The first top 20 performance was fun — the contestants were definitely very overwhelmed with how hard the competition is. I think when you watch the show on TV, it paints this picture where you think, “Oh, I really want to do this; it looks so fun.” And you don’t realize the schedule that goes into it. I think now that they’ve got the first show out, they know what to expect as far as getting into a rhythm. It’s just about pacing yourself and figuring out your schedule.
I thought there were amazing routines last night. I thought everything was good — nothing was bad. Backstage, everything went completely differently than I thought it would. The routines I thought the judges would stand up and cheer for, they cut down, and the routines I thought they’d cut apart, they were on their feet for. That happens sometimes. I really thought for Team Street, they’d like “Locked Out of Heaven.” For me, that was my favorite of the Street routines. And Stacey Tookey’s routine was beautiful; I thought it was one of the best of the night, and they weren’t on their feet for it.
I told my team, “Listen, they’re just going to be harder on you guys this year than Team Street. They expect you to be able to pick up choreography and pick up different styles, so unless you’re absolutely, out-of-this-world amazing, they’re going to cut you down. We can’t complain about that; we just have to roll with the punches and let that inspire us to be that much more outstanding.” I got a taste of that last night and realized, This is what we’re in for all season — let’s go.
I thought my dancers were a little frustrated last night because they felt like they did a really good job. From Wednesday until Monday’s show, there was such a difference in the level of performance, especially for the ballet boys. I was scared for them. The level of difficulty in that routine — they never come off relevé. They’re moving so fast. They’re doing triple pirouette into double attitude right into the next part where they grab each other for a partner. If you’re off by one move, you’re done. And you can tell with ballet; it’s not like it’s contemporary, and you can use your plié and use a move to come out of it. If you fall out of something, it’s very obvious.
And then my routine came up, and I thought the judges were going to tell Kate how great it was to see her onstage and tell Edson how strong he was. And then they just went completely stage left with the comments. I was standing backstage thinking, “I don’t understand what they’re saying.” Nigel asked why contemporary dance is about reaching, but there’s reaching in lyrical, there’s reaching in ballet, there’s reaching in jazz — there’s reaching in every style of dance that you do. And the judges said there was no chemistry. I feel like that’s not true at all! The dancers came off stage like, “What was that?” And I was like, “I don’t know what to tell you guys. I have no idea what they’re talking about.” I looked down the camera, and I said, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but the judges are wrong on this. That was beautiful.” I had to stick up for my dancers and stick up for my team in that way. But that’s their job; they’re the judges, and we’re gonna come back stronger next week.
Next week is tricky, because now they’re thrown together in different styles. I gave my team a pep talk last night and said, “This is the moment where it’s not really about Team Street and Team Stage. You guys have to work together.” Say I have a Stage dancer doing jazz, and two Street dancers are coming in to do that routine with them. I was like, “You guys need to help them out.” And I expect them to do the same thing if one of my ballet dancers gets hip-hop.
At the end of the day, if you make them look good, they’re going to make you and the group look good. If they crash and burn during the routine, you have the possibility of going home because you didn’t help out that person in your number. Asaf is with one of our Stage dancers this week, and honestly, he’s kind of turned around with his attitude. He really wants to try to do it. He’s realized that everyone’s working so hard and you owe it to everyone around you. And he’s got an amazing personality, so we’re hoping that he plays that up.
This is the other thing that I noticed, too, with the group routines: The NappyTabs number was incredible. The energy was incredible. That’s what they’re going to be doing every week — these super high-energy, audience-involved, high-octane numbers. We’re going to be doing beautiful numbers and clean numbers and different styles, but we’re not going to have as many high-energy numbers. That’s the tricky part. Are we always going to be voting for energy, or are we going to be voting for skill and execution and precision? Now we have to start figuring out how we can compete with that.
The judges said Team Street won last night, and for me, Team Stage won. We had two beautiful contemporary numbers and one of the most beautiful ballet duets you’ll ever see on this show and an amazing, sexy jazz routine and a really clean and awesome Broadway number. We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to win this competition if the judges are just going on these huge, in-your-face numbers. Because we dominated in skill 200 percent, but if you’re just talking about the last two group numbers, then yes, Team Street won because of energy.
I’m really excited because next week, I’m doing the group routine with all ten of the Stage dancers. Next Monday is the full top 20 show where we reveal your results and cut two people, one stage one street, and then the next day, we’re doing the decade of dance, celebrating 10 years since So You Think You Can Dance came on the air. This episode is 10 years in the making. We’re going to bring back some old routines — some favorite routines. We’ve got a couple of guest performances, and I may or may not be dancing on the show. That airs next Tuesday. So it’s a busy week!
As told to Kelly Connolly