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Break-Through on SYTYCD season 16 Academy Week 1 Recap

Posted on July 16 2019 by Editor

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Break-Through on SYTYCD season 16 Academy Week 1 Recap

The season 16 “So You Think You Can Dance” (SYTYCD) contestants who made it through their auditions with Golden Tickets in their hands moved to the next round of the competition – the Academy. This season, was said to be the “most incredible” round of auditions the show has ever seen. 

The number of dancers given Golden Tickets to advance to this SYTYCD Academy round were seventy-nine. They each proved that they’re masters in their own styles of dance. But, at the Academy they also had to prove that they are capable at mastering other dance genres.  

The Academy was once again held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Ca. Judge and past contestant Dominic “D-Trix” Sandoval reminisced about his own SYTYCD experience at the Academy which he stated was the “toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”  At the Academy, the dancers go through four rounds of choreography.  Hip Hop with Luther Brown, Ballroom, Contemporary, and Group round with Mandy Moore.  If they survive each round, they’ll be part of the Top 20 and from there, it will be determined which dancers will be part of the Top 10.


Host Cat Deeley welcomed the dancers along with Hip Hop choreographer Luther Brown in their first round of choreography of Hip-Hop.  Judge Nigel Lythgoe told the dancers that they need to impress and connect with the judges and at season 16, they have to be the best dancers they’ve had on the show.  Luther Brown told the dancers that he’s looking for precision, energy and vibes. He said they need to bring “star quality.”  He added that the choreography is “hard-hitting.” But it’s also about personality.

The judges started making the first cuts the same day. After 90 minutes of choreography, the first group of dancers to perform in front of the judges was the only three Hip Hop girls to advance to the Academy.  They were Dezi Saenz, Sumi Oshima, and Anna Linstruth.  Anna had trouble getting the steps down and made it known when she messed-up.   Upon Laurieann’s request, all three women were asked to perform again  Nigel asked in the words of Luther Brown,  “where’s the sauce?” The second time around, the girls found their groove and all three went through.  Laurieann reminded them that they have to do that the first time anyone sees them.  Nigel stated that the second time was “totally different.”  

The next group to go in front of the judges were B-Boys Brandon Ron, Michael Sales, and Samuel Sweetser who had brought his son to his audition.  Samuel gave-up when his messed-up in the beginning and started to walk off.  The judges told him to “stay in it.”  Then Nigel scolded him to never give-up and told him “that was dumb!”  Needless to say, Samuel didn’t make it along with Michael.  Brandon was the only one in the group to go on to the next round.

Contemporary dancers who had trouble with the Hip Hop choreography and didn’t move on were: Victoria Neukom, Shamus Moriarty, Lauren Luteran who has cystic fibrosis.  Lauren stated that she can’t wait to come back to SYTYCD and will train even harder.

Past contestant Jay Jackson (contemporary) impressed in Hip Hop along with others who were also Contemporary dancers. They included Mariah Russell, Benjamin Castro, Gino Cosculluela, and Sophie Pittman, along with Ballroom dancer Stephanie Sosa.  When some dancers couldn’t pick-up the Hip-Hop choreography, they faced the wrath of Nigel who told one dancer that the other dancers around her were so good, they made her look even worse than she was.  He told another dancer that he has rhythm, style.  But, “where did it go?”

The next group was Contemporary dancers Howard Johnson with first-timers at the Academy twin brothers Trent and Colton Edwards.  When Trent didn’t meet the judges approval, they asked him to do his solo on the spot and dance for his life in his style of dance (Contemporary) to remind them why he’s there. Unfortunately, Trent fell short in his solo and was sent home.  His brother, along with Howard were pushed through to the next round.  Colton said it will be challenging to move on without his brother because they’ve never been apart for longer than one day.


Laurieann said she’s looking for a diamond in the rough, “that eye of the tiger.”  The next round of choreography was Ballroom by choreographers Emma Slater and Sasha Farber who presented the dancers with a Cha-Cha routine. Sasha told the dancers that having a connection with their partners is very important.  Emma told them they can throw their own style into the routine. 

The first group consisted of: Gino Cosculluela (Contemporary) and Ashley Sanchez (Ballroom); Derell Allen (Contemporary) and Dezi Saenz (Hip Hop); Sofia Ghavami (Ballroom) and Benjamin Castro (Contemporary).  All the dancers in this group made it through to the next round although it seemed at first that Derell and Dezi were going to get cut. The judges were especially impressed with Gino, Ashley, Sofia and Benjamin.

In the next group was Maia Bliudnikas (Contemporary) and Frank “Ghost” Crisp Jr. (Hip Hop); Eddie Hoyt (Tap), who remembered from his time last year at the Academy when Nigel told him not to keep his happy go lucky persona in every routine, was partnered with Anna Linstruth (Hip Hop). Latin Ballroom dancer Lukas Bartunek was partnered with Contemporary dancer Mariah Russell.  The judges loved the comedy bits that Frank added into the choreography and pushed him through first.  Mariah, who had never done Ballroom before also moved-on, along with Anna, and Lukas.  Maia was cut due to her moves being too “childlike.”   Eddie also moved through with the advise to strengthen his arms.  Eddie said he’s grown a lot since last year and wants to prove that he’s mature.  

Contemporary dancers who did not master the Ballroom round and sent home included: Jalen Sands, twin brother Colton Edwards who was partnered with Natalya Zrazhevskaya (Ballroom), and Bridget Derville-Teer was also cut.

Hip Hop dancer John John Tarrayo was partnered with Contemporary dancer Gianna Newborg who blew the judges away in her audition of portraying a kidnapped victim.  There was an obvious height difference.  Also competing in the group was Gabe Flowers (Contemporary) and Sarah “Smac” McCreanor who was called the Lucille Ball of dance by Mary Murphy at her audition.  Ballroom dancer Stefen Yeritsyan and Contemporary dancer Madison Jordan were partnered.  Madison’s boyfriend Jarrod Tyler Paulson, who already made it through the round, was there to support her.   Gianna was told by the judges that she was “on fire” in the beginning but with her partner, she was lost, and was sent home.  Madison was told that she was able to keep up with her “strong” ballroom dance partner Stefen, “equally as strong” and they were both sent through.  The judges were undecided on Sarah “Smac” where some of her moves “were overdone.”  She had to dance for her life in her own style.  

Nigel called “Smac” a great entertainer.  D-Trix liked that she used her solo for comedy.  Ultimately, the judges decided not to bring Sarah back because she’s more of an entertainer over dancer. Sarah said it’s a hardcore dance competition and her technique is “nothing compared to everyone else.”


Fifty-four dancers moved on to the Contemporary round.  Host Cat Deeley warned the dancers that “things are gong to get tougher” and introduced the next choreographer – Talia Favia.  Talia said every style would be tested 100%, and “it’s very fast and very challenging.”  Taila said the choreography is very athletic, but has an emotional part that the dancers have to feel.

Pictured: Jay Jackson / FOX Copyright.

The first group of dancers to perform the Contemporary choreography in front of the judges were: Samuel L. Nelson, Benjamin Castro, Jay Jackson in their own genres of Contemporary.  The judges noticed emotion in Benjamin’s performance.  Benjamin was called to the front first.  D-trix asked about the “authenticity,” emotion and connection he had with the song.  Benjamin responded that it was a feeling of being inspired and surrendering to the music and the message it was giving.  Mary said “we call that a break-through.”  Samuel was also pushed through to the next round.  Jay was told that he “was just under” of moving forward.   When Nigel said they know they’ll see him again, Jay responded that they WON’T because he’s thirty-years old now, or “established.” 

Pictured: John John Tarrayo / Photo: FOX copyright.

Next, came a magical performance from B-Boy Bailey Munoz and Hip Hop dancer John John Tarrayo performing the Contemporary choreography.  Laurieann said a prayer before the start of their routine for Hip Hop to survive.  By the end of their routine, the two dancers  got a standing ovation from the judges.  Bailey was tearing-up, he said because the Academy week was so emotional and he learned that he’s not just a B-Boy, he’s a dancer.  He said it was also emotional to do the dance with his “Filipino brother” John John. D-trix told him that every B-Boy that’s been on the show would be proud of what he did.  Mary said they put so much emotion into it, more than some of the Contemporary dancers.

Mary said they could have never imagined the high level of dancers this season.

NEXT WEEK:  It’s the “final hurdle.”  Mandy Moore will choreography the Group Round, and viewers will find out which ten guys and ten girls will make the final cut. “So You Think You Can Dance” airs on FOX Mondays at 9 pm PT.


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