Here we are in Atlanta. You can tell the auditions were in winter, as there is only a narrow window for wearing scarves in Georgia. Joining Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy is Lil Buck, a Memphis-based dancer known for a style called "jookin."
Mariah Reives, 18, from Sanford, N.C., is a jazz dancer with charisma and legs for miles. Her style is very slinky and sexy, but still playful and young. She nailed the audition and you can tell by her giant smile that she knows it. Mary Murphy says she could see Mariah "doing almost anything we asked" her to do. Nigel says it was good technique married to great performance, so she's through to callbacks.
Erik "Silky" Moore, 24, from Orlando, Fl, has tried out in two prior seasons, but as a tapper. He's back now as a hip hop dancer. He says the routine is inspired by his grandmother, who was in and out of the insane asylum. Eepers. He starts the routine with a big scream, which caused more than one of my cats to snap to attention. Nigel stops the routine to ask about the scream. After some conversation, Erik's music starts up again and he doesn't do the scream. The judges like his style and he gets a ticket to callbacks.
Kelly MacCoy, 18, from Cincinnati, got into dancing because of her two show-biz parents, both professional entertainers. She's a jazz dancer and she's like the spirit of a drag queen in a perky young female. Nigel doesn't like the faces she pulls and mentions her "swayback." I had a ballet teacher that would smack your behind with a cane if you went swayback. Kelly explains that her spine is curved, but Nigel tells her it's something she still has to work on. She gets a ticket to callbacks
Christopher "Mr. Strange" Griffin, 25, is one of the founding members of Dragon House, which produced former contestants Cyrus (Season 9) and Blueprint (Season 10). His voice is super deep and he sometimes affects an even deeper voice, sounding like Bane from "Dark Knight Rises." Apparently, he gave Dragon House its name. It's an entertaining routine, but I think it's a case of the students having surpassed the master. But he gets a ticket, so good for him
Conrad Dechabert, 26, from Louisville, Ky., auditioned previously and was told his dancing was too feminine. So he's back, with less makeup and a torso and back full of tattoos. He's got a friend who does 'em for free and has had them all done in the last year. He's going for an almost animalistic feel in his choreography. Because men are animals? I mean, that's what my dad always told me… Mary uses the word "animalistic," so it wasn't just me. He gets a callback ticket.
Season 10 Champion Fik-Shun's best friend, Taveaus "Dynamic" Woods, 18, from Las Vegas, is here to audition. He's entertaining as all get out. His contortion work really feels like part of the choreography, rather than tricks put in to get an "ewww" reaction. Lil Buck points out the musicality of his tricks. Dynamic is through to choreography.
Another Dragon House member, Branden "Sideshow" Feimster, 22, from Detroit, is here to audition. He describes his style as "funk." He's dancing to "Blurred Lines." SO last summer. Did I mention he's wearing a top hat? Which he claims to never leave home without? That, combined with the one-leg-black, one-leg-checkerboard pants, and his dance style creates a clownish effect. The judges debate after his routine as to whether he was doing the promised "popping and locking."
When Nigel asks Branden about it, he immediately gets defensive and starts arguing with Nigel about his dance terms. Mary calls him a "fun character," but she wanted to see more. Then Branden turns it into a fight with Nigel again. His mom and his crew members look totally embarrassed back in the audience. The judges say no, not even giving him a chance at choreography.
As Branden angrily leaves the auditorium, Nigel turns around and says something about it being such a shame, what with Branden being from Dragon House. A couple of members of the Dragon House crew apologize to Nigel. Awkward. Then Blueprint walks up to the judges' stand, followed by other members of Dragon House, and offers another apology on behalf of the crew.
In the choreography round, poor Taveaus suffers greatly and is sent home. Bless him for what looked like some sincere effort, though.
Day 2 of Atlanta auditions brings a new guest judge in Jenna Dewan Tatum. She's looking sensational in a yellow dress.
When Ricky Ubeda, 18, from Miami, says he's been watching the show since he was in elementary school, Cat says that makes her feel 107 years old. You and me both, Cat. He's a contemporary dancer and there's a lot of bandying-about of the word "dabble." His routine is full of tremendous leaps and stunning flexibility. There were enough wows from the judges during his audition that there's no way he's not through to callbacks. Nigel says he could see Ricky going "all the way" on the show
Marissa Milele, of Nashville, tried out last year and made it up to the last cut (aka The Green Mile). The screen is telling me she's 18, so I can't figure out how she was old enough last year. There must be some weird calendar alignment with her birthday and the show's audition schedules. Her body is amazing, looking completely strong and fierce. She has several tumbling passes in her routine, which she described earlier as "princess warrior." She gets a ticket.
Elaine Kimble, 26, is from Kansas City, and her mom had a stroke when she was only 43 and when Elaine was 15. Her mom was left both mentally and physically impaired. It turns out Elaine has the same heart defect that caused her mom's stroke. I don't mean to be cynical, but I think she's a so-so dancer who's getting screen time because sometimes the producers think the show is "So You Think We Can Make You Cry."
Mary likes her technique, but thinks she played it a little too safe. Jenna says the same thing, adding that she'd like to see more performance. They send her through to choreography.
So here's a crew from Atlanta that talks about their style called "ATL cranking." They explain that it's soul plus power and some of its moves are reworked/recycled from old roller rink moves. Well, that makes my ears perk right up. Roll bounce, y'all. Representing the style in an audition is Brandon "Crazy Legz" Jacobs, 23, from Atlanta. Heh, Jenna's digging his music so much, she starts chair dancing back at the judges' table. Mary says she's no authority in crank, but she liked the enthusiasm. Nigel asks Mary and Jenna if he should go through to choreography and they say yes.
Angelina Granitz, 18, from West Palm Beach, Fl, is very visibly nervous. Which I'm sure is helped by Nigel pointing it out to the whole theater. Her brother is her inspiration and they're cute together. I'm not quite sure what to make of her audition, but it does look different from a lot of contemporary stuff we see. Nigel would've liked more dancing, in between the moves, that demonstrated her control. Jenna says it was mesmerizing. She gets a ticket
All hail the return of the Bieber. He and Nick are back to introduce two more dance crews. Last week's winning crew was Wanted Ashiqz. Whoa. That's the first time the one I wanted to win did. The first crew this week is a "cranking" crew from Atlanta called Jungle Boogie. Control Freakz are poppers, with a lot of competitive experience. They're cool, but the crankers look more original to me.
Cristina Moya-Palacios, 18, from Miami, grew up with a younger brother who has had multiple surgeries. Her mom enrolled Cristina in dance classes as a way to get her out of the hospital sometimes. Her dancing is very serious and very lyrical. She's through to callbacks
Our final dancer, Jerrod Swain, 25, from Atlanta, describes his dancing as a mix of popping and locking, animation, and cranking. He's got a 4-year-old son, Kobe, who is cute as a button and sound asleep in the theater during dad's talk with the judges. Mom props him up, but he's so sleepy he just flops over. Someone brings Kobe up to the stage, where he gets his music and immediately goes into some freestyling. From dead asleep to dancing darling in under 60 seconds. As soon as Kobe's off the stage, he's asleep again. What a sweetheart. Cue music again and this time Jerrod dances. Nigel thought it needed more content. Mary agrees, but calls him an entertainer for sure. Nigel and Jenna agree to send him through to choreography.
Let's see, of the three dancers we know in choreography, Jerrod and Branden are both dismissed. But Elaine did make it through
Next week is callbacks, with 157 dancers coming from all the auditions. In a preview clip, we see Adam Shankman totally dressing someone down for unprofessional behavior. And by the end of next week, we'll know this season's top 20.