L.A. callbacks

Contestants audition during L.A. Week. (Adam Rose/FOX / April 12, 2014)

Callbacks in Los Angeles (actually Pasadena), where 157 hopefuls will be winnowed down to 20 finalists. There will be tears, injuries and mental breakdowns, one assumes.

Joining Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe at the judges' table are Adam Shankman (choreographer and film director), Stephen "Twitch" Boss (former contestant and "So You Think You Can Dance All-Star"), Tara Lipinski (former figure skater) and Irina Dvorovenko (prima ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre).

The first round is a reprise of solo auditions. Ballroom dancer Tanisha Belnap, 20, from Payson, Utah, is up first. Ballroom dancers always look weird in solos. Like, doing a samba roll by yourself just looks like stretching. The judges aren't giving feedback on the solos; it's mainly for the benefit of Twitch, Irina, Tara and Adam, who haven't seen the dancers perform yet.

Hip-hop dancer Steven Kador, 27, from Baton Rouge, La., is there despite the fact that his girlfriend went into labor the night before. His girlfriend told him it was OK to stay at the audition and I agree with her. Let him do something important, where he's more an active participant than an observer.

Thirty-six contestants are cut immediately after the solo round, including Paul Brushaber, the "puppet" dancer we saw in auditions. Let's all agree that it's because he's confused about the difference between a puppet and a marionette.

The first choreography round is hip-hop with Chris Scott and former "SYTYCD" runner-up Jasmine Harper. Contestants rehearse in the theater until 9 p.m., but won't have to perform in the morning. We see Steven again with ballroom dancer Malene Ostergaard. She's out of her comfort zone and he's obviously distracted. He appears to be video-chatting with the wife during labor. That seems like torture. Not that he could do a whole lot if he was there, but he really, really can't do anything when he's half a country away.

The first round will have jazz dancer Jessica Richens and Marie Poppins, the French popper. Marie looks totally in her element and loose, while also adding a bit of her own flair to the routine. Jessica is uncomfortable all the way through.

Nigel says Marie looked thrown by doing someone else's choreography. They poll the judges and she goes through. Nigel thought it was "terrible and [he's] shocked [his] colleagues are putting her through." They dress down Jessica, telling her that she's too slow and wasn't giving her partner enough.

Marcquet Hill is such a good hip-hop dancer that the judges can't believe he's a ballroom dancer. His own partner for the routine was also surprised by it. He's through to the next round, as is everybody in his group. Apparently, ballroom dancers are killing it in hip-hop this year. Good for them.

Steven's wife had the baby (a son), and we see the wee little baby on his computer. He and Malene are not in sync at all. I realize there were mitigating circumstances, but you can't have excuses at this point. They criticize Malene, but let her through.

Caleb Brauner and Trevor Bryce are in this group; Trevor is cut almost immediately. Caleb gets criticized for not having a connection with his partner and gets cut as well.

Other early standouts that were cut are Megan Marcano and Franchesca Bass. Jessica Richens, 18, from Yorba Linda, Calif., is back to her "Dance for Your Life." She kills her solo and gets to stay.

The next round is jazz with Sonya Tayeh. Former contestants George Lawrence Jr. (Season 9) and Amy Yakima (Season 10) are demonstrating the steps. Marie Poppins is finding it a challenge, as is hip-hop dancer Jana "Jaja" Vankova. They're performing for the judges after only an hour of rehearsals.

Tapper Zack Everhart and ballroom dancer Alla Kocherga are partnered up for the round and we see where Alla lands funny during rehearsals. The medics put an ice pack below her kneecap and she's wearing a knee brace during the performance. Adam tells Alla it was really rough and Nigel then cuts her. Zack is told he was the star of the group and he's through to the next round.

Alla's ballroom partner Serge Onik, Johnny "Waacks" Gibson, ballerina Jourdan Epstein and contemporary dancer Rudy Abreu are all put through. Steven and Malene are back again. Steven gets cut, but he thinks his son will be proud of him because he came out and he tried.

A dozen more dancers are cut, including Shafeek Westbrook and Marie Poppins. Jaja is so cute; I just want to put her in my pocket. They're going to make her dance for her life. The round is over by 6 p.m. and 64 dancers are left. This means they've already cut more than half the callbacks.

Jaja nails her solo and it doesn't take long for them to decide to put her through.

The final challenge of the day is ballroom. This is often what separates the wheat from the chaff, because it's such a test of partnering skills. And shoe-wearing.

Dimitry Chaplin (Season 2) and Anya Garnis (Season 3) are back to demonstrate the choreography. During rehearsals, one of the female dancers hits her male partner in the mouth, breaking part of his tooth off and causing her arm to bleed. All the dancers get to rehearse overnight and perform ballroom at the top of Day 3.

Tapper Valerie Rockey is paired with fellow tapper Zack Overhart for this ballroom round. She is also adorable and worthy of being put in one's pocket. They do great with this ballroom routine. Tara says the two tappers have been her favorites throughout the callbacks. They're both through. Broken-tooth guy is through, as is Jessica Richens.