"SYTYCD" Season 16 Recap: Let The Academy Begin!

July 15, 2019

“Welcome to the real world, kids.” —Laurieann Gibson, Disher of Hard Truths

But seriously! Welcome to The Academy, that magical/terrible place where choreography comes hard and fast, meltdowns are par for the course, someone is bound to get injured, and the cuts are absolutely brutal—every. single. time.

After approximately 14 million weeks of individual auditions, 79 dancers were given “golden tickets” to The Academy, held at L.A.’s famous Dolby Theatre this year. There, they faced four rounds of choreography: hip hop with Luther Brown, ballroom with Emma Slater and Sasha Farber, contemporary with Talia Favia, and the group round with Mandy Moore.

This week’s episode documented the first three choreo rounds. Here’s what went down at the Dolby.

Hip Hop with Luther Brown

Luther Brown was up first, and not only was the choreography no joke, he was all business. (Casually telling the dancers they’re being disrespectful? Ouch. But also, fall in line!) After 90 minutes, the dancers performed in small groups for the judges, and let’s just say it: The first few rounds were really rough. Dancers messed up, and gave up. (So frustrating to watch!) Fortunately, that made the cuts easier for the judges, but no one likes to see a dancer blank and lose it onstage, especially after working so hard to get there.

Twins Trent and Colton Edwards—remember them?—brought their twinning A-games, but Trent couldn’t quite master it, so he was told to dance for his life. Translation: Take off your sneakers, don’t take a breath, don’t pass go, don’t collect $200, just perform a solo, right this second. And he did. And it was…interesting? Nigel said it best: “Strange.” Ultimately, Colton advanced, and Trent was sent home.

Ballroom with Sasha Farber and Emma Slater

By day 2, and 69 dancers remained—and it was time to cha cha! Emma and Sasha’s routine was sassy, intricate, and involved a lot of trickery and quick partnering.

Fortunately, this round got off to a better start than the previous one, with the first six dancers doing a darn good job. (Remember when the judges predicted Gino Cosculluela would make the Top 10? He’s certainly still headed that way.) But here’s the thing about a ballroom round like this one: If you’re awesome but your partner, uh, isn’t (or specializes in a totally different style), that makes it a lot harder to move forward in the competition. Fortunately, many of the familiar faces we came to love over the past few weeks were just polished and professional enough to make up for their lackluster partners.

And then! “Smac”—aka Sarah McCreanor, the Lucille Ball of dance—was ordered her to dance for her life. Her ballroom wasn’t so splendid, but her solo was just as entertaining as her original performance. Ultimately, though, the judges decided it wasn’t what “SYT” as a competition is all about. So it was a no for Smac.

Contemporary with Talia Favia

Ah, the “ever-emotional contemporary round,” as the flawless and fabulous Cat Deeley described it. With 54 dancers remaining, “things are going to get tougher,” Cat said, in the understatement of the year. Talia called her choreography fast, challenging, athletic, and emotional, and she was not lying.

Benjamin Castro and Jay Jackson, who’d sailed through The Academy so far, were up first in the contemporary round—and that’s where the sailing stopped for Jay, whose technique just wasn’t quite up to snuff. Benjamin, full of heart and passion, lived to dance another day, though.

Next week, they’re bringing in the big guns: Mandy Moore will be in the house, with her famous group routine! And we’ll see the field narrowed to 10 guys and 10 girls. Let’s do this!