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It's Vegas call backs. Time to cut 181 hopeful dancers down to our Top 20. Our expanded judging panel includes resident judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy, joined by Lil C, Debbie Allen, Adam Shankman, and Tyce Diorio.
Bit of business before we begin...this season we'll see a first in SYTYCD history. Both a male and a female champion will be crowned.
First up, it's solos from everyone and an immediate cut down to 130.
Let me show you something you may never have seen before. His name is Hampton and what he does is quite...indescribable. Turn the music up if you can.
Regrettably, that's all we're going to see of Hampton this season. He withdrew because he recognized that the choreography was just a little too fast and challenging for him. Sometimes I'm bothered by a dancer who takes the ticket to Vegas and then withdraws. That's a place another dancer could have taken and now that chance is wasted.
Not this time. I was glad to get a chance to see this young man dance again.
Hip Hop choreography is first with Twitch and Comfort. They put together such a challenging routine that several of the pop/lockers just couldn't handle the movement and the speed. This program will expose a one dimensional dancer. Doesn't mean we didn't see brilliance in specialized styles. It just means that if you want to play on SYTYCD, you're going to have to study and be versatile.
So 97 move on to Broadway with choreography from Tyce. Some dancers really stepped up and did well, but others didn't have the mix of dance and character.
Sonya Tayeh takes 82 dancers through a tough Jazz routine. Each choreography round is really challenging the dancers, as they should be challenged. A lot of good dancers just don't have the technique to dance in this style, and the cuts showed that. And we're down to 67.
One gal made it through the round, then came back to help another dancer. She got kicked in the face and carted off to the hospital on a back board. The guy she helped got cut. Yikes. Luckily she was OK physically, but unfortunately it did affect her and she was cut in group round.
Group round takes its toll on more dancers. In the past, the dancers have been put in groups by the judges. This year, they get to pick their own groups and I'm not sure I like it. I guess it worked out for some, but not so much for others.
Jason Gilkinson joins the panel for ballroom round, and choreographs the Cha Cha Cha for the audition. Tough to fake your way through this round. If you don't have technique, you've got to have that spark that says "I'm struggling here, but you don't dare cut me". And if they make you dance a solo to stay in the competition, you show them in your style what got you to Vegas and to this round. Like this young man. Turn up the music if you can. He has a movement for every note and personality to spare.
Cyrus also showed how much he understands what this opportunity means. The respect he gave to each piece of choreography he learned, and to each dancer in the theatre, was tremendous to see. Spoiler - he made the final group of 36. He knows he doesn't have the training and he shows a humbleness at the process. I think he made it because he is spectacularly good at what he does, and also because he's that rare and unique pop/locker who can absorb something new and give it his own flair.
Contemporary...52 dancers laid bare in what I've come to call the self discovery round. Travis Wall steps in to give them the routine. Cuts came only after everyone had danced.
Now it's 34 through to the final cut while 18 must dance the contemporary choreography again. Two more are chosen to bring our total to 36. One more round. One more solo.
But not before one more injury. One young man tried a back flip and lost his footing, falling flat onto his back. It was a really scary fall. He did not come back to dance in the solo round, but he will be included in the final group.
Four guys were cut after solos. But all the remaining gals get through for a total of 36. From them we'll get our Top 20.
I love this show. The dancers who make it through to Top 20 are talented, versatile, and inspiring. What they find in themselves during Vegas week is the strength to take on all challenges, and we get to watch that journey.
Tune in next week when we'll meet the Top 20 dancing in their own styles. It's a tall order to surpass the outstanding cast from Season 8.