(Before we begin—have you heard that we're giving away tickets to the "So You Think You Can Dance" season finale?! GO. ENTER. NOW.)

Wow. "SYTYCD" Season 11 is going to be pretty darn spectacular. This week, we watched 157 dancers travel to L.A. to duke it out for a spot in the Top 20. Guest judges this week included tWitch, Tara Lipinski, Adam Shankman and ballerina Irina Dvorovenko. It was pretty hard to know who would advance and who would be sent packing—the level of talent was just that high. There were also A LOT of cuts: Dancers had to make it through seven rounds, and there were even a couple dance-for-your-life performances. I'm not sure how the show's editors managed to get the entire week of callbacks into one jam-packed, action-filled episode—but they did. Here are my top five moments from last night:

1. Cameron. OK, OK, he’s not a competitor, he’s a newborn. But he was definitely part of one of my favorite “SYTYCD” stories of all time: Steven, a phenomenal hip-hop dancer from New Orleans, got news that his girlfriend had gone into labor right as callbacks began. Obviously, Steven was a little distracted. I mean, THERE WAS A BABY ON THE WAY. Somehow he managed to pull it together for the first few rounds…and then, Cameron arrived! Steven didn't make the cut after Sonya Tayeh’s choreography, but I think he’s already won, regardless.

Awwwwwwwww

2.  Jaja, the red-headed wildcard. So, OK, she didn’t make Top 20. But to see this girl go from crazy krumper to slinky ballroom dancer just made me smile.

Let's hope Jaja auditions again next year. I know I'd love to see more of her transformations.

3. All the awkwardness. First, there was contestant Amanda’s, um, hiccup, when she said she felt lucky to have Marcquet as a hip-hop partner because, duh, he’s there for hip hop. Well, sorry Charlie, he’s a ballroom expert, and you’ve just learned what happens when you assume things—on national TV. Oops! (Disclaimer: In Amanda's defense, Marcquet can do it all—amazingly. My prediction? Top 4, easily.)

Next, we said goodbye to poor contestant Christopher’s front tooth. During the ballroom routine rehearsals, Chris got smacked in the face by his partner’s elbow. She lost quite a bit of skin and blood, and he lost half a tooth. OUCH.

Thankfully, the judges were kind to this (partially) toothless wonder of a dancer. He made it through the ballroom round.

And finally, did anyone else feel just a little guilty for laughing at the judge’s nasty comments during the group choreography round? Over the first four episodes this season, we’ve applauded the judges for not berating the auditionees who gave sub-par performances. Apparently, though, their snide remarks have been brewing, and after One Love’s group debacle, there was a firestorm of snark. My favorite zinger came courtesy of Adam Shankman: “I see you got your routine from those children on ‘Dance Moms.' " BOOM, roasted.

This face.

4. The surprise endings. A lot of our favorites from the audition rounds didn’t make it. This week, we unfortunately—and unexpectedly—bid adieu to Trevor Bryce, Marie Poppins, Megan Marcano, Erik “Silky” Williams, and DS cover beauty Kamille Upshaw.

5. The TOP 20, REVEALED! Without further ado, may we present—in the order they were introduced during the show’s credits—the 20 candidates vying to be America’s Favorite Dancer: Malene, Zack, Emily, Serge, Carly, Emilio, Tanisha, Stanley, Valerie, Nick, Bridget, Marcquet, Jacque, Rudy, Brooklyn, Teddy, Jessica, Casey, Jourdan and Ricky. Congrats, dancers! We can't wait to see what you bring this season!

What did you guys think? Are you happy with this season's Top 20? Was anyone sent home unfairly? Let us know in the comments—and check back here next week for our recap of the first live episode!

Welcome, to "So You Think You Can Dance!" This week, we're in L.A. for the third round of auditions—and I'm thrilled to report that these auditions were far more successful and entertaining than what we saw on last week's show.

On with the recap!

The Top 5 Moments From The L.A. Auditions:

1. Jesse Tyler Ferguson on the judging panel. I love him on "Modern Family" and I don't even care that he may not be a dance expert. He's so stinkin' lovable as a self-proclaimed "super fan of the show," and you could tell he genuinely enjoyed sitting up there with Nigel and Mary. Adorable and hilarious.

2. Alexa Anderson! Our former Cover Model Search winner was the first one up last night, and she got sent straight to Vegas. No surprise there: We knew she was a star when we spotted her on the competition scene, you knew she was a star when you voted her the winner of the 2010 CMS battle, and now the rest of the world will know she's a star when Alexa inevitably makes it into the Top 20. (Seriously, Nigel and Mary: Put this girl in the Top 20.) We're rooting for you, Alexa!

3. "No lip syncing." Mary Murphy, I love you for this. High five. She told the crop of L.A. dancers that she did not want to see any lip syncing. Write this down, dancers and teachers. No one likes lip syncing! I don't care if you're doing a musical theater number to "Cell Block Tango" and you swear mouthing the words will make your performance more believable. Let the singers do the singing, you just worry about your sassy moves!

4. All the super-cute contemporary girls. I loved Sam Lenarz, whose mom kicked her out of the house and didn't support her dancing. Her story was heartbreaking, but with her killer feet and ability to light up the stage, I doubt she'll be held back in life. Then there was Megan Branch, who danced with a youthful innocence that I found incredibly compelling. Nigel called her a "little firecracker." And then there was Emily James! Emily was a DS Cover Model Search finalist and she was sent straight to Vegas. Duh.

5. Jonathan Anzalone. I basically like that he looks like Joey Lawrence, and I had a crush on Joey Lawrence when I was in elementary school and he was on that TV show "Blossom." Jonathan was quirky, fun to watch and could shake his booty better than any dude I've ever met.

The “So You Think You Can What?!” Moment of the Night:

How much did I love the "A-list celebrity on a B-list budget" twins, Nick and James Aragon? I loved them so much. They refer to themselves as the "ninja twins," one is a stylist, one works at "The Village Idiot," and their double cartwheels were to die for. Are they going to win "SYTYCD?" Um, no. Not at all. But they were adorable and I want them to take me shopping.

Check back next week when we'll be recapping Atlanta auditions. And of course, tell us what you thought of the show!

Get ready for Cat Deeley’s fierce fashion, Lil' C’s fictional vocabulary, Mary Murphy’s high-pitched holler and, of course, some insanely talented dancers! That’s right, "So You Think You Can Dance" is back for a new season tonight. And Season 9—with a brand new one-night-only format—will certainly be an exciting one. DS chatted with our favorite judge and yours, Nigel Lythgoe, about what we can expect.

Dance Spirit: How do you feel about this season being aired one night per week instead of two?

Nigel Lythgoe: Putting the results in the same show as the performances means we’ve got to be very strong in our thoughts. We’ll have to take into account the routine from the week before, what America thinks and then the routine this week, which America can’t vote on. The judges will be more important than ever this year.

DS: And what about crowning two winners?

NL: It’s a major change, but it’s something we should have done years ago to be honest with you.

DS: What’s your favorite part of the season each year—the auditions, the top 20, the tour?

NL: Well if you ask me towards the end of the series, I would say the end of the series, because we just get so tired at that point. But at the beginning, I love the audition process. I’m inspired by it to be frank with you. Not all the kids that I think are fantastic get through, but seeing so many dancers put their hearts on their sleeves and have the guts to audition makes me very proud.

DS: What’s your least favorite part?

NL: You’re not going to believe me, but rejecting people.  This is a professional competition, so we’re looking for the very best. Sometimes when we tell people they’re not good enough, you can see that their hearts are broken. Even with the bad ones, I want to say, “Keep dancing!”

DS: How was the turnout at auditions this year?

NL: Very strong. The turnout was equal to other seasons, but the standard of dance goes up each year. People get used to what we’re looking for, so they train themselves. The contemporary kids are doing a lot more hip hop. And, by the looks of it, the hip hop kids are even taking a few ballroom lessons.

DS: There have been rumors that "SYTYCD" is on its way out, but what do you see for the future of the show? Will this new format stick around for a while?

NL: Well I’m certainly hoping so. I would like to think that FOX will continue to think of us as part of its schedule, but that depends on viewers. At the end of the day, it’s a business. If we lose viewers, they’re going to drop the program. It isn’t up to me or to the format, it’s all about whether people watch. Just as a dancer accepts rejection if they’re not what a choreographer is looking for, this is something that I accept as a part of this business.

If it were up to us, "SYTYCD" would be here to stay. We can’t wait to find out who will be crowned America’s favorite dancers, and put them on the cover of our October issue! For the first episode of the season, tune in tonight at 8/7c on FOX.

