It’s time to start a very important moment in this season’s timeline – the first appearance of the TOP 20 dancers. One by one each dancer struts out fully styled and in the freshest threads. They all do a quick little freestyle number, each more unique than the last. Then I hold my breath as Cat Deeley, our lovely host, takes the stage looking radiant as always. She gives a quick reminder of what’s at stake in this competition: a quarter of a million dollars plus the title of “America’s favorite dancer”.
Time to meet the judges: Hip-hop Choreographer Dan Karaty, Ballroom expert Mary Murphy, and Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe.
So here’s how it’s going to work for the next few weeks: The 20 dancers have been paired into 10 dancing couples. Each week the couples will pick a dance style randomly from of a hat, then they perform and you vote at the end of the night. Come Thursday night the bottom three couples will have to dance a solo for the judges. One girl and one guy will be voted off and sent home. Got it? Good.
Let’s get right down to it. The first couple tonight is Jamie and Hok, an unlikely couple I say, but maybe that will work out for them. Lucky for Hok, the pair has Shane Sparks for hip-hop. Jamie however may have some problems.
Hok totally nails the sharp punchy Shane Sparks moves and Jamie isn’t far behind for a contemporary dancer. Jamie gets a chance to do some serious booty popping which I know Nigel will appreciate. The judges all sing some pretty high praises, but after all this is the very first routine. Jamie and Hok ham it up while Cat announces the numbers to call for voting. Tamborine
Danny and Anya are the next couple. Danny is a classically trained ballet dancer and adopted brother of last year’s runner up, Travis. Anya is a well-trained ballroom dancer who auditioned with fellow top 20 dancer, Pasha. The couple will be doing the Jive, a personal favorite of mine as it’s uniquely American and nearly impossible to do right.
First off I’m totally confused by the song choice, how is Avril Lavigne Jive? Ok, moving on… They start off really burning up the floor losing no momentum. This dance is usually too fast and rigorous for ballet dancers, but Danny has no problem. The judges totally love them, especially Mary Murphy who makes some weird metaphor about a hot tamale train pulling in station. Nigel, like me, is a little confused by the tamale comment but says they may be the couple to beat this season. Girlfriend
It’s time to check out the Schwimmer legacy - Lacey, and she’s partnered with Kameron. How will a ballroom champ work with a hip-hip dude who has red stars painted into his hair? And choreographed by Mia Michaels? This is going to be tough for them both. Dressed like very stylish psych ward patients the pair pulls off a pretty strong emotional routine, barefoot and all. Cat is quick to say “first chills of the season.” All the judges are stunned yet again. Looks like we’re going to have to wait a while for a crappy routine to see Nigel bare his fangs. Dancing
Here’s a couple and routine I’m exited about - Sabra and Dominic doing a disco routine. This seems like it might be the perfect combo, but I’ve been wrong many many times. They’re taking choreography from the luscious Dorianne Sanchez who is teaching them some fun moves. The routine starts slow and loving just like the song, but it only takes seconds for the disco beat to kick in and the hands and feet flying. They look like a real New York disco couple circa 1978, both dancing to escape the pressures of the city. The reactions from the judges are lukewarm, bordering on warm, then Nigel rounds it off with some big praise. No More Tears
Donna Summer and Westlife
Ashlee and Ricky are the next couple. Ashlee is a pristine southern belle from Tyler, Texas and Ricky is a math wiz contemporary technician from Phoenix Arizona, both adored by Mia Michaels. The pair of contemporary dancers will be learning argentine tango from the suave Alex Da Silva. Ashlee comes out looking rather scandalous in blue sparkly bikini combo, while poor Ricky is relegated to a black suit. We’ll see what the judges say, but I think was pretty cold and not all that sexy. Dan, Mary, and Nigel all agree it was pretty mellow for an Argentinean Tango. Sentimiento Tanguero
Lyrical dancer Jesus and B-girl Sara are the next couple. They will be learning pop Jazz from Wade Robson. The routine is a little strange; Wade has some vision of 1930’s era street vagabond’s breaking into dance at 3am. I’m interested to see how this works. They start off lying on the ground crumpling newspapers for the sound effect. The routine starts to look a little tedious and they keep falling out of sync, but it’s still very interesting. The judges are all pleasantly surprised and really love the routine. Cabaret Hoover
The Triplets of Belleville (soundtrack)
Pasha and Jessi are the next couple, and they’re going to be doing the smooth waltz. This is no problem for the classically trained Russian but Jessi is feeling a little stilted. I’m with Jessi and her dislike of the Smooth waltz. I’ve been watching this show since it started and even the very best dancers make me want to sleep while watching this dance, the Norah Jones sure doesn’t help. But I guess the 13-year-old girls love the romance so it’s not going anywhere. My boy Karaty totally sells me out and saying he thought it was “beautiful.” Mary loves it as expected and Nigel is on board too. Come Away with Me
It’s time for another taste of Russia from the stunningly beautiful Faina. She’s partnered with Cedric, an amazing freestyle hip-hopper. The pair will be doing a Shane Sparks hip-hop routine. Seemingly perfect for Cedric, but even he’s having a hard time with the speed of Shane’s choreography. Onto the routine! Faina busts out wearing classic 80’s hip-hop clothes, striped tube socks and all. The choreography is amazing, featuring all kinds of puppet motifs, but they struggle through it. The judges feel the same, saying it felt like dance by numbers. Get it Shawty
Lauren and Neil are the next couple. This pair looks like they could really give the rest of the competition a run for their money. They’re going to be learning Salsa from Alex Da Silva. They both start off strong looking very sexy, especially Lauren who can’t help but look stunning. They have a lot of fun and show some real skills but it definitely felt amateurish. Karaty is quick to call it out for lacking passion. Mary agrees and Nigel too. So good marks, but room for improvement. Friday Night Rhythm
Coming up is an exciting Tyce Diorio Broadway routine from Shauna and Jimmy. Both Jimmy and Shauna are strong contemporary dancers, so we’ll see if they can break out and let loose. They take the stage with gusto pulling a page out of the Michael Jackson book dancing to a song from “The Wiz”. They stay in tight sync for nearly the entire routine. The judges totally eat it up loving the whole thing. Ease on Down the Road
And it appears that’s all 10 couples in a breezy 2-hour show. Tomorrow we’ll see who goes home. First some parting words from the judges. Nigel says the whole group is amazing and the only person in danger is Benji Schwimmer.
See you tomorrow.
The judges get real about the second group of eliminations.