The time has finally come. After traveling to five cities and seeing countless auditions, we’ve finally moved on to the season 11 callbacks in Pasadena, CA. Joining our judges, Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy, were ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ regulars: Adam Shankman and Twitch. Plus, for the first time, internationally acclaimed figure skater, Tara Lipinski, and prima ballerina, Irina Dvorovenko.
The judges jumped right in with solo performances and everyone got a chance to show the panel what they can do. First up was ballroom dancer Tanisha Belnap, 20, from Payson, UT who worked the stage in her pink tutu and high heals. It was clear from the get-go that we are off to a good start. But to keep things moving, the judges didn’t give any feedback as they watched all 157 dancers take the stage to show off their skills. However, for some dancers like Steven Kador, it wasn’t quick enough. Kador, 27, from Baton Rouge, LA got a call that his girlfriend was going into labor as he waited to perform. After he finally hit the stage, the judges were very impressed, especially Twitch.
After the solo performances, only 121 contestants still had a shot at becoming America’s favorite dancer, including Steven Kador. The remaining dancers had one hour to learn a hip-hop performance with their partner and stayed up all night rehearsing.
As dawn broke, Kador welcomed his new son into the world and the dancers took the stage. Ballroom dancer Marcquet Hill passed hip-hop with flying colors, while Jessica Richens was given a second chance to show the judges she had what it took to move on to the next round.
Teaching the remaining dancers a jazz routine was Emmy-nominated choreographer, Sonya Tayeh. After one hour of learning the steps, it was time to perform for the judges. By the end of the day only 64 dancers were left, including Marlene Ostergaard and Rudy Abreu. Jaja Vankova had to dance for her life after disappointing the judges with her jazz performance but got an easy "yes" after reminding them of what got her that far in the first place.
After making it through hip-hop and jazz, the remaining dancers took on their next challenge – ballroom. The last challenge of the night was fast, sexy and um, dangerous. While learning the steps, one dancer got a piece of his tooth knocked out by his partner but that didn't stop them any. The dancers took the night to rehearse their routine and by morning the judges were thrilled with the performances, which made the cut even harder.
On day three of callbacks we reached the dreaded contemporary round. The stakes were higher than ever but the judges were very pleased. It turned out to be one of the most successful contemporary rounds in years. With one of the hardest rounds done, the stats were down to 29 boys and 21 girls, but the day was far from over.
The dancers had another long night with “Group Night.” The dancers were put into groups of five, each group containing a variety of dance styles. They randomly chose a CD, got to listen to their music and had the rest of the night to choreograph a routine. After hours of group rehearsal on top of an already sleepless week, the first group to perform was “One Love.”
All Tara Lipinski could say was: “Oh my goodness, that was a mess. I felt like it was ‘One Love’ starring Serena.” Nigel said, “We need smart dancers and that was just not smart.” But he decided to make them a deal and said he would let them decide who goes home from their group. Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better from there as the rest of the groups struggled with synchronization and strength.
After all ten groups performed, all that was left was One Love’s decision. Together they told the judges this is everyones dream and they couldn’t bring themselves to vote anyone off. They all took the blame for the failed performance. Nigel asked them in all sincerity, “So you are all willing to sacrifice your place in this competition to stand up for each other?” After the group tearfully agreed, Nigel said he couldn’t ask for anything more and moved them all on to the next round.
At the end of an exhausting callback week, the remaining 44 dancers had one last chance to impress the judges, ending out the week the same way the began – with a solo performance.
And finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Meet your top twenty dancers:
Zach Everhart, Jr.