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.
Jaja is now paired with popper Emilio Dosal, who actually made the Top 20 last year when, before the first episode, during rehearsals, his partner accidentally kicked him in the nose, fracturing it in five places and causing a deviated septum. Surgery put him out of the competition. Jaja's got some gams on her and she's working the sexy moves of this routine. They're both through.
Travis Wall (Season 2), along with Makenzie Dustman (Season 10), comes on to lead the hopefuls through the final round: Contemporary.
Bridget Whitman, 20, from Tempe, Ariz., falls during one of the moves and I'm not sure you can recover from that kind of mistake at this point. Nigel chastises her for throwing herself around, which caused problems for her partner and her own fall. She's told she needs more control. Tara says she has a "deadness" in her face. Irina says she looks like she's doing the steps, rather than feeling the steps. She'll be dancing for her life. The rest of her group is through.
It's one of the most successful contemporary rounds in years, with a lot of dancers making it through. We're not shown Jaja, so I can only assume she's made it through.
After Bridget's solo, Nigel polls the judges as to whether or not she can stay. The tally is as follows: Mary, yes, Twitch, no, Tara, yes, Nigel, no, Irina, yes. Lucky, Adam not having to vote.
Now it's time for the most brutal of brutalities: Group dances. There are 50 dancers left at this point: 29 men and 21 women.
They're broken up in groups of five. One group gets really excited about getting the John Legend song, "All of Me." I'm not sure I can stand hearing that song even one more time, let alone the multiple times required for rehearsing a dance routine to it. But maybe this was filmed long enough ago that it hadn't yet been overplayed. Another group has music that sounds like an exuberant bassoon.
Soon the fatigue starts to set in and people start getting horrible. But the breakdowns and confrontations are minor this year. No one pitches a hissy and stalks out. I'm supremely disappointed. Where have all the dance divas gone?
Ryan J., Ryan R, Carly and Novien, all contemporary dancers, are grouped with Latin ballroom dancer Serena to form the first group. They put Serena in charge as choreographer. Their music is "To Make You Feel My Love," as covered by Winifred Horan & Mick McAuley. It's a nice interpretation of the song, slow and lyrical.
Tara calls their routine a mess and points out that it was like Serena was a star with her background dancers. Mary points out that "international rumba" is so difficult that they rarely feature it on the show. Nigel sends them off to decide who should go home. We then see several groups with less-than-stunning routines. Adam crabs, "I've seen better routines from those children on 'Dance Moms.'"
By 11 a.m., the atmosphere in the theater is bleak. We see the first group out in the hall trying to figure out what to say to Nigel and the judges about who should go home. They're leaning towards "none of us." Saying no one should go home is not going to cut it with Nigel. I think what's going to make Nigel happy is Serena throwing herself on her sword.
Trenton, Kamille, Zack, Malene and Johnny turn out to be the John Legend group. Twitch is shown laughing during their routine and I'm not sure if it's with them or at them. Nigel's clapping. Adam calls it lovely. Tara says it came off well as a whole. Nigel says it's his favorite of the day so far. All the dancers are through.
Now comes a hot streak of good routines. I wonder if the producers scope out the rehearsals of the different groups and put them in order accordingly. We see Jaja's group make it through.
Back in front of the judges, Navien is crying, and so is Carly, as they explain that they can't pick amongst themselves. Nigel rewards this and lets them all through. Huh. Not what I expected.
Forty-four dancers are left, with final solos to go. Ricky Ubeda has shaved off his beard and looks way-less sleazy with a clean face. It's a different solo than what we saw in his Atlanta audition. We see reaction faces from both Twitch and Tara that show they love it.
We see a montage of solos, intercut with the "why should we pick you" answers. And we don't see any other solos. Booooooo. I'd rather see more solos than agonizing rejections of the final cut.
An update on the crew competition. This time with no Bieber. The four crews are Academy of Villains, Wanted Ashiqz, Control Freakz and Syncopated Ladies. I'm pulling for Ashiqz.
