YAAAS, Sosa siblings! (Adam Rose/FOX)

"SYTYCD" Season 16 Recap: The Auditions Begin

A slow-motion, battement-filled opening montage set to music from The Greatest Showman can only mean one thing: To quote the hostess with the mostest, the ever-fabulous Cat Deeley, "Welcome! to So You Think You Can Dance!"

The OG dance competition show is back and, as always, promising to be better than ever. For the show's sweet 16, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe and longtime judge Mary Murphy have some new company at the judges' table: tough-as-nails choreographer-to-the-pop-stars Laurieann Gibson and former "SYT" contestant and "America's Best Dance Crew" winner and judge Dominic "D-Trix" Sandoval. We've also got a new set, 120 cameras capturing the action on the stage, and a live audience in L.A. from day one.

Here are the hopefuls who wowed us during the first episode.


Dezi Saenz, 18, Long Beach, CA, Hip Hop

The self-described "bubbly" girl is actually, once she hits the stage, a total beast. Kicking off the season with Dezi's audition was a brilliant move (well done, Jeff Thacker!), because her freestyle performance—complete with every form of popping, locking and gliding you can imagine—earned a well-deserved standing ovation from the entire theater. Nigel called it "tremendous," Laurieann said it was "the definition of the natural-born gift," and Mary said Dezi "took it to a whole other level." Meanwhile, resident hip-hopper Dominic was brought to actual tears by the performance. In order to advance to The Academy, dancers need to hear "yes" at least three times from the judges—and Dezi heard it four times.

Ezra, 18, and Stephanie Sosa, 19,  Provo, UT, Ballroom

There's something about ballroom dancers from Utah—and Dance Spirit cover stars Ezra and Stephanie are no exception. Stephanie's no stranger to the "SYT" stage. She was cut from the Top 20 last season, and after she returned home, her mom had a stroke. What she thought would be her final words to her children: "Keep on dancing." (YES I'M CRYING.) Mom survived, though, and was in the audience for their audition. Not only did both Sosas keep dancing, they brought the house (and fancy new stage) down. With Tina Turner's "Rollin' on the River" blasting, Stephanie's red fringe practically leapt into action, while Ezra literally leapt—over Stephanie's head. Their jiving footwork was fast and fancy, on point and technical, and just super fun. The standing ovation was inevitable. Mary thought it was fabulous, Nigel liked the way Ezra's legs "flicked out," Laurieann dubbed it "spectacular," and Dominic is so glad Stephanie came back for a redemption audition. The brother and sister duo made it on board the Hot Tamale Train—next stop, The Academy.

Matthew Deloch, 20, Gonzales, LA, Contemporary

Another returning auditioner! Matthew made a go at Season 14, and had to skip out on Season 15 auditions on account of a torn meniscus. So how'd he heal? Um, pretty spectacularly. Those lines! Those legs! Those leaps! The routine was heavy on the trickery, but let's be honest: A little memorable flash goes a long way at "SYTYCD" auditions. Even so, it was the slow, still moments at the end of Matthew's performance that earned him a standing O and a few tears—not to mention a "What meniscus, baby?!" from Dominic. Nigel praised Matthew's "unimaginable control" and "superb technique," and Mary said he "set the stage on fire." Laurieann, who trained at the Alvin Ailey school in NYC, said Mr. Ailey himself would have dreamed to have seen Matthew dance. So, just some casual praise right there. Matthew, unanimously, is on to Academyland.

Sarah "Smac" McCreanor, 26, Brisbane, Australia, Jazz

New nickname for Smac: Fun from Down Under! (It's catchy, right?) Smac does improv and sketch comedy, so it's no wonder her "Boogie Wonderland" performance was silly, cheeky, and a bit reminiscent of that epic dance scene in Napoleon Dynamite. But it wasn't just silly and cheeky: It was also really good. The comedic elements earned plenty of LOLs from the audience and the judges, and Smac's unstoppable energy and super-sharp choreography were on point. Dominic called her brilliant and a genius, Mary loved her timing, Nigel called her a star, and Laurieann said Smac was a "natural-born entertainer." Print another ticket to The Academy—Smac's in!

Amanda Butler, 29, Dallas, TX, Hip Hop

Amanda is a mom of three. So, no big deal. Plenty of time to just drop what she's doing and go to dance rehearsal for a while, right? LOLZ. But, Amanda explains, she found a dance group of fellow moms, and in the show's first-ever group audition, they came to break it down. (Technically the audition is just for Amanda, but who doesn't love an entourage?) "Once you become a mother, it doesn't mean that everything else has to stop," Amanda told the judges before Nigel's "cue music" dropped the familiar beat of RuPaul's "Call Me Mother." Amanda most definitely proved that you can be a mom of three and still rock pleather pants and a crop top and do some serious vogueing. And then Nigel made Dominic go onstage and dance with the crew, which, if nothing else, was a great reminder that this guy is so talented, and it would be a treat to get to see him perform at some point in Season 16. (Make it happen, Lythgoe.) Laurieann called Amanda inspiring and Dominic loved the performance, but ultimately, it's a no for Amanda. (Cute baby, though!)

Gino Cosculluela, 18, Miami, FL, Contemporary

Gino, Gino, Gino, why is that name familiar? OH RIGHT, because he's that Gino, the one with whom Maddie Ziegler shared her first kiss on "Dance Moms" a million years ago! (And yes, they played that clip, complete with Maddie running out of the studio in horror, and saying she wished Gino were Zac Efron instead of "ew" Gino.) Maddie might be kicking herself now, though, because Gino is a bona fide stud! First, it's worth noting that his brother and sister are both professional dancers, so there's no pressure at ALL on him for this audition to go well. But the pressure doesn't seem to be a problem, because once the music starts, Gino is all beautiful business. Was that a double tour en l'air? A triple? A quad?! It seemed like he was in flight for a while. The performance had that elusive mix of impressive, high-flying acrobatic tricks, and quiet, effortless artistry. Nigel predicted that Gino will land a spot in the Top 10. Laurieann seconded that. Dominic was blown away, Mary said the performance had "everything," and all four judges gave Gino a big ol' YES to The Academy. Will Maddie Z. be there waiting for him? Only time will tell.

And there we have it! Season 16, Week 1, in the books. See you right back here next week for more drama, more D-Trix, and maybe a few fierce "boomkacks."

Latest Posts


Photo by Lindsay Thomas

Ashton Edwards Is Breaking Down Gender Barriers in Ballet

When Ashton Edwards was 3 years old, the Edwards family went to see a holiday production of The Nutcracker in their hometown, Flint, MI.

For the young child, it was love at first sight.

"I saw a beautiful, black Clara," Ashton says, "and I wanted to be just like her."

Ashton has dedicated 14 years of ballet training in pursuit of that childhood dream. But all the technical prowess in the world can't help Ashton surmount the biggest hurdle—this aspiring dancer was assigned male at birth, and for the vast majority of boys and men, performing in pointe shoes hasn't been a career option. But Ashton Edwards, who uses the pronouns "he" and "they," says it's high time to break down ballet's gender barrier, and their teachers and mentors believe this passionate dancer is just the person to lead the charge.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo Courtesy of Apple TV+

All the Hollywood and Broadway Musical Moments to Look for in “Schmigadoon!”

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of about two dozen dancers got the rare opportunity to work on an upcoming Apple TV+ series—one devoted entirely to celebrating, and spoofing, classic 1940s and '50s musicals from the Great White Way and Hollywood. "Schmigadoon!", which premiered on AppleTV+ July 16, stars Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, who get stuck inside a musical and must find true love in order to leave. The show features a star-studded Broadway cast, including Aaron Tveit, Ariana DeBose, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Jane Krakowski and Dove Cameron, and is chock-full of dancing courtesy of series choreographer, Christopher Gattelli.

"The adrenaline was pretty exciting, being able to create during the pandemic," says Gattelli. "I felt like we were representing all performers at that point. There were so many who wanted to be working during the pandemic, so I really tried to embrace this opportunity for all of them."

Gattelli says it was a dream come true to pay tribute to the dance geniuses that preceded him, like Michael Kidd, Agnes de Mille, Onna White and Jerome Robbins, in his choreography. Each number shows off a "little dusting" of their work.

Dance Spirit spoke with Gattelli about all the triumphs and tribulations of choreographing in a pandemic, and got an inside look at specific homages to look out for.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

Shouldering the Load: What kind of dance bag should dancers use?

Walk into any dance convention, audition or class, and you'll see a vast variety of dance bags lining the walls. But can the style of bag you use (and how you wear it) have an impact on your dancing?

Don't worry—you won't have to shoulder the load alone. Dance Spirit spoke with two physical therapists who specialize in working with dancers to find out what dance bag is best.

What should dancers look for in a dance bag?

Dr. Meghan Gearhart, physical therapist and owner of Head2Toe Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC, recommends dancers opt for a backpack-style dance bag rather than a duffel or cross-body bag.

"A bag that pulls the weight all to one side creates a side bend and rotation in the trunk," Gearhart says. "That is going to lead to muscle imbalances that will affect dancers while they're dancing, as well as just in regular everyday life." Muscle imbalances can mean limited mobility on one side of your body, as the muscles on one side are overly contracted and the other side is overly extended to compensate.

Gearhart suggests dancers pick a backpack made from a lightweight yet durable and breathable material, such as cotton, linen, nylon or polyester. Straps should be wide enough to not dig into your shoulder muscles, so avoid drawstring styles with rope straps. Adjustable and padded straps are best, so you can wear the straps at a length where the bag rests at the middle of your back.

Dr. Bridget Kelly Sinha, physical therapist and founder of Balanced Physical Therapy and Dance Wellness in Matthews, NC, emphasizes the importance of finding an even weight distribution when choosing a dance bag.

"If a dancer has a lot to bring, like when heading to the theater for a full day of rehearsals and performances, then I recommend a rolling suitcase to offset the load," Sinha says.

How should dancers wear their bags?

Even if you've selected the perfect dance bag, it's important to be mindful of how you wear it.

Gearhart advocates wearing both straps when carrying your backpack. She also suggests placing heavier items towards the back of the bag, where they will sit closer to your body. A bag with straps that are too loose (or a bag that is too heavy) can create an increased arch in the lower back or cause a dancer to compensate for the weight by leaning forward. Ideally, Gearhart recommends a dancer's dance bag weighing no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

"I usually tell dancers to use their common sense. If you don't have tap today, you don't need to bring the tap shoes," she says. "If your water bottle makes the bag too heavy, just carry it." If your studio offers lockers, take advantage of that storage space to lessen the number of clothes, shoes, and dance accessories that live in your dance bag.

And if you think your bad dance-bag habits have given you alignment issues, seek out a dance physical therapist to prevent further injuries.

"As a dancer, your body is working so hard all day," Sinha says. "It does not need excess strain from your bag."

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search