By Katie Murray

Beverly Hills contestants keep the ball rolling at auditions!

Feature Photo by Adam Rose/FOX

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This week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance saw contestants bring some serious talent to Beverly Hills, California. Dancers formed a massive line outside of The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts as they waited for their chance to get a ticket to The Academy. Mary Murphy, Nigel Lythgoe, Vanessa Hudgens and Stephen tWitch” Boss all returned this week as judges.

Tessa Dalke (Contemporary), of California, was the first dancer of the night, and she definitely set the bar high with her audition. At only 18 years old, we were beyond impressed with everything she’s accomplished so far! Dalke attends UCLA and studies psychobiology, and although she’s still in the early stages of her degree, she sure does seem to know a thing or two about dancing. Her lines were absolutely stunning, and Dalke owned the stage the entire time she was performing. The judges could not seem to take their eyes off of her, so naturally she got an overwhelming “YES” to The Academy from all four judges.

Video via So You Think You Can Dance

Next, Detroit native Jay Jay Dixonbey (Jazz) followed Dalke’s talented performance. After being sent home last season during the Choreography round, Dixonbey booked a tour with Shaping Sound – a contemporary dance company put together by Inside Dance cover star Travis Wall! Dixonbey said that he believes booking the tour with Shaping Sound better prepared him for auditions, and we have to agree! His pirouettes were controlled and his tricks were like nothing we’d ever seen before. It only makes sense that Dixonbey received a ticket to The Academy!

Video via So You Think You Can Dance

Nathan Hughes and Courtland Davis (Hip-Hop), both from South Carolina, met while performing with the same dance crew and have been inseparable ever since. Their goal is to inspire communities everywhere with their dancing, and at the moment, they can be found dancing in various elementary and high schools. The routine consisted of a variety of hip-hop styles and even a little martial arts, but Lythgoe encouraged both dancers to work on creating some fresh, signature moves. Although Hudgens said no to The Academy, all three of the other judges agreed that Hughes and Davis have tremendous potential and pushed them through!

Video via So You Think You Can Dance

As a bashful little girl, Hannahlei Cabanilla began dancing at only 2 years old. We wouldn’t have ever known she was shy based off her performance because she commanded the stage from the moment she introduced herself! Now 18 years old, Cabanilla said that over the years dance helped her “break out of her shell,” and gain confidence. Cabanilla exhibited incredible leg strength and flexibility throughout her routine. When she finished, no deliberation was necessary as the judges stood up simultaneously and raised a ticket to The Academy for her to come collect!

Video via So You Think You Can Dance

The girls especially brought the heat this week! After Cabanilla’s audition, we caught a glimpse of four other ladies that received passes to The Academy. Here’s what the judges had to say about their performances:

  • Lythgoe said of Sydney Moss, Tennessee, “There’s good, there’s very good and then there’s…WOW!”
  • tWitch spoke on Chelsea Hough’s – also from Tennessee – performance, saying, “Your stage presence is out of this world! You walk across this stage, and I’m like ‘give it to her!'”
  • Canada native Rebecca Troyak, was praised by Hudgens, “Your breath and your movement… it was spellbinding!”
  • Murphy told Dayna Madison, yet another dancer from Tennessee, “Lord, have mercy! You seem to be on some mission up there!”

What a talented group! We didn’t get to see these ladies’ full auditions, but the judges seemed awestruck by their talent, and we can only hope that we’ll see full performances from them later this season.

CJ Butler (Hip-Hop), from Louisiana, shared with the judges how dance has helped him cope with his traumatic life experiences. Everyone’s hearts went out to Butler as he went into detail about losing his mother only three years ago, and when it came time to perform, he was ready to leave it all on the stage. The routine began with a strong Krump-like style combination, but when it was all said and done, the judges did not send him through to The Academy. tWitch commended Butler for his bravery, and all of the judges agreed that Butler should continue working on his skills and using dance as an outlet.

Another competitor from last season returned to the stage this week. Twenty-six-year-old Dustin Payne (Animation) made it to The Academy in season 14 but was cut during the ballroom round of choreography. Payne said after he was sent home, he practiced constantly in hopes of returning to the show and making it all the way this time. Payne conveyed beautiful imagery throughout his routine, and Hudgens complimented his cleanliness after he finished performing. The judges were all excited to see him make a comeback. When it was time to claim his pass to The Academy, Payne, tWitch and even Lythgoe performed the popular ‘shoot’ dance to celebrate!

Video via So You Think You Can Dance

We got to see Benji Schwimmer – who won the title of ‘America’s Favorite Dancer’ in season 2 of the show – partner up with rookie contestant Nicole Clonch (West Coast Swing). Clonch is 20 years old and has been dancing West Coast Swing for 15 years now, but she has also dabbled in at least seven other dance styles. Together, these power partners have won the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championship title three times! Schwimmer and Clonch took a new approach to this dance style with their duet, performing striking tricks throughout the entire dance. When they finished, the audience and the judges gave the two a standing ovation and a pass to The Academy.

Video via So You Think You Can Dance

The California auditions set a high standard for SYTYCD with their showcase of outstanding talent and passion for dance! SYTYCD heads to New York next week! Tune into FOX next Monday at 8/7c to see what talent takes the stage next, and don’t forget to check back here next week for another breakdown!

Video via So You Think You Can Dance


Can’t get enough of SYTYCD? We can’t either! Stick with Inside Dance all summer long for weekly recaps and fun features about SYTYCD, World of Dance and much more, and don’t forget to subscribe today to never miss another issue of Inside Dance!

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Katie Murray is an undergraduate student at Appalachian State University majoring in Communication Studies with a focus in Media and minoring in Dance. Outside of dance team practice and class, she enjoys drawing, listening to Beyoncé and walking her dog.