For the past two days, DS managing editor Rachel Zar and I have been behind the scenes at the NYC auditions for Season 9 of "So You Think You Can Dance." If you thought the competition was tough last year, you'll be floored by the talent of the upcoming season. From contemporary to ballroom to hip hop—these dancers can do it all.

But being well-rounded doesn't mean a ticket to Vegas—especially with the judges (Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and Tyce Diorio) cracking down on mediocre performances. Here's Rachel's quick recap of the judges' feedback to contestants:

1. Be a sponge. When the judges give you feedback, soak it all up, work on those things throughout the year and audition next season.

2. Use your face! If you don't connect with the judges, you're not going straight to Vegas.

3. If you're young and don't have a lot of emotional baggage, take an acting class so you can learn to convey emotion onstage.

4. A series of steps, poses and tricks is not dancing.

5. After you've auditioned, don't ask for one more chance to prove yourself. The audition is your chance—use it to show off every style that you have under your belt.

6. Don't audition with another dancer unless you've actually prepared something together. Just dancing side by side and competing for the judges' attention will only confuse them and get you sent home.

Now that you've taken those lessons to heart, take a behind-the-scenes look at the NYC auditions:

I've gotta say, " So You Think You Can Dance," last night's show was a little underwhelming. On a scale of 1 to 10, the Top 16's talent level is about a 13. But the choreography—on average—scored close to a 6 in my book. Obviously, there were the exceptions, like Mandy Moore's routine to "Foolish Games" by Jewel (#throwback!), and Nakul Dev Mahajan's spirited Bollywood number, "Dilliwaali Girlfriend." But a lot of the show was just, eh. So, let's just skip to the good, shall we? Here are my top five highlights from last night's show:

Bridget, Carly, Jacque, Jessica, Marcquet, Ricky, Rudy and Teddy in Travis Wall's routine to "Love Runs Out" (photo Adam Rose/FOX)

1. The group routines. Beginning with Mandy Moore's jazzy and sultry "Take Me to the River," the large and mini group pieces were the clear highlights of the evening. Travis Wall's band of outlaws dancing to One Republic's "Love Runs Out" was particularly captivating: The grittiness and raw intensity read really well on screen. After the performance, Nigel mentioned the Emmy Awards—could this be Travis' year (again)?

Work it, Tanisha! (photo Adam Rose/FOX)

2. Tanisha Belnap. This girl. Like guest judge Misty Copeland noted, it was clearly Tanisha's night. Not only did her performance in Dave Scott's "Good Kisser" completely kill it, her featured role in Sonya Tayeh's group number to Bjork's "So Broken (Live)" showed a completely different side of this young artist. She may have been in the bottom six this week, but this firecracker clearly isn't going home anytime soon.

3. Cat Deeley's one liners. It seems like Cat always knows just what to say, even when a duet totally tanks. But when things go well, Cat's humor is on point, and her jokes last night did not disappoint. From the line after Travis Wall's "The Leaving Song"—"Talk about getting up on the wrong side of the bed!"—to her Waynes World-esque scene change and her note about Ricky Ubeda's "guy-liner," the British babe had me laughing through it all.

Mary Murphy, Nigel Lythgoe and Misty Copeland (photo Adam Rose/FOX)

4. Misty Copland as a guest judge. Last night, the American Ballet Theatre soloist continued her reign as best guest judge. Her criticism was spot on, and her corrections were specific enough for each dancer to apply next week. Also: Can I please have your arms, Misty?

5. Baby pictures! The episode included footage of each dancer as a tiny mover and shaker. Needless to say, everyone was adorable. But I'd like to make two special shout-outs: Jacque's pink fur get-up and Emily's march to her own drum. Awwww!

Bridget and Emilio—and the bed. But why was it even there?
(photo Adam Rose/FOX)

We'll miss you Marcquet and Brooklyn!
(photo Adam Rose/FOX)

Of course, there were also a few awkward moments last night. And I'm not just talking about Brooklyn and Marcquet's untimely leave from the show. (I know, I know, almost everyone has to leave at some point. But Marcquet had the chops to go all the way, and Brooklyn's hip-hop performance in Willdabeast's choreography showed her jaw-dropping versatility. #Unfair.) But the real awkwardness? The useless bed post in Travis Wall's "The Leaving Song," as well as the chair in Dmitry Chaplin's "I Put A Spell On You." We've asked what competition judges hate to see the most in dancers' routines, and uncorrelated and unused props almost always rank near the top. So what gives?

 

Next week, four(!) dancers will have to leave at the end of the show. Bummer, right? In the meantime, what did you think of last night's episode? What was your favorite moment? Let us know in the comments, and come back next week for our recap of the Top 14 episode.

Buckle up, dancers. "So You Think You Can Dance" has started, and it's going to be a wild ride until the winner is crowned. The Season 11 auditions kicked off with a bang in the Big Easy, and New Orleans certainly brought the talent. Here are the Top 5 moments from last night's two hour premiere event.

1. Battle of the dance dads. Dads were a big factor on last night's show. And while there was a truly touching storyline with second-time-around auditioner Caleb Brauner (whose father passed away this December, a few months after busting some moves with Caleb at last year's audition), I'm talking about the dad silliness that ensued. First, we watched bottle dancer Mike Rase, who, um, knows how to twerk. And then there was another dancing dad—which enraged Mike—and the two duked it out onstage. I'm glad at least daughter Shelby Rase made it to Hollywood with her gorgeous solo, because otherwise...embarrassing!

2. Megan Marcano.  Before we saw her dance, we heard Megan's back story, which really made me root for her. Megan's been living on her own since age 12—when her mom was arrested and her family split up—and now she's finishing up college (at Texas Woman's University). And then...she danced. And... HOLY SMOKES SHE WASN'T JUST GOOD, SHE WAS AMAZING. Mary Murphy said it best: Megan "flew across the stage with ease." I can't wait to see more of her this season. Take a look:

3. Trevor Bryce. With his not-so-subtle cocky attitude before his audition, I wasn't too sure what to expect. I'm not even sure what to call his contemporary-pop-lock fusion style, but, Nigel loved it. He called it "one of the greatest solo performances on 'SYTYCD'." I'm not sure I'd go that far, and I'd prefer less mugging in the future, but I think Trevor's really got the chops to back up all his hype. Watch the quirk here:

4. Caleb Brauner. This Missouri dancer first performed a lighthearted solo to celebrate his dad's life in New Orleans. It was solid enough to get him to the choreography round, but unfortunately, Nigel gave him a big no. (And not very nicely, I might add.) But Caleb didn't take "no" for an answer. He hopped on a plane to Chicago, and with a "dancers never give up" attitude, he competed with a heavier-hearted solo in front of the judges. He was again moved to the choreography round. But this time, with a stroke of luck—or perhaps persistence—he earned a ticket to Hollywood. Congrats, Caleb!

5. Rudy Abreu's power move. We first meet Rudy with Nick Garcia—best friends from Miami who are...something else. The dynamic duo competed separately, and they both nabbed tickets to Hollywood. Nigel was especially taken with a step in Rudy's solo that he called a reverse cabriole. Watch it here—it happens at about 1:47 and then it's replayed at 3:06. Look familiar? Alexia Meyer taught us how to do "The Super Cabriole" (or as her dad would call it, "The Flying Squirrel,") in Dance Spirit's April issue. Check it out here, and then watch her break it down below:

Bonus: Justin Bieber and his choreographer Nick DeMoura introduced the first two dance crews battling for a chance to appear on the show. We met L.A.'s Poreotics (supposedly a fusion of robotics and popping) and the East Coast's Syncopated Ladies. You already know just  how much we love Chloé Arnold and her crew. #SYTYCDladies.

Thoughts? Who are you most excited to see this season? What were your favorite moments of the evening? Leave it all in the comments and we'll see you back here next week.

Greetings from Detroit!

It's the second night of audition madness on "So You Think You Can Dance," and things stayed pretty mellow. These were the Top 5 most noteworthy moments from Detroit...

1. Guest judge tWitch! Remember when he was a contestant on the show? That was the best season ever. Master tWitch has done so much since then—like, you know, fall in love with and propose to fellow "SYTYCD" alum Allison Holker—that I sometimes forget how hard he rocked Season 4, coming in as the runner-up (shoulda won...definitely shoulda won...). Unsurprisingly, charming and charismatic tWitch was a welcome addition to the panel in Detroit. He's wise like Lil' C, only I actually understand what he's saying. Plus, he performed and showed his abs. More tWitch, please! And how about a throwback to his Season 4 audition...

2. Amy Yakima! I remember seeing Amy compete at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals years ago and thinking she was one to watch. And now, look! We're watching her—on TV! Girl's got a cute personality and a totally cute dad, who just about showed her up onstage with a killer toe-touch. It was adorable, and I'm so happy to see lovely young Amy onscreen. (Oh and her dad cried as Amy performed—it doesn't get much sweeter than that.) Congratulations on your standing ovation, Amy, and we'll see you during Vegas Week.

3. Morgan "Mo" Williams. His technique wasn't perfect and sometimes he didn't fully straighten his knees or point his toes. But eh...for some reason, I just didn't care. I loved this guy, who dedicated his contemporary solo to his recently deceased grandmother. He's going to Vegas, and I hope he stocks up on ballet classes in the meantime because Mo has great potential.

4. Tyrone Cobham, Jr. Awwww yeah, tapper dude! Tappers are such rare gems in this competition and Tyrone's skills are top-notch. Let's just hope he can do other things, because you know they're throwing Broadway and ballroom at him as soon as he gets to Vegas—which is where he's headed.

5. Mary Murphy getting a private dance onstage. No, just kidding. This was terribly awkward and I did not like it. Let's keep her safely within the confines of tWitch and Nigel. (For the record, I don't think Mary was uncomfortable with this lap dance situation at all. She seemed just fine, as evidenced by her post-dance "Now that's what I'm talkin' about!")

It's clear from the first two nights of auditions that contemporary is so Seasons 1–8 and now, following in the funky footsteps of Cyrus, breaking (animating? I don't know) and b-boying are the ways to go.

It's also clear that the more we see tWitch's abs, the more likely we are to rewind and re-watch the episode over and over. Just saying, FOX.

Thoughts? Critiques? Favorite abs of the evening? Leave it all in the comments and we'll see you back here next week!

We're baaaaaack!

And be "we," I mean Nigel, Mary, Cat and yay! Jesse Tyler Ferguson! My favorite ginger funnyman guest judge.

"So You Think You Can Dance" Season 10 kicked off last night with auditions in L.A.

As always, we'll be recapping our way through the entire season, so stick with us here after each episode. Without further rambling, here are last night's Top 5 Noteworthy Moments:

1. The "SYTYCD" theme song. Is it just me, or does the first time you hear that opening jam mean it's officially summer?

2. Eighteen-year-old Du-Shaunt "Fik-Shun" Stegall. He was the season's first to audition (well, the first to make it to TV, at least), the first to receive a standing ovation and the first to receive a ticket straight to Vegas. Well then! His musicality was spot-on, his breaker-esque moves were smooth like butter (yum!) and he was downright adorable. Will his style translate later in the competition when he has a partner? We'll see. But for now, he's cute, fun and entertaining. AKA he's "SYTYCD" gold.

3. Paul Karmiryan. Wait...he already won "SYTYCD: Armenia?" That's cool (congrats, Paul!), but I feel like he shouldn't be allowed to audition again. He's a Latin ballroom dancer and he's mega-talented, it just seems unfair to go for a second title, right? Greedy? Meh, whatever, he's darn cute (even if his technique isn't the best I've ever seen). The judges compare him to Season 2 winner Benji Schwimmer, so it's no surprise he nabs himself a ticket to Vegas.

4. B-boy Morris Isby. He literally had tricks up his sleeves. Tons of 'em. He was fun, easy on the eyes and did a crazy thing where he spun on his elbow. See you in Vegas, Morris! (And hey, Cyrus is in the audience! Though he doesn't seem to be paying attention...it's fine.)

5. Jesse Tyler Ferguson as a guest judge. Obviously. He coined a few dance terms, such as "the lemon zester," and he made them sound so good they just might catch on. And any guy who can look at Nigel and exclaim, "You don't know me!" gives me the giggles. Keep coming back, JTF!

That's all for now. I've gotta say, I wasn't truly blown away by any of the auditions in L.A. But tune in again tonight for more audition excitement in Detroit (collective "ugh," I know—get us to Vegas Week, already!) with guest judge (and my personal favorite) tWitch!

Any thoughts on L.A. auditions? Favorites? Least favorites? Let us know in the comments!

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