We have a Top 20, everyone! And we have never seen most of the people who comprise it! I wish I could say it’s going to be fun getting to know these people, but I’m not entirely certain how well we’ll get to know them before they are systematically eliminated. Part of me feels like the producers wasted my time introducing me to so many people I liked (the Gaby Rojases and Natalie Reids of the world) only to fill me with a Top 20 comprised of folks who never got any camera time at all, folks whose names I didn’t even know until now. But the other part of me realizes that those people I got to know over the audition process were getting all that camera time as a consolation prize, and as I believe this show is about bringing dance into the public consciousness and creating the kind of dance stars that used to exist in the 30s and 40s – a new generation of Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly types – I can only see that kind of cockteasing as a good thing. I hope Gaby Rojas finds her way to a long career with Cirque du Soleil. And I hope Natalie Reid finds a great dance company to call home.
Rather than discuss the drama of seeing who got cut and who didn’t (because the only person who got cut that mattered was Ryan Kasprzak), I’m going to give you a list of our finalists and my thoughts on them/some facts to help you get to know them better. (These are facts according to Fox.com, by the way.)
Randi Evans, a 23-year-old Jazz dancer from Springville, UT. She has apparently danced during the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, 2002. All we know about her is that she really, really likes unitards.
Karla Garcia, a 23-year-old jazz/contemporary dancer from Brooklyn, NY. The most important thing I learned about this girl I’d not seen on SYTYCD until now is that she is one of the Boogie Bots, who have performed on America’s Best Dance Crew. (Boogie Bots were good, but they were no Quest Crew or Beat Freaks.) She also toured in Wicked, so I will be looking her up in my Playbill later on.
Caitlin Kinney, a 21-year-old contemporary dancer born and raised in Annapolis, MD. Has already had a hip replaced, and is “actress pretty,” according to me.
Asuka Kondoh, a 25-year-old Latin ballroom dancer originally from San Francisco, CA. She’s gotten a lot of well-deserved camera time, so I was pleased she will continue to grace my television with her very svelte swiveling hips.
Janette Manrara, a 25-year-old salsa dancer from Miami, FL and the first to be put into the Top 20, at which point she overshared and told us that this is the best good news she’s had in a while, as her boyfriend of four years dumped her and she moved back in with her mom. Why would anyone break up with a girl who can do the splits while doing a backflip?
Jeanine Mason, an 18-year-old contemporary dancer from Pinecrest, FL whom we had never seen before. All I can say about her is that she’s pretty and that she plans to attend UCLA in the fall.
Kayla Radomski, an 18-year-old contemporary and jazz dancer from Aurora, Co. Radomkulous was raised by her grandparents (mostly), which strikes a chord with me because I spent a lot of time with my grandma as a kid. We’ve seen her a lot, so her inclusion in the Top 20 was not a total surprise.
Melissa Sandvig, a 29-year-old ballerina from Los Alamitos, CA. We know absolutely nothing about her, but Fox.com tells me she has danced with the Milwaukee Ballet Company, the L.A. Opera, the Long Beach Ballet and has performed at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Paris Torres, a 19-year-old contemporary dancer and former Miss Washington from Issaquah, WA. She dances for the Seattle Storm and the Seattle Supersonics. If she doesn’t win and returns to dancing in Seattle, I’m sure I’ll see a lot of her in my future home. Also, I hate to say this, but the girl is pretty from the chin up. Her chin is awful. I’m sorry, Paris, I think you’re a lovely dancer, but you need a new chin.
Ashley Valerio, a 22-year-old contemporary dancer living in North Hollywood, CA. We know absolutely nothing about her, and neither does Fox.com
Kupono Aweau, a 23-year-old lyrical and contemporary dancer from Kailua, HI. Other than his name, I think the most amazing thing about Kupono is the tidbit that he is “an avid collector of home furnishings.” Good Lord, I can’t wait to see his vintage chair collection!
