It's baaaaack!

"So You Think You Can Dance" kicked off its 15th season last night with auditions in L.A. (and a killer, développé-filled opening montage set to "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman). Nigel, Mary, Vanessa (looking sparklier and chicer than ever), and Cat were all on hand—plus tWitch was in the house to help out with auditions.

So, who's poised to become the next Lex, Kida, Gaby or Ricky? Here are the dancers who led the pack during the season premiere.


Marina Mazepa

The 20-year-old from Ukraine showed off Cirque du Soleil–worthy skills, commanding the stage with her mile-long legs and quirky presence. Then, as the music reached its final beats, she shed her skin—somewhat literally—stripping off her black catsuit to reveal a rhinestone-studded leo that'd make "Toxic"-era Britney Spears proud. Standing ovation from the judges.

Nigel said: "It was like the birth of a dancer. I was thrilled with it."

Vanessa said: "You have my heart. Here is my heart."

tWitch said: "After 15 seasons, to see something we've never seen before is truly special."

Mary said: "You're out of this world. You're amazing."

The verdict: Unsurprisingly, she's onto the next round.

Gaevin "Rated G" Bernales

This Las Vegas–based b-boy wants to take his breakdancing from the Vegas Strip to the big leagues. Gaevin tells the judges it was tWitch who first inspired him to audition, and now that he's 18, he's ready. In true b-boy style, Gaevin's audition was filled with gravity-defying, dizzying tricks, flips, arm balances, and spins. It had tWitch grooving so intensely in his seat that he was one eight-count away from taking out panel neighbor Vanessa.

Vanessa said: "You are so strong. Oh my gosh. That's crazy!"

tWitch said: "The confidence you bring as a b-boy is second to none."

Mary said: "For 18 years old, you are super-talented."

Nigel said: "You and me are similar dancers."

The verdict: A unanimous yes to the next round.

Marcus, Magda and Allen

Never have we ever seen a ballroom trio audition for the show! Fun fact: Marcus is the brother of Kiki, last season's ballroom babe, and holy cow, do they look alike. Allen auditioned for "SYT" during Season 12 and was a hit, but got injured during Vegas Week. And Magda, who has a Jennifer Lawrence thing going on, was just living the dream twirling between these two guys—not a bad gig. Though it was tough to focus on any one individual, the routine was straight fire.

Mary said: "That number was awesome! [Insert scream.] I loved every second! [More screams.]"

Nigel said: "It was sharp and splendid."

Vanessa said: "Allen, you had my eyes the entire time. You had me." (Allen was pumped to hear this, because his sister is a big High School Musical fan. Same, Allen's sister! Same.)

tWitch said: "Everybody was great! That was awesome."

The verdict: They've all got tickets to somewhere! (We don't know exactly where The Academy is taking place this season, but these three will be there.)

Taylor Haines

This is a lovely story. Taylor, 20, comes to L.A. from Alaska, where she was born without ankle bones. After amputation surgery at a super-young age, Taylor was given a prosthetic for her left leg. At 7, she started dance lessons and resolved to never let her prosthesis hold her back. So basically, she's amazing. Was she the most talented and technically flawless performer of the night? No. But she's a fighter.

Vanessa said: "You're very strong."

tWitch said: "Thank you so much for the inspiration. We all feed off of that."

Mary said: "You have such a presence up there. Such strength."

Nigel said: "You're extremely brave."

The verdict: It's a no from the judges, but she earned lots of smiles and praise.

Jay Jackson

"When I get onstage, I tear it up. The floor is my mission, and I am on it." Jay Jackson FTW—maybe not of the show, but probably of everything else. The drag dancer's routine included some gasp-inducing moments, from a death drop to a kippup in four-inch heels. It wasn't technically slick, but we were living for his confidence.

Nigel said: "You most certainly made an impact on this program."

Vanessa said: "My heart is so happy right now. You have such an amazing spirit."

tWitch said: "The strength and courage with which you represent yourself and your community is second to none." (Petition to get tWitch on the judging panel every week, please?)

Mary said: "You are such an amazing entertainer. But if you want to make it on this show, you come back with more tools under there and train hard."

The verdict: What, tbh, seemed like it'd be a no turned into a yes. Vanessa and tWitch were fans, and the audience cheered until Mary got on board, too. It was a no for Nigel, but he was outnumbered. Jay is on to The Academy.

Alexis Gilbert

She's back! Alexis auditioned for Season 14 and was an immediate audience favorite. She made it onto Team Jenna, but was eventually cut in favor of Kiki. Alexis said she's been training like crazy for the past year—and it showed! She was easily the most polished performer of the night, combining musicality, technical prowess, power, and strength. Prediction: She makes Top 10 this time.

tWitch said: "You've come back strong, and that's awesome."

Mary said: "You just knocked it out of the ballpark. You started to tear that dance floor up!"

Nigel said: "I'm very happy to see you back this year."

Vanessa said: "GIRL. You shine on that stage like a star!"

The verdict: Through to The Academy!

Eddie Hoyt

WE ❤️❤️❤️ EDDIE. The red-headed, bespectacled tapper was home-schooled and raised in a strict religious family. By the time he was a high school freshman, Eddie had came out as gay—something he says was particularly difficult because of his upbringing in the church. But dancing, he said through tears, let him be himself and express himself. CUE MUSIC AND ALSO EMOTIONS. And dude can tap! His sounds were clean and crisp, his upper body the perfect balance of upright and relaxed, and his feet so furiously fast they'd make Anthony Morigerato proud.

Nigel said: Nothing, actually. He just rose from his seat, clapping.

Vanessa said: "You make me so happy."

tWitch said: "I'm cheesin' right now, bro! That was a joy to watch."

The verdict: He's obviously through to The Academy. Duh.

And then, to close out the episode: the funnest, happiest dance battle ever between tWitch and Eddie. Brilliant.


THIS is "So You Think You Can Dance"—Season 15!

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Q: I'm trying to think of ways to maximize studio space and revenue during the summer. What has worked for you?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

In 2019, dance parents are more eager than ever to observe their child's progress, and stay up-to-date with the ins and outs of what's happening in the classroom. That means yearly recitals aren't always enough to keep them satisfied—especially if you have rules against visitors observing class from week to week. The solution? Visitor observation weeks. Trust us, the guardians and loved ones of your students will love you for it!

We caught up with Suzanne Blake Gerety, vice president of Kathy Blake Dance Studios and regular contributor to Dance Teacher's "Ask The Experts" column, to hear her tips on how to have a successful visitor observation week.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Adequate dorsiflexion mobility is needed to find a supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely. Getty Images

Dancers are trained to think often about the range of motion, stability and power of their extended lines: the point of the foot, the reach of the penché, the explosion of the sauté in the air. But finding that same mix of flexibility and strength in the flexed foot is just as integral to technique and injury prevention. Without adequate dorsiflexion mobility, it is nearly impossible to find the kind of supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Irina Kolpakova in the studio with Katherine Williams. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe

Being coached by a treasure like former Kirov prima Irina Kolpakova is an experience most dancers only dream of. But company members at American Ballet Theatre have been the lucky beneficiaries of her wisdom since 1990. Thanks to Instagram, where pros like Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside share snippets of their sessions with Kolpakova, any ballet lover can be a fly on the wall during rehearsals with the famed ballet mistress.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by The Fleet, courtesy of Lion's Jaw Festival

Growing up in New Jersey, Lisa Race trained with a memorable dance teacher: Fred Kelly, the younger brother of famous tapper Gene. "Fred would introduce our recitals," she says. "He would always cartwheel down the stairs." It wasn't until years later, when Race was pursuing her master's degree and chose to write a research paper on Kelly, that she realized there was a clear connection between her own movement style—improvisational and floor-based—and his. "In this television clip I watched, Fred jumps up to the piano, then jumps off it—he's going up and down and around," she says. "I thought, 'Oh, wow, all this time, I've thought of my dancing as my own, but that's where it started!' Moving upside-down and into the floor. There's a thread there. I rerouted it in different ways, but there's a connection."

Now, as a professor at Connecticut College, she concentrates on how to introduce her students to that love and freedom of upside-down work—and how to best prepare them for life after graduation, no matter what dance path they take.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

It's summertime, which means we're all starting to feel HOT! HOT! HOT!

While a warm room is certainly better than a cold room when it comes to dancing, you don't want your students to get heat stroke at your studio. To help you survive this sweaty time of year, here are tips and tricks that will keep your classrooms comfortable for an excellent class.

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox