Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” introduced some changes for its 16th season. Critiquing the dancers along side ballroom expert Mary Murphy and series creator Nigel Lythgoe are choreographer to the music stars Laurieann Gibson and SYTYCD alum and hip hop dancer Dominic “D-Trix” Sandoval. Another innovation? Instead of having the judges go to different cities for the auditions, the tryouts are being held at the show’s spanking new Hollywood studio with that features bigger stage and a snazzy geometric backdrop.
Also new are the 120 cameras placed around the stage that can capture and freeze the movements of the dancers much like th0se cool action scenes in “The Matrix.” Another switch: There is a studio audience as well as fellow dancers and their supporters applauding those who hope to get a golden ticket to the Academy.
But besides the always-appreciated presence Cat Deeley, one of reality TV’s most congenial of hosts, there is the usual dazzling array of talent on display hoping to become America’s favorite dancer. In what seems to be a trend in TV talent competitions lately — be it “American Idol” or “Project Runway” — having a heart-tugging back story counts almost as much as skill and effort — and getting the judges to shed a tear while they applaud is a plus.
Me, I like when the talent comes first but having a hardship can’t hurt in currying favor when fans start voting. With that in mind, here are my top 6 picks — two from each episode so far — that I hope will at least make the cut after the Academy:
*Sarah McCreanor, 26, from Brisbane, Australia. This sassy lass from Down Under whose nickname is “Smac” has crazy red hair and a unique way of expressing herself on the stage. As the comic jazz dancer moved and grooved to the disco hit “Boogie Wonderland,” she worked in bits of humor and gave the audience winking glances. Mary nailed it when she told her,”Your professional timing couldn’t have been any better. You’re like the Lucille Ball of dancing.” Imagine what the show’s clever choreographers would do with this stand-out farceur.
*Gino Coscullvela, 18, from Miami. This contemporary dancer (see below) who appeared on the TV show “Dance Moms” at age 9 and had to kiss an unimpressed Maddie Ziegler. He has two older siblings who are also dancers and his school-teacher mom struggled to make ends meet. Gino did an emotional routine to “For All We Know” and pretty much defied gravity. This dervish has it all — drama, spins, leaps, handstands, tumbling. Nigel said he would be shocked if he didn’t make the Top 1o. And Laurieann dubs him “Baby Baryshnikov.”
— SYTYCD (@DANCEonFOX) June 4, 2019
*Sumi Oshima, 26, from Japan. Her parents divorced when she was young and she became an adolescent trouble maker and wasn’t allowed to attend regular high school. But Sumi is a popping, locking hip-hop wind-up doll. She made Laurieann so excited that she jumped up onstage, spanked her butt and declared her a “bad girl.” Nigel added that she is a thief — for stealing their hearts.
*Kaeli Ware, 18, and Brandon Talbott, 19.
This pair of contemporary ballet dancers (also “Dance Moms” alums) have legs that stretch for days. Kaeli — who tried out for SYTYCD Season 2 as a soloist — excels at pointe work while Brandon is a master of the pirouette (see below). They made it all look so easy but we know otherwise. Which is why they are headed to the Academy. Since the show has been down-playing ballet of late, it would be terrific if these two made the cut.
We're still shook from this performance! 😲🤸♀️
— SYTYCD (@DANCEonFOX) June 15, 2019
*Bailey “Bailrok” Munoz, 18, Las Vegas. This B-Boy who was born two months premature and now stands 5-foot-tall –which caused him to be teased about his lack of height. But this powerhouse found a way to fight back by excelling at crazy spins and fancy footwork. Here’s hoping he gets into the Top 10.
*Lauren Luteran, 19, Orlando (see below). Talk about a hanky-soaking backstory. This stunning contemporary dancer has cystic fibrosis, a disease that has no cure. But what eases her condition is her love of dance. She leapt into the air and did a dramatic slow-motion layout for her final. She deserved her standing ovation and her invitation to the Academy.
— SYTYCD (@DANCEonFOX) June 18, 2019
Take the poll below to pick your favorite from those auditioners mentioned above or use the comment section to pick another hopeful heading to the Academy. Tune into Fox on Monday at 9 p.m. ET/PT to see more possible contenders.