The So You Think You Can Dance Season 9 Top 20 was unveiled Wednesday on a night that was one half “Green Mile” big reveal, and one half performances that provided an idea of the extent of the talent we will be watching for the next two months. After the occasional stumbles of Las Vegas, the caliber of the group dances pulled together on short notice was first-rate.
Virtually all the dancers who received noticeable airtime prior to Wednesday made it through. A big exception was Joshua Alexander, who we saw being hauled away in an ambulance last week after knocking himself out trying a backflip. Message from Vegas: don’t get injured.
The night’s guest commentator was New Girl star Zooey Deschanel, who had little to add other than talking about how amazing everyone was. But the performances made up for her blather. The dancers first appeared with others in their discipline – the contemporary dancers, jazz, ballroom etc. – then the 10 men and women each danced in a large group, and finally, a Mia Michaels routine showed off all 20 at a time. Don’t get used to them all, though – after a break for the Fourth of July, the eliminations start in two weeks.
Here are the top 20:
Alexa Anderson (contemporary): You knew they weren’t going to not take her after making such a big deal over her late cut last season. I’m still not sure viewers aren’t going to resent the way she’s been so heavily promoted.
Amber Jackson (contemporary): A frequent auditioner has finally made it. Curiously, they aired footage of a dejected Amber from two seasons ago, claiming she was probably done with SYTYCD. Nigel Lythgoe seemed to take that personally, though not to the extent of leaving her out.
Amelia Lowe (contemporary): She’s had plenty of airtime, wears her heart on her sleeve, and has a memorable look. This likely adds up to a long run.
Audrey Case (jazz): Personality is a plus here. She manages to be perky without being irritating.
Brandon Mitchell (stepping): The first stepper to make the finals.
Chehon Wespi-Tschopp (ballet): The judges basically said he made the finals based on one awesome solo in Vegas, so the Swiss mister might have his work cut out.
Cole Horibe (martial arts fusion): Those waiting for him to bump up against the limits of his discipline might be waiting a long while.
Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer (animation): The Dragon House survivor! He seemed to be holding his own in the group performances, so there’s no question he can handle choreography. He ought to go far.
Daniel Baker (ballet): The Aussie is probably the stronger of the two ballet guys.
Dareian Kujawa (contemporary): A major contender.
Eliana Girard (ballet): The Cirque du Soleil aerialist and pole dancer was captivating in a straight ballet performance on Wednesday, furthering my belief that she’s the woman to beat this season.
George Lawrence II (contemporary): He’s sort of low key, but the judges seem to really be high on him.
Janaya French (lyrical contemporary)
Janelle Issis (belly dancing): The first belly dancer to make it this far on SYTYCD, she hasn’t been thrown by any of the other disciplines so far. If the choreographers can work with her strengths, the fact that she’s already memorable will work to her favor.
Lindsay Arnold (ballroom)
Matt Kazmierczak (contemporary): The Ryan Gosling lookalike may be one to watch; his performance in the contemporary group routine was very strong.
Nick Bloxsom-Carter (ballroom)
Tiffany Maher (jazz)
Will Thomas (contemporary): I can see him emerging as a fan favorite, based on his complete lack of a dancer’s physique. Seriously, this may be the first time any SYTYCD recapper has ever had reason to use the expression “manboobs.”
Witney Carson (ballroom): I’ve been spelling her first name wrong these last two weeks. Her braces are off, but she’s still disturbingly young-looking. My guess is she will survive longer than Lindsay, her obvious competition.
For this first time, SYTYCD will be naming both a male and a female champion this season. My preseason picks: Eliana and Dareian. What do you think?