Kiss your second-hand embarrassment goodbye, everyone—the audition rounds are over. Season 12 has moved on to Vegas. More dancing happens here than in any other part of the competition, but we see the least of it, because there’s just too much going on at once for us to watch it all. Instead, we follow the dancers’ emotional journeys, which mostly involve crying. There’s just a lot of crying in Vegas. Tell your friends.
The judges start the round with pep talks so in character, you’d think they were scripted. Jason tells the dancers to take risks, because everyone has something unique inside. (Desperate for approval, the dancers all nod, wide-eyed, as if Jason Derulo is the first person to offer this advice.) Paula is Paula: “Ignore your head and follow your heart and shine.” Nigel brings down the mood.
“90 percent of you will not make the final destination.”
Thanks, Nigel. Are we ready to watch dreams fall apart? Let’s get to it.
SOLO ROUND: To start, the dancers perform minute-long solos for the judges to prove they deserve to be here. Their teammates can watch, though the opposing team can’t—Team Stage and Team Street must never meet. They’re like a bride and a groom before a wedding, which is a Cat Deeley quality segue into our next segment.
Kelly MacCoy and Tyrell Noll, So You Think You Can Dance’s love story for the ages, tied the knot their first day in town. They didn’t…They didn’t do this because a producer told them to, did they? I worry. The newlyweds celebrate by subjecting themselves to the judgment of a national TV audience, but at least their teammates are supportive. One of my favorite things about this show is the genuine encouragement the dancers always offer one another. No failure is celebrated.
Kelly makes it through to the next round, along with familiar faces Gaby Diaz and Jim Nowakowski. Kelly’s husband isn’t so lucky. (When you only have a minute to dance, maybe don’t spend the first few eight counts walking dramatically toward an imaginary horizon.) The camera gets in Tyrell’s face as he cries, which is uncomfortable and sad and get used to it, because we’re going to be invading people’s personal space while they cry for the next two hours. Roydell (a.k.a. “Bam Bam’s dad”), Courtney Barnes, and Mike Manson “Dat Be Dancin’” are also sent home.
The women have better luck. Standing O had a panic attack in her hotel room last night (I doubt the cameras helped), but none of her nerves show in her solo, which easily sends her through to the next round. The judges have been telling everyone to work the room all night, and Standing O makes it look easy. Team Street also has a new standout in Urellis Pomenario, whose solo is so good that at one point, all she has to do is turn her head at just the right time, and I start clapping. tWitch is starting to think that Team Street is going to be all female. Bring it on.
CHOREOGRAPHY ROUND 1: A lot of the kids on Team Street have never learned choreography before, so they’re feeling the pressure in this hip-hop routine by Jamal Sims. The women mostly rise above that pressure and kill it, but the men have a harder time. This is where we lose precious Bronx gem Eliazer Chapman and recovering addict Korey Cleveland, as well as Lil B, who asks the judges to let him try the routine once more by himself. He has the personality, but he doesn’t know the moves. Outside the auditorium, he cries that he didn’t know how badly he wanted this until he lost it. This is a SAD NIGHT.
NEXT: tWitch after dark
Meanwhile, Samantha Reyes is losing her confidence. She doesn’t know what she’s doing here, so tWitch tells her: “You’re doing something that you’ve never done before. Whether it goes well or whether it doesn’t, you owe it to yourself to have this experience.” I feel like I need to travel the world right now, but mostly I need a box of tissues. Samantha doesn’t make it past this round, but she gets a hug from tWitch, who tells her how proud he is. She’ll be back next year. May we all live our lives in a way that would make tWitch proud.
tWitch’s fellow mentor is off teaching Team Stage his contemporary routine. (I’ve missed Travis’ choreography; even the few eight counts we saw here were like air I did not realize I needed.) Tapper Kelsey gets cut, as does contemporary dancer Jacy, who takes the news with the poise of someone who was once told she’d never walk again. We also meet a new contender in Antonina, a ballroom dancer who holds her own outside her style.
CHOREOGRAPHY ROUND 2: It’s time for a reality TV judge to take a contractually obligated dig at Broadway! Nigel introduces Joshua Bergasse as “a Broadway choreographer. That’s a little rude of me, because he’s also an Emmy award winner.” Ohhh, Nigel. Bergasse challenges the dancers to showcase their personality, but his Broadway routine takes a few prisoners. Edson Juarez gets hurt, and ballroom dancer Allen aggravates an old foot injury that knocks him out of the competition (but not before he gives serious consideration to dancing on one leg). Allen already lost his mom and beat cancer—can’t he just have this one thing?
Kelly also gets knocked out here; her announcement that she’s feeling confident is all it takes to seal her fate. (That and the fact that she’s a few counts behind on the choreography. Broadway may require personality, but that’s not all it requires.) Spared from the chopping block is Moises Parra, who dances for his life. He makes it through, but Nigel wants him to work on his facial expressions.
Plenty of dance-for-your-life solos are also on tap for Team Street, which tackles a Dave Scott animation routine. Again, the women trap this routine and drag it to a cave somewhere, because they’re not fooling around. Jessica, Urellis, and Standing O all live to fight another day. On the men’s side, Paula’s favorite ‘70s throwback Hurrikane is safe, as is breaker B1—but only after he transfigures himself into a spinning top in his solo. His brother Illjaz isn’t so lucky. He looked like he was really into it! Then again, so did a lot of these guys, but that’s no guarantee they were doing the right choreography.
It all comes down to one more solo: Steven Ban, a.k.a. Nigel’s “dancing Bill Gates,” is asked to perform for his life. He tells Cat that in the eight years he’s been doing this, his family hasn’t come to watch him once. They’ve never seen him dance. That hurts. He’s the last solo of the night, and he just wants to prove himself to his family—he has to make it through, right? Can we end this on a positive note? No. Steven gets a yes from Paula, but Jason and Nigel overrule. He’s going home. From a dramatic perspective, this is low. From a dance perspective, the judges made the right call.
COMING SOON: There is one bright spot in all of this: tWitch is in Magic Mike XXL, which hits theaters Wednesday. Couldn’t this whole episode have been tWitch promoting Magic Mike? Couldn’t this whole episode have been Magic Mike? It would spare us some heartache. Plus, we’d get “tWitch after dark.” He teases the five reasons SYTYCD fans should go see the film, then starts counting—and unbuttoning his shirt. Just as it’s about to come off, he stops: “Five: This is a family show. So you should go the the theater.” OKAY.
FINAL COUNT: Crying.
See you next week, America.