By Kristyn Burtt

The Top 12 for Season 17 of So You Think You Can Dance has finally been revealed, but Inside Dance got an early meet-and-greet with the dancers in late April at their first official photoshoot as a cast. The excitement in the air was palpable as the dancers realized they would be a part of TV dance history with the iconic show. This year is also particularly meaningful because the series is finally returning after a two-summer pandemic hiatus. 

Hip-hop dancer Essence Wilmington is thrilled to finally get her chance on the SYTYCD stage after auditioning for the original Season 17 that was abruptly canceled in 2020. “I was going through the process and BAM! — it was over,” the 20-year-old explained. “It was heartbreaking because I was dancing in my room, dancing in my basement, to prepare.” Beau Harmon is looking forward to being the “first male-identifying person who wears heels” in the cast because “representation on television matters.” He’s hoping his journey inspires other dancers who might see a bit of themselves up there on the stage. 

With eight stage shows ahead of them, the cast is excited to share their talents and they are ready to join the ranks of the So You Think You Can Dance contestants who came before them — and one of them will be crowned “America’s Favorite Dancer” and go home with a $100,000 prize. Meet your Season 17 Top 12:

Anna Miller

Age: 18

Style: Contemporary

Favorite SYTYCD contestant: Bailey Muñoz, Season 16 winner

“Bailey was a B-Boy and just put himself fully into everything and that’s how I want to be through this whole process because I don’t want to let myself settle. I’m so grateful to be here, but there’s so much ahead of me that I want to prepare for.”

Ralyn Johnson

Age: 18

Style: Contemporary

Favorite SYTYCD Season: The Next Generation

The Next Generation, when it was Tate McRae, Kida The Great, Ruby Castro, all of them. I wanted to be able to do that. I would sit down in front of the TV and watch and try to learn the dances.”

Virginia Crouse

Age: 21

Style: Contemporary

Favorite Contestant: Melanie Moore, Season 8 winner

“I truly love Melanie Moore. Oh my goodness. Whenever I saw her, I thought, ‘I want to be her.’ She inspires me so very much. She’s so kind, so humble, so talented. She is one of my favorite dancers who has ever been on the show.”

Jordan Betscher

Age: 24

Style: Jazz

Favorite Contestant: Kherington Payne, Season 4

“She was one of my biggest inspirations when I was younger. I saw her on the So You Think You Can Dance tour. I have a picture with her outside after the show was finished.”

Essence Wilmington

Age: 20

Style: Hip-Hop

Favorite SYTYCD Choreographer & All-Star: Luther Brown & Comfort Fedoke, Season 4

“I really want to work with Luther and when it comes to a contestant, Comfort. Let them know I want her to be my All-Star.”

Alexis Warr

Age: 21

Style: Latin/Ballroom

Why she chose to audition for SYTYCD instead of returning to Derek Hough’s Las Vegas show: 

“With So You Think, it was always a dream of mine, ever since I was young. I saw a bunch of my idols like Jenna Johnson do the show and I’ve seen how it changed her life in such a good way. It felt like a missing puzzle piece that I needed in my life. Derek, Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy, and all of the Dancing With the Stars pros have taught me such valuable lessons after working with them. They have inspired me.”

Keaton Kermode

Age: 20

Style: Contemporary

Favorite SYTYCD Contestant: tWitch, Season 4

“If tWitch were to choreograph something, that would be lit. He’s one of my biggest inspirations, watching him on The Ellen [DeGeneres Show] and So You Think You Can Dance, he never changed who he was. That’s how I am trying to go by this whole competition and staying true to myself and not letting anything change me.”

Thiago Pacheco

Age: 18

Style: Contemporary

On coming from the same studio as Season 11 winner Ricky Ubeda:

“I do feel pressure with it. There’s been a lot of great on the show from my studio, so I just want to live up to that expectation. I want everybody to see who I am, and hope that I can live up to that.”

Waverly Fredericks

Age: 20

Style: Contemporary

Favorite SYTYCD Contestant: Genessy Castillo, Season 15

“We went to LaGuardia together in high school. I was so inspired by her journey through the show. I loved her work there. If Genessy could do it, I can too!”

James “Lord Finn” Thomas

Age: 26

Style: Hip-Hop

Favorite SYTYCD All-Stars: Comfort Fedoke & tWitch

“I’m trying to work with Comfort [Fedoke] while on the show. When I first moved out here, she was one of the first people to embrace me and acknowledge my skill level. I would definitely work with tWitch. I watched Step Up and his energy is unmatched.”

Beau Harmon

Age: 23

Style: Specialty

Favorite SYTYCD Choreographers: Mandy Moore, Al Blackstone

“I’ve always looked up to Mandy Moore, so working with her was incredible — she’s a gem. I’m really excited to hopefully work with Al Blackstone in my style. I’ve taken his class before, and he approaches everything with such joy and shows that dance doesn’t have to be tricks and flips. It’s about the heart.”

Carter Williams

Age: 20

Style: Latin/Ballroom

Favorite SYTYCD Choreographers: Mandy Moore, Talia Favia, Luther Brown, Jenna Johnson & Val Chmerkovskiy

“Mandy Moore, legend. La La Land is incredible. Talia Favia, I’ve worked with her before, but working with her again would be a dream. Luther Brown… I really struggle with hip-hop, but the way he choreographs and the way he moves — I can’t wait. Jenna Johnson and Val Chmerkovskiy, they are so amazing.”

Photos: Kristyn Burtt; Academy Day 2017/FOX

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