Photo credit: Adam Rose/FOX
So You Think You Can Dance continued its strong wave of talent in Episode 2 by shining a light on the two contestants, who probably deserve it the most — Kaeli Ware and Brandon Talbott. For some viewers, the duo are familiar from their days on Dance Moms, where both were seen in Season 3.
However, there's a bigger story to tell that goes back to Season 1 on World of Dance. Kaeli and Brandon competed in the first season of NBC's show in the Junior Division as a duet, but their dance was subjected to one of the show's undesirable montages in the early rounds.
Kaeli returned in Season 2 as a soloist, and again, was cut completely from the broadcast shows. That's what makes her Season 16 SYTYCD debut with Brandon in the Judges Round so special. They never gave up the fight despite the roller coaster of emotions the last few years have brought.
Kaeli has been training hard at The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and competing at Youth America Grand Prix. Brandon is studying dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and earned the title of 2018 Mr. World Dance through the Star Alliance Dance competition.
When the duo hit that 360-degree stage during the Judges Round, they were ready. They showed the TV dance competition world what they were missing by not featuring more contemporary ballet. Brandon and Kaeli not only received their Golden Tickets to the Academy, but they also showed the judges what a spectacular contemporary ballet routine looks like.
SYTYCD is another show that has lost some of its focus on featuring ballet dancers. Out of the last five seasons, there have only been a few ballet contestants making it to the live shows — Season 11's Jacque LeWarne and Jourdan Epstein, Season 12's Darion Flores and Jim Nowakowski and Season 13's Tate McRae, who came in as a hybrid Contemporary/Ballet-style dancer. The show's sole ballet co-winners, Chehon Wespi-Tschopp and Eliana Girard, were cast members in Season 9.
With Kaeli and Brandon making it through to the Academy rounds, it highlights the talent that is out there in the contemporary ballet world. With World of Dance featuring Kayla Mak in the Divisional Finals and Kaeli and Brandon making it to the Academy on SYTYCD, is the tide finally turning? We hope so!
Don’t miss Dance Network’s interview with ‘World of Dance’ Divisional Finalists, Derion & Madison: