The top 20 finalists of So You Think You Can Dance
06/10/2011 at 08:00 AM EDT
Thousands auditioned but only 20 remain on season 8 of So You Think You Can Dance
after Thursday's performance episode. The contestants spoke with PEOPLE shortly after receiving the good news and shared their stories, struggles and hopes of becoming "America's Favorite Dancer." Meet the women before they take the stage next week for the first live show – and the fist elimination of the season.
, 18, jazz Hometown:
Chino Hills, Calif.
"It's a Cinderella moment," Casanova says of making it to the top 20. Growing up, she played soccer and danced, but when her parents made her choose, she picked dance and never looked back. Now, she's dropped out of college to compete on SYTYCD
. "School is not going anywhere, dance might," she says. "I might one day wake up and not be able to dance again."
, 18, contemporary Hometown:
Moses Lake, Wash.
Nigel Lythgoe called her his favorite during Vegas week, not surprising for a girl who says she is a "performer – heart and soul." But that wasn't always true. "My mom put me in dance when I was three and I didn't really like it," says Lawson. "Then she put me back in it when I was four and from that moment on she could not get me to stop."
, 30, ballroom Hometown:
New York City
Third time's a charm for Lukosiute, who's auditioned twice before. "As ballroom dancers we ... can sometimes come off cold because we are not used to talking or showing emotions," says Lukosiute, who took classes to work on other genres before her last chance to beat the SYTYCD
, 19, contemporary Hometown:
North Hollywood, Calif.
This spring, Maleski was cast as a solo ballerina in Kanye West
's Coachella performance. "I didn't know that there would be 60,000 people in the audience – it put a lot of pressure on us," she says. But Maleski plans on using that kind of nervous energy, plus years of technical training, to help her take on other dance styles.
, 23, contemporary Hometown:
While her specialty is contemporary dance, Mallory considers her style to be a bit more interpretive. "I just go with whatever the music tells me to do," she says. And the spiky-haired dancer says she'll take any critique in stride. "I'm not the type of person who gets worked up over stupid comments," she says. "If someone thinks I look like a hedgehog, sweet!"