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!

Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Since the dawn of time, performers have had to deal with annoying, constant blisters. As every dance teacher knows (and every student is sure to find out), blisters are a fact of life, and we all need to figure out a plan of action for how to deal with them.

Instead of bleeding through pointe shoes and begging you to let them sit out, your students should know these tricks for how to prevent/deal with their skin when it starts to sting.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Brian Guilliaux, courtesy of Coudron

Eric Coudron understands firsthand the hurdles competition dancers face when falling in love with ballet. Now the director of ballet at Prodigy Dance and Performing Arts Centre in Frisco, Texas, Coudron trained as a competition dancer when he was growing up. "It's such a structured form of dance that when they come back to it after all of the other styles they are training in, they don't feel at home at the barre," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Kendra Portier. Photo by Scott Shaw, courtesy of Gibney Dance

As an artist in residence at the University of Maryland in College Park, Kendra Portier is in a unique position. After almost a decade of performing with David Dorfman Dance and three years earning her MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she's using her two-year gig at UMD (through spring 2020) to "see how teaching in academia really feels," she says. It's also given her the rare opportunity to feel grounded. "I'm going to be here for two years," she says, which offers her the chance to figure out the answers to some hard questions. "What does it mean to not dance for somebody else?" she asks. "What does it mean to take my work more seriously? To realize I really like making work, and figuring out how that can happen in an academic place."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Deanna Paolantonio leads a workshop. Photo courtesy of Paolantonio

Deanna Paolantonio had been interested in body positivity long before diabetes ever crossed her mind. As a Zumba and Pilates instructor who had just earned her master's degree in dance studies, she focused her research on the relationship between fitness and body image for women and young girls. Then, at age 25, just as she was accepted into the PhD program at York University in Toronto, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Robin Nasatir (center) with Peter Brown and Vicki Gunter. Photo by Christian Peacock

On a sunny Thursday morning in Berkeley, California, Robin Nasatir leads her modern class through a classic seated floor warm-up full of luscious curves and tilts to the soothing grooves of Bobby McFerrin. Though her modern style is rooted in traditional José Limón and Erick Hawkins techniques, the makeup of her class is far from conventional. Her students range in age from 30 all the way to early 80s.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: I need advice on proper classroom management for dancers in K–12—I can't get them to focus.

A: Classroom management in a K–12 setting is no different than in a studio. No matter where you teach, I recommend using a positive-reinforcement approach first. As a general rule, what you pay attention to is what you get. When a student acts out, it's generally done in order to gain attention. Rather than giving attention to them for inappropriate behavior, call out other students who are exhibiting the positive behaviors you desire. Name the good actions, and all of your students will quickly learn what it takes to be noticed.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox