"SYTYCD" Season 15 Recap: The Live Shows Begin!

The Top 10 in Travis Wall's opening number (Adam Rose/FOX)

Last night marked—finally!—the first live show of Season 15. We made it! And so did the Top 10. Now, it's up to the viewers (that's you!) to determine which contestants end up in the Top 4 and, eventually, which one will snag the sweet prizes up for grabs: $1 million, the cover of Dance Spirit (that's us!), and a role in FOX's live production of RENT, which will air January 27. Also awesome: tWitch is officially on the judging panel for the long haul, alongside Nigel, Mary, and Vanessa. Dreams do come true!

So how'd the two-hour event play out? Each contestant couple performed twice: once in the girl's style and once in the guy's. Here's what went down.

The Opening Routine

Choreographer: Travis Wall

Song: "Dream State" by Son Lux

Gold pants. Gold body glitter. Huge battements. Big energy. Giant lifts. Explosive movements. Running in place. Running around the stage. And, of course, a Son Lux soundtrack. This routine had every signature Travis Wall element packed into less than two minutes, and all 10 dancers crushed it. There's nothing quite like that nervous, pent-up, I'm-not-going-home-tonight energy to kick off the live shows!

Jensen & Jay Jay

Style: Samba

Choreographer: Jean-Marc Genereux

Song: "Mad Love" by Sean Paul

These two were paired briefly during Academy week, so they already had a bit of chemistry. In rehearsals, Jensen admitted the choreography was challenging even for her, a ballroom pro, and, um, Jay Jay farted. Once onstage, though, Jensen looked cool, confident, and, TBH, like ballroom Barbie. And Jay Jay! In that mesh black T-shirt! What a stud! Sure, some of the transitions could've been smoother and more effortless, but for day one, routine one, they did a darn good job. A diamond-studded Mary said it was "GREAT!" Nigel praised Jensen (who is newly engaged, BTW) for stepping out of big sis Lindsay's shadow, and said Jay Jay—and his hips—surprised him in a great way. Vanessa added that it was "fire," and tWitch called their partnership, based on trust and commitment, "crazy."

Hannahlei & Cole

Style: Contemporary

Choreographer: Tyce Diorio

Song: "They Won't Go When I Go" by George Michael

Holy chemistry! (And holy back walkover, Cole! And holy legs, Hannahlei!) Often, this early in the competition, the judges are practically begging the contestants to connect more with each other and with the audience. But these two made so much wonderful eye contact throughout the routine—their bond was palpable. Nigel loved the concept and choreography, and compared Hannahlei to Koine and other past "Hawaiian Princess" contestants, which, um. He also compared Cole—a ballroom guy—to Derek Hough. NBD. Vanessa called the performance magical, tWitch said it was beautiful to witness, and Mary said it was a "somewhere over the rainbow moment." (Those are all good things.)

Chelsea & Evan

Style: Jazz

Choreographer: Ray Leeper

Song: "Make me Feel" by Janelle Monae

This was fun, sexy, high-energy, and playful. Chelsea and Evan each proved early on in the competition that they have a ton of personality and are super fun to watch. So when it came to stage presence and the entertainment factor, this routine had it. Technically, though? Jazz is Chelsea's style, but there were moments (like that stumble out of a double pirouette) when she wasn't quite on. Vanessa thought they brought the fire and crushed it, but noted moments where Chelsea's technique was lacking. tWitch liked the heat, but felt a disconnect throughout the piece. Mary was convinced they were having fun, but thought they were trying too hard to have chemistry. And Nigel agreed with everyone.

Genessy & Slavik

Style: Hip hop

Choreographer: Luther Brown

Song: "Round & Round" by Fabolous

Talk about packing personality into a duo! Slavik and Genessy both nailed this choreography—and earned the first live show standing ovation of the season. Everyone loved it. Everyone had fun. Ray Leeper, seated next to Luther Brown, had an adorable case of the giggles. tWitch couldn't stop smiling. Mary said they brought it and she bought it. Nigel said they made it look easy, which is hard. (Again, a good thing.) Then he said, "I am so lit right now," which...sure! And Vanessa called it "on point" and "on fire!"

Magda & Darius

Style: Contemporary

Choreographer: Travis Wall

Song: "Glass Heart Concerto" by Blondie and Philip Glass

Want to get pushed out of your comfort zone, no matter your style? Do a contemporary routine choreographed by (Emmy nominated, again!) Travis Wall. But if these two were uncomfortable, they didn't let it show. The piece was aggressive, intense, powerful, and, well, very Travis. tWitch told his buddy Trav to prepare for another Emmy nod a year from now. Mary said it was "daaaangerous" and that it gave her shivers. Nigel used the word "genius" a lot. And Vanessa said she was speechless, but then said it was moving and stunning.

Hannahlei & Cole

Style: Paso doble

Choreographer: Jean-Marc Genereux

Song: "Heroes of Chaos" by Tybercore

OK, so how many times did you rewind the part where Cole appeared to get Hannahlei to levitate?! (Three? Us, too.) This choreography was intense, especially for the first week of competition. It started super strong (those balances!), but was lacking in energy a bit by the end. Mary thought they did a great job and appreciated all those risky balances. Nigel noted Hannahlei's lack of technique, but liked her outfit. Vanessa accurately acknowledged that it takes years to master the paso doble, and that this routine was no joke. And tWitch, that brilliant, beautiful man, said this is why it's wonderful seeing the couples perform two routines in two styles in one night.

Jensen & Jay Jay

Style: Jazz

Choreographer: Mandy Moore

Song: "Ex's & Oh's" by Elle King

First, THOSE OUTFITS—and Jensen's hair! This piece was fiercely energetic from start to finish, and even though this was Jay Jay's style, Jensen kinda stole the show. Every minute was fun and fabulous and exhausting. Nigel thought the sexuality was a bit much, but noted that they're both exceptional dancers. Mary was all, "No way, Nigel" and, "Jensen, you were a beast out there." TEAM MARY! Also on Team Mary? Vanessa, who thought it was incredible and loved the precision. As for tWitch: "I'm with the ladies," he said, to rousing applause. "They know exactly what they're talking about." tWitch for president! tWitch for Husband of the Year! tWitch for everything!

Chelsea & Evan

Style: Tap

Choreographer: Anthony Morigerato

Song: "Singin' In The Rain" by Jamie Cullum

Chelsea hasn't tapped in a bit, and if you're going to slip back into your old oxfords for the first time in a while, it is, to put it mildly, intimidating (or, in Chelsea's words, "terrifying") to do so with an Anthony Morigerato routine. But Morigerato, genius man that he is, gave Chelsea and Evan choreography that allowed each of them to shine. (Case in point: When Evan's feet went into hyper-speed, Chelsea did a big, beautiful slide across the stage.) Vanessa told Chelsea she did her best to sell it and gave her the ol' "good effort." tWitch said Evan shined, followed by, "Y'all, she just did a tap routine!" tWitch is seriously the best. Mary noted that the routine wasn't up to Evan's level, but that it was simple, sweet, and endearing. And Nigel reminded everyone that tap isn't as easy as people think it is.

Genessy & Slavik

Style: Contemporary

Choreographer: Talia Favia

Song: "An Evening I Will Not Forget" by Dermot Kennedy

A big lift in the first eight-count + a powerful story about immigration + two dancers who'd already dominated the first half of the live show = all the makings of a superstar performance. And that's exactly what this routine was. Genessy and Slavik not only proved they have great chemistry together, but also completely embodied the phrase "full-out." The judges and audience gave their performance a standing O. That's two standing ovations for the night—both of which went to this dynamic duo! tWitch said they sunk their teeth into it and praised their commitment. Mary called it a total reality checkpoint. Nigel said these two made the Top 10 because they have potential to grow throughout the series. And Vanessa said "it was honestly just so beautiful."

Magda & Darius

Style: Cha-cha

Choreographer: Val Chmerkovskiy

Song: "I Like It Like That" by Pete Rodriguez

Earlier in the evening, Nigel said Jensen's sexiness was too much—so we hope he braced himself for the Havana-style smolder of a Chmerkovskiy cha-cha. Actually, in the end, this routine wasn't overtly sexual in a way Nigel would object to, but it was fun, playful, and fierce. Magda was in her element, and Darius seemed super comfortable with the choreography (and personality!), too. It was good enough to get a standing O from the audience—and a shriek from Mary (who also seriously struggled to pronounce "Chmerkovskiy," bless her). Nigel loved the rhythm, and said he liked the "controlled sexuality." Vanessa said it was "just fire," and talked with her hands a lot, which is a good sign. And tWitch wrapped up the evening by smiling and saying it was "so dope."

OK, so who'd you pick up the phone for? Let us know who has your votes, and who you think is going home next week!

Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Diary
Claire, McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.