s move du jour at least three times: grab the leg in a high, side extension, perhaps add a shake. As enjoyable as Sonya’s choreography is, you always know it’s hers and not just from the funky walk Nigel mentioned (seen in The Garden, her first and best choreography to date).
Sonya, looking somewhat like Boy George, also choreographed the last routine of the night featuring the entire Top 20--but only after the Top 10 men performed the evening’s second Christopher Scott routine and the Top 10 women performed Ray Leeper’s “‘60s mod-era” inspired jazz routine. The Fosse-esque, even more exaggerated Rich Man’s Frug was fun, and the women were in perfect unison, but it paled compared to Scott’s thrilling routine. He brilliantly incorporated sand into his choreography in a new way, creating a stunning visual look—and a big mess on the stage. It left us wanting more, especially after its abrupt ending, but we could do without Nigel’s request to dance with his ashes after he’s dead. Ew.
While Sonya’s Top 20 routine just felt crowded, we’re still gung ho for an exciting season with these extremely talented dancers. Where will Season 10 take us? Do you have any early favorites so far?