After a brief introduction from Cat, we head right into a group performance from the Top 20. Minor costuming quibble: Men are in suits, and the women are in crop-tops and dance briefs. Sigh. Maybe we could've had the guys shirtless, at least? Equal skin, people. It's a Sonya Tayeh routine, but rather unremarkable. The music didn't grab me.
Here come the Top 20 for individual introductions:
Bridget Whitman, contemporary, 18, Tempe, Ariz.
Casey Askew, contemporary, 19, Seattle
Brooklyn Farmer, ballroom, 18, Provo, Utah
Emilio Dosal,Hip-Hop/Popping, 23, Houston
Carly Blaney, contemporary, 19, Wyckoff, N.J.
Marcquet Hill, ballroom, 18, South Jordan, Utah
Emily James, contemporary, 21, North Kingstown, R.I.
Nick Garcia, ballroom, 18, Miami
Jacque LaWarne, ballet, 18, Clive, Iowa
Ricky Ubeda, contemporary, 18, Miami
Jessica Richens, jazz, 18, Yorba Linda, Calif.
Rudy Abreu, contemporary, 18, Miami
Jourdan Epstein, ballet, 24, Plymouth, Minn.
Serge Onik, ballroom, 25, Upper Saddle River, N.J.
Malene Ostergaard, ballroom, 25. Los Angeles
Stanley Glover, contemporary, 19, Chicago
Tanisha Belnap, ballroom, 19, Payson, Utah
Teddy Coffey,19, hip-hop/tap, Rochester, N.Y.
Valerie Rockey, tap, 20, Indianapolis
Zack Everhart, tap, 20, Kennesaw, Ga.
Tonight's show will showcase the Top 20 dancing in their own style and the votes after tonight's show will eliminate a male and female contestant next week.
Regular judges Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe are here as well as guest judge Jason Derulo. This season's winner will get $250,000, a cover on Dance Spirit magazine, part in "On the Town."
Each contestant will get an eight-second clip to introduce themselves before their dance is shown. It's like riding a bull, that way.
Brooklyn could eat popcorn for every meal, sleeps touching all four corners of the bed and loves watching TV shows about sharks. Serge has changed his look somehow since auditions and looks way less intimidating and looks younger. New haircut? He was born in Ukraine, loves cheese and has been to five of seven continents. OK, he probably hasn't seen Antarctica but I wonder what the other one is? They're in a ballroom routine choreographed by Dmitry Chaplin. We're promised it'll be really steamy and that Serge sweats a lot. His legs seem sharper than her's.
Mary screams and likes it. She tells Brooklyn that her nerves were very visible and causing some stumbles at the beginning of the routine. She dubs Serge magnificent. Jason says something about wanting to add the dance to his show. Nigel gives a plug to a dance education charity. As much as Nigel gets on my nerves sometimes, all credit to him for the work he does for dance education. He tells Brooklyn to play to her partner as much as she plays to the audience or she risks looking fake.
Emily and Casey are up next to perform a contemporary routine from Travis Wall. Emily loves spear fishing, eating breakfast for dinner and owns 15 fedoras. Casey was born in Seattle but hates the rain, is a huge Disney fanatic and is afraid of being choked. The routine to "All of Me" is about a relationship and the pushing and pulling of maintaining it. She's wearing a nightgown and he's shirtless, so it's every contemporary cliche in one bundle.
Jason didn't want it to end. Nigel says the combination of the technique and the storytelling were excellent. Nigel says "thrusting" and someone giggles. Casey looks so young and boyish, like he doesn't have to shave, maybe?
Tappers Valerie and Zack are, of course, paired. Valerie got her name because she was born the day after Valentine's Day, says things too quickly for me to understand and can make a mean omelette. Zack is from Atlanta, listens to "hood" rap music, doesn't like country music, hates cereal and plays video games. How can you hate cereal?
Choreographer Anthony Morigerato is bringing in a "classic tap prop": A staircase. I like it already. Y'all, I fell down a staircase earlier this year and sprained my foot ... and I was just walking. This staircase work is amazing, although I've decided tap dancing is like bluegrass for me — I like it in theory more than practice.
Nigel natters on about tap because that's his jam. He namedrops Tony Award-winning choreographer Warren Carlyle and that he'll be on the show in a couple of weeks and Valerie and Zack exchange a "whoa" look. At one point, sweat literally drips off Zack's chin. Between Serge and Zack, maybe Cat should have a towel handy for contestants. Mary loves them both and calls Valerie a "star." Jason apparently comes from a tap background and makes the point that the taps themselves are a little slippery, making the stairs that much more challenging. Cat is as surprised as me that Jason used to be a tapper.
Bridget used to collect rocks, loves peacocks and collects their feathers (but she's not a hoarder!), and she likes to massage feet. Stanley talks super super fast, has a black belt in taekwondo, wants to be a fashion model, likes to dye his hair different colors and has the same birthday as Michael Jackson. They're dancing a contemporary routine about a couple in a relationship. OMIGOD, contemporary choreographers - are there no other ideas? "He's the outlaw and she's the sheriff," "They're firefighters," "One's a bully, the other the victim." There, three ideas off the top of my head — free to use.
Mary emits a shaken "wow," and compliments Bonnie Story on her choreography. She calls Stanley's leaps lightning and compliments Bridget's technique. Jason compliments them on bringing the audience into the story. Jason teases Bridget about her foot massage comment and asks if she's available later, warning her about his bunions.
Ballerinas! All done up in tutus and pointe shoes and buns! Jacque doesn't like when people touch her neck, loves pistachio ice cream, and has something weird going on with her foot. I officially hate these eight-second intros. Jourdan drinks pineapple juice, is afraid of pigeons and has a pre-med degree. They're being choreographed by Russian ballet master Marat Daukayev and he's super strict. Good for him; ballet isn't about sloppiness. They do a seemingly endless series of pirouettes at one point and it's breathtaking. Jourdan looks like she stumbles slightly on a later move in the routine. And then she almost bites it on the final pirouette of the routine. Has she been out of practice for a while, while getting the pre-med degree?
Jason jokes that he comes from a pointe background. Nigel gives Daukayev's credentials and then calls him a "tough old sod." Apparently they did 16 of those pirouette thingies, which have a different name technically because of the way the upper leg is positioned. He gives some specific criticisms to both dancers. Mary compliments the unbelievable strength it takes to do that kind of dancing and highlights their synchronization.
Then we get a pre-recorded Jason Derulo performance. There's talk of butts and playing pattycake and ham sandwiches. Jason channels Michael Jackson a lot in his dance moves. Snoop Dogg has a brief cameo in the song. Wait, I thought he was Snoop Lion now?
After a brief promo for National Dance Day, it's samba time with Marcquet and Malene. Malene was born and raised in Denmark, is tri-lingual, eats two pounds of chocolate a day and wants a tiger as a pet. Marcquet is afraid of ants, would only eat bread for a brief spell as a kid, and is named for a university he's never been to. Named for, but not spelled like - the school is Marquette. They're choreographed by Louis van Amstel. Louis! I miss him on "Dancing with the Stars." Man, when Marcquet shimmies, his braids shake and it's like even his hair is dancing. Use the hair-ography to your advantage, kid.
Nigel mentions the "DWTS" connection and adds that he likes to steal their choreographers because they steal his dancers. Heh. He calls Marcquet a force to be reckoned with. Mary, ballroom expert, loved the samba rolls. She calls Malene amazing and compliments Marcquet's partnering skills.