SYTYCD Season 9 Las Vegas Callbacks Thoughts

Now that the Vegas Callbacks have aired it was difficult to know for sure who made it to the end and who is left for the final cut that would air next week. The spoilers show only up to 30 dancers made it to the end of callbacks but according to the show 35 actually made it to the end of the Vegas Callbacks. Although the majority (if not all) of the spoilers seem to be correct it would still be difficult to see who actually made it. Nigel keeps insisting that we have some really strong hip hop and ballroom dancers this year and yet the only ones that we know of in the Ballroom genre are Witney Carson and Lindsay Arnold… while the ones in the hip hop genre is Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer… Interesting. Anyway let’s move on with the program.

Las Vegas Callbacks started out with 181 dancers who were invited back. As John mentioned earlier: What we see on television isn’t exactly what happens, sure everyone starts with a solo but in between sessions the dancers actually get a chance to learn more about what to expect in the dance industry. How to survive… this is truly an educational experience for anyone lucky enough to get a chance to be invited to be a part of the Vegas Callbacks experience.

Sometimes the first solo is an advancement of what they showed in the city auditions, or it is a chance for the dancers to show more than what they displayed in the city auditions. Take Janelle Issis the belly dancer for example…

This is what she gave in the Atlanta Auditions:

This is how she started her Vegas Callbacks experience:

That is just an example, part of the reason that there is a few weeks if not a couple of months between the city auditions and the Las Vegas Callbacks is that it gives the dancers a chance to study other styles and really get a feel and prep for what is to come.

Unfortunately after the first solos of the Las Vegas Callbacks 30 dancers were cut and they were unable to continue their experience in the choreography rounds. Hopefully we’ll be seeing some of them in later seasons.

So now we have 150 dancers heading into the Hip Hop round which claimed a few casualties right out of the gate, both who happen to be of a similar genre to hip hop if not exact. It has always been a belief of mine that Hip Hop tends to be the first choreography round of Las Vegas Callbacks primarily because it would give all those that haven’t been choreographed before in their lives a chance to understand what to expect. Hip Hop is also one of the few genres furthest away from contemporary and since there are a lot of contemporary dancers season after season this is the first chance of weeding out the contemporary dancers as well.

For a change of pace, instead of NappyTabs teaching the choreography it’s So You Think You Can Dance alums: Comfort Fedoke and Stephen “Twitch” Boss, and they promise hard hitting, difficult choreography. According to John’s notes on his trip to Vegas Callbacks, there was so many dancers going into hip hop choreography that they had to be broken down into two groups. It would appear that one group danced and practiced in the lobby while the other group was on the stage.

If I were to wager a guess as to how it worked…
First half of the dancers were taught the choreography on the stage first separately (male and female) then together. Then as the first half goes up to the judges to perform the choreography, Comfort and Twitch teach the other half the choreography out in the lobby again first separately (male and female) then together.

By the end of the Hip Hop Choreography Round, another 42 dancers were cut from the group, leaving a grand total of 108 leading into Day Two.

After a hardy breakfast, the 108 dancers work on the Broadway choreography. For this blogger, THANK GOODNESS Tyce actually created a story between the guys and girls. It’s about time. A little Vegas Callbacks history with Broadway, the Broadway choreography round was first introduced to the Vegas Callbacks in Season Four as the second choreography round. In Seasons Five and Six it became the final choreography round before the final solos of Vegas Callbacks. Then for Season Seven it became the third choreography round after hip hop and ballroom before going back to being the second round after hip hop once again in Seasons Eight and Nine.

In a previous Vegas Callbacks choreography Tyce had a character for the girls, but the guys… nothing. Well not “nothing” nothing, but more that the guy is there to fill in the space for the girl, which still isn’t all that comforting.

Nevertheless the Broadway Choreography Round claimed about 20% of the dancers whittling it down to 82. For all you mathematicians out there from the original 181 dancers only about 45% are left.

The Jazz Choreography Round hasn’t always been a part of Vegas Callbacks having only appeared in Seasons One, Five, Six and now Nine. There was a Jazz-fusion type choreography during Vegas Callbacks in Season Two. If the appearance of the Jazz Choreography Round was inconsistant, so were the choreographers brought in to teach the genre to the dancers:
– Season One: Brian Friedman
– Season Two: Brian Friedman
– Season Five: Sonya Tayeh
– Season Six: Laurie Ann Gibson
– Season Nine: Sonya Tayeh

I’ll admit, of the choices Sonya does create some of the better routines I have seen thus far… even if at times it seemed a bit repetitive.

As to be expected the Jazz Round claimed another 20% of the dancers bringing the number of dancers down to 66.

After two days of choreography it’s that time again… Group Choreography. The overnight sprint that brings out the rawest of personalities from the dancers. In previous seasons the group were assigned in some capacity, however in this particular season TPTB chose to have the dancers choose the groups for themselves.

The dancers find themselves in groups of five or six dancers which would mean that there was at minimum 11 groups and at maximum 13.

As typical some groups rise to the occasion and other fail miserably and with limited sleep and some agitation the Group Choreography Round claims several more victims.

I always did love watching the Ballroom Round in Vegas Callbacks, particularly in finding out which dance is used for the choreography:
– Salsa: Season One
– Samba: Season One, Two, Three
– Foxtrot: Season Four
– Waltz: Season Five
– ChaCha: Season Six, Seven, Nine
– Jive: Season Eight

It is also just as interesting to see who would be brought to choreograph the Ballroom Round:
– Season One: Salsa – Alex Da Silva
– Season One, Two, Three: Samba – Mary Murphy
– Season Four: Foxtrot & Season Five: Waltz – Jean-Marc Genereux
– Season Six: ChaCha – Louis van Amstel
– Season Seven: ChaCha – Toni Redpath
– Season Eight: Jive & Season Nine: ChaCha – Jason Gilkison

To be honest, I miss seeing Toni Redpath aka Nazi Barbie (per Billy Bell) running the Ballroom choreography round. There was also this reaction of hers from a previous Las Vegas Callback audition during the Contemporary Round where the judges were looking at Alex Wong, Anthony Burrell and Kent Boyd. Hell her conversation with Lil’C no matter how little was funny (start at 3:07):

But we’re talking about Season 9’s Ballroom Round, and it didn’t disappoint. Taking a few casuatlities along for the ride bringing the number of dancers remaining from 66 at the start of Day Three to only 52 (Making it a combination of 14 dancers cut between the Group Choreography and Ballroom Rounds).

This used to be Mia Michaels baby, the round that everyone knew would rip them to shreds and toss the scraps away. Everyone was equal parts terrified and excited to work with her… I’m not entirely convinced that Travis Wall – the So You Think You Can Dance Season 2 Runner Up, who inherited the Contemporary Choreographer mantle from Mia Michaels starting Season 7 – is as polarizing, but he creates some amazing routines some of which were Emmy nominated last year.

The oddest thing about this particular round is that even though one would expect contemporary dancers to excel in this round, some do get claimed in the process. The most obvious change with this round’s elimination is that the judges were going to just watch all the dancers once and make their decisions again from there.

So group after group of dancers go up and dance and sit back down and after everyone has danced a little under two/thirds of the dancers were asked to go up to the stage and were told that they were moving on. Meanwhile the remaining 18 dancers had to dance again to prove their worth. The chances of changing any of the judges’ minds this late in the game was going to be difficult, but not exactly impossible as shown with Abigail Cruz and Joshua Alexander. In the end an additional 6 dancers were plucked from the 18 and were allowed to prove their worth one more time.

And then there was 40.

40 dancers left to provide a final solo and explain what being a part of this show means to them, 40 dancers that are suppose to be weeded down to 20, somehow… 40 dancers where there were more guys than girls. So now what?

Well the purpose of the final solos is to prove what they can bring onto the table, why they deserve to be a part of the Top 20, to earn their spot. Everyone knows that each of the Top 20 dancers needs a bit of personality/charisma, talent, and adaptability aka the total package. What I would love to see is a comparison of the dancer’s solo between the start of Vegas Callbacks and the end, to see how they grew over the time, if they’ve grown over time, a reminder as to why they are there.

So to see any one of them cut before they are even considered for the Top 20 is heartbreaking, moreso if a couple of those cuts include over favorites and Vegas veterans like Adrian Lee and Brandon Dumlao. But cut the judges did, favoring uniqueness over strong dancers and letting go a small handful of dancers whittling the total pool to just 35.

Aside from the usual six judges that we have come to expect on the judging panel the addition is the choreographer of the round in question also coming on to be a judge. It used to be that they would sit off to the side, but now they actually provide input, critiques/criticisms, comments, etc if and when necessary.

The judging panel this year included: Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Tyce Diorio, Debbie Gibson, Adam Shankman and Lil’C

I know that TPTB need to create story lines to drive the audience to root for dancers. One blatant storyline is that of Alexa Anderson, a contemporary dancer who shined in Los Angeles auditions but didn’t seem able to connect emotionally to her partner or the audience. She was cut during the Green Mile episode last season and came back with the intent of making it onto the show. But the judges lost their love for her, she was a fantastic dancer, but without the ability to connect emotionally there is just nothing there. As Tyce Diorio would put it: “The lights are on but nobody’s home!” Once she started to realize that she need to just let her emotions go, her dancing flew to a whole new level. She was that much more enjoyable to watch.

Earlier during the season I remember a friend of mine saying, “The first girl from the Los Angeles Auditions, she’s going to win.” I didn’t believe him because has beautiful of a dancer she appeared to be, she didn’t capture my attention enough to keep it… but now, she has a chance as long as she makes it to the Top 20.

Another storyline is that of the Dragon House trio of Boris, Andre and Cyrus. Andre left before dancing hip hop to the judges feeling that he was inadequate and didn’t even tell the judges that he was leaving. His roommates said it best, him leaving without giving it a fair shot is akin to giving up and could reflect poorly to the other two. But Andre left anyway. Boris was to follow him soon after the hip hop round as he was cut by the judges, but Cyrus…
– Hip Hop & Broadway: some how he got through
– Jazz: his lack of training was affecting him a little
– Group Choreo: his group did ok in the group choreography but one of his group mates got cut and he seemed to really blame himself for his group mates’ cut
– Ballroom: Cyrus hit a wall and was asked to “Dance for his Life” which he did and passed
– Contemporary: He passed through
He made it through Vegas Callbacks, and if I remember correctly I said that I would be disappointed if at least one did not make it to the Green Mail and well I got my wish.

To be honest I was disappointed in Andre not so much for leaving, but because he didn’t even explain his thought process to the judges. In some ways I saw that as a sign of disrespect, in the world of the performing arts unless you are a creator, you are at the mercy of the creators, the directors, the choreographers, end of story. So deal. Looking into that I respect Boris’ outlook a lot more and hope to see him come back if he feels he is ready to.

Speaking of dancers that came back there were quite a few Vegas Callbacks veterans here: Adrian Lee, Brandon Dumlao, Teddy Tedholm, Arielle Coker (rumored)… the list goes on. I was disappointed that they all got cut at some point over the course of the week, it gets harder to impress the judges as you come back season after season after season. But I wouldn’t give up, particularly when so many other dancers in the past have come back season after season and eventually got onto the show. You could find a list of them here.

Anyway, for a two-hour episode they jampacked a lot of the Vegas Callbacks drama, but it’s just as well, that just means that we won’t have to wait too long to see who made it to the Top 20 and the real fun begins.

Keep in mind that as the Top 20 is announced the following pages will be updated accordingly:
Top 20 Show Trivia
Top 20 Dance Style Breakdown

I also just added a page that breaks down the Vegas Callbacks from every season thus far:
SYTYCD Vegas Callbacks Breakdown