‘ is way more intense then they thought it would be. Some will fly, some will fail, and a lot will cry.

With 172 dancers on hand, the plethora of judges joining Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy are Mia Michaels, Lil’ C, Adam Shankman, and Debbie Allen. To kick off this round, all the dancers will perform solos to remind the judges of who they are/what got them there. If they’ve done this every season, this is the first time we’ve seen it on air.

Alex Wong, a pro who dances with the Miami Ballet, is the first up. Within ten seconds of dancing, Mia’s said an expletive in amazement. He’s also eliciting gasps from the other judges and his fellow finalists. Despite there being no feedback, clearly everyone’s impressed and Alex has also managed to freak out his competition.

Tony Bellissimo, a hip hop dancer, is dressed in a suit and does an entertaining number dressed in a business suit. Performing to “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell, he has pictures of Nigel’s face hiding in his props. Very funny. Tony’s personality gets bonus points from the judges for sure but the dance content was lackluster in comparison.

A montage follows and there’s a lot of cool moments in there. After the last performance, the judges gather and it’s revealed some people are already going to be cut. They only need one yes to stay this time around. Forty-five dancers including Chmisie, Travis the Football Coach’s Son, and Talia Rickards (she of the telegenic looks and dance team presentation) are cut. Tony gets a warning to step it up.

Ninety-minutes later, Tabitha & Napoleon are putting the kids through the first choreography round – Hip Hop. Gabi Rojas is having problems picking up the choreography and doesn’t fake it well. This daughter of a circus performer stays just based on her unique solo-work but a girl who seemed to be rocking the steps got cut. Curious. Thirty-seven are axed this time. There’s 96 left at the end of Day 1.

Day 2 kicks off with the Ballroom Round, Jean-Marc Generaux & France doing the choreography. Phillip Chbeeb is rough but he makes it through though his friend Arielle is not so lucky. The ever enthusiastic and consequently adorable Popper Nobuya Nagahama really connects to the piece and pleasantly surprises/impresses the judges. His whole group makes it through and he’s overcome with joy and gratitude afterward to the point of tears. Sixteen others are out.

Our next round is Jazz with Sonya and she’s working them. Natalie Reed (Katee’s roommate last season) and Brandon Bryant (the wunderkind who tried out season 1 at 14) are excelling during rehearsal, so much so that Sonya singles them out to show what she wants it to look like. That advanced praise might’ve sunk Natalie because it just wasn’t working when her group went up. She’s cut and everyone – everyone – is shocked.

Brandon is devastated to see her go and dedicates his performance to her. Though he’s not living up to Lil’ C and Mia’s expectations, Nigel sticks up for him. Gabi is in the last group and all the judges are wondering what happened to her. Instead of cutting her outright, she must dance for her life. With six judges, three or more yes votes will get her through. Her fantastic solo leaves the judges even more confused on where that fire went. She gets a unanimous yes though Nigel cautions that if she can’t pick up other people’s choreography she won’t make it any further. Seven other dancers get axed including Sammy Ramirez, the Popper with the great smile. Boo.

It’s the end of Day 2 and we all know what that means – it’s not the end. It’s time for the Group Round. My heart hurts for them and for the train wrecks that are surely ahead.

Bright and early on Day 3 and it’s time for the first number. Tapper Erik “Silky” Moore is in the first group and they had a particularly rough rehearsal…and a particularly rough performance. Nigel called it “horrific” and Debbie was astounded by the lack of rhythm. Erik must dance for his life while two of his five group-mates are let go.

We see three other groups who are just not great before Brandon’s group goes up. His group was solid enough to succeed, though Mr. B still isn’t doing it for Mia. After a montage of three good groups with no cuts, we get to the last of the day – they call themselves “Nerdography.” The story is three nerds trying to woo three hot girls and is a great mix of styles, they even put some stepping in there. I have no doubt they’ve benefited from the influence of Ryan Kasprzak (aka “Donald O’Connor”). It’s a great, great number. Adam welled up with tears because they made him miss dancing and Nigel mocked him.

Sixty-eight dancers are through with Erik left to dance his way in. He opts for an a capella solo this time and was confident going in that he’d make it. Kicking off with a no from Mia, Debbie and Nigel…Lil’ C was the nail in the coffin.

After all that, it’s time for Mia Michaels on the second half of Day 3. Tony the Popper has gotten this far and, despite me liking what he did with Mia’s steps, the judges weren’t impressed. I wish I could know what it was supposed to look like so I knew what they were looking for. Instead of getting cut, he’s asked to do the choreography again. Nobuya is sent home but says he’ll be back next year.

Megan Kinney, half of a pair of sisters to audition in two different cities, is the first to dance and move on. Unfortunately, Caitlin gets lost in the choreography and that rarely works out well. She’s asked to immediately dance for her life. Despite being near tears before the music starts, she pulls it together and delivers. Nigel advises to bring her style up to date and votes yes, as does Debbie. Mia, Lil’ C, and Adam all vote no leaving it up to Mary…who sees potential in her. The Kinneys stay together.

The Brothers Kasprzak are next. Ryan’s up first and, after a tense moment, he’s in. Evan dances while Ryan smiles on. Mia makes him Flea Hop around the stage before telling him he’s safe. They really are so very adorable. O’Connor and Kelly live on.

As is the case with Mia and this round, her choreography has reduced a lot of dancers to tears – some because it’s an emotional experience and thirteen because they’ve been cut. Tony gets his second chance with the last group of the day. When he’s told to step forward, he’s already crying. After a somewhat long speech about character versus content, Debbie tells him he’s safe and he nearly collapses in tears. The remaining dancers hoot and holler and clap and he makes Adam well up. He talks to Cat afterward she mocks him a little to get him to laugh. She’s awesome.

Fifty-four dancers start out Day 4, the last day of Vegas Week. Oh look…it’s Tyce D’Orio for Broadway. The girls and the guys are split into groups to learn separate “West Side Story” routines.

The ladies go first and all the groups perform before the judges make any decisions. Tapper Bianca Revels has made it this far but isn’t fortunate enough to go any further. And she says she’s not coming back next season. Gabi and Megan have also been sent home, though the latter is happy that at least her sister has made it into the Top 16 girls.

The guys are next and, after an hour of learning the routine, they’re split into two groups. The Kasprzaks are in the first and feel at home with the 50’s flavored choreography. Only six are cut and the rest have ten minutes to get themselves together for their solos.

To be continued tomorrow…

Solo/End of Show Montage Observations: That 3+ turn-down-to-the-floor thing Brandon did was SICK; I’m 95% certain Tony’s in the Top 20; I’m sadly 95% certain they’ll only take one Kasprzak Brother; and the shot of Alex gave me a sense of foreboding but, since they like messing with people, I take that with a grain of salt.

Poor Natalie. I don’t think she should’ve been cut, do you? At least give her a chance to dance for her life. Are you surprised by any of the other dancers who got cut? Were you particularly impressed/disappointed by anyone? Did you like seeing the intro solos from Day 1? Any other thoughts?

Posted by:Tamara Brooks