After showcasing four weeks’ worth of good, bad and (very occasionally) ugly auditions, So You Think You Can Dance put its hopefuls through a whole different stress test on Monday night.
More than 100 contestants put their best feet forward — pun so intended — during their first day at The Academy, where they will attempt to earn a spot in the Top 10 by mastering multiple dance styles and impressing this season’s judges and All-Stars.
But as the Dance field was narrowed down on Monday night, the hour-long episode made way for several moments in need of discussion, from a jaw-dropping solo to an elimination that nearly drove me to throw my remote at the TV. Below, let’s break down five highlights from the installment:
* After wowing the judges, alongside samba partner Jensen Arnold, at the Los Angeles auditions, ballroom dancer Tristen Sosa was booted surprisingly early, failing to make it past the initial solo round. Sure, Tristen was the weaker half of that duo — and frankly, it’s impossible to look at anyone besides Jensen when she’s on stage — but his early elimination was a reminder that no one is safe during these intense Academy episodes.
* Speaking of mind-boggling eliminations: Darius Hickman?! If your memory needs jogging, Darius was the stunning contemporary dancer who appeared in the Season 14 premiere, along with a tragic backstory involving a drug-addicted mother and an aunt who was abused by her boyfriend. Darius wasn’t given enough screen time on Monday to really illustrate why he didn’t make the cut on Day 1 — but even if his hip-hop routine was rough around the edges, I’m baffled that the All-Stars wouldn’t give this magnificent contemporary performer another chance to prove himself.
* Several other hopefuls did rise to the occasion of NappyTabs’ hip-hop combination, though, including blue-haired Impavido, in whom I’ve already become too emotionally invested. Partnered with hip-hopper Robert Green, Impavido infused the routine with personality and flair, proving that her command of the stage goes far beyond her contemporary wheelhouse.
* And now, the evening’s award for Strongest Solo: Lex Ishimoto, who once again effortlessly fused contemporary with hip-hop in front of the All-Star panel. Some of this season’s contestants are taking risks with choreography that just don’t pay off — see the next bullet point for more on that — but Lex’s every movement is self-assured, and he manages to bring an elegance to even the most badass hip-hop steps.
* As for the night’s weakest solo, that honor goes to Ryan Bailey, who barely scored a ticket to The Academy after showing off his “unique” approach to contemporary dancing in New York City. This time, Ryan fully improvised a routine set to Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” — and when Whitney hit that power-ballad chorus, Ryan wasted a great opportunity to show off how powerful he can be. Instead, his weak movements and bizarre hand motions got him (deservedly) eliminated just minutes later. In the diplomatic words of All-Star Allison Holker, “I just don’t think I connected to it.”
OK, your turn! Which moments from The Academy’s first day surprised and/or annoyed you? Do you have a favorite contestant yet? Hit the comments with all of your thoughts!