Wow. So… that happened.
If you’ve never watched So You Think You Can Dance before, you may be unaware of just how brutal the Las Vegas Callbacks are. I passionately love this show and even I forget the pain and suffering involved in this stage of the competition. Basically, dancers that make it through the initial audition process are all brought to Vegas, where they are put through three grueling days of physical and emotional torture. If there were any question whatsoever in your mind about whether or not these kids are world class athletes that put most professional sports legends to shame, this episode should banish all doubt.
Far too much happens in the Vegas phase at far too fast a pace for me to even hope to be thorough in my recap here. There was good, bad, AND ugly tonight, and I’m still a little dazed and confused frankly. But I’ll see what I can cobble together for y’all.
Day One, Round 1
Judges: Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Adam Shankman, Debbie Allen, Jason Gilkison, Robin Antin, Tyce Diorio
Unfortunately at this stage of the show we’re still at the mercy of the editors, relying on them to show us the “characters” we will be following as the competition progresses. And seeing as there is an overwhelming amount of stuff to get through tonight we don’t get a lot of individual focus on the solo routines that start the day, ironically enough. Of the 160 that made it this far, we only see a few dancers here, primarily B-boy dancer Wadi Jones and sister act Sasha & Natalia Mallory. It’s the Mallory girls that draw the most attention right off, and they keep it throughout the callback weekend.
46 dancers are cut immediately, leaving 114 to move straight on to the first choreography challenge…
Day One, Round 2
Choreography: Napoleon & Tabitha D’umo (aka NappyTabs)
NappyTabs weren’t pulling any punches with the routine they put together for the kids here. Performing in smaller groups but judged as individuals, there were quite a few shock eliminations coming out of this. Chyna Smith, the Idaho uber-fan from the SLC auditions, did NOT do well, but was given a second chance to try the routine (for some reason). 19 others weren’t so lucky, including Hiro McCrae and Patty Anne Miller, the two kick-ass lady hip hop dancers that I was so certain would be bringing it to the guys this season. Gone without even a glimpse at how they performed tonight. Less shocking was the loss of New York “whacker” Samara “Princess Lockeroo” Cohen. Also taken from us too soon, Irish step dance champion Mary Kate Sheehan and Latin leg-lifter Kristen Dobson.
I’m telling you, the judges aren’t screwing around.
Somehow, Chyna Smith survives her grace-of-god second dance and moves on to the next, and exponentially more merciless, phase…
Day Two, Round 1
Choreography: Tyce Diorio
Not my favorite style OR choreographer, but it brought some good and bad surprises. Jeremiah Hughes, who had a bit of a meltdown during the Vegas callbacks for Season 4 and was cut, makes his return here, and does really well. He moves on, along with sexy-but-“innocent” Jordan Casanova. Wadi Jones begins having serious leg cramps that affected his performance, but he manages to impress the judges enough to continue. Also living to dance another routine is smilin’ Virgil “Lil’ O” Gadson.
Falling short, thankfully, is krumper for Christ Brian Henry. His aggressive attitude during the auditions really turned me off of him, and the tears of joy when he got his ticket to Sin City weren’t enough to win me back. So not particularly sorry to see him go.
Day Two, Round 2
Choreography: Jason Gilkison
The next round was the crippling foot injury portion of tonight’s entertainment. The ladies in particular suffered, with several trying to pull it off sans shoes (Shanshu?), and the rest kicking off their footwear the second the routine was done, limping and hobbling away to find hot and cold compresses.
Natalia Mallory had some problems with this dance. Of the two sisters, Natalia is the heavier, with a much more of a full figure than her sister Sasha, or the typical dancer. Just one part of what makes her so impressive is how amazing a dancer she is considering her physicality is not what you generally see in this level of competition. But despite her skill, this routine introduces the difficulty of partner dancing that requires lifts. After a disappointing performance, Nigel splits her and the gentleman she was paired with and she gets to try again with a stronger male partner. This time the judges put her (and her partner) straight through to the next round.
Her sister Sasha gets some minor criticism for her legwork during the routine, but she too is moved along.
However, one of my early favorites, Alexis Mason, has a harder time. Her performance of the choreo routine stumbles, but she’s given a chance to “dance for her life” with a solo. She needs to get at least three yes votes from the judges panel to move on…and she does. Nigel was a no vote, but is pleased that he was outnumber because he wants to see how this experience will push her to work harder.
Day 3, Round 1
And that brings us to the next level of hell, wherein all the surviving dancers are put into groups of four or five, given a randomly selected piece of music, and asked to stay up all night (after a full day of learning choreo already) and create their own group routine which they will perform for the judges the following morning. Typically this is the point where the stress and fatigue starts truly taking its toll. Season 8 is no exception.
Natalia begins to fade, complaining of lightheadedness and chills. Medics examine her and administer fluids, but it’s unclear whether she’ll be able to go on. Her group, which includes Jordan, Arielle Coker, and DC Chapman, insist they won’t perform without her. But during the night of choreo cramming, DC feels ignored and out of place with the group and walks away for awhile. They all come back together and commit to making sure all the dancers ideas are represented in the piece they put together, and all is well. The next day Natalia is cleared to dance, the group performs and pretty much blows everyone away. Natalia is understandably moved that her friends were so supportive of her, and DC breaks down into tears over how positive the experience has been for him. The entire group advances to the next round.
In fact this was the most successful Group Round ever, apparently. Seems of the 74 dancers that made it to this stage, only seven ended up being cut after the group dances.
But that leads into the “bloodbath” phase; the point of the callbacks that has brought more dancers to heaving sobs than any other…and which ultimately leads to the loss of another of my early favorites (and to my first “WTF are you thinking, Nigel?!?” of this season)…
Day Three, Round 2
Choreography: Travis Wall (with assist from Season 7’s Robert Roldan)
Returning hopeful Ryan Ramirez ends up going to the hospital for x-rays to find the source of pain hampering her movements. Natalia also is taken away in an ambulance after suffering further dehydration and low blood sugar. Sister Sasha tried to leave the competition to go with her, but Natalia sent her back and told her to perform, which she did and she advances to the final round.
30-year old last chance dancer Robert Taylor, Jr. and Jeremiah Hughes graduate to the next level. Ryan returns from the hospital with a clean bill of health and despite missing much of the choreo rehearsal manages to wow the judges and move on.
But then shit gets real and the truly shocking cuts begin to hit…
Chyna Smith, once granted a second chance, gets tossed aside. Followed by a very emotional (him and me) DC Chapman. He was devastated, and Debbie Allen told him that she would personally help him achieve his potential, which I guess means she’s going to accept him into her dance school? Not sure, but it’s meant to be an honor, and a sign of how much she believes in him.
But that noble gesture does nothing to lessen my pain and frustration when Allen rather coldly dumps the legitimately stunned Arielle Coker. Always a favorite of mine from seasons past, her audition in Los Angeles took my breath away and I would have bet a significant sum of money that this, her FOURTH attempt at the Top 20, would be IT. Not the case, and the news is broken to Arielle, and to us, in so sharp, sudden, and unfeeling manner that I’m STILL not 100% sure it was real. I’m still stunned and waiting for the other shoe to drop, where she’s brought back at the last minute and told that this year we’ll actually have a Top 21.
Alas, I don’t think that’s very likely. I can only hope that the experience doesn’t completely turn of Ms. Coker, and that she’ll come back again next year and blow us all way AGAIN. Please, Arielle…don’t give up.
Other casualties include Kimalee Piedad from the Atlanta auditions, Amber Williams from The Bay Area auditions, and nearly-naked Chase Thomas from SLC all fell beneath the axe.
Anyways, on to the final round…
Natalia comes back from the hospital with a diagnosis of diabetes but clearance to dance. Despite missing the contemporary choreo entirely, she is allowed to perform her solo. After a moving, emotional answer to “Why should you be in the Top 20” she is sent through.
Alexis Mason, however, doesn’t QUITE make the cut for this season. She is sad but realistic, saying she’s still young and determined and she’ll be back again next year. She did choke up just a bit when she said she was going to call her sister Jeanine and break the news.
Which leaves two of my favorites from the audition stages completely unaccounted for. Marko Germar is completely absent, near as I can tell. Unless someone can point him out to me in the background somewhere I don’t believe he was ever on camera, and so I have no idea what his final status is.
And lastly, my very first “I know it’s way too early to call but I think this girl could win it” pick, Melanie Moore, though we never actually get to watch her perform anything during the entire episode, we did get to see very brief flashes of her being moved forward from one round to the next. And the last scenes of the remaining dancers all partying in the penthouse suite after the nightmare was finally over (or ALMOST over) clearly showed her as one of the celebrants. So there’s THAT piece of potentially good news at least.
And that’s it. Tomorrow night we get the “Top 20 Revealed” episode, where the judges sift through everyone that is left and make their final decisions, narrowing it down to ten guys and ten girls (unless they take my advice and bring Arielle back as the eleventh girl). And then next week we finally kick off the actual competition stage of the season.
As always I’m dying to know what you guys thought. Anyone particularly impress or disappoint you? What was the most shocking cut? Will Arielle be back? Leave a comment here on the site or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.