They send Ricky Ubeda up first to face the judges. Mary tells him, "At this point, it's a casting thing." That's a bit of honesty I didn't expect. Nigel says he likes Rickey better with the beard. Nigel is wrong.
Jessica, ballerina Jourdan, Hip-hop dancer Teddy Coffey and contemporary dancers Stanley Glover and Carly Blaney are also put through to the Top 20.
Emilio is up. Adam says he was super bummed that Emilio didn't get to compete last year. He also tells Adam he has tremendous potential, and he's through.
Jaja is up now. Adam says she's incredible at what she does but she needs to learn more about other styles. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I was already totally in love with her.
Quickly we see the judges cut Novien Yarber, Serena Pav, Malene's audition partner Armen Way and Johnny Waacks. Irina's hair and dress have her looking like a Disney wicked witch today.
Bridget Whitman is through to the top 20. She fell down and yet she's through and my beloved Jaja is cut. I'm pouting.
Tapper Valerie Rockey is through, as is fellow tapper Zack. Also in the Top 20: Ballerina Jourdan Epstein and contemporary dancers Casey Askew and Emily James.
Landon Anderson is trying to be the first ballroom dancer to make the Top 20 this year. Adam explains to him that he wasn't great in the group round and blew his final solo (which Landon knew), so he's cut. Also cut: Ryan Johnson, Hailee Payne and Justine Lutz.
Ballroom dancer Nick Garcia and best friend Rudy Abreu are both still waiting for results. Mary tells Nick they all adore him and compliments him on his fast footwork in his final solo. Any other year, he would've sailed through. Mary asks him for more footwork. He obliges, and then she lets him off the hook and tells him he's through.
More ballroom dancers make the Top 20: Tanisha, Serge, Malene and audition partners Brooklyn Farmer and Marcquet. OK, Marcquet can be my new favorite.
Erik "Silky" Moore is left to hear results, as is Rudy. Eric doesn't make it, but Rudy does.
So, your Top 20, in order of their introduction during the final credits, are:
Malene Ostergaard, ballroom, 25. Los Angeles
Zack Everhart, tap, 20, Kennesaw, Ga.
Emily James, contemporary, 21, North Kingstown, R.I.
Serge Onik, ballroom, 25, Upper Saddle River, N.J.
Carly Blaney, contemporary, 19, Wyckoff, N.J.
Emilio Dosal,Hip-Hop/Popping, 23, Houston
Tanisha Belnap, ballroom, 19, Payson, Utah
Stanley Glover, contemporary, 19, Chicago
Valerie Rockey, tap, 20, Indianapolis
Nick Garcia, ballroom, 18, Miami
Bridget Whitman, contemporary, 18, Tempe, Ariz.
Marcquet Hill, ballroom, 18, South Jordan, Utah
Jacque LaWarne, ballet, 18, Clive, Iowa
Rudy Abreu, contemporay, 18, Miami
Brooklyn Farmer, ballroom, 18, Provo, UT
Teddy Coffey,19, hip-hop/tap, Rochester, New York
Jessica Richens, jazz, 18, Yorba Linda, California
Casey Askew, contemporary, 19, Seattle
Jourdan Epstein, ballet, 24, Plymouth, Minnesota
Ricky Ubeda, contemporary, 18, Miami
Early Favorites (As in "I like them," not "Favored to win"): Valerie and Marcquet. Since they'll clearly be splitting up Brooklyn and Marcquet, I'm hoping to see Valerie get him as a partner. I think they'd be dynamite together.
Early dislikes: Jessica, because her jazz is too stripper for my personal taste, and Rudy, because he's a little too "bro-dude" for me.
People producers want you to pay attention to: Jessica, Bridget, Nick, Rudy
Who-dats: Teddy, Carly and Jacque, none of whom were featured during audition episodes or much in the earlier parts of this episode.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun