Note: Since I recap both Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance and they’re overlapping seasons this week and next, I’ll be covering both nights in one recap for these first two weeks.
They open with past winners and notable contestants being interviewed about how their life changed by putting on a number and getting in the audition line. My favorite bit is Mary with a giant, tight, curly hairdo, like when we had perms in the '80s.
Tuesday Night – Los Angeles Auditions
We’re in Los Angeles at the Orpheum Theatre. Tonight’s judges are Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Remember that season Mary wasn’t on the show? I’m glad they got her back and kept her. Even if I find the “hot tamale” and the screaming a bit annoying.. I like that she comes from the competitive ballroom world.
Our first auditioner is Du-Shaunt “Fik-Shun” Stegall from Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s a whole lotta name, kid. He’s a popper and his body control and isolation are terrific. But you almost always have to see these guys try the more traditional dance styles before you know if they’re going to be a successful contestant on the show. He has booty pops, full splits and this crazy move rotating his arms, torso and head in seemingly different airports at the same time. He gets a laugh with the Michael Jackson pose and then does a move that makes my ankles hurt – performing for most of the last 30 seconds of his audition in the world’s winningest limbo position. He gets a ticket to Las Vegas. So, you know, home.
Audition #2 is from 19-year-old Malece Miller, a contemporary dancer from Salt Lake City. (It sounds like she says her first name to kind of rhyme with Elise.) She has an emotional backstory and a devoted mom. There’s no way she doesn’t make it through based on 1. Contemporary, 2. Utah, and 3. Emotional back story. She has trouble hearing Nigel at one point and apologizes, saying she’s deaf. When Nigel asks her sincerely if she’s deaf, I think, “If she says ‘yes,’ we’ve got our Season 10 winner already.” She answers, “I’m partially deaf in my left ear.” Nigel says, “Are you really?” And she replies, “No, not really.” It’s a much drier sense of humor than I would’ve expected from her.
I’m a terrible judge of contemporary dance because it all seems so the same to me after having watched nine seasons. I will say, she threw herself around the stage with greater abandon than some. Mary likes her look, short blond-bleached hair, saying it’s “fresh” and “different.” Mary’s got that right. Mary’s worried about some of her transitions today, though. Jesse calls her “striking” to look at. Nygel likes her too and she’s through to Las Vegas.
They show us quick glimpses of folks getting the ticket to Las Vegas.
Paul Karmiryan was a contestant on the Armenian version of “So You Think You Can Dance” and won the whole thing. Should he even be allowed to audition for this version? He’s a Latin ballroom dancer. He’s dancing with a partner who is not auditioning. They’re out of sync at times and I can’t tell if that’s his fault or hers. Nigel says Paul reminds him of Season 2 winner Benji Schwimmer. The judges faff around with a lame joke before giving him his ticket to Las Vegas.
This guy is wearing a black tutu around his neck and his body moves in crazy ways. His name is Elijah Laurant and he auditions wearing only the tutu/ruff and black tight fitting shorts. He’s clearly a gifted dancer, but I question his choreography choices. Nigel found it artistic, beautiful and androgynous. Elijah jumps up and down at “androgynous” because that’s what he wanted for the piece. Mary says she won’t forget the piece for a long time. Of course he’s through to Las Vegas.
Quick montage of people getting held for the choreography session later. Jesse Tyler Ferguson is adorable when admitting he’ll cave and send a contestant through to choreography.
Taylor Ward was a jock, with scholarships to college for softball. She gave it all up to pursue dance, especially with the support of her grandfather, who passed away a month before these auditions. Just as she’s getting ready to dance, they go to a break. She’s practicing in the rehearsal area and comes down from a leap in way that does not look good for her knee. If your wide receiver on your fantasy league team came down like that, with a knee twisting like that, you’d start drinking. The show cuts to commercial before we find out the extent of the injury, though.
Back from commercials, there’s no mention of Taylor; instead we get a montage of women who’ve danced well enough to get sent to Las Vegas.
Taylor now has a bandage on her left knee. Apparently her left kneecap popped out of place because she has “naturally loose joints.” She tells us it’s happened before and that she just popped it back in. I’m glad we didn’t see that. I would’ve fainted, thrown up, then fainted again. Yowza.
Taylor’s on the stage to audition and says she’ll be using more of her upper body during her audition piece. As she’s describing the injury, Jesse is clearly as squeamish as I am. She’s doing surprisingly well despite the knee injury, even putting her weight solely on that leg at points. But noticeably not doing the same leap that injured the knee in rehearsal.
Jesse said he watched the whole routine worried that her knee might pop out again and that he was going to throw up if that happened. See? I was right. He liked the “effortlessness” of her dancing. Mary calls her a “true professional” with “stunning technique.” Nigel wants her to go to choreography, as do Mary and Jesse. I’m not sure about making her dance more on that knee.
Morris Isby is a b-boy who says he’s one of the more well-known b-boys around the world. So far it looks like every other b-boy routine we’ve seen over the previous nine seasons. It’s good, but it’s what b-boys do. Until he twists himself into a painful looking pretzel. Nigel points out a move he calls an “elbow pirouette.” Jesse compares him to last season’s Cyrus and the judges send him to choreography.
Montage of b-boy auditions, ending with a guy who pulls a flat out contortionist move and I worry, like Mary, how he’ll unfold himself from it.
Armen Way “raps” in Russian and had been doing so for 10 years. He even made a professional music video with models washing a car. So he’s bona fide. It turns out “Armen Way” is a stage name and his actual name is Armen Avasitov. He’s got his hair gelled in that way that guys do when they’re prematurely thinning on top and trying to hide it. He’s, unsurprisingly, a Latin ballroom dancer. As far as I can tell, he’s good, but I always wait to hear what Mary says about the ballroom auditioners. Before Jesse can even start to give his critique, Mary interrupts him to give him his ticket to Las Vegas.
Now there’re 3 b-boys, two of them brothers, who started dancing because their dad was a b-boy in the 80s. After his untimely death when they were young, they joined with another guy to start a program for kids involving dancing. It’s only the two brothers, Eric & Lorenzo Chapman, auditioning, but all three guys are dancing. I don’t care if they don’t actually have a shot at getting on the show or not, I’m glad they got to plug their group. Nigel calls them “inspirational” and then tells them they’re not “built like dancers.” Which is his way of pointing out the one guy is on the heavy side. Pretty much the judges say, “Great charity work you’re never making it on the show.”
Choreography round, with 23 dancers, including Morris and Taylor. Morris gets cut, despite Mary saying it was really close. Taylor makes it through to Las Vegas, as do 10 other dancers who don’t get names.
Wednesday Night – Detroit Auditions
Twitch is in the house and the crowd goes nuts for him. I would too. He’s a charming dude. It’s he, Mary, and Nigel judging in Detroit.
Jade Zuberi has as his objective to “bend reality.” Oh boy. He does that slow-mo/stop-motion kind of popping and locking. Twitch, in a hat and glasses looking like the lost member of Run-DMC, is loving it. All three judges stand and applaud him at the end. Nigel found it engrossing. Mary says he’s a star at what he does. Twitch says it’s one of the best auditions he’s ever seen on SYTYCD. He gets the first day’s ticket through to Las Vegas.
Amy Yakima follows Jade and she’s adorable. She got her dad, not a dancer at all, to take a “Dad Jazz” class at her studio. He gets called up to stage and told to dance, while Amy sits at the judges' table. Poor Dad (aka Dan), he’s hilariously awful but game. I hate the music she’s chosen, but she seems like a decent enough contemporary/jazz dancer. They close-up on Dad back in the audience and he’s tearing up. Awww. The music is really overwrought and Amy’s certainly dancing to match it. The judges give her a standing ovation.
Nigel says a lot of technical dance things about how good she is. Mary says she was “absolutely spectacular.” Twitch loved it too. Of course she’s through to Las Vegas.
Morgan “Mo” Williams lifts his shirt to show off that he’s got better “abdominals” than Twitch. He manages to get in a shout-out to his dead grandmother. I find him a beautiful dancer, all long limbs and grace. Kind of reminds me, body-wise at least, of Danny Tidwell, from season 3.
Nigel says it’s a yes to choreography for him. Mary reaches past him, screaming, “Over my dead body!” and hands Mo a ticket to Vegas.
Now we see a montage of “Detroit Jit” which is “fancy footwork, fast feet, fast arms and a lot of attitude.”
Will “Sysko” Green explains the basis of the dance in jitterbug, Lindy Hop, etc. and then tries to give Cat a crash course in how to do it. As usual, she’s adorable. He starts out by pretty much doing a push up over the back of a chair. I don’t want to even think about the core strength and balance that took. The rest of the routine is super fast-paced but ungainly in the transitions at times.
Facing the judges, he says he’s also “real good” at another Detroit dance called “hip roll.” He gets Mary up on a chair on stage and it’s kind of obvious this is “Magic Mike” style exotic dancing. The crowd is going nuts. When Mary starts to get shy, Twitch hollers at her, “Don’t look away.” It’s HOT. And at the end Will either mimics or actually does lick the side of her neck. Day-um. As Mary sits back down at the judges' table, Nigel says, “You brought blood to parts of her body where it hasn’t been in years.” Oh, hush, Nige. I saw those thigh-high boots and that mini-skirt Mary’s wearing. She’s still got it.
They’re sending him through to choreography, which I always think is wise for someone with a style as unique or unknown as his.
It doesn’t take much prodding to get Twitch up on stage to show off his signature moves, along with some new ones. Gosh, I love watching this guy dance. Tell me again why he didn’t win his season?
Garrett Frye is clearly going to be our first joke audition. There weren’t any last night so I was sort of hoping this was a conceit that got abandoned: schlubby white guy attempts to do hip hop. At least I think he knows he’s kind of terrible and is in on the joke. They make him keep going and going, long after he’s clearly breathless. But he’s game and starts doing jumping jacks even.
24 dancers are doing the choreography round, including Will Green. Nigel stops the music while Green is dancing and chastises him for freestyling during a partner dance, explaining that it could cause her to injure herself. And then he dismisses him from the stage. Outside with Cat, he’s clearly upset and she jollies him into a smile. She’s just the best.
Tyrone Cobham Jr. is a tap dancer who likes to emphasize his upper body as much as his feet. He’s got his grandmother with him. She says when she watches him she’s “mesmerized,” and then she gets shy about having shown so much emotion. She’s adorable and I want to adopt her immediately as my grandmother.
I’m not sure he uses his upper body as well as he thinks he does, but he is more engaged with it than a lot of the other tappers we’ve seen before on this show. He’s dancing to a very non-melodious jazz piece, which I do find very impressive. The audience is chanting “Vegas Vegas Vegas.” Nigel calls him “one of the best tappers" they’ve had on the program. Mary notes his “magnificent stage presence” and notes the many different kinds of rhythms. Grandma is wiping her tears away with the end of her sweater sleeves. CUTEST. Of course he’s through to Las Vegas.
Quick montage of dancers with supportive family members. One dad in Army fatigues cries when talking about his daughter’s dancing. And there’s the woman who brought HER cute grandmother. And the woman whose brothers painted their stomachs to spell out her name. Army daughter and painted brothers both get tickets to Vegas. The hip hop girl with the cute grandmother is asked if any of her family members dance. She tells them her