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.
The 18-year-old from Anaheim Hills, CA, said the best moment of this experience so far was when Mary said she hasn't disappointed the judges this entire competition. And that trend continued with her salsa duet with All-Star Jonathan, choreographed by Oksana Platero. Jonathan was probably great, but honestly, we're not sure—we couldn't take our eyes off Hannahlei. She killed this routine, earning praise from Mary, Nigel, and Vanessa.
The ballroom babe, who was a standout throughout Academy Week, tackled a contemporary routine with All-Star Robert (swoon!) choreographed by Mandy Moore (double swoon!). One thing that sets Magda apart from many of her fellow competitors is her maturity: She always performs with poise and confidence. The duet left both Mary and Vanessa in tears, praising Magda's honest performance.
Dayna, a jazz dancer, fumbled a bit during the ballroom round at the Academy. (She credited her "fake it 'til you make it" approach for ultimately getting her through.) So, naturally, last night she was given a cha-cha with All-Star Paul, choreographed by Dmitry Chaplin. Dayna's big, happy smile is the stuff stolen scenes are made of. Though her technique was lacking in a few spots, the judges loved twatching her have the time of her life onstage, and appreciated her fearlessness.
Genessy is a powerhouse of a contemporary dancer. Who could possibly match her energy? That'd be All-Star Fik-Shun, of course, who was paired with her for a hip-hop routine. Genessy mentioned feeling insecure during Academy Week, but if she was feeling any lingering self-consciousness last night, it didn't show. She was living on that stage—not to be outdone by Nigel, who was living in his seat at the judges' table. Vanessa loved her fire and passion, and Mary was all about Genessy's attitude.
The triumphant tapper has stood out so far in the competition, and last night she faced a contemporary routine with All-Star Brandon. Her goal? To surprise the judges. Did she? For the most part. Brianna really threw herself into this performance, giving it so much physically and emotionally. But while the judges appreciated all the intensity, some of it looked a bit labored, Mary noted, and Nigel found it heavy and uncomfortable.
Chelsea and All-Star Jonathan were paired up for a salsa full of tricks, big kicks, and a whole lotta booty shaking. Chelsea nailed all the moves, including the difficult partnering and explosive jumps. Mary appreciated that Chelsea really soaked up the technique, Nigel said Chelsea's hips don't lie, and Vanessa saw Chelsea's mind go outside of itself—which is usually not a good thing, but we guess it is in this case?
Stephanie hit the jackpot last night: She got All-Star Lex as a partner for a contemporary routine choreographed by Mandy Moore. And boy, did she hold her own alongside the Season 14 winner, dancing with control and intense emotion. At the end of the performance, the judges seemed to let out a collective breath. Ultimately, though, Nigel wasn't totally wowed, and Vanessa agreed. Mary wanted more liquid movement.
Contemporary dancer Sydney was pushed well out of her comfort zone by her cha-cha with All-Star Paul, choreographed by Dmitry. It wasn't the strongest of the night. Mary wanted more—more fire, more grounding, more hips, more connection. Nigel wasn't convinced Sydney's body was feeling the Latin groove, and Vanessa called it monotone. Meh.
Considering Travis Wall said he couldn't wait to work with Emily as part of the Top 10, it was hard not to imagine Emily nabbing a top spot in the competition. But first, she took on a hip-hop routine with Fik-Shun, choreographed by Christopher Scott. It was yet another chance for Emily to prove she's a shoo-in, and she 100 percent did. The duo had a ton of energy, and the judges were into it.
Like Emily, Jensen seemed like a Top 10 lock. The Utah native came thisclose to making the live shows last year, and she's been even better this time around, with more maturity, better technique, and constant full-outness. In last night's jazz routine with Brandon, choreographed by Ray Leeper, Jensen danced like it was, possibly, the last time she'd ever see the "SYT" stage. Nigel praised her sensational performance, Vanessa said Jensen was pushed to a place she hadn't been before, and Mary called it the most assured performance of the day.
Our predictions for the Top 5 girls: Hannahlei, Jensen, Emily, Magda, and Genessy
The actual Top 5 girls: Hannahlei, Jensen, Magda, Genessy, and Chelsea
What do you think? Gotta say, we're shocked Emily was cut, but are excited to see what Chelsea can do in this competition.
Next week: Same thing, but with the guys!