So You Think You Can Dance: Vegas Hell Week
By Hilda Clark Bowen (PBMom)
Vegas week–the dancers’ equivalent to Navy SEAL hell week. Eight grueling rounds. Late nights. Early mornings. No sleep. Pushing themselves to the brink physically, mentally, emotionally. That is what it takes on the road to becoming America’s Favorite Dancer. There were 8 rounds. Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Adam Shankman, Debbie Allen, Tyce DiOrio, and Lil’C were the primary judges with others sitting in to comment on their own choreographed segments.
Round 1: Solos
Hampton “The Exorcist” Williams from Richardson, Texas (Dallas auditions) danced his unique style to Evanescence’s “My Immortal.” He was mouthing the words to the song which I did not like. Debbie Allen was crying. It was very similar to his Dallas audition. After 10 solos, Jennifer and Briana go home. Hampton and 7 other dancers make it through to the next round.
Next bunch included Janelle Issis, the belly dancer from Birmingham, Alabama. Both Tyce and Adam loved her. By the end of the round, 51 dancers were cut, including martial arts expert Tim Conkel.
This proved too much for two contestants. Hampton felt that the choreography was too difficult to learn left the competition. I praise the respect he showed the judges by coming up on stage and sharing that. Andre Rucker, from the Dragon House trio, just left. Good impressions are won, and you just do not up and leave. It’s too easy just to quit. I hope that Hampton gets some experience in some other areas and comes back to the competition next year. The song chosen was “B.O.B.” by OutKast. It was fast and slick. After the first group, Boris Penton from Dragon House was cut as was Gene Lonardo (the praying mantis guy), and Bree Hafen. After the last group performed, and Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer. Glitch meets tWitch and I’m loving this. All the members of the final group survived, which totaled 105 dancers surviving to the next round.
Round 3 (Day 2): Broadway with Tyce DiOrio
Tyce comes with a story about dancers in a club at 2 a.m. and drinking water and then POW!…a lust force seizes them. Witney Carson and Lindsay Arnold, from the Salt Lake City auditions, are out of their comfort zones. They have known each other since age 9 and found out they were roommates in Las Vegas. The song, “Must Be the Water” by Marc Broussard. Everyone who danced in the morning made it through. The judges gave Alexa Anderson a stern lecture about lacking an emotional connection and getting tired of fighting for her. I think she is terrified that she will not make it through again at the very last moment and she is guarding her heart. Joseph and Trey were gone. Teddy Tedholm went home. After this round another 23 dancers went home, which by my count 105 minus 23 leaves 82 dancers for the next round.
Round 4: Jazz with Sonya Tayeh
Eighty-two contestants remain. Sonya is looking for strength, aggression, texture, and musicality. Shafeek Westbrook is struggling, but bacon-girl Danielle Dominguez is trying to be supportive. The song is “Freak Out (Gold Chains, Panique Mix) by Brightest Diamond. Shafeek was cut and left with a terrible attitude. Danielle steps forward to partner with Giovanni and is rewarded with a big smack to her head. She is sent to the hospital; he is sent home. Cyrus partners with Lindsay and does an adequate job. I think his uniqueness and the judges desire to have him through to the top 20 is allowing them to forgive mistakes. This is about the favorite dancer and not necessarily the best dancer. They ask Amelia Lowe to dance for her life. Rachel Applehans is asked to dance for her life (It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World by Leela James). Sonya, Nigel, Mary and Tyce all say no. I have to say I am glad about Rachel because she just did not fit into the show. It’s fine to turn on the sex appeal once or twice, but every time it makes me uncomfortable, like she is dancing for men at a strip club. Amelia danced to “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Elmer Bernstein. Adam is visibly moved. Sonya is smiling and says she wants to get her hands on her. Sonya, Mary, Lil’C, Tyce and Debbie say yes. Adam says “yes” and thanks her. Nigel gave a surprising no.
Round 5: Groups
It’s now day 2 at 10 p.m., and it is group time. The twist this year was that the people got to pick their own groups (about 5-6 people). The first group up on day 3 in the morning includes Daniel Baker, Audrey Case, Danielle Dominguez. Danielle got back late from the hospital. They danced to Gotye’s song, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Charlie and Danielle are sent home. The judges should have allowed Danielle to at least dance for her life. She did not have to volunteer to partner in the previous round a second time. Boo to the judges on that. In the next group, Taylor Giri (? spelling) was sent home. The next dance, choreographed by Aubrey Klinger, was praised by Nigel, and he complimented her by calling her a mini Mia Michaels. Aubrey danced with 4 other guys. The story was that she was the only girl at the prom and they called themselves the “High Schoolers.” The song was Side Project’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody.” The entire group is sent through to the next round.
The first group in the afternoon were The Wolfpack which included Dres Reid, Adrian Lee and Alexa Alexander, all who auditioned in previous seasons and danced to “I’m Glad You Came” by The Wanted. Alexa was called out again by the judges. They prodded her until tears flowed. They allow her one more chance. Sixty-one contestants now remain for the next round.
Round 6: Ballroom, specifically the cha-cha with Jason Gilkison.
The song: “Let’s Get Loud” by Jennifer Lopez. I was shouting GO CYRUS. I just love this guy’s attitude and energy. He is asked to dance for his life. It was a no to Asher Walker, Dee Tomasetta, and a huge surprise Aubrey Klinger who had just been highly praised in the group round. My heart was hurting for her as she said she was not able to get work as a dancer audition after audition. While hurting for her, it reminded me what is so fantastic about this show: Even dancers who are not crowned the winners are getting work in the industry as evidenced by the many times I’ve seen them especially on Fox shows. Witney, Stepheon Stewart (great hip work!), Eliana Girard and Alexa (who was being cheered from the sidelines by Tyce and Adam) all received a yes to the next round. Cyrus dances to “Holy Ghost (Helicopter Showdown and Sluggo Remix) by Messinian. He BLOWS my mind. I was so glad he got to dance for Lil’C who thought it was EXTRA BUCK. I loved the support he was also receiving from his fellow contestants in the audience. A total of 52 contestants are put through to contemporary.
Round 7: Contemporary with Travis Wall
The contestants only have 1 hour to get the steps down. That’s insane. Travis says, “Technically I’m looking for perception.” Travis, your standards are set so low. The song is “I Won’t Give Up” Jason Mraz. Cyrus, Eliana, Lindsay, Janelle, Trenton, Daniel, Witney, Amelia, Luciano, Cyrus and Tiffany are all put through. Eighteen dancers’ fates were in question. The judges asked them to perform again and only Joshua and Abigail make it through. I was so sad about white-girl krumper Mariah. I thought she did very well.
Round 8: Final solos
Trying to stand-out, Joshua attempted to do a new trick in the waiting area and fell smack to the ground. The medics are called and he is taken away. He was not able to perform his final solo. Alexa Anderson was first, dancing to The Naked and Famous’ “Young Blood (White Sea Remix)”. (PS Thank you Warren for the correction on this). Debbie Allen said to her fellow judges that “This child could win” but Tyce balked at that observation. The last solo was Chehon Wespi-Tschopp of Zurich, Switzerland, the ballet dancer. The heights he could reach were phenomenal. The song to which he danced was “Suite of the Winter Songbirds,” by Noah Lifschey.
The guys were called up. Adrian Lee, who almost made it in season 7, and whose mother stopped watching the show because of it, was cut. Nigel reminded the group that they were not going for the “best dancers” but the uniqueness. The girls get called up; no one is cut….at this point.
There are 35 in the end. Next week, they will have to cut that down to 20 people. Joshua will find out if his stunt to try to impress will cost him a spot in the final 20.
Who are your favorites? I think Chehon and Cyrus are going to make it simply because of their unique styles. Cyrus improves with each lesson and America adores him. Chehon is, I think, the only ballet dancer in the group and they tend to like a diverse group of individuals. I am unsure about the girls. Amelia is very unique. I was truly rooting for Mariah. Janelle should make it.