After four weeks of inspiring auditions on Season 15 of Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” Academy Week officially began during Monday’s episode. The three judges — creator Nigel Lythgoe, ballroom expert Mary Murphy and actress Vanessa Hudgens — as well as guest judge and season 4 runner-up Stephen “tWitch” Boss previously sent dozens of talented young dancers through to the next round based on their solos, but now it was time to see how they stacked up against the competition. Which competitors excelled at the different classes with choreographers and alumni? And which dancers got cut during Night 1 of Academy Week?
Below, check out our minute-by-minute “So You Think You Can Dance” recap of Season 15, Academy Week No. 1 to find out what happened Monday, July 9. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about which dancers you’re personally rooting for and who you think will ultimately join the “SYTYCD” winners list. Keep refreshing/reloading this live blog for the most recent updates.
8:00 p.m. — “Previously, on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’!” The four-week audition process came to an end after Lythgoe, Murphy, Hudgens and Boss advanced only a handful of dancers from Brooklyn, NY and Los Angeles, CA. Longtime host Cat Deeley is back to introduce the first night of Academy Week of Season 15, so let’s get this thing started!
8:01 p.m. — This is going to be a grueling week for the 70 dancers, a four-day process of classes and instruction in hip hop with Nappytabs, ballroom with Jean-Marc Genereux, contemporary with Travis Wall and jazz with Mandy Moore. In the end only 20, ten guys and ten girls, will advance to the live shows.
8:04 p.m. — To kick the week off, all 70 begin with a solo in front of the judges but won’t find out if they make the next round until every dancer has performed. Up first is contemporary dancer Darius Hickman–he tried out last year, but fell short and returned this season for a second try. His slow and controlled solo showed off his extension work and seemed to impress the judges.
8:05 p.m. — The second dancer we see is Jensen Arnold, also back for her second time after making Academy Week last year. As a ballroom dancer, solos can be a bit tricky, but Jensen danced with high energy and proved the she can move fluidly and quickly to Latin music.
8:07 p.m. — During a montage of other strong performances, Nigel commented to Mary and Vanessa that “our hip hop boys are very good this year.” That’s encouraging to hear because hip hop dancers can have maybe the toughest time on the show due to their typically small amount of knowledge of the other disciplines. It’s always really great seeing them do well and make deep run in the competition!
8:08 p.m. — The next close-up we got was with the last performer, Tessa Dalke. Tessa is extra stressed at Academy Week because her bio midterms are approaching and she’s splitting her attention between the competition and studying. Fortunately, her contemporary solo, centered around her strength and flexibility seemed to be enough to make it to the next round!
8:13 p.m. — In the first cuts, Jensen is cautioned by Nygel that she gets “a little heavy in places,” but they think she’s terrific so she advances! Tessa gets a bit more praise, unanimously considered “the best solo of the day” by the judges and called “extraordinary” by Mary. Ballroom pair Jordan and Ilan stumbled during their routine and were cut from the competition for it despite having impressed the judges in their first audition. They and 15 others were the only ones cut after the solos. The other 53 move on to the first stage of choreography–hip hop with Nappytabs (Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo)!
8:17 p.m. — Napoleon’s goal this year is to up the game and challenge the dancers with slow grooves and quicker musicality moments right after. With only 90 minutes of class down, as dancers struggle to pick up the choreography, Zoe Zimmerman rolled her ankle and is seen by medical, potentially missing out on the rest of the Week if the injury is serious enough.
8:23 p.m. — The first six dancers to test their pick-up of the choreo is three pairs of contemporary dancers, including one tapper. At the end of their dance the judges have the entire group stand in a line on stage, normally calling up a few to step forward while the others hang back, but in this case all six make it through and advance to the next class! That’s one class down, three to go for Alexis Gilbert, Riley Kurilko, Victoria Neukom, Tyrese Parker, Sydney Moss and tapper Evan DeBenedetto.
8:25 p.m. — In the next group, krumper Samantha Reyes is paired with ballroom dancer Cole Mills alongside other pairs Valerie Dubinsky and Ronnie Bradley as well as Emily Carr and Ryan Green. In the straight line post-performance, Ryan is saved despite being “in and out of it,” but Samantha is let go after losing the rhythm after a few eight-counts. Cole knocked the choreo out of the park according to Mary and advances in perhaps the most different style from what he’s used to.
8:28 p.m. — Other dancers that made it through are Magda Fialek, Hannahlei Cabanilla and Jay Jackson, who most of us recognize as Laganja Estranja from RuPaul’s Drag Race season 6.
8:33 p.m. — Hip hop dancer Tiger Luangpraseuth struggled picking up the choreo but still makes it through while Slavik Pustovoytov, a freestyler not used to dancing routines, and injured Zoe test their work in a group together. Slavik disappointed the panel, but luckily makes it through, along with Tessa, a favorite during solos, who lost her title in this round after performing subpar. Zoe’s injury contributed to her own poor performance, but Vanessa points out that she spent the entire routine looking around for moves, but like the others she still makes it through to the next round.
8:36 p.m. — In the end, the hip hop round was the end of the road for eight dancers, narrowing the field yet again to only 45 dancers. After her own elimination, Samantha vowed to not return to the show after being asked if she would by a producer. Most dancers have a more uplifting reaction to being cut, but not Samantha. Sad to hear that–the show needs more krumpers!
8:43 p.m. — The next morning only 44 dancers show up for class because the 45th, Zoe, headed to the hospital instead to have her injury looked at. On this day 2, Jean-Marc is on hand to teach ballroom via the cha-cha. The dance is classic cha-cha steps with a little bit of “fun” per Jean-Marc, focused on bringing the female dancer from one transition to the other and building trust as partners.
8:46 p.m. — After her hospital visit, Zoe addresses the judges and lets them know that she cannot continue on in the competition, much to the panel’s dismay as they were really pulling for her. On a brighter note, in the first group to perform is animator Kyle Bennett, Jr. paired with contemporary dancer Genessy Castillo. They’re alongside Rebecca Troyak with Allen Genkin and Tyrese with Stephanie Sosa. Jean-Marc’s instant reaction to seeing the six dancers was “wow that’s a good group,” with Nigel pointing out high marks for both Kyle and Genessy, who he says jumped right up on their radar. The other four also advance!
8:49 p.m. — Jensen returns to the stage in the second group, paired with b-boy David, and joined by pairs Ryan and Melany Mercedez and Sydney and Peyton Albrecht. This time Jean-Marc isn’t as enthusiastic, saying it was difficult to watch Ryan, but is very impressed with David. For Ryan, it didn’t work for the judges even after Ryan admitted that it was his first time ever dancing with a partner. Lucky for us, Ryan vows to return next year for another try. Good because I really like him!
8:54 p.m. — In the final group of the day, Stephanie is partnered with Darius and Rachel Blanchard is partnered with Jay, who is out of his drag persona for the first time this season. This group of four is much stronger than some of the others we’ve seen–Jean-Marc actually calls Stephanie and Darius “amazing” mid-performance. In an unusual move, the judges have Stephanie stay back to dance with Jay (instead of with Rachel) in what is clearly a test of his ability to keep up with a stronger performer. Rachel was let go due to a lack of training and/or nerves, but Jay pulls through because in the end he continues to impress Nigel with his guts, joining 40 others to make 41 total that will be moving on the day 3!