• Kristyn Burtt

A Behind-The-Scenes Look At ‘SYTYCD’ Academy Week

Updated: Apr 11


It’s Academy Week on So You Think You Can Dance! This is when the stakes get higher and the series gets interesting. I attended Day 1 of The Academy this year and I was able to get a feel for the contestants and what they were experiencing that first day.


More: Will COVID-19 Impact the Casting Process for 'SYTYCD' & 'DWTS?'


Last year when I came through Academy Week, it was much different. The contestants’ first day was spent filming an incredible opening number, choreographed by Mandy Moore. Everyone was having fun and they were all pretty loose because the competition hadn’t begun.


This year, I went straight into the Dolby Theatre and you could feel the tension. It wasn’t a negative aspect at all, but that competitive edge was hanging in the air. I was able to briefly watch a few solos before they ushered the press out to do interviews with a few of the contestants.


I was able to interview Marcus Nyemchek, KJ Mills, Kai “Supreme” Rapelyea and Jensen ArnoldSince I last saw Jensen in 2017, there was something different about her this year. — a cool, underlying confidence that wasn’t there the year before. Right after I interviewed her, I looked right at her and said, “You got this.” 

More: How the 'Derek Hough Live!' Tour Revealed New Possibilities for Audrey Case


I knew that NappyTabs was choreographing the first round as Napoleon jumped into a conversation I was having about World of Dance during the lunch break. It’s wonderful that he and Tabitha can continue their ties to SYTYCD even though they are creative directors of another show on another network. 


I also appreciate that hip-hop, for the last few seasons, has been the first round of Academy Week. It weeds out a contestant who isn’t ready for the rigors of SYTYCD. The routine NappyTabs created looked pretty simple on the stage, but that’s because many of the contestants executed it well. It was anything but easy. 

More: Gaby Diaz's Next Stop is Steven Spielberg's 'West Side Story'


SYTYCD delivered an epic Academy Week, as you will see it play out over the next three weeks. It felt even more majestic with the Dolby Theatre as the backdrop and you can see how this theatre was built for television. The episode we watched this week was filmed more cinematically than we’ve ever seen SYTYCD before. 


I’m a little impatient to get through these Academy episodes because I know what awaits us all on the other side when the live shows begin on Aug.6. Mark my words — SYTYCD is going to deliver another memorable season.

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