Tony Bellissimo, a 20-year-old hip hop dancer from Buffalo, NY. I think you all know by now that I do not care for Mr. Tony Bellissimo. I do not care for his inclusion in the Top 20, but I appreciate that Nigel was honest about it and said that they like Tony’s personality more than his dancing and believe he is the most improved person they’ve seen, even though he isn’t as technically strong as others. Tell you what, kids, the minute this kid fucks up you’re going to start hearing my refrain for the season, “We could have had two Kasprzak brothers in the Top 20, but instead we got this guy.”
Brandon Bryant, a 19-year-old contemporary dancer currently living in Salt Lake City, UT. In addition to being completely amazing yet somehow contested by the judges, Brandon has apparently performed for Madonna at Lourdes’ birthday party. That’s almost as good of a fact as Kupono’s furniture collections! I have loved Brandon since we saw him last year, and I simply do not understand why Mia and Lil C aren’t fans. Apparently, Mia thinks he’s cocky, finding the smile he puts on when he’s dancing disingenuous. Frankly, I don’t get the cockiness at all. Nor do I see his smile being problematic because he only busts it out during showier numbers. I do not recall him smiling through his solos, or during “Cool.” I do recall him smiling during “My Life Would Suck Without You,” because that number didn’t require seriousness. I believe Brandon will prove Mia wrong and she’ll come to love him. At least, I hope that’s what happens.
Phillip Chbeeb, a 20-year-old popper living in Los Angeles, CA. Other than what we know about his awesomeness, I can tell you that my husband will be throwing votes his way this season because Chbeeb is an engineering physics major at my husband’s alma mater, Loyola Marymount University. Go Lions! (Husband Note: Noooo! You gave away my schooooooool! I was trying to be mysterrrrrrrrrious!)
Jason Glover, a 21-year-old lyrical and contemporary dancer we’ve never seen before from Fresno, CA. We have never seen him before.
Vitolio Jeune, a 26-year-old contemporary dancer originally from Haiti who now resides in Miami, FL. I love his name and his accent, and wonder why I didn’t get to see/hear either of those things until recently. He likes motorcycles and Desmond Richardson, which means I think I’m going to fall in love with him pretty quickly.
Maksim Kapitannikov, a 26-year-old Latin ballroom dancer originally from the motherland of Moscow, now residing in Brooklyn, NY. He has decided to shorten his name to “Max” for the show. We’ve seen a fair amount of him so far, and I can tell you how much Mary Murphy and I love a hot Russian. Maksim is so Russian, in fact, that both of his parents dance and his mother is a ballet teacher. (If you have never studied Eastern Europe, that’s pretty fucking Rus, yo.)
Evan Kasprzak, a 21-year-old Broadway hoofer from West Bloomfield, MI with whom I am already unabashedly in love with. Prepare for 10 weeks of me unapologetically gushing over Evan Kasprzak.
Ade Obayomi, a 20-year-old contemporary dancer living in Orange County, CA. He has a great African name (I think), but we’ve never seen him before. Fox.com tells me he’s danced at Radio City Music Hall.
Jonathan Platero, a 21-year-old salsa dancer currently living in New York City. We’ve never seen him before, but all you need to know is that he danced for Kenny Ortega in High School Musical alongside former SYTYCD dancer Allison Hooker (season 2). (And s3 winner Sabra.)
Aside from the tragedy of splitting up the Brothers Kasprzak, the other notable absence from the Top 20 would be that of Miami ballet dancer Alex Wong, whose contract with the Miami City Ballet was fully-binding and could not be broken to include him in the Top 20. I hope he returns when his contract is up, because he was incredible and SYTYCD could use a strong male ballet dancer at some point.
I wish all of these dancers the best of luck, and hope to get to know those we hadn’t yet met a whole lot better. The Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for the season stands at 2. I can’t wait for the competition to begin so I can keep that number running higher and higher as we board the season 5 Hot Tamale Train.