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In the Heights was released this month in theaters and on HBO Max, and in adapting Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway sensation to the big screen, Miranda and his gang took full advantage of the larger canvas. The sensational In the Heights dancers and dance sequences are receiving rave reviews, and the man to thank might be a familiar name to some viewers. In the Heights choreographer Christopher Scott is well-known for his work on the Fox dance competition So You Think You Can Dance. Scott’s ability to fuse hip-hop with other genres made him a fan-favorite choreographer and earned him three Emmy nominations.
Contestants from So You Think You Can Dance often form relationships with the other dancers and choreographers during their time on the show, and it’s not rare for those connections to lead to jobs for the dancers, regardless of their success in the competition itself. With more than 250 dancers credited on In the Heights, it’s only natural that Christopher Scott would pull from a series he has such close ties to, and as a fan of So You Think You Can Dance, it was fun to recognize some faces in the musical numbers. Check it out — did any of these dancers catch your eye?
Martha Nichols (Season 2)
Martha Nichols brought her contemporary style to So You Think You Can Dance way back in Season 2, and made it all the way to the Top 10, performing every style from foxtrot to krump. Like many of the dancers in In the Heights, Nichols was in multiple scenes, but she was featured heavily in the epic “96,000” pool sequence. From sitting on the steps next to Vanessa and the salon ladies to the inner tube synchronized swimming, Nichols was everywhere, and absolutely killing it.
Jourdan Epstein (Season 11)
Ballerina Jourdan Epstein was eliminated from So You Think You Can Dance after the Week 2 live performances in Season 11 after performing jazz and contemporary routines. Among Epstein’s appearances in In the Heights, she shows off her flexibility with one leg behind her head as if she was folded into the suitcase in the moving number “Paciencia Y Fe.”
Serge Onik (Season 11)
Serge Onik joined So You Think You Can Dance for Season 11 in the genre of Latin Ballroom. He was eliminated after the fourth live show. Onik can be seen in In the Heights handing out fliers during Vanessa’s anthem, “It Won’t Be Long Now.” And he didn't seem to take kindly to her ignoring him!
Ricky Ubeda (Season 11)
In the Heights featured a number of artists from SYTYCD’s 11th season, but Ricky Ubeda was the one who topped them all. The contemporary dancer won the season and has been in four Broadway productions since 2014: On the Town, Cats, Carousel and West Side Story. He is also set to be featured in the film adaptation of West Side Story later this year. You have to be really quick to catch Ubeda during “Paciencia Y Fe.”
Chloe Arnold (Season 11)
Aside from the main competition in Season 11, So You Think You Can Dance featured a dance crew competition. Chloe Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies tapped their way to the top of that battle, and the crew's leading lady can be seen in In the Heights, getting some killer nails done by Vanessa in the salon at the beginning of “No Me Diga”
Genessy Castillo (Season 15)
Contemporary dancer Genessy Castillo danced her way to third place of So You Think You Can Dance Season 15, becoming a fan favorite as she mastered every genre from jive to Broadway to hip-hop. Castillo is featured heavily in the huge title track “In the Heights,” often in the middle of the group shot and finishing the number just over the shoulder of the film's star, Anthony Ramos. Castillo was also in the "96,000" pool scene, and outside of the movie, Castillo co-starred in the steamy music video for Ramos’ club anthem “Blessings.”
Tyce Diorio (Choreographer/Guest Judge)
Though not a contestant, Tyce Diorio is well-known to So You Think You Can Dance fans as a longtime choreographer and frequent guest judge. He won an Emmy Award in 2009 for Outstanding Choreography on the series. In In the Heights, Diorio can be seen at the end of “Paciencia Y Fe,” when Abuela Claudia’s ancestors fall in line behind her as she ascends the stairs.
All The Other So You Think You Can Dance Dancers Featured In In The Heights
One thing about spotting background dancers in movies is that they’re, well, in the background. This is particularly true for a number like “Paciencia Y Fe,” where the dancers were really meant to set the scene for Abuela Claudia’s emotional performance, as opposed to standing out themselves. So, whether or not you can easily spot them, here are even more So You Think You Can Dance alumni who were credited in In the Heights:
Ashlé Dawson (Season 1): This contemporary and jazz dancer competed on the very first season of So You Think You Can Dance, placing fourth overall.
Travis Wall (Season 2): After coming in second in Season 2 of SYTYCD, contemporary dancer Wall became perhaps the series’ most celebrated choreographer. He’s been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography on the show every year from 2011-2020, winning in 2015 and 2017.
Chris Jarosz (Season 4): Thanks to some behind-the-scenes photos on Jourdan Epstein’s Instagram, as shown above, we can see that Jarosz — who made it to the Top 16 in Season 4 of SYTYCD — was one of many from the show to dance in the “Paciencia Y Fe” number.
Billy Bell (Season 7): Bell placed sixth on Season 7 of So You Think You Can Dance. He and the rest of the Top 11 from his season danced a Christopher Scott hip-hop routine in the season finale.
Alex Wong (Season 7): Though the ballet dancer was a favorite to win his season of So You Think You Can Dance, Wong suffered an injury to his Achilles tendon and had to withdraw from the show. His journey wasn’t over, however, as he regularly returned in following seasons as an all-star to partner with the new contestants.
Melanie Moore (Season 8): Moore, a contemporary dancer, handily won the dance competition in her season and went on to multiple roles on Broadway. One of Jourdan Epstein’s behind-the-scenes posts from In the Heights filming shows part of a dance number Moore was in that was cut from the final version of the film.
Virgil Gadson (Season 12): For its 12th season, So You Think You Can Dance split its contestants into Stage vs. Street, rather than male and female. Hip-hop dancer Gadson, a member of Team Street, placed third overall.
Kate Harpootlian (Season 12): A member of Team Stage in Season 12, contemporary dancer Harpootlian was eliminated after Week 4.
It's not just choreographer Christopher Scott who has ties to So You Think You Can Dance. The original In the Heights star himself — Lin-Manuel Miranda — graced the SYTYCD stage in 2010 with some of the original Broadway cast to perform a portion of “96,000.” Miranda played Usnavi off- and on Broadway in 2007-2008. You can check out that blast from the past below:
Make sure to keep your eye out for all of the show’s dancers and other interesting cameos when you rewatch In the Heights streaming on HBO Max, because come on, we all know you’re going to watch it again. And, when you’re ready for something new, check out these 2021 new movie releases.
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Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.