Season 9’s Time to Shine? A Look at the SYTYCD Top 20

So it’s time for another season of FOX’S So You Think You Can Dance, and I must say, so far the audition process has been quite entertaining. So much so that I wonder if the competition is going to live up to it. This past Wednesday marked the reveal of the top 20 contestants selected for the Hollywood shows from thousands of hopefuls from the five audition cities. Some very good choices were made, and I will admit that some of them I did see coming—particularly since executive producer Nigel Lythgoe kept stressing that they were doing something different with the show this year and not necessarily selecting all of the “best” dancers. Here is my breakdown of the lucky 20 selected and their opening numbers from the “Meet the Top 20” exhibition show:

Alexa Anderson
George Lawrence II
Will Thomas
Amber Jackson
Jessie J (Tyce contemporary)

Number was technically good but not great; George is a standout dancer. I’m still trying to see what they’re trying to pull out of Alexa—I’ve got to watch more closely. She was passed over for Ryan last season, and so far it looks like they really were evenly matched, because I wasn’t impressed with Ryan, either. Amber looks capable, and I agree about Will having to work harder to match or even surpass his fellow dancers.

Witney Carson
Lindsay Arnold
Nick Bloxsom-Carter
J. Lo w/ Pitbull (Jason Gilkison ballroom)

The girls totally eclipse Nick, but are they Anya, Janette or Chelsie worthy? This number pales in comparison to the Season 6 number with Karen and the Dillelos.

Eliana Girard
Daniel Baker
Chehon Wespi-Tschopp
Mottram/Everitt/Shadid/Marberger (Richardson/Rhodes ballet)

The. Bomb. Diggity. Eliana is poised to take this—I don’t think there’s another dancer in this year’s group that can match her versatility (the woman can POLE DANCE, for God’s sake!). Expect her and possibly Chehon on tour (he kind of reminds me of Season 3’s Danny Tidwell). Since the panel was so impressed with Daniel’s consistency that they picked him first, there’s a good chance he’ll be there as well…and I can see where they’re coming from after watching THIS number another 20 times this weekend.

Audrey Case
Tiffany Maher
(Janelle Issis)
AWOLNation (Sonya Tayeh jazz)

Thankfully, this was just the exhibition show, or else Janelle would have gotten the Jessie Peralta (Season 3) treatment. Some noticeable bobbles, and the routine was marred by the fact that I know it was supposed to be a trio. However, I see a great deal of expression in both girls—each had their moments in this piece. Relatively evenly matched but could see the little extra extension in one and the little extra nuanced expression in the other.

Amelia Lowe
Dareian Kujawa
Matthew Kazmierczak
Janaya French
Efterklang (Stacey Tookie contemporary)

This number was also technically good. The boys are respectable: Matthew has some good technique and Dareian seems to have worked some on softening his feet. Good thing, because he’s gonna need that flexibility. Amelia’s still quirky—reminds me a little of Melanie with the doe eyes. I need to see her outside of contemporary. Janaya was seen as “invisible” by the panel up until the last days of Vegas—and the same is holding true for me here. Have to focus on her a little more to see if she’s got the goods.

Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer
Cory Horibe
Brandon Mitchell
Nathan Lanier (Christopher Scott masterpiece)

To restate my FB status, Christopher MF’ing Scott. #thatisall THIS was a spectacular and imaginative number, and an excellent showcase for three unconventional dancers with unique areas of expertise. The drive and tenacity he displayed in Vegas gives me a personal soft spot for Cyrus but he’s going to have to improve his stamina and technique to get to the Top 10. Cole looks to be flexible, but is he adaptable to the other styles? Brandon’s a sleeper here—can’t quite determine what else is in his bag of tricks.

Top 10 girls
Sennen (Travis Wall contemporary)

I’ll admit, the girls are strong. And Travis’s piece was very symbolic and great for the first show. No real girl standouts, which could be a good or bad thing….it’s probably what the number required, but it’s not very easy to gauge who’s got the best shot.

Top 10 guys)
Steed Lord (Sonya Tayeh jazz)

The maw-maw waisted culottes were killing me—especially on the guys with no real chest. Lifts were incredible though—and once again George literally leapt out from the pack with that assisted lift.

Top 20 group
Kaskade (Mia Michaels contemporary)

Welcome back Mama Mia. Fascinating use of dancers and good piece to spotlight the 19 (again, wonder what Janelle would have added). Reminiscent of the duo she did for Season 2 with Allison and Ryan and the “Higher Ground” group piece from Season 5, but not a standout.


Personal Picks

SYTYCD seems to be on a 4 year burst with me—Seasons 4 and 8 are tied at the top, as yet the only two seasons I was enamored with all the contestants and thought the judges made the best picks possible. Some seasons have had, for me, a solid 8 or 10 with star quality; others, I just watched for who was most adequate. At present, this season is not at “Top Shelf” level, but the dancers do show promise.

Now as a brown dancer myself I have to put Amber on my “Wish to Win” list—not trying to pull the race card but with the light skin/dark skin history my people have (and the notorious lack of darker female dancers to make it to the Top 20, let alone the Top 5), it would be nice to add a chocolate sister to the Winners’ Circle to stand alongside Sabra. Cyrus will probably not win but I’m definitely pulling for him to get to Top 10 and/or the tour. Eliana and Chehon (as previously mentioned), along with George, are early standouts for me, and my newfound love of bellydancing has me pulling for Janelle. I’m also pretty simpatico with Dareian (‘cause I can relate to the feet thing), and Brandon’s mystery intrigues me.

The one good thing about the dual winners is that the numbers will stay even…I’m trying to fathom how this no results show thing is going to work. Season 6’s structure was a dismal failure, and if they’re planning to do a similar thing I’m not going to be a happy viewer. But we’ll see how this shakes out.


Other notes

SO over the guest judge thing. I know names pull viewers, which pull ratings, but unless the star in question has a dance and/or musical background of significance, we can do without them. As cute as Zooey Deschanel is, I need y’all to show me her performance resume. Jesse Tyler Ferguson grates me but at least he’s got some Broadway chops. Bring on the DANCE professionals! Is Judith Jamison busy?

And who came up with the “Green Mile”? They only started using that theater beginning with the Season 5 finale show…did they call it that before?

Y’all already know I’m going to be watching….I’ll do some individual handicapping in the next blog post.


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