Season 7 of "So You Think You Can Dance" kicks off on Thursday (8 pm on FOX, make sure you tune in!). As we all know by now, this season is going to be different from the previous six in that there is a Top 10, not a Top 20, and each dancer will be paired with a former "SYTYCD" contestant. The 12 "All-Stars," as the show is referring to them, include tWitch, Comfort, Anya, Courtney, Lauren, Neil, Allison, Mark, Pasha, Kathryn, Ade and Dominic. A stellar lineup! But not exactly the group I would've put together. So, in honor of the show's return, here's who MY all-stars would be:
Heidi Groskreutz (Season 2): I'll admit it, I couldn't stand Heidi when she was on the show. That season, I was rooting for Allison and Natalie to make it to the finale. I didn't think Heidi was all that special in Mia Michaels' famed "bench routine" with Travis Wall, and it weirded me out every time she danced with her cousin Benji Schwimmer. But now I look back and can't help but think "Dang! That ballroom girl had it going on!" She's quick, clean and poised and was always a fantastic partner. She'd be an excellent ballroom expert on the show.
Lacey Schwimmer (Season 3): No surprise that my second pick for an all-star would be Lacey Schwimmer—Heidi's cousin! Her training is similar in that she grew up dominating the ballroom competition floor. But Lacey has that extra little something that Heidi doesn't have, which is a standout personality. Lacey was my favorite Season 3 lady because she always did something exciting (Remember her Samba with Danny Tidwell? Talk about a WOW factor!) and she always did it well. Any newcomer would be lucky to quickstep alongside this ballroom beauty.
Sara Von Gillern (Season 3): Sara was the best b-girl this show has ever seen. Bring her back, "SYTYCD!" And while I loved watching her solos when she would headspin her way into our hearts, the best thing about Sara was that she was almost better when she was out of her element. Her disco routine (That hot pink dress was to die for.) with Neil Haskell (choreographed by Doriana Sanchez, of course) is still one of my all-time favorite "SYTYCD" routines.
Jaimie Goodwin (Season 3): Season 3 was seriously stacked with awesome lady dancers. Jaimie Goodwin was that year's contemporary queen. With her super-strong legs, lovely lines and always-believable onstage emotion, she became one to beat early on. People still talk about her performance in Wade Robson's "Hummingbird" routine.
Chelsie Hightower (Season 4): Who's cuter than Chelsie? Although she's a pro on "Dancing with the Stars" now, I'd love to see her return to the "SYTYCD" stage. Chelsie was always fun to watch and she has the best personality. (DS featured her on the cover last year for a reason!)
Janette Manrara (Season 5): So many of my female picks are ballroom dancers! And with her fiery personality, super technique and slammin' body, Janette fits right in with the rest of them.
*Note: Although I think he is still one of the most talented people to ever grace the "SYTYCD" stage, I'm leaving Travis Wall off this list. I adore his dancing, but I'm really into his choreography right now. So while I'm not making him one of my all-stars, it's implied that he's on my all-star choreographer list.
Neil Haskell (Season 3): Neil is a triple threat and that definitely worked to his advantage when he was on "SYTYCD." He had already performed in Twyla Tharp's The Times They Are A Changin' on Broadway. Impressive! His technique was great and he had a fantastic personality—and every time he showed off with a sky-high back layout flip, my heart melted for him. Plus, he was the first guy I got to interview when I started working for Dance Spirit, so he's got a special place in my heart. (I asked him about his first kiss!)
Pasha Kovalev (Season 3): As a male ballroom dancer, it's understood that you're often in the background making your female partner look good. Pasha was great at this—he always made his partners look good, whether or not they needed his help—but he never faded into the background. Pasha was so strong in every area. It became apparent that he was a force to be reckoned with when he nailed Shane Sparks' "Transformers" routine. Even next to Lauren Gottlieb, a hip-hop rockstar, he kept up and dominated the dance floor.
Stephen "tWitch" Boss (Season 4): tWitch is my all-time favorite "SYTYCD" contestant. He has the total package: talent, personality, star quality, a fantastic sense of humor—I could go on for days. I still cannot believe he didn't win that season. I called in and voted for him—why didn't the rest of America?!
Mark Kanemura (Season 4): Helloooooo, the "Garden" routine? Need I go on. Oh yeah, and he's a Lady Gaga dancer now. Can Mark be any cooler? I think not. I'm so glad he's an all-star and can't wait to see what he brings back to the show now that he's spent a year on tour with the raddest performer around.
Will Wingfield (Season 4): Will is my second all-time favorite "SYTYCD" contestant. When he performed Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson's pas de deux choreography with Katee Shean, my heart melted. And when the top five Season 4 guys were onstage dancing Nigel Lythgoe's "Five Guys Named Moe" routine, my eyes stayed glued to Will. He has so much charisma. Not to mention the fact that he's gorgeous... The only reason I'm semi-OK with Will not being an All-Star this season is because he's having a ton of success away from reality TV: He's currently starring as Graffiti Pete in Broadway's In the Heights. (Love Will? We've got him in the upcoming July/August issue of DS, so stay tuned.)
Jakob Karr (Season 6): When I first saw Jakob Karr dance at New York City Dance Alliance's Nationals in 2008, I knew he was going to be a star. I think everyone did! His training is incredible and his flexibility seems unbelievable. But what I love most about Jakob is his modesty. Does he not realize how good he is?! Jakob is so grounded and humble and I'm thrilled that he's headed on tour with the Bad Boys of Dance. Plus, he's documenting the entire experience for DS, which you'll get to read about in the fall. Pretty cool, right? Anyway, I'm one of those people who watches "SYTYCD" religiously but only picks up the phone to vote sometimes (bad, I know). I definitely picked up the phone for Jakob though.
And there's my list of All-Stars! It was tough narrowing the list down to 12, but these are my choices and I'm sticking to them. For today at least... Remember to tune in to "So You Think You Can Dance" May 27 on FOX and bookmark dancespirit.com/ online. We'll be recapping every episode!