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This week’s Vegas callbacks episode had a little soundbite of me saying that Team Street might be all female—we have a strong season for the ladies, which is really dope. As you saw, it was a bit of a bloodbath in the first round of choreography, but a lot of the ladies survived it, so I was really proud of that. Kenya, “Standing O”—she’s just incredible. And you saw bits and pieces of Lily last night; she was mentioned in clips, but she was great. I like Urellis’ story as well, because she came back last year from being a contemporary dancer and transferred over to the street style.

I really enjoyed B1’s solo. We’ve seen a lot of b-boys on the show, and I like the ones who choose music that maybe you wouldn’t peg b-boys to dance to and actually make it look effortless as well. I really enjoyed that. That’s one that stands out in my mind right off the bat. The dance-for-your life solo is exactly what it is in the name—it’s a reminder of why you are there. Anyone who can come out after whatever they’re redeeming themselves from, shake off that pressure, and deliver the unique package that got them there in the first place—that’s what the dance-for-your-life solo is.

It’s really tough as a street dancer to drop your pride and look stupid doing something, much less look stupid doing something potentially in front of millions and millions of people, so I applauded Sam Reyes’ courage for getting up there and going for it, when at one point in time she was pretty much sold on giving up. So I thought that was dope, and I hope that for other street dancers watching, it makes their try muscle a little harder. Even if things aren’t that clear at first, you can still go for it if it’s part of your dream. That was really important.

The first round, by Jamal Sims, was especially shocking for a lot of people, because it was their first choreography round. There was no moment for everyone to get acclimated—they were just thrown in. It was a shock to the system. By the time Dave Scott came in, people were figuring out what was going on, and there was more foundation in that one, so they felt free to perform and have a good time. But that first round was hard.

The challenge with learning choreography being a street dancer, especially in the freestyle community, is that there are a lot of high-brows saying street dancers are untrained and that’s not necessarily true, because they train in the discipline that they do. You have your poppers, your lockers, your animators—they train in those things, but the foundation that they’re building is actually helping with their freestyle and being able to go out and dance by themselves.

Learning choreography—having someone else tell you do this step at this point in time in the music like this—is hard, because everybody hears the music differently and feels the music differently. With animation particularly, trying to pick up grooves and the more full-bodied movement is going to feel foreign on their bodies. So they have to fight the obstacle of feeling insecure with every movement that they make. Every transition to each next step they might second guess. It’s hard to concentrate on performing because you’re concentrating on not messing up. So that’s going to be the toughest part for the street dancers, but I will say this, too—for those who do make the show, and a lot who go through Vegas week, it’s a paradigm shift. It opens their eyes to how else you can be training and how that training can be beneficial for you.

As told to Kelly Connolly

Episode Recaps

So You Think You Can Dance

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.

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