By Amy Watts
5:20 AM EDT, June 21, 2012
Las Vegas! 181 dancers will be winnowed down to 20 over eight rounds in four days. Judges will be Lil C, Debbie Allen, Adam Shankman, Tyce Diorio, Mary Murphy, and Nigel Lythgoe.
First up they're all doing solos and they could be cut immediately if their solo doesn't pass muster.
Hampton "Exorcist" Williams is up first and he's moving Shankman to tears within the first 20 seconds, Tyce within the first 30. I think he's a safe bet to go forward.
After the first ten solos, Nigel calls them back up for the first cut — girls we've not met before named Jennifer and Brianna.
Bellydancer Janelle Issis is up first in the next round of dancers and, thanks to her metallic gold fabric shawl, is easily microwaveable for your convenience. She loses the shawl pretty quickly and then does things with her abdominal muscles that should really only be possible with the help of an industrial grade washing machine agitator.
We get more quickly edited footage of good dancers and we're reminded how deep the talent pool is on this show, even if they do ultimately cut 51 dancers after the solo round.
The first round of choreography is hip-hop, led by former contestants Twitch (Stephen Boss) and Comfort Fedoke. Before the first round, Hampton is quitting the competition because he doesn't have the training to pick up choreography. Andre, from the Atlanta crew Dragon House, is having a hard time and planning to quit too.
After the first hip-hop group, Boris from Dragon House is out, as is the Praying Mantis contestant and the mother of two. Cyrus, the last of the Dragon House guys is up in one of the later groups and he makes it through to the next round.
Day 2 and we have Tyce Diorio to choreograph a Broadway round. There's a story, because of course there's a story, about dancers being randomly overcome with lust in the club. It can never just be, "You're sexy people and I'm going to make you look sexy."
Ballroom dancers Witney Carson and Lindsey Arnold, from the Salt Lake City auditions, are very blonde, very happy, and very friendly. And roommates in Las Vegas. They're both in the first group to perform. The whole group is moving on. As are apparently most of the groups in Broadway rounds.
Alexa Anderson, who was cut just before the top 20 last year, is in one of the later Broadway rounds. They ask her to step forward and Shankman says, "I'm getting tired of fighting to save you" and goes on to say that she's not giving the judges or her partner enough of a connection, and admonishes her to "dance like you want it, honey."
Two male dancers are cut from this group and then we see a montage of other cuts, set to a really intriguing cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way." I'm going to have to hunt down who's doing that — readers, do you know?
82 dancers remain at the start of the Jazz round, choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. The b-boy we met in New York, Shefeek Westbrook, is having a hard time with choreography and bacon eater Danielle Dominguez is his partner and trying to be encouraging.
They're in the first round along with Rachel the "burlesque jazz" dancer who auditioned in lingerie. Rachel and Shefeek are both cut, with Rachel begging to be kept on. The begging works as as the judges, with the exception of Adam and maybe Nigel, agree to let her dance for her life.
Danielle is back to help out by partnering contemporary dancer Giovanni who repays her kindness by KICKING HER IN THE HEAD. Accidentally, but still. And then he's cut!No good deed goes unpunished. The medics check her out.
In this next round, we see jazz baby Amelia Lowe and Cyrus Spencer from Dragon House who's partnered with bubbly blonde Lindsey Arnold. Lindsey's through, but the judges are split on Amelia, who will be dancing solo at the end of the round. Cyrus is told to take classes to learn the contemporary "lines" but he's through to the next round.
We check back in with Danielle and she's in a neck brace and on a gurney being taken off in an ambulance. Yikes!
All in all, 15 dancers were cut during the Jazz Round. Rachel is up first and her version of "burlesque" is not that different from what I'd call "stripping." The judges all say no, and Debbie Allen finds the most diplomatic way to say they're not looking for strippers on "So You Think You Can Dance."
Amelia's up next doing a much more balletic style than I remember from her original audition. She's got Adam in tears and Sonya is either enraptured or recently dosed on high-grade pharmaceuticals -- let's assume the former.
That was a really, really beautiful solo -- I so hope they keep her. Sonya says yes, Nigel says no, Mary and Debbie say yes, Adam says yes and "Thank you," Lil C gives her a yes but tells her to heed Nigel's advice about infusing her solo spirit into routines choreographed by others.
And now that it's late at night on day 2, let's give the dancers the group challenge. They'll be dancing in the morning, but the twist this year is that they get to pick their own groups. They then randomly get music and one group is seriously stoked about getting Coldplay. Ooooh-kay.
