After thousands of auditions across the country and a brutal four day audition process in Las Vegas, the time has come for the judges to choose the top 20 of SYTYCD 2011. Ten guys. Ten Girls. Dozens of abs.

The show isn’t live, but the top 20 performed live the other night in front of an audience which means we get one of my favorite parts of any given episode of SYTYCD – Cat Deeley standing in front of the audience saying “Tonight….on So You Think You Can Dance” and then starting to giggle when the crowd goes wild. Cutest. Host. Ever.

In previous years this episode played out the same as it does on American Idol. Just person after person walking the green mile down to the judges to hear a lot of how great they are and then either the yes or no. While we still got that drama, they decided to mix it up. They show a certain number of dancers getting a “yes” and then that group performs! Love it! Best idea yet, Nigel. Makes this episode infinitely more entertaining.

Even though these performances are just a showcase, there still has to be a judges panel….

Judges: Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Tyce DiOrio, Lil’ C and Robin Antin

(And just in case you hadn’t heard: We haven’t lost the All-Stars because we are back to Top 20 format. Once the Top 20 is down to a Top 10 (5 weeks from now) they will bring out the All-Stars. I’m excited.)

Stacey Tookey/Contemporary:

Ricky Jamie (I want him to say “I’m Ricky Jamie, bitch”), Miranda Maleski, Melanie Moore (AHHHHH! Sorry, I’m just so glad she was in the first group so there was less stress) and Sasha Mallory were the first four through. Sasha’s sister, Natalia, did not make it but was nothing but supportive, of course. Those two are the sweetest. Stacey, as always created a moving routine – I had chills. All four were so perfectly highlighted. Although the smoke was a little too thick at times. I was immediately more excited for the season.

Dave Scott/Hip-Hop

Christopher Koehl, Wadi Jones (yay!), Tadd Gadduang (whom I’ve described as “if Mark Kanemura was hip-hop instead of contemporary”), and Robert Taylor Jr were the 4 street performers to make it in the Top 20 this year. These four boys all offered up some pretty nice tricks and hit the routine hard. But is any one of them the next Twitch, Legacy, Joshua or Russell? I honestly can’t tell yet. But they did a good enough job for Lil C to offer up a review full of big words that caused all four boys to get the “huh?” face, so that is pretty darn good. The test for all four of these guys: contemporary. As always. Side note- no hip hop girls. Now I’m extra disappointed Patty Anne Miller was cut!

Notable cuts this segment: Lil O and The Professor. Super sad face.

Jason Gilkinson/Tango (I’m guessing – they didn’t say, but it was Latin)

Super sexy ballroom dancer (and World Champion in ALL 10 styles!), Iveta Lukosiute was the only ballroom dancer to make it through this year. Mary was very proud. Lots of tears and screaming. Being the only ballroom dancer means she has a (literal) leg up on everyone else when it comes to pulling ballroom routines out of the hat. It also means that for her inaugural routine she gets to dance with All-Star, the extra adorable Pasha Kovalev. First of all, any dance with Pasha is hot. Agreed? But this dance made me hope Iveta makes top 10 just so I can see them dance together again when Pasha is back as an All-Star. Shhhh…. no one tell Pasha’s partner, Anya.

Sonya Tayeh/Jazz

Clarice Ordaz, Marko Germar, Jordan Cassanova (a favorite!) and Missy Morelli were the four lucky dancers who took on a Sonya (who is blonde now?) routine for their first performance. Sonya’s routines are always standout, albeit sometimes for the wrong reasons, but they are always memorable. She is fierce choreographer and she challenges her dancers to just let go and have no inhibitions. Also Robin said the word “sex” about 48792 times during her critique, so there is that…

Christopher Scott/Broadway-Tap

Jess Leprotto (Broadway boy from NYC auditions) and Nick Young (a tapper!) were the only ones left in their respective styles, and both made it in. I’ve thought Jess is good dancer, but arrogant, as Nigel pointed out, so I’m interested to see how he plays in the live shows. Nick, on the other hand, seems adorable, but tappers rarely translate on this show. Their routine was  clever and incredibly well-performed, and if I had to pick a winner (which I suppose I don’t, but I’m still gonna) I pick Nick. This may be a dance show, but as seasons past have proven, personality is still half the battle. And great debut routine from Christopher (who is also part of LXD) as well!

Travis Wall/Contemporary

Rounding out the top 20 were Caitlynn Lawson (Nigel’s favorite, apparently), Ashley Rich, Mitchell Kelly, (finally) Ryan Ramirez and Alexander Frost. (Jeremiah was cut… ) They were rewarded with getting to do a Travis routine. There were leaves and leg extensions everywhere! A mesmerizing and gorgeous routine! I could gush about Travis Wall all day (and will every week he does choreo, so get ready. He makes me cry with the beauty of his routines. I’m such a nerd) Ryan stood out to me. Maybe it was her blonde hair…

Top 10 Guys:

-Alexander Frost, 21, contemporary

-Christopher Koehl, 21, hip-hop

-Jess Leprotto, 18, broadway

-Marko Gemar, 22, jazz

-Mitchell Kelly, 20, contemporary

-Nick Young, 19, tap

-Ricky Jamie, 18, contemporary

-Robert Taylor Jr, 30, hip-hop

-Tadd Gadduang, 25, street

-Wadi Jones, 24, breaking

Christopher Scott/Hip Hop

The Top 10 Guys tackle an inventive and very LXD-esque routine. May I point out that Christopher did choreo of Broadway-Tap AND a Hip-Hop. Talented doesn’t seem to suffice, does it?  I think I may have found a new favorite choreographer!! (I still love you best, Trav) The routine was exceedingly clever and used doors, which has worked in the past! (I miss you Mia!) The guys did a good job with it, especially since it was out of style for ⅔ of them! However, as Nigel amusingly pointed out, unlike some other shows (*cough*idol*cough*) the voters here don’t always just go for the boys. And this year I really think it’s the girls that seem to stand out as proved in the next routine….

Top 20 Girls:

-Ashley Rich, 22, contemporary

-Caitlynn Lawson, 18, contemporary

-Clarice Ordaz, 19, jazz

-Iveta Lukosiute, 30, ballroom

-Jordan Casanova, 18, jazz

-Melanie Moore, 19, contemporary

-Miranda Maleski, 19, contemporary

-Missy Morelli, 19, jazz

-Ryan Ramirez, 19, contemporary

-Sasha Mallory, 23, contemporary

Sonya Tayeh/Jazz

I love watching Sonya in rehearsal as she plays drill sergeant to these 10 girls. It was my first real welcome back to SYTYCD. The routine of creepy geisha girls was bizarre, strong, crazy and a myriad of other words that I will use often during this season while describing Sonya. What stood out to me – not one of these girls stood out above the rest. They were a cohesive group of very VERY strong dancers. As of right now, it’s a girl’s season to lose! And they were so good, Lil C HAD to do an acrostic of Sonya’s name to describe her and the girls. Oh, Lil’ C, you are an individual.

Tyce DiOrio/Broadway

Tyce had the honor of choreographing the first full group number to close out the show.The routine was a bit strange, but it did what it needed to – highlight that this group is shaping up to make it a very exciting (and inevitably heartbreaking) summer of dancing!

Next week – the competition begins!! Our top 20 are paired up and we get to vote! Who are your favorites so far? I’m still loving Melanie! But I can’t wait to get to know them all better!

Written by Melissa Miller. Find her on Twitter @serrae

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