By People Staff
October 22, 2009 12:00 AM
Michael Williams/FOX

After six US cities, thousands of auditions and one grueling Vegas week, it was finally time for So You Think You Can Dance to reveal the top 20 of its first fall season. And what a talented bunch, boasting three tappers, three hip-hoppers and a gaggle of young and talented contemporary dancers.

When Wednesday’s episode began, 38 contestants waited in agony backstage as Nigel and Mary, who were joined by Adam Shankman, Debbie Allen, Tyce Diorio and Mia Michaels — in her last appearance before leaving the show — revealed their decisions.

First up was contemporary dancer Nathan Trasoras, 18, from Downey, Calif., who was too young for season 5 but got a ticket to Vegas for season 6. A smiling Mia Michaels (with a newly shaved head) gave him the good news that SYTYCD would like to be “a part of his growth.”

Next, the judges dished out bad news, including some shocking eliminations, until Kathryn McCormick, 19, a contemporary and lyrical dancer from Augusta, Ga., broke the losing streak, learning that she’d made the cut.

Tension continued to build as the remaining dancers waited to learn their fate. Channing Cooke, 18, an ice cream scooper from Haverhill, Mass., was about to burst when Nigel told her that, although she needs to work on partnering, she had made it unanimously.

The pace picked up as contemporary dancers Ariana Debose, 18, from Raleigh, N.C., and Ellenore Scott, 19, from New York, heard the words they wanted to hear, as did contemporary dancer Billy Bell, 19, of Palm Beach, Fla., who despite a broken nose in Vegas, brought Shankman to tears with a solo that earned him a spot in the top 20.

After the amazing Amber Jackson was sadly told she must try again next season, Russell Ferguson, 20, of Boston, began to worry if his krumping had done the trick. It did — and he joined fellow hip-hopper Kevin Hunte, 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y.

All three tappers — Bianca Revels, 20, of Detroit (who found that the third time was the charm), Phillip Attmore, 25, of Los Angeles and Peter Sabasino, 21, of Philadelphia — joined the group.

The stage was soaked with tears when contemporary dancers Victor Smalley, 21, of Miami, who cut his hair for the gig, and Jakob Karr, 19, of Orlando, found out they both got the votes.

Only five spots remained when new BFFs Mollee Gray, 18, a jazz dancer from Upland, Calif., and contemporary dancer Noelle Marsh, 18, from Sanford, N.C., learned their friendship would continue to grow as dancers in the top 20.

Nearing the end, Pauline Mata, 18, from West Covina, Calif., got through despite a golf ball-sized ankle injury. And Jonathan “Legacy” Perez, who was feeling like there was little hope after two b-boys had already made it through, made it three.

The beautiful Paula van Open made the cut but shocked everyone when she turned it down for a movie contract, giving ballroom dancer Ashleigh, 26, the chance to share the experience with her husband Ryan Di-Lello, 28.

Karen Hauer, 27, of Fort Lee, N.J., would fill the final spot in possibly the hottest top 20 ever! –Jed Dreben

Tell us: Who are you rooting for in the So You Think You Can Dance top 20?Michael Williams/FOX