The dancers sprawled all over the lobby of the John Bassett Theatre have made it; they began lining up early this torrid Sunday morning outside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to get a spot in the auditions for CTV’s Canadian franchise of So You Think You Can Dance, and after facing the first panel of judges with a minute-long routine, they’ve survived the first cut.

“It went really well. It was so nerve wracking,” says Tamina Pollack-Paris of Toronto, who brought all of her training – “Hip hop, jazz, ballet, Irish dancing, all that stuff...” – to Rihanna’s Breaking Dishes.

“It was pretty tough competition,” says Christopher Guglich, also from Toronto. “It's really, really stiff competition. I was surprised - they were cutting people that you really would not expect to be cut.”

The carpet in the theatre lobby is covered with clothes and bags, socks and shoes and pieces of paper. Dancers sit with their legs extended in fierce angles as they fill out the paperwork that’ll follow them along to the next step of the competition, before handing it all in to the staff sitting at laptops along the walls. Their feet are often raw – rubbed red in spots and covered with tape and bandages – one of the grisly realities of dancing, either for a living or for pleasure.

Dwayne Anderson goes by the name Rudeboy. The Toronto dancer has brought “12 years of hip hop, dabbled in jazz, African, reggae, a little bit of modern, classical Indian - a whole bunch of stuff.” He says that surviving the auditions is a mental challenge as much as a physical one.

“I just had a mindset of just going through it, having fun, no pressure. The people who were having pressure were the ones who didn't actually get through, because they were putting so much pressure on themselves, and dance is 90 per cent mental. Especially with freestyling where you have to totally be in that space, if your mind gets in the way, too much control, then you're just bound to fail.”

Dancer Tre Armstrong is one of the show’s celebrity judges, and her job begins in earnest on Tuesday, when today’s winners begin the next round of eliminations. “Personality is what the show is about,” she says. “Dancing is what we've built it around, but you can be the wickedest dancer and have the worst, bland personality onscreen, and it's gonna be back - 'sorry, we so want you, but holy freak, show me something or else no one's going to vote for you. It depends on who you are. If you're a great dancer, sometimes your personality doesn't have to be so hot, the dancing will speak for itself. But if you're a mediocre dancer, you'd better start learning how to smile, you'd better start learning how to laugh and make people laugh.”

By noon, most of the dancers have made it into the theatre, while their friends and family wait outside on the street in the sweltering heat. Over 800 dancers have been processed so far, with more to come – the biggest numbers so far. Tamina Pollack-Paris is on her way home to get ready for the next round of eliminations on Tuesday. “I'm ready. I'm going to go to bed early, get my protein shakes. I'm ready, Toronto, to kill it.”