"SYTYCD: The Next Generation" Season 13 Recap: L.A. Auditions

Well, 'tis the season...the 13th season, that is.

"So You Think You Can Dance" has officially entered its teenage years, and with the 13th season comes some big changes. Forget ready-to-go-pro dancers—this season, it's all about the junior set. With dancers ages 8–13 lining up to audition for the show's new "Next Generation" format, we couldn't be more excited for the summer of tiny talent that lies ahead.

Ready for this, America? (photo by Adam Rose/FOX)

Here's how it'll work: Dancers will audition for the panel of judges (Paula, Jason, and Nigel, and we know, you're eagerly awaiting Maddie Ziegler's turn on the panel, but she's not part of this first round of auditions), and the trio will decide who moves onto the next stage, dubbed The Dance Academy. (The Academy is the new Vegas.) During the Academy, a group of 10 All-Stars will each pick a dancer to team up with for the live studio competition. The All-Stars will mentor and dance with their kids, and each week we'll vote to decide who stays.

Think "The Voice," but with awesome dancers.

Without further ado, as Cat Deeley would say, "Welcome...to 'So You Think You Can Dance!'" Here are our Top 5 moments from last night's season premiere.

1. The kids!

Obviously, right? In just one hour, we met 10-year-old Merrick, who says robots inspired him to dance, 10-year-old Lev, the powerhouse ballroom boy who says his classmates make fun of him and he wants to be on the show to change their perception of him (yes, Lev, yes!), and 11-year-old tapper Ava, who came equipped with great rhythm, super clear sounds, and a dad wearing a "Tap Dad" shirt. More, more, more!

2. The judges!

Yes, it's the same panel as last season, and yes, we're still longing for the days where the panel boasted the likes of Mia Michaels, Mary Murphy and a host of guest judges. (Ellen, we're waiting for you this season!) But Paula, Jason and Nigel are breathing new air this season. They seem to be so genuinely thrilled by the young dancers, and it's bringing out the best in each of them. Their jaws-on-the-floor reactions during Lev's "Uptown Funk" ballroom performance = priceless.

Ladies and gentlemen, your judges! (photo by Chuck Hodes/FOX)

3. Cat Deeley interacting with all the dancers. 

Cat's interviews and chats with the dancers have long been a highlight on the show—she's a natural. But this season feels especially special—perhaps because Cat just gave birth to a mini of her own! (She had a baby boy in January.) Was anyone else cracking up while Cat interviewed Lev and his partner, Sofia, before they performed?

Cat chatting up cute contestant Merrick. (photo by Adam Rose/FOX)

4. The familiar faces!

This is always a highlight. We expect to see tons of familiar Dance Spirit-ers this season, and last night's episode already delivered a hefty dose. We saw Tate McRae in the opening preview, and got a sneak peek at Sophia Lucia's audition. (We're calling it now: Both girls are going far in this competition.)

We also saw ballerina Avery Gay, who is ridiculously talented and comes equipped with a ton of personality. ("You lived every second of that routine," Nigel told her after her solo performance.)

And remember 13-year-old Ava, who often popped up on "Dance Moms," and was regularly ridiculed by one Abby Lee Miller? Well Ava's back—this time on "SYTYCD"—and she has something to prove. (Namely, in a very subtle dig at a certain TV show about moms of dancers, that she's tired of being bullied for her appearance. Yes, Ava, yes.) The judges, unsurprisingly, loved her and her story.

5. The first episode setting the standard and reminding us that the show is about talent

There was some stuff we could do without, like having the dancers' families sit onstage while the dancers performed (talk about pressure!), and really cheesy graphics showing dancers texting about the show. But we're willing to look past that, because we still got the usual amount of dance we're used to from the show, and we can't wait for more. Last night proved that while, yes, the dancers are younger, the show is still featuring talent that's legit. This isn't going to be a bunch of little kids shuffle-ball-changing with pigtails in their hair. These dancers are the future—and they'll be the ready-to-go-pro group in no time. Keep it coming!

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