Behind the Scenes at SYTYCD

MOIB reader Marianya was one of the brave thousands who tried out for this season of So You Think You Can Dance. Her performance at the Chicago audition didn’t make it into last night’s episode, but she was kind enough to write about the experience.

The audition process lasted over a span of three days: Thursday through Saturday. Thursday was the open audition call. The people fortunate – or, in some cases, unfortunate — enough to come back for solos (what you see on television) are filmed on Friday and Saturday.

On Thursday, there were between five hundred and a few thousand people waiting in line to see if they make it through the first cut. The joy is that everyone gets a chance — not like American Idol where they just look at you and say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ as to whether you get to sing for the producers or not. It’s just a thirty-second chance, but a chance, nonetheless! I didn’t get to dance until 1:30, and I’d been in line since 7:30 in the morning.

Considering that all you have is thirty seconds to prove that you can dance, the people who move on from Thursday have to have some kind of "X-Factor." Technique and tricks and moves count, but you have to catch the attention of the producer (Simon Fuller) and the choreographer (in Chicago’s case, Shane Sparks) in those thirty seconds.

The majority get cut from the Thursday open call, but approximately 15-25% of the people make it through to Friday and Saturday. Then, approximately 15% of those make it to Vegas — if even that many.

I made it through to the second round. There were about 80 people there on Saturday — forty in my group and another forty waiting in another room. The whole day was saturated with interviews, dancing, interviews, dancing, speech, dancing, more dancing, and a final interview. Cameras were rolling from the beginning of the day to the end. You’d turn a corner and there was a camera.

The day started with a reprise of the freestyles that we’d performed on Thursday, only this time in front of the judges. Then each performer came back to perform a solo. When I was onstage for my solo, there were at least half a dozen cameras rolling from different angles on the stage. There was a little computer monitor for Nigel, Mary, and Shane to see you from those camera angles — they watch your performance not only as an audience member looking directly at the stage but via the cameras, too.

Contrary to what they showed on TV, nobody got a free pass to Vegas after their solos. The judges determined who they wanted to see more of, and all of those people were sent to the choreography round. After they chose who would go to Vegas, they cut the footage of the best dancers to make it seem like they went straight through.

I didn’t make it to the choreography round; whether it was a lack of practice or technique, or whether my heart wasn’t really in it, who knows? Before the audition, I told myself that I was just going to give this one shot — I knew the chances of making it to Las Vegas were slim. But once I got through Thursday, my mentality began to change. I started thinking about the possibility of auditioning next year and, if necessary, the year after that.

Eventually I decided that, yeah, I’d do it again — maybe in two years after I gain some flexibility, polish my technique, and actually create a routine. But I will definitely give it another shot.

Thanks, Marianya! We look forward to reading your report when you make it to Vegas on a future season of So You Think You Can Dance.