"SYTYCD" Season 16 Recap: The End of Auditions!

July 8, 2019

To quote old-lady Rose Dawson from Titanic:

OK, so maybe it hasn’t really been a full 84 years since Season 16 of “So You Think You Can Dance” first graced our screens. But it kinda feels like it, right? The entire summer so far has been dedicated to auditions! Along the way—five episodes, not 84 years, for the record—we’ve seen some really stellar talent. And next week, we’ll get to see how all that talent fares at The Academy.

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about what went down during the last few auditions.

Andrew Avila, 25, and Melany Mercedes, 24, Bronx, NY, Salsa

If Andrew and Melany look familiar, that’s because they auditioned last season. Their high-energy street-style Latin routine, with solid partnering and a hefty amount of sass, was a great way to start the episode, earning a standing ovation from all four judges. Mary said they were “on fire for sure” and called the way they danced their patooties off authentic. Cut to all four judges holding up Academy tickets. And we’re off!

Michael Salas, 25, Matawan, NJ, Hip Hop

Michael was bullied in school for being “that shy Filipino kid.” So here’s your weekly reminder that bullying is never OK. But then Michael found dance—and he’s awesome at it! This high-flying b-boy can floss, nae nae, and whip, and he does so at parties, bar mitzvahs, and beyond. On the “SYT” stage, he showed off all his trickiest tricks, sickest spins, and freakiest freezes. Laurieann liked the “braggadocious swagg.” (Can we get a spell check here, Miss Gibson? Please advise.) Dominic thought it was all great and said it inspired him. Mary said he nailed, Nigel loved the musicality, and all four deemed Michael worthy of showing his best stuff at The Academy.

Mariah Russell, 19, Nashville, TN, Contemporary

Mariah’s dad is in jail and she hasn’t seen him since she was 6 or 7 years old. She and her brother have been raised by a super-strong single mom, who worked multiple jobs so Mariah and her brother could both do the dance competitions they love. (Can we get a standing O for Mama Russell, please?) Mariah’s contemporary performance was divine, with impossibly high jumps, legs for days, that drop-center-split with a pause at the bottom for effect, and moments of quiet stillness. Laurieann shed several tears and reminded Mariah not to be ashamed of where she comes from. Dominic thanked Mariah for her performance. Mary said she smoked it and called Mariah “so Season 16.” And Nigel said it was exhilarating. It’s a unanimous “heck yes” to send Mariah to The Academy.

Phoebe Kochis, 19, Denver, CO, Jazz

Phoebe! So much love for this one. Phoebe, who has Down syndrome, has been dancing since she first learned how to walk. Dancing is when she feels happiest. And watching her dance is when we feel happiest. Phoebe tells Cat Deeley auditioning for the show has been her dream since she was 6 years old. Now, here she is, with that smile, and that spirit! Hyping up the crowd before she started dancing—what a star! And OK, let’s talk about that gorgeous opening developpé! The audience loved it. Laurieann praised Phoebe’s sass and called Phoebe her hero. Dominic loved getting a wink from Phoebe, and applauded her confidence and passion. Mary loved her love for dance and called her a ham. And Nigel said it was great to watch. Technique-wise, Phoebe isn’t competition-ready. But Nigel invited her to The Academy to join in and enjoy herself, which is lovely. And Phoebe’s mom got emotional and we got emotional and Phoebe, girl, the world needs so much more of you and your great energy.

James Cody, 26, Dallas, TX, Hip Hop/Animation

10, 11, and 12: Those are the seasons of “SYT” for which James has auditioned thus far. And along the way, he’s been living with bipolar disorder. His father also battled bipolar depression, and died by suicide when he was the age James is today. So, heavy stuff here. But what a pleasure it was to see James channel all he’s been through into something remarkable onstage. He was sharp and smooth, serious and silly, with movements that alternated between huge and itty bitty. Dominic liked it, and hopes James can do choreography. Mary said he connected with everyone in the audience. Nigel told James he’s “annoying”—because he’s brilliant at what he does, even though he hasn’t put the work in. (The delivery of this felt a little harsh, TBH.) Laurieann mostly sided with Nigel. Ultimately, though, James was a yes for Mary, Nigel, and Laurieann—so he gets to show his best stuff at The Academy.

Maia Bliudnikas, 19, Leominster, MA, Contemporary

It’s no surprise to learn Maia is a lifelong dancer. It’s pronounced MAY-uh, BTW, not MY-uh—and we’d better learn how to say and spell her name, because within the first few seconds of her ridiculously controlled, ridiculously technical performance, it became clear that Maia is probably going to be around this competition for a while. From head to toe, Maia was just ON. Nigel loved the way she used the stage and called her musicality flawless and her routine entertaining. Laurieann praised the strength of her extension. Dominic loved it. And Mary said it was strong and powerful and called it “one of the most perfect auditions of the season.” An obvious yes to The Academy.

Eddie Hoyt, 19, Boscawen, NH, Tap

Remember Eddie from last season?! He came out on national television—a casual life-changing moment. Afterward, he got a job offer to teach at Center Stage in Orem, UT (love them!). And he said his life has changed in all the best ways since then. But you know what hasn’t changed? How darn GOOD he is. Those crisp, clear feet! That ability to make a tap routine emotional! (Anyone else getting subtle Ed Sheeran vibes from Eddie?) Everyone on the panel rose to their feet. Eddie got emotional, and then Mary got emotional (“I don’t think I’ve ever cried over a tap routine before!”), and then we got emotional, and then everyone was crying, and then Eddie got sent through to The Academy and everything was wonderful. Yay Eddie. Yay dance!

And now—tears and all—we’re off to The Academy. See you next week!