With all of the Las Vegas days being compressed into this one-hour show, it all goes so quick. Remember when you could count on a good 45 minutes of group routine drama? This year, all the drama happens over the commercial break and we come back at the start of Day 3, 30 minutes before the groups are set to dance.
Danielle got the all clear from the hospital and didn't get back to rehearsals until two hours after the groups had formed and she's going around all forlorn asking for a group to accept her.
Under-rehearsed and tired, they're the first group up and dancing to the ubiquitous Gotye song, "Somebody That I Used to Know." Nigel tells them it was terrible and that, really, they should all be sent home. The judges confer and ultimately send home Charlie and Danielle. Moral of the story: Don't get kicked in the head, kids.
Cuts, cuts, and more cuts -- although it appears Cyrus makes it through.
A group calling themselves "The Highschoolers" because "[they're] going to prom" dance to a completely neutered cover of "I Wanna Dance with Somebody." Just because you slow a pop song down doesn't automatically make it profound. (For my favorite cover of that song, check out David Byrne's - it's delightful.)
Nigel calls Aubrey, who takes credit for choreographing the piece, a "mini Mia Michaels," and the whole group makes it through.
We see the barest snippets of more groups, who are apparently all good. I'm going on record here as feeling this new rushed Las Vegas episode is a travesty. I really wish they'd stretched these Las Vegas days into two shows.
The last group includes three dancers who've made it really far in the auditions for previous seasons, including Alexa. Tyce starts by saying he "doesn't want to be a bitch" and then SHREDS Alexa, including saying he's "not enamored by [her] beauty anymore."
MEOW, Tyce. The judges gang up on Alexa and badger her into showing real human emotion, so they can justify passing her on to the next round.
Ballroom, choreographed by Jason Gilkison, is the penultimate round in Las Vegas and he's given them a cha cha, which is flummoxing poor Cyrus. Bless his heart, he's trying so hard and projecting so much personality, but he is so out of his depth. The judges ultimately decide to give him a solo at the end of the round.
We see a montage of cut after cut, including Asher, the country bumpkin hip hopper --I'm frankly surprised he'd already made it that far.
They're spotlighting Aubrey again in this round, only to cut her first thing. Switcheroo! She then has a bit of a breakdown and I wish they'd let her do that privately.
The "Zombie" hip-hopper from Dallas has amazing hip action -- who knew? He's through to the next round.
Alexa is up in the final group of the day, and she makes actual facial expressions which impresses the judges no end. Jason says she was one of the best in the round and Nigel says she "Shawn" which I think is British for "shone" and she's through.
Cyrus is dancing for his life and Shankman comments to Lil C, "I'd have to see a chiropractor for the rest of my life if I tried one [bleeping] thing." Based on his solo, the judges are unanimous in their yeses.
There are 52 people left at the start of the final round, Contemporary with Travis Wall. Nigel announces that they won't be making cuts after each group, but will hold their decisions until the end of the round.
Sidebar: I'm ok with them holding contemporary until the last round because it feels like contemporary dancers are often favored on this show. Doing the other styles first feels like a fair weeding process to me.
We're only shown one group dancing the contemporary choreography, which is fine by me because that's about all the Jason Mraz I need in one night. Nigel starts calling dancers to the stage, including Janelle, Lindsey, Amelia, and Cyrus.
There's a whole gaggle of dancers on the stage and Nigel tells them they're all through to the final round, which will be solos the next day.
Eighteen dancers left on the stage and they're regrouped to do the contemporary choreography again. Which means I do have to hear more Mraz, boo.
The final group includes Mariah the white girl krumper and Joshua Alexander, the amazing dancer from Atlanta auditions. Joshua's through; Mariah isn't.
Joshua's trying to rehearse a new trick, which looks like a backflip of some sort. Before the final round and he lands flat on his back on the floor and it is not pretty. Gurney, ambulance, hospital, commercial break — you know how this works.
Alexa Anderson is the first solo we see and Debbie Allen says, "This child could win." They intersperse interview clips with the dancing and I DO NOT LIKE. I want to see dancing, not beauty pageant interviews.
Our final solo is Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, the Swiss ballet dancer and I think he leapt all the way here from Switzerland; no airplane needed — the air this guy gets.
Nigel says thank you to the contestants for "some of the best solos [he's] ever seen." I wish we'd seen more of them. Nigel cuts four male dancers and then cuts none of the girls. All in all, 35 dancers make it to the end of Las Vegas week.
And theyre leaving us hanging until next week to learn the fate of Joshua after his injury. Noooo!
See you next week for the "Green Mile" and the reveal of the Top 20.
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun