So You Think You Can Dance review – Season 9: ‘Vegas Callbacks’

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It’s Vegas week on So You Think You Can Dance and we start our coverage of Season 9 with some thoughts and predictions of who will be in our Top 20.

A pretty straightforward this season – some tears, medical dramas and plenty of amazing dancing. Let’s take a closer look after the jump.

First, a few publicized changes for Season 9: This year there will be TWO winners crowned come finale time- one male and one female. I’m not sure if “America’s Favourite DancerS” has the same punch as in previous seasons, but I’ll also admit that when I first heard about the introduction of “All Stars” I had similar reservations. Season after season, I continue to eat my humble pie and am trying to learn to just go with it. Lythgoe & Co. has rarely let me down (The horrendous decision to visit dancers after Vegas in their homes to deliver the bad/good news about Top 20 being one of them. Yeesh.) so I think it’s best to simma-down till it proves an ill-advised choice.

Also new this year – we’re only getting one episode per week. A jam-packed performance show where results will be delivered in the subsequent week. I am decidedly disappointed in this news because I never saw the 1-hour results show as filler. In fact, one of the things I looked most forward to were the amazing group routines that opened each show. Let’s hope there’s still time to keep these (though I’m sincerely doubting they’ll be able to cram all that into 2 hours).

Just something to chew on, as we get right into Vegas Week! 181 dancers made it to Sin City, and will endure 8 rounds: Solos, Hip Hop, Broadway, Jazz, Groups, Ballroom, Contemporary and Final Solos. Phew! Let’s break it down:


Standouts in this round included Hampton Williams (aka The Exorcist) and Janelle Issis (aka The belly dancer). William’s truly unique style is just breathtaking (even when Evanescence is the track…) and I appreciated how Issis managed to be sexy and alluring, but not slutty. There’s something about her expression that’s just sweet and appealing.

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Hip Hop:

We got the return of tWitch (YAY!) and Comfort (meh) choreographing an upbeat and energetic routine. tWitch’s smile is utterly infectious – I’m hoping this means he’ll be back again as an All Star. Unfortunately Williams and two members of the much featured, Atlanta Dragon Crew dropped out of this round because they simply weren’t used to picking up choreography, even in their genre. But Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer whole-heartedly decided to stick with it even though he knows he’s not nearly in the league of many of the other dancers. And his great attitude pays off as he makes it through the round.


Tyce Diorio (one of my least favourite judges) pulls out this gauntlet early in the round – fully admitting that this is gonna be crazy hard. Streamlining the Vegas callbacks to one episode (Is it me, or did Vegas used to be two episodes?) means we don’t really get to see the routines in each round, just edited snippets. It’s a shame, but it certainly whets the appetite for the full performance shows. In this round, we get Smackdown: Round One. Diorio manages hold it back, but Adam Shankman doesn’t. Our first victim – Alexa Anderson who is accused of being completely dead in the face despite some excellent technique. I tend to agree – in this round her mouth was always slightly parsed and I don’t even know if she blinked. This is Broadway! You gots to ham that up! The judges give her some stern warnings about unfreezing that unintentional stone cold demure, or it’s outtie. Anderson made it all the way up to the long walk to the Top 20 last season, only to be beat out by the equally forgettable Ryan Ramirez. When I saw Anderson’s audition I was like, “She was robbed!” but after the Broadway round, I’m understanding why. Again, just gotta learn to trust those judges!


Ahh, the lovely Sonya Tayeh and her cray-cray beautiful routines. Looks like there’s a ton of kicks and real deep-down emotion in this piece, which seemed to get more screen time vs. Hip Hop and Broadway. One of my early favourites from the audition round, bacon-eating contemporary dancer Danielle Dominguez showed us that being nice doesn’t get you anywhere. After successfully making it through the round, she decides to help out a fellow male dancer by filling in as his partner, only to get kicked in the face by him accidentally. She was rushed to the ER for x-rays and the like, which unfortunately caused her demise in later rounds. Not to worry – I have every belief that Dominguez’s good gesture will come back to her ten-fold in the future.

We also saw Rachel Applehans (aka the lingerie burlesque dancer) get rightfully cut, only to have her whine about how she’s oh-so-passionate and deserves a second change. Groan. The judges decide to play nice and let her dance for her life. She does a horrendous stripper-esque routine (Yes, yes – I know, it’s burlesque and supposed to be – but I just don’t think that she leaves anything to the imagination. I felt like I was watching some poor man’s Valentine’s Day gift…) Apparently the judges agree with me and send Applehans packing. NEXT! (P.S. Loved Debbie Allen’s parting note to her – ‘Put on more clothes and dance.”)

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Also pushed from her confidence pedestal was Amelia Lowe (aka the ‘silent-movie’ dancer) who neglected to bring any ‘magical’ qualities to the routine. She too dances for her life, and her ‘beautiful spirit’ moves the judges to tears. Many have compared her to last year’s winner, Melanie Moore, but I just don’t see it. I find Lowe’s performance a little too juvenile and one note, but hey, the show’s all about growth right? Just a note about Nigel’s comments to her: Representing the lone “No” in a sea of Yes-es, Nigel voted to cut her because Lowe failed to show the magic quality of her solo in the Sonya’s routine – only pulling it out when it’s do or die. This is why I love this show – the criticisms and notes are spot on. They’re never patronizing or cruel – but constructive in the very best sense of the word.

Phew! Still with me? Onto the infamous Group Routines:

Sorry to disappoint, but normally the drama-filled group routine segment was severely lacking this year. We only got a very brief clip package and a couple people talking about fatigue, but not in an overly bitchy way. Chalk it up to the streamlining. And honestly, I’m happy about it. I’d much rather see more of the choreographed rounds vs. the reality TV drama, which is never truly representative anyway. But we still managed to see one memorable routine – put on by “The highschoolers” as we go to prom. We also got Smackdown: Round Two for poor Alexa Anderson. Diorio starts it off with a “I don’t mean to pull the bitch out…,” (uh oh) but on the whole I totally agreed with him (Surprised!). Anderson still lacked that much needed personality and charisma. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s something that one can learn overnight especially under such extraneous circumstances. To me, all this attention screamed out -“Meet your first underdog of the Top 20.”


Helmed by Aussie choreography extraordinaire, Jason Gilkison, we got another expedited round. I think Gilkison was way too “nice” in comparison to the other judges, but I mean, who could resist that smile? Alexa Anderson finally got some praise in this round, and although she’s showing some growth, she has yet to win me over. Our lovable Dragon Crew member, Cyrus was still in for the running, and although his ballroom was just a hawt mess, he still made it through. I give you your second underdog of the Top 20.


Season 2 favorite, Travis Wall was in charge for this round, and this is where the streamlining really got to me. Wall’s routines are often the most unforgettable, and I just wanted to see it from start to finish a couple of times without cutting away to reaction shots or commentary. Despite this, we still saw some dancers shine, Cyrus being one of them. The lone female hip-hop/stank-face krumper, Mariah Spears was cut from this round, although I felt she delivered a great performance. Her partner, Joshua Alexander, however, makes it through and I’m pretty stoked about that one.

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Final Solos:

Here the Top 20 really starts to take shape. We get (what I believe) to be the first appearance of ballet dancer Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, who danced around the stage as if he were on springs. Where has this guy been hiding?! New favorite! And speaking of favourites, the aforementioned Joshua Alexander tries to practice a trick and ends up hitting his head severely, and is rushed off to the hospital. It doesn’t appear that he was able to perform his final solo, but he’s in the clip package for next week’s episode, so we’ll just have to wait with bated breath to see if he makes it. At the end of this round, some guys are cut to even out the girls and the guys left before the Top 20 is announced. Nigel flat out says that this year, in order to keep the show fresh and evolving, they’re not necessarily looking for the best dancers, but the most unique. (Ah-Cyrus-HEM!)

Among those cut is shockingly, Adrian Lee, who got a whole lotta screen time in both his audition city and in Vegas. Perhaps it was to make up for the masochistic visit (and subsequent replays) from Mary Murphy telling him (in front of his entire family) that he didn’t make the Season 7 Top 20.

So that was pretty much Vegas week in a LONG nutshell. Any predictions for the Top 20? I can’t help but chime in with my guesses for any SYTYCD pools out there:

Guys: (Pretty short list as not many guys stood out as obvious Top 20 for me)

  • No surprise – my money is on Cyrus. They’ve just given him way too much screen time during Vegas and his can-do attitude, mad solo skills and potential for growth is exactly what the show is looking for – this year especially it seems.

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  • Chehon Wespi-Tschopp – haven’t seen too many male ballet dancers featured in Vegas week, and the addition of his full, final solo pretty much cements his spot in the Top 20. I predict he’ll go pretty damn far.
  •  That really hot Australian blonde dancer whose name I didn’t catch. (Edit: Daniel Baker – thanks to reader, Percy for providing his name!) He was in the Gotye group number. Didn’t get to see much of his dancing, but that smile coupled with that demeanor (slight-bitchy but totally overlooked when accompanied with those pearly whites)? I hope we see him in the Top 20.


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  • Alexa Anderson – again, too much screen investment in this one AND she came oh-so-close to making it last year. I think she’s a lock and, as mentioned before, will be the big underdog of the season. Let’s hope she starts growing – FAST.

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  • Witney Carson – half of so-called “Team Ballroom”. This girl was a standout in the auditions and featured somewhat prominently during Vegas week. She’s got some confidence this one, but seeing as we didn’t get to see many female ballroom dancers features during Vegas, I think she’s a lock.

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Lindsay Arnold – The other half of “Team Ballroom”. This girl’s legs go on forever, but from what I saw, I really liked her. I’m hoping there’s room in the Top 20 for two female ballroom dancers, as again, we didn’t see too many featured during this episode. If it were up to me, I would pick Arnold, but I think if we had to split up Team Ballroom, Carson would come out on top. Fingers crossed for them both because I think they’re magnificent.

Amelia Lowe- The judges just love her. Too much screen investment to cut her now. I don’t personally care for her, but hey, maybe she’ll prove me wrong.

So what are your predictions viewers? Any early favourites for you? What do you think about the changes to format for this season? Any guesses on who’ll be returning as All Stars? Sound off in our comments section below!

So You Think You Can Dance airs Wednesdays at 8pm EST on FOX.

About tvangie

Angie is a TV addict currently pursuing a PhD in media studies. A freelance researcher and writer on the side – she really misses talking about her favourite shows because none of her friends watch them. Help her out.

2 thoughts on “So You Think You Can Dance review – Season 9: ‘Vegas Callbacks’

  1. “That really hot Australian blonde dancer whose name I didn’t catch. He was in the Gotye group number. Didn’t get to see much of his dancing, but that smile coupled with that demeanor (slight-bitchy but totally overlooked when accompanied with those pearly whites)? I hope we see him in the Top 20.”

    His name is Daniel Baker and he left (or took leave from) the San Francisco Ballet. If the show is willing to have 2 male ballet dancers on the show, he might make it. I think his audition (from the first audition show) was very good.