Photo credit: Adam Rose/FOX.
With Week 2 of So You Think You Can Dance firmly under the judges' belt, it's very clear what they are looking for this season — a journey. Monday night's controversial decision to eliminate ballroom dancer Stephanie Sosa over hip-hop dancer Anna Linstruth had viewers debating both sides of the equation.
Both contestants have a strong fan base and they had equally good performances in the first two weeks of the show, but it was the trajectory of growth that made all of the difference for three judges in the final vote. Nigel Lythgoe, D-Trix and Laurieann Gibson all voted to save Anna, only Mary Murphy was the holdout for Stephanie.
We need to go back and remember what Executive Producer Jeff Thacker told Dance Network in February — SYTYCD wanted a contestant whom they considered "a diamond in the rough." It worked with Slavik Pustovoytov in Season 15 and the judges see that same quality in Anna.
That evidence was reflected in a majority of the judges' interviews at Saturday's press line after the SYTYCD taping.
"As a group, and as Nigel said on the show tonight, the show is about growth like with anything in life. We didn't know Anna was going to be as good as she is in the other styles and she just keeps blowing us away," D-Trix explained. "And [it's important] to make the judges feel emotionally different each time, so we constantly change our thoughts and ideas about that person."
"I know [Anna] has more and I had to fight. I know that tonight wasn't her best night. Seeing she's a hip-hop dancer, I expected a lot more from her," revealed Laurieann. "I've seen what she's capable of, even though she wasn't her best, there's something about her I couldn't let go."
"[Anna] was great last week in the Cha-cha. She was probably one of the best hip-hop girls I've seen do the Cha-cha. I think tonight she was really good in the opening, she was great in the girls' routine," Nigel shared. "We think for a hip-hop girl, she was terrific in contemporary, she was terrific in hip-hop, we want to give her the opportunity of moving on."
Even with the dissenting vote, Mary had an understanding of why her fellow judges voted the way they did.
"I still don't agree with it, but I get it. Anna is probably on a bigger growing curve in her journey," said Mary. "You are going to see so much more from her because she's outside her style every single week. For me, and I think everyone will agree with me, Stephanie was just hitting it out of the ballpark every time."
The pressure is now on for Anna to deliver what the judges are looking for from her in the next stage of the competition, which goes from 60 minutes to two hours with solos, duets, mini-groups and Top 8 performances.
"I can't even tell what I need to see from [Anna]. Just know that she better be starting her practice right now," Laurieann laughed. "She's going to know that Mother is going to need every single thing she has. She better dance like it's her last eight counts."
Don’t miss Dance Network’s exclusive ‘To The Pointe’ interview with Season 16 ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ contestant, Eddie Hoyt: