We’ve made it! Weeks of auditions and a brutal, bloodthirsty Vegas callback elimination process have lead us here, to the fabled “green mile.” In seasons past this has meant a sort of morbid and drawn out episode of the remaining hopefuls taking the long walk down the video-lined hallway, reminiscing about their journey to this point before facing down the judges for what may or may not be the last time ever. It’s emotional, and sometimes awkward, and often manipulative. But that’s always been part of the fun.
However, this year we get a new format. Tonight we start out on the brand new Season 8 stage, in front of a live audience and the line of judges, and the stunning-as-ever Cat Deeley. As the final dancers are chosen we get to see them perform full choreographed routines on the stage. It’s actually a nice change, in my opinion. This gets us to the performance element of the season a bit quicker than we normally would have. As one of our readers put it on Twitter last night, “Less angst. More dance.” Amen.
And so, for the first time this season…
Welcome… to SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE!
The first group of dancers announced for the Top 20 this season are Ricky Jaime, Miranda Malesky, Sasha Mallory, and Melanie Moore. The four of them perform a contemporary piece choreographed by Stacey Tookey, and as the very first official choreo piece of the season I think it’s pretty great.
Group two highlights what I think may be one of the weaknesses of this season: no female hip hop dancers. There are four hip hoppers, all men. Chris Koehl, whom I don’t remember meeting in previous episodes, will join Wadi Jones, Tadd Gadduang, and old boy Robert Taylor, Jr. They get to work with choreographer Dave Scott. It’s not the best routine we’ve seen in this style, but it allows the four to show off their individual strengths, which of course is what it’s meant to do.
Our third group is actually a solo, as we have only one ballroom dancer to work with this year. Lithuanian dynamo Iveta Lukosiute finally makes it into the Top 20 after multiple attempts the past few years. For her inaugural performance, a piece designed by Jason Gilkison, she makes out like a bandit by getting to dance alongside Season 3 golden boy Pasha Kovalev. Iveta is not my favorite dancer (yet), but this routine is hot!
Group number four brings out the jazz dancers, three girls and one guy. Clarice Ordaz, Missy Morelli, and Jordan Casanova join my beloved Marko Germar. Appropriately enough, considering I think Marko could be the Mark Kanemura/Kupono Aweau of this season, the group gets their freak on in a Sonya Tayeh piece. Possibly my favorite dance of the evening.
So Nigel managed to sneak one by us. Knowing that America has not been particularly fond of this particular style in the past, at least in the context of this series, we were never once shown tap dancer Nick Young in any of the audition or Vegas episodes. But here he is, getting his peanut butter in our Top 20 chocolate. (Okay, that sounded awful.) But fortunately it turns out he’s got a really great personality and a charisma when he dances. He’s paired with freakishly talented but possibly arrogant (?) Broadway dancer Jess LeProtto in a Christopher Scott joint.
And our last group of dancers, rounding out the Season 8 Top 20, a cavalcade of contemporary: Caitlynn Lawson, Mitchell Kelly, Ashley Rich, Alexander Frost, and almost-was Ryan Ramirez. And my most anticipated choreographer, second only to Sonya, Travis Wall finally turns up to put together a beautiful, pastoral routine.
So with the cast assembled, all that remained was to put together routines for all the guys, all the girls, and of course the entire group as a whole.
Top 10 Guys, choreographed by Christopher “LXD” Scott…
Top 10 Girls, by mad genius Sonya Tayeh…
And ladies and gentlemen, your Top 20!
And there you have it. I’m pretty excited about this group, despite a few dancers I’m not particularly fond of, and the loss of a few that I really fell in love with early on. (I’m not bitter. Really.)
Next week, the actual competition begins. For real this time. If past format persists, the Top 20 will be split into ten couples, and each week one guy and one girl will be sent home. Once we’re down to the remaining Top 10, Nigel will bring back the All-Stars from past seasons (fingers crossed for Alex Wong!!) who will pair up with the dancers as needed. And for the first time you will be able to vote online at http://www.fox.com/dance. Online voting begins immediately after the first performance show airing Wednesday, June 15 (8/7c). You’re apparently limited to 50 votes per week, and you have to have a registered Facebook account to use the online voting. Standard telephone voting is still available, naturally.
Let us know what you think. Who’s your favorite dancer? Are you excited there’s a tapper on tap again this year? Will Mary Murphy defy doctors orders and begin screaming again? Leave us a comment here on the site or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.