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So You Think You Can Dance: Meet the Top 20

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It was a dancer’s dream and a choreographer’s delight when So You Think You Can Dance decided to try something a little different for their first fall episode after auditions. Rather than jump right into competition, the judges, the audience and the choreographers had a chance to meet the top 20 and see them dance in their own styles without worry of elimination.

Judges Nigel, Mary and Adam Shankman (now a permanent fixture) were on hand more to encourage than to critique on the new set, now on the famed American Idol stage. (There was even a designated spot for Paula Abdul if she decides to drop by!)

The first of seven routines showcasing the top 20 in their respective styles started with a Wade and Amanda Robson creation set in a speakeasy world with rival gangs battle-dancing in a vivid costume extravaganza.

Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo then got the chance to do what nobody has done so far — choreograph just for the show’s b-boys. Jonathan “Legacy” Perez (breaker), Kevin Hunte (popper and locker) and Russell Ferguson (krumper) were like watching a scene from Beat Street as they burned up the stage. “If this is an example of how exciting this season is going to be,” Nigel said, “bring it on!”

Tyce Diorio switched it up with a contemporary number that gave Channing Cooke, Ariana Debose, Nathan Trasoras and Jakob Karr a chance to show their stuff. Then, contemporary choreographer Mandy Moore (who now has the chance to really shine with Michaels out of the picture) stole the show with her spirit-lifting number that beautifully showcased the incredible talents of Kathryn McCormick, Noelle Marsh, Billy Bell and Victor Smalley. Shankman called it like he saw it — “a work of art.”

The three tappers Bianca Revels, Phillip Attmore and Peter Sabasino got the rare chance to perform a number in their very own style with new choreographer Derrick K. Grant leading the way. And the beloved Sonya Tayeh, who doesn’t consider herself sexy, brought out just that in jazz dancers Mollee Gray, Pauline Mata and Ellenore Scott.

They’ve been digging for drama since their Salt Lake City audition, and the devious Latin ballroom love triangle choreographed by Jason Gilkison may have finally done it (even though Ashleigh acted like she wasn’t jealous), as the show’s only married couple, Ryan and Ashleigh Di-Lello, along with the super sexy Venezuelan vixen Karen Hauer, set off the fire alarms with their smokin’ routine.

Next week will bring the first cuts of the season and the judges will for the first time decide without any help from America which guy and girl of the 10 couples who, according to Nigel were paired with the intention that one will assist the other in their first genre, will go home: Bianca and Victor, Channing and Phillip, Mollee and Nathan, Ariana and Peter, Pauline and Billy, Ashleigh and Jakob, Karen and Kevin, Noelle and Russell, Kathryn and Legacy and Ryan and Ellenore. –Jed Dreben