After a grueling week of auditions in Las Vegas, "So You Think You Can Dance" has chosen its top 20. These fine dancers come from a myriad of backgrounds. Some have incredible training and others are just doing what comes naturally.
There is one thing that confuses me. This is a competition for amateurs and yet several of the dancers have movie and video gigs on their resume. Hmm...what exactly defines an amateur? Or maybe I'm misunderstanding the rules.
One interesting note is that Debbie Allen will not be allowed to judge this year as one of her pupils, Will Wingfield, made it into the finals. I suppose its is important to show that there is no bias, but Allen is one hell of a choreographer and I can't see her making exceptions for anyone, particularly a former student.
When it comes to the Vegas round, it really is the place that separates the true dancers from the wannabes. One contestant quit after the first round of choreography without even bothering to show off what he had learned. Bad move. This is one case where being let go is preferable to quitting.
I'm sure they all felt like quitting after the traditional all-nighter they put these dancers through. I guess it's designed to see who really has the strength to carry on, but its amazing to me that they don't have more injuries with the pace of the week.
As each of the dancers was told their fate, I looked at each unfamiliar face and tried to imagine what it would be like three weeks from now. By then, we'll all have our favorites, we'll know their names and we'll be trying to figure out which one will win. Funny how easy it is to get attached to 20 people you've never met.
And here they are. Which ones are your early favorites?
Rayven Armijo (28) is a Contemporary/Ballet dancer from La Puente, CA. Armijo is a mentor to children and assists them with their educational goals and in dance. Armijo is proud that many have gone on to attend LA County High School for the Performing Arts.
Comfort Fedoke (20) is a Hip-Hop dancer raised in Lagos, Nigeria, now living in Dallas, TX. She is a graduate of Booker T. Washington Performing Arts High School. Fedoke was a featured performer for the past few years on "Dallas Dance Club 21," the local Dallas dance television show.
Courtney Galiano (19) is a Contemporary dancer from Commack, NY. Though she specializes in Contemporary, Galiano also loves to dance Hip-Hop. She appeared in the music video for Kat De Luna's "Whine Up" and is a dancer for the New York Knicks.
Susie Garcia (25) is a Latin/Salsa dancer born in Miami, FL. Garcia graduated with a B.F.A. from New World School of the Arts. She is a high school teacher who previously was a dancer with the Miami Heat for six years. Garcia has performed at the Billboard Latin Music Awards and Latin Grammy Awards, and danced on Shakira's "Oral Fixation World Tour."
Chelsie Hightower (18) is a Latin dancer born in Las Vegas, NV, and raised in Orem, UT. Hightower has worked with many world-renowned choreographers. She was a U.S. Worlds finalist in 2005 and competed on Team USA.
Jessica King (23) is a Contemporary dancer from Myrtle Beach, SC, where she was born and raised. She is currently attending Coastal Carolina University studying Fine Arts with a minor in Art History. King also teaches dance and performs in local theater.
Kourtni Lind (18) is a Jazz/Contemporary dancer from Forest Lake, MN, currently living in Sherman Oaks, CA. Lind began training in her mother's dance studio at 3 years old and graduated high school at age 16 so she could begin her career.
Kherington Payne (18) is a Contemporary/Jazz dancer from Placentia, CA. Payne will graduate from El Dorado High School this summer. She is an avid soccer fan who has played for many years.
Katee Shean (20) is a Contemporary dancer from San Jose, CA. Shean is a graduate of Pioneer High School and currently attends Chapman University in Orange, CA. She is pursuing a double major in leadership and dance and is active in many volunteer organizations. Shean trained at the Team Dance Company and Atlas School of Dance.
Chelsea Traille (23) is a Jazz Funk and Contemporary dancer born in Houston, TX, currently living in Flower Mound, TX. Traille graduated with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Texas, Dallas. She was a dancer with the NBA Mavericks during the 2006-2007 season.
Joshua Allen (19) is a Hip Hop/Popping dancer from Fort Worth, TX. Allen hopes to be a professional dancer and recording artist.
Jamie Bayard (22) is a West Coast Swing dancer from Palm Springs, CA, currently living in Norwalk, CA. Bayard graduated from the Orange County High School of the Arts. He was the U.S. Swing Dance champion in 2000 and 2002 and is a professor of Swing and Salsa at Loyola Marymount University.
Twitch Boss (25) is a Freestyle dancer from Montgomery, AL. A career highlight for Boss was performing "Thriller" with Wade Robson on "The Wade Robson Project" in 2003.
Marquis Cunningham (18) is a Lyrical/Contemporary dancer born in Cumberland, NC, and raised in Cape Coral, FL. Cunningham began dancing at 14 and trained at the Robin Dawn Academy. He is a graduate of Florida's North Fort Myers High School and currently resides in New York City
Matt Dorame (22) is a Contemporary dancer from Glendale, AZ. He studied for two years at Odyssey Dance Theatre in Salt Lake City.
Chris Jarosz (21) is a Lyrical/Contemporary dancer from Gaithersburg, MD, currently living in Dallas, TX. Jarosz grew up training at the Dawn Crafton Dance Center in Gaithersburg and then moved to Dallas in his sophomore year to train at Top Hat Dance Center. Jarosz is now a dance major at Southern Methodist University.
Thayne Jasperson (27) is a Contemporary dancer who grew up in Springville, UT. Jasperson was a featured dancer in "High School Musical," and "High School Musical 2." He danced five years with Odyssey Dance Theatre in Salt Lake City, but has only been dancing six years.
Mark Kanemura (24) is a Contemporary dancer born and raised in Honolulu, HI. Kanemura trained with 24-7 Dance Force in Honolulu and danced at Tokyo Disney. He also directed and choreographed performances on Norwegian Cruise Lines.
Gev Manoukian (21) is a Hip Hop/Break dancer originally from Kazakhstan and now living in Centerville, UT. Manoukian was a featured dancer in "High School Musical 2."
Will Wingfield (21) is a Contemporary dancer from Nashville, TN. Wingfield started dancing at age 9 at DC Dance Factory in Nashville, and later moved to Los Angeles to train under Debbie Allen at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy.
The competition intensifies and finalists dance their hearts out on the season's first performance show Wednesday, June 11 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT).
On the live results shows beginning Thursday, June 12 (9:00-10:00 PM ET live PT/tape-delayed), the three couples with the lowest number of votes will be announced. Each dancer in those three couples will have one last chance to impress the judges with a solo performance of his or her choosing. After all six dancers have performed, the judges will offer their critique and then send one male and one female dancer home.
Come back to SheKnows.com every week for my recap of "So You Think You Can Dance!" Let's enjoy the ride together.
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