When Hannahlei Cabanilla rolled up to her Dance Spirit cover shoot—just 36 hours after being named the "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 15 champion—she looked impossibly fresh-faced and well-rested. The Anaheim Hills, CA, native may have had "about eight blisters," as she joked, on her feet; she may barely have slept since the big win; and she may have just performed on "Live with Kelly and Ryan." But she jumped right on set, and quite literally didn't stop jumping for the next five hours. The fabulous technique, irresistible personality, and (especially) boundless energy that earned her the title of America's Favorite Dancer were all on full display.
So what was it actually like for Hannahlei to compete on the show she'd watched since she was a tiny dancer—and what's next for the now–19-year-old? Read on.
Some people say summer is officially over after Labor Day. Others say the end of summer is the day everyone goes back to school. Officially, summer is over after September 21st. But in our world and yours, the end of summer is marked only by one thing: the "So You Think You Can Dance" finale.
Last night, to wrap up Season 15 and, along with it, another summer, Nigel, Mary, Vanessa, and tWitch crowned one lucky dancer as the season's winner. But before getting to that, there was the usual dance down memory lane.
Which of these four will be named America's Favorite Dancer—and our December cover star?! (Adam Rose/FOX)
Genessy. Hannahlei. Jensen. Slavik.
In a week, one of those dancers will be crowned "America's Favorite Dancer" (and, in addition to a cool $250,000 prize and a spot in the upcoming live musical Rent, will also earn Dance Spirit's December cover). But first, let's recap what went down on the final jam-packed night of competition.
After just three live shows and just as many brisk eliminations, we have our Season 15 Top 4! And we'll get to that. But first, here's what went down during the two hours that the Top 6—Hannahlei, Genessy, Jensen, Jay Jay, Darius, and Slavik—performed together last night.
Sesaon 15's Top 8 in a group routine that had the guys all tied up (Adam Rose/FOX)
We've officially reached the point in this competition where the finalists are just doing so. much. dancing. Last night, each contestant performed two duets, a solo, and a group routine. Even just typing that sentence made us tired. After all that choreography, the Top 8 became the Top 6. Here's what happened (minus recaps of the solos, because they were all delightful):
The Top 10, sporting some EYEBROWS, in the opening number (Michael Becker/FOX)
And then there were eight. Just as we were starting to get attached to the Top 10, those pesky "So You Think You Can Dance" rules came into play and forced us (er, the judges) to slash two of the finalists from the competition. How rude! (But, Nigel announced ever-so-proudly, the entire Top 10 will be going on tour together once the season wraps.) Before the eliminations, each couple performed twice—and never in any dancer's own style. "So anything could happen," explained Cat Deeley, clad in a splashy, sequined floral minidress and a massive hair bow. And oh boy, a LOT of things did.
The Top 10 in Travis Wall's opening number (Adam Rose/FOX)
Last night marked—finally!—the first live show of Season 15. We made it! And so did the Top 10. Now, it's up to the viewers (that's you!) to determine which contestants end up in the Top 4 and, eventually, which one will snag the sweet prizes up for grabs: $1 million, the cover of Dance Spirit (that's us!), and a role in FOX's live production of RENT, which will air January 27. Also awesome: tWitch is officially on the judging panel for the long haul, alongside Nigel, Mary, and Vanessa. Dreams do come true!
So how'd the two-hour event play out? Each contestant couple performed twice: once in the girl's style and once in the guy's. Here's what went down.
At the start of last night's episode, we had a Top 20—the number we thought was the goal heading into the live shows. But as we found out last week, this season, the judges actually want a Top 10. So five girls and five guys still had to go.
And last night, we started with the girls. Each of the Top 10 ladies was paired with an All Star from a past season (Lex is back! YAY!) for a duet outside their preferred style. How'd they all fare? Let's break it down.
At the start of last night's episode of "So You Think You Can Dance," 41 dancers remained. An hour later, we had a Top 20. And then there was a BIG FAT TWIST. (We'll get to that.)
The 41 still-standing Academy dancers showed up at the Dolby Theater in L.A. ready to tackle three rounds: contemporary choreography with seven-time Emmy nominee and one-time "SYTYCD" contestant Travis Wall; an "epic group routine" with jazz choreographer and La La Land she-ro Mandy Moore; and a last-chance solo showdown. Here's what happened.
Dancers tackling Nappytabs' intricate choreo at The Academy (Adam Rose/FOX)
After four speedy rounds of solo auditions, we've arrived at The Academy!
If you've been living in "So You Think You Can Dance" Land for a long time (shout-out to everyone who was alive and watching back when Nick Lazzarini won Season 1 in 2005), The Academy is the new Vegas Week, when the narrowed-down group of dancers who impressed the judges in NYC and L.A. get thrown to the wolves. (This year, as we found out in last night's ep, Academy sessions happened at the Dolby Theater in L.A.) They're put through grueling choreography rounds, where they're tasked with picking up choreo super fast, then performing it, then hoping not to get cut, and then moving onto the next style—learn, rehearse, repeat.
This week, the choreographers on deck were husband-and-wife dream team Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo and ballroom wizard Jean-Marc Généreux. But first, we kicked things off with a prelim in which the 70 Academy dancers did solos for Nigel, Mary, and Vanessa. Those performances determined whether or not they'd move on to the choreography rounds. And the judges weren't playing—Nigel said he was ready to "break a few hearts."
It's the last round of auditions before Nigel, Mary, Vanessa, and tWitch send our "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 15 hopefuls off to The Academy. Who might we see there (location still undisclosed)? Here's a rundown of last night's highlights.
Welcome to New York—it's been waiting for you! (Seriously, find a situation in which there isn't a perfectly applicable and relatable Taylor Swift quote.)
On last night's episode, "So You Think You Can Dance" hopefuls strutted their stuff for Nigel, Mary, Vanessa, and tWitch in the Big Apple, home of Broadway, ballet, and Dance Spirit. Could NYC's talent rival that of its sunny west coast counterpart? Here's how the auditions shook out.
How do you top Jay Jackson? We weren't sure it was possible—until it happened.
Last night, "So You Think You Can Dance" gave us part two of its L.A. audition journey. Along the way, we smiled, laughed, and definitely cried. We also learned that there won't be choreography rounds this year. (Sad! Who doesn't love it when Tabitha, Napoleon, Sonya, and Travis come in and whip everyone into shape?) So the stakes were even higher, because the dancers had only one chance to impress Nigel, Mary, Vanessa and tWitch. If the judges were feeling them, they went straight through to The Academy, exact location still undisclosed.
University of Minnesota Dance Team (courtesy University of Minnesota)
They say there's no "I" in "team"—and nowhere is that truer than the world of college dance teams, where precision reigns, uniformity is key, and a single misstep from any given "I" can cost a group a championship trophy. So it's unsurprising that securing a spot on one of the best dance teams in the country is no easy feat.
Members of these highly athletic teams rehearse for hours every week—on top of academic classes and commitments—and perform at football and basketball games, annual concerts, and nationally televised competitions (hi, ESPN). And "no I" rule notwithstanding, each of these top teams is made up of highly trained, highly technical, highly hard-core individuals, who come together to create a ready-for-victory pack.
These six teams aren't one-off success stories—they're consistently strong, and earn the top spots at major competitions like UDA and NDA nearly every year. Up for the challenge? Here's what to know before you go to auditions.