So…do you think they can dance?
The Top 20 finalists on tonight's So You Think You Can Dance first performance competition answered that question with a resounding yes—and the occasional scream by judge Mary Murphy.
Joining the lovefest tonight was guest judge Megan Mullally, a SYTYCD fan who earned her spot at the table with enthusiasm and thoughtful critiques of the dancers.
Tonight's performances were so spectacular, in fact, that lead judge Nigel Lythgoe singled out one pair for an Emmy nomination.
Sadly, we only saw 19 contestants onstage tonight, as one dancer, Mitchell Kelly, was already sidelined by the season's first injury.
But the show must—and did—go on. Read on for the dancers' parings and routines, plus behind-the-scenes scoop and backstage interviews with the contestants!
1. Jordan Casanova (jazz) and Tadd Gadduang (street): Afro jazz (choreographer: Sean Cheesman)
Jordan celebrated her 19th birthday tonight with high praise from the judges for the pair's fiercely primal performance. And Nigel assured B-boy Tadd, "You are going to be extremely exciting on this series and go along way."
2. Sasha Mallory (contemporary) and Alexander Fost (contemporary): Contemporary (choreographer: Travis Wall)
Although all three judges raved about Sasha's "modern-day Amazonian princess" performance, they expressed some concern about her partner. Mary "didn't quite feel the connection" the pair, and Megan Mullally also noted a "little disconnect" between Alexander's body and face, and Nigel said "we need to see emotion" from Alexander. When we asked her backstage after the show whether their criticism might send her to the bottom tomorrow night, Sasha told us, "If we do get in the bottom, I'll do my solo and go on. We help each other as much as we can [but] we're both different dancers."
3. Clarice Ordaz (jazz) and Jess Leprotto (musical theater): Broadway (choreographer: Tyce D'Orio)
Although the girls are the stars of this season, Nigel called Jess one of his "favorite guys this year" and warned Clarice about her partner, "You need to work hard to keep up with him—Jess outdanced you." Mary praised their performance as "perfection."
4. Ryan Ramirez (contemporary) and Ricky Jaime (contemporary): Lyrical hip-hop (choreographer: Chris Scott)
The judges "loved the dancing" but were baffled by Ryan's beaming smile during the bittersweet dance—Nigel warned, "Be careful with your facial emotions"—prompting the dancer to defend herself. She told us after the show, "The story is really confusing, it was confusing for us to understand, but it definitely was what my character was supposed to be—I was supposed to smile and be in love and be happy. So I was trying to portray that." Maybe the fault lies with the choreographer on this one?
5. Caitlynn Lawson (contemporary) and Mitchell Kelly (contemporary): Jazz. (choreographer: Sonya Tayeh)
Since Mitchell injured his elbow in rehearsals, this performance was all about Caitlynn—but being partnered with last season's finalist Robert Roldan didn't hurt! Megan Mullally praised 18-year-old's "impressive strength and power" for her age, and Nigel borrowed the words of her sidelined partner in declaring her performance "10 across the board!" "I was so sad" Caitlynn told us backstage about her partner's injury, "because Mitchell and I were really close [but] he's feeling better and hopefully he will dance next week. It turned out really well because I was partnered with the amazing Robert." The amazing Robert himself added, "I just wanted to make sure Caitlynn was secure in her movement and me —it's not my season, it's her season." We're hoping it will be Robert's season too—all signs point to him returning as an All-Star!
6. Miranda Maleski (contemporary) and Robert Taylor Jr. (hip-hop): Jive (choreographer: Jason Gilkison)
Can we get a whoo-hoo?! Mary Murphy said Robert "stole the show" and the pair's lively performance turned up the volume in the audience—including some boos when Nigel criticized his footwork. "Nigel gave me the tough love, which was cool," Robert told us backstage. His partner Miranda added, "My favorite compliment was when Mary Murphy screamed!"
7. Missy Morelli (jazz) and Wadi Jones (breaking): Jazz (choreographer: Sean Cheesman)
The partner's thrilling outside-the-box performance electrified the audience, and Wadi's parkour tricks prompted Mary to say, "Wadi, you are the best I've ever seen!" After the show, however, Wadi had nothing but praise for his partner: "Missy is so sexy, so much fun and so patient," he told us. "I didn't pick up everything right away and she was giving me pointers—I like that because I'm learning and she knows what she's talking about."
8. Melanie Moore (contemporary) and Marko Germar (jazz): Contemporary (choreographer: Travis Wall)
Most of us in the audience were as teary-eyed as Mary Murphy after this "perfect partnerhip's" sensational, exhilarating performance. Nigel shocked the dancers and choreographer Travis Wall when he declared this dance "could possibly be the first Emmy-nominated routine" of the season. Marko told us afterward about hearing Nigel's praise, "It was so surreal—am I really hearing him say that?" Melanie revealed that Travis completely revamped his choreography on this dance to complement them. "I want it to be you guys, so we're gonna rework it" she said Travis told them, adding, "He redid it for us, so it was very much about us and it worked, amazingly." When asked whether their feeling the pressure after tonight's success, Marko assured us, "We're good. We're a good partnership, good chemistry, we're gonna carry each other throughout the whole time." Whole time indeed—these two aren't going home anytime soon.
9. Ashley Rich (contemporary) and Christopher Koehl (hip-hop): Hip-hop (choreographer: Christopher Scott)
These two delivered the perfect amount of fun—and funk—after Marko and Melanie's affecting routine. Mary called their performance "pure, pure entertainment" and raved about Ashley's swagger. Nigel said he's interested to see whether the voters this season will go for "big, dynamic, technical routines" versus "fun"; based on the studio audience's reaction to Ashley and Chris's performance, our money's on fun.
10. Iveta Lukosiute (ballroom) and Nick Young (tap): Ballroom quickstep (choreographer: Jason Gilkison
The last performers of the night set the stage on fire with their ballroom blitz. The judges raved about Iveta's skill and tap-dancer Nick's surprising mastery of the difficult moves, but we could barely hear their comments over the girls screaming "Nick, I love you!" in the audience. It's Kent Boyd all over again, and this kid is going to receive a huge number of fangirl votes. "To be honest I didn't hear anything but the music," Nick said when we asked about his vocal fanbase, at which his partner teased, "Oh, don't lie!"
Who were your favorite dancers tonight? Which two dancers do you think will be sent home tomorrow? Make your predictions in the comments!