It's Week 3 on "So You Think You Can Dance, and the entertainment level is, as usual, very high. But -- sigh -- I can hardly wait until we get through the auditions and on to the L.A. call-backs. That's when things get really dicey and the hundreds of hopefuls will be winnowed down to the Top 20, amid arguments, tears and even injuries. And that is only the start of the competition.
The way the auditions work is that every dancer gets to perform for the judges. If the dancer doesn't do well or needs more work, they are sent home. If the dancer does well but it's hard to tell if they know any styles other than their own, they are sent to choreography to learn a routine and perform it at the end of the program -- good goes to call-backs, not-so-good goes home. And if the dancer is amazing, they receive a ticket to go through to the next round.
Along with executive producer/head judge Nigel Lythgoe and ballroom expert Mary Murphy, actress/dancer Christina Applegate was sharing her opinions at the L.A. auditions and helping hand out tickets to the call-backs in, uh, L.A. Hmm, do the ticket winners just camp out and wait for the others to fly in from around the country? Christina told the audience of dancers to reach down into their soul and to bring it out through dance. That should be interesting to see.
There were so many couples auditioning that I thought the show had changed to "So You Think You Can Dance Together," but that was just what the Powers That Be wanted to feature at this stop on the audition road. And there were so many montages of nameless dancers -- why not throw out some identities between the bits and pieces?
Alla Kocherga and Serge Onik were absolutely fabulous with their ballroom style salsa, and there was no questions that both were heading to the next round in the competition. And Casey Askew of Seattle only got several steps into his routine before Nigel yelled, "Stop the music!" and handed Casey a ticket.
B-boy Timothy Joseph of Sacramento had music but his movements didn't match it. He just bounced all over the stage in an incredible series of athletic moves. Unfortunately, one of those moves caused an injury and he took his manager's advice and skipped choreography to wait until next year. But one of the winners from the L.A. auditions won't be going anywhere since he is too young. "J-4" stepped confidently to the mic and told his age: "18 1/2." After a question from Nigel, he admitted he was only 9. But to show off his hip-hop, Nigel asked Fik-Shun, last season's champ, and Cyrus from Season 9 to act as the boy's "backing dancers." It was a great moment that was an amazing moment for J-4 and showed why Fik-Shun won everyone's hearts and votes last year.
Malene Ostergaard and Armen Way performed a lovely ballroom routine, but of course, the show had to bring up how he dropped a partner on her head at last year's call-backs in Vegas. But no worries, they both were given tickets. My favorite of the West Coast auditions, as host Cat Deeley called them, was Johnny Waacks of New York, who does a style he calls waacking, which caused the judges to break out in fits of giggles and laughter. After he got a chance to perform, Nigel admitted, "You, sir, are an artist. It was captivating." Fearing he was a "one-trick pony," he was sent to choreography.
Cat called the auditions "the best day ever on the road." Back at choreography, Johnny did a great job and he and six others made it through to the next round, joining 18 others.
On to Philadelphia and a new guest judge. Joining Nigel and Mary was Misty Copeland, a prima ballerina who was the first African American female soloist for the American Ballet Theatre. Luckily for her, several of those auditioning were dancing "en pointe." SYTYCD has a habit of showing heart-breaking, tear-jerking stories of why some of the dancers are there, and tonight was no exception. To some extent, I get a little tired of this and know that when Cat interviews someone or the programs features a dancer, the waterworks are soon to follow.
Bridget Whitman was a 19-year-old from Arizona whose dad was in an automobile accident when she was 12. Her two older brothers were unhurt, but her dad died, and soon the judges, especially Mary, were soon in tears. In fact, Mary cried throughout the entire routine and the comments afterward. But Bridget was an amazing dancer and got a ticket to the next round.
There was a montage of "the boys of Philly," as Cat referred to them, and they all were good enough to earn tickets. Amir Sanders was a ballerina with a crazy Afro and several piercings in her nose, and she did "funky pointe" that wowed the judges. Misty thought her technique was beautiful and so were her lines, and Mary agreed, but did Amir get a ticket? Nope, she was sent to choreography. Weird.
Jenna Johnson, on of the Top 10 from last season, kept a promise to partner Landon Anderson, who was her partner when she auditioned last year. He would have gotten a ticket, too, but he was too young. So when he tried this year, Jenna was there with him. They did a beautiful routine and Landon was given a ticket, but Nigel called Jenna back as she tried to follow Landon out of the auditorium. Nigel praised her work and said they would be stupid if they didn't ask her back this season as an All-Star, and Landon celebrated with her in the lobby.
Then it was time for Justin Bieber and Nick DeMauro to introduce two more crews. I am really getting tired of just how "cute" they are trying to be with this stuff, and I bet they don't know much about any of the dance crews they are featuring. The first group was Wanted Ashiqz, which mixed Bollywood, hip-hop and theatrics, and the second was Mix'd Element, a group that combined tricks, acrobatics and hip-hop. Frankly, I wasn't impressed by either one, but I'm not voting on Twitter as they are asking viewers to do.
The next day of auditions in Philly brought out Billy Porter, an award-winning Broadway actor and dancer, to be the guest judge with Nigel and Mary. A standout hopeful was Stanley Glover with a sad story of how his mother died of a heart attack when he was 4 and no one wanted to be his guardian except Margaret Chamberlain, a friend of his mom. He was a bit shy and quiet, but when he started to dance, he transformed into a strange, angry creature of some type that was kind of scary. Nigel, however, was completely taken with Stanley, calling him "intriguing" and said, "I hope you realize how great you really are," before giving him a ticket.
There was another montage, this one of tongue-tied dancers who couldn't finish a sentence but who set the stage on fire -- and all got tickets. Krumper James "Banks" Davis, 24, was shot twice in the knee four years ago and almost lost the leg, but a pulse was found, the leg was saved and he went on to dance. Billy told him that he was a storyteller, and Mary called his "slow krump," beautiful, but it was on to choreography for Banks and he didn't make it through to the next round. He wasn't alone -- 27 dancers were on stage for choreography but only 11 got tickets to the next round. Once more, I'm struck by how many dancers must be turned down, but the emphasis is on the positive and mostly those who are on their way.
Next week is the last one for auditions, this time in Atlanta with Jenna Dewan-Tatum, an actress and dancer. Let's get this competition on the road. See you next week -- keep dancing.