So You Think You Can Dance returned for its 15th season on Monday night, and the premiere had everything you might expect from the Fox reality competition: Contestants’ emotional backstories! Mary Murphy’s elated shrieks! Nigel Lythgoe’s creepy ogling of the female dancers! Ah, there’s nothing like tradition.
The Season 15 premiere also featured a string of impressive auditions, including a dancer or two that could very well be standing in the finale at the end of the summer. Let’s break down the Los Angeles tryouts that earned a trip to The Academy, from least to most impressive:
6. Gaevin Bernales (B-Boy) — It’s a shame that SYTYCD is once again leaving out the choreography round from its auditions this year; dancers must wow the judges enough to go to The Academy right away, or they’ll be sent home. Gaevin would have been a perfect candidate for the choreography round: He can confidently and stylishly pull off a breakdancing routine, but I’m not sure he has the range or skill level to master Dance‘s more intricate and emotional styles.
5. Marcus Nyemchek, Magda Fialek and Allen Genkin (Latin Ballroom) — This trio gave us the sexiest audition of the night, and it seems Magda, at the very least, is a shoe-in for the live episodes, assuming her ballroom prowess translates to other styles. But I found myself wanting more from this group by the time their number was over; their technical skill is unquestionable, but I’m not yet emotionally invested in any of their Season 15 journeys.
4. Jay Jackson… also known as Miss Laganja Estranja, honey darlin’ (Jazz) — When SYTYCD and RuPaul join forces, wonderful things happen. (Don’t believe me? Then you need to rewatch last season’s “Call Me Mother” group number. I’ll wait!) Miss Estranja, who competed on Season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, was easily the most energetic and daring dancer of the night. Those splits? I’m in pain just thinking about them. I’ll be interested to see how far she goes at The Academy; Nigel Lythgoe already seems mortified by the idea of a drag queen competing on his show, and there’s a legitimate conversation to be had about who Miss Estranja would dance with on the live episodes, should she get that far. But in the meantime, it’s clear Miss Estranja will be a joy to watch whenever she takes the stage, and her acceptance into The Academy is getting Season 15 off to a lovely, inclusive start.
3. Eddie Hoyt (Tapper) — As soon as Eddie’s audition was over, I wanted to reach through my television screen and wrap him in a hug, given how badly he was shaking during the judges’ critiques. But if he can get a handle on his nerves, and showcase a diverse skill set at The Academy, Eddie could be a formidable competitor this season. His tap choreography is some of the most delightful and creative the show has seen, and I’m looking forward to watching him put his stamp on other styles.
2. Alexis Gilbert (Contemporary) — Alexis stole my heart with her audition song alone: a cover of Taylor Swift’s “I Did Something Bad,” performed by Broadway vets Shoshana Bean and Cynthia Erivo. (It’s impossibly badass.) But Alexis’ performance was also stunning. After getting cut at The Academy last summer, Alexis used every beat of her 90-second audition to show off her flexibility, strength and innovation. Unless Alexis badly botches a routine at The Academy — like, really badly — I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in the Top 10 just a few weeks from now.
1. Marina Mazepa (Jazz) — One of last season’s most memorable auditions came from twin sisters Anastasiia and Viktoriia, who performed a manic, yet strangely compelling, piece that brought the judges to their feet. Marina’s routine reminded me so much of that one: bizarre but provocative, haphazard but confident, puzzling but emotional. From the moment Marina walked on stage — face covered by her hair, dressed in an all-black ensemble — you couldn’t look away, and the contortionist movements that followed were utterly fascinating. Of course, her impressive showing at the auditions doesn’t mean Marina will excel at The Academy, but I’m already eager to see more from her.
With that, I turn it over to you. Which auditions from the Season 15 premiere impressed you? Drop a comment below with your thoughts on the episode!