We’re only one week away from season nine’s top 20, and if this year’s Vegas week is any indicator, this is going to be an outstanding group of dancers. In all, 181 contestants make it to Vegas this year, and they have to endure a grueling gauntlet of eight stages to prove they have what it takes to make the final cut. First solos, followed by hip-hop, Broadway, jazz, group routines, ballroom, contemporary, and one final round of solos. It’s an intense process that takes away many early favorites, and only 34 dancers are left by the episode’s end.
The solos begin with “Exorcist” Hampton, who gets the judges all weepy with his jittery Evanescence routine. He makes it through the first round, but quickly crashes in the hip-hop round. Hampton has never done choreography before, and he’s not able to keep up with Twitch and Comfort’s routine. He makes a quick exit from the show, and this episode shows why judges should always send people with specialized dance styles to choreography before Vegas. Both Andre and Boris of Dragon House fail to get through hip-hop choreography, and Andre gives up before even getting in front of the judges. The final Dragon House roommate Cyrus is another story, and it’s beginning to look like he’s the story this season.
Cyrus has some trouble with the hip-hop, but the judges see promise in him and put him through to Broadway. It’s interesting how the Dragon House guys have the same problem when performing the hip-hop choreography: They don’t hit the moves hard enough. The intricate isolation of Dragon House’s style of hip-hop is much different from the explosive movement of Comfort and Twitch’s routine, and Cyrus is going to have to work on taking the precision of his solos and applying it to dancing that is bigger and more powerful. He’s also going to have to take classes to improve his jazz lines and fix his ballroom footwork. There’s a lot that Cyrus has to fix, but he has so much charisma and his solos are so impressive that the judges push him all the way through Vegas week.
There must be a lot of dancers that get extremely frustrated when they see someone like Cyrus make it through every stage because he has screen presence instead of versatility. He does have to dance for his life, but solos are where he excels. He’s a shoo-in for the top 20, and I’m excited to see if Glitch can rise to Twitch levels of greatness. With female krumper Mariah eliminated in the contemporary round, Cyrus is the only hip-hopper spotlighted tonight that makes it all the way through, and I’m eager to learn what other hip-hop talent this season has to offer.
Belly dancer Janelle is a specialized dancer that can also do choreography, and I fully expect to see her in the top 20 next week. With her stunning gold cape and mesmerizing hips, Janelle sets herself apart from the rest of the girls with her theatricality, and she really knows how to work a camera during her first solo. She gets a lot of screentime this episode, and of all the “sexy” dancers, she’s the one that ends up coming across as the most classy. Jazz burlesque dancer Rachel is cut during Sonya’s jazz routine, but she begs the judges to let her dance for her life. When she does, she wears an over-sized men’s dress shirt and a tie that she uses to gag herself at one point in the performance. It’s hypersexual and uncomfortable, and she’s sent home with sound advice from Debbie Allen: “Next time, put on more clothes and dance.”
Alexa and Amelia are two girls that frustrate the judges for very different reasons. Vegas veteran Alexa’s dead face has pushed the judges’ patience to the limit, and they spend most of this episode trying to force an emotional reaction out of the low energy dancer. For a while, it seems like Alexa is going to be this season’s Ryan (who beat Alexa out for a spot in last season’s top 20), but she has a breakthrough when she tears up after her group routine. The next time Alexa takes the stage, it’s like she’s a completely different dancer, and there’s a new heat to her dancing when she performs Jason Gilkison’s cha-cha.
Amelia finds a similar fire when she’s forced to dance for her life after a less than impressive jazz routine. She picks fantastic music for her solo, which showcases her stunning musicality and elegant lines, but Nigel votes “no” because she’s not able to bring that same energy to choreography. The rest of the panel gives him a hearty “fuck you” and puts Amelia through, and she immediately turns up the volume on her attitude and her dancing.
This season has been surprisingly light on the ballroom, but I’m hoping that both Whitney and Lindsay make it through to the top 20, although I could do without the creepy clips of them rolling around in bed together. The two girls have been dancing together since they were 9, and they conveniently end up as roommates in Vegas. They’re both sharp ballroom dancers that can take on other styles with ease, but their personal relationship makes me think that they’re being set up as the final two girls for the top 10, leaving the judges with the sad task of splitting best friends apart. They love doing that on this show (see Sasha and Natalia, Evan and Ryan), but I’d like to see the besties both make it to the competition.
The last spotlighted female in Vegas is “Bacon Girl” Danielle, who has some of the worst luck we’ve seen on this show. First, she’s teamed up with hip-hopper Shafeek for Sonya’s jazz routine, and she’s luckily able to overcome her lackluster partner. When she returns to the stage to help another male dancer, she’s kicked in the head and has to go to the hospital. It’s the first head injury of Vegas, but not the last, as contemporary dancer Joshua is knocked unconscious after trying a backflip before his final solo. Although Cat teases that “not everyone will survive,” Joshua does not actually die; it’s a perfect example of the melodrama of this episode.
As the episode progresses, the suspense before the commercial break is extended with each new segment, leading to a whole lot of quick zooms on different faces as the music swells. Eventually, it starts to seem like a Saturday Night Live sketch the way the producers are stretching out the drama. The beating drums that accompany Cyrus as he takes to the stage to dance for his life give the impression that he’s preparing to go to war. For these dancers, it probably does feel a little like that, but this episode gets heavy-handed in trying to dictate what the audience should be feeling at any certain point.
Vegas week ends with Swiss ballet dancer Chehon giving one of the season’s most breathtaking solos, a high-flying spectacle of finely honed technique and raw athleticism. It’s an amazing way to end a very solid Vegas week, although this episode didn’t really give us a very good feel for what the top 20 will look like next week. There are going to be a lot of dancers next week whose back-stories and personalities haven’t been exposed to the audience yet, and Vegas would have been the perfect time to meet a lot of these people and get a feel for their personalities.
- I’m sad to see Mama Bree go home so quickly. Those kids were adorable.
- Dear editors: Please don’t show us people’s wounds. It’s gross.
- The slow cover of “Go Your Own Way” playing as people are sent home is ridiculous.
- Tyce is really showing off his durp face on the panel.
- “Mini Mia Michaels” Aubrey has an epic meltdown when she’s cut, talking about how she’s been auditioning for years and can’t get any work. It’s really sad.
- Do you think this show is spending less time on ballroom to separate it from Dancing With The Stars?
- We’re in the midst of a bit of a heatwave here in Chicago, and our fuse blew during the group routines. Did I miss anything really good? I caught from Aubrey’s group on.
- “I don’t want to seem like a bitch here… I’m not enamored by your beauty anymore.”
- “Good night Lindsay.” **giggle** “Shut up.” Thank god we only had to endure the creepy ballroom blondes editing for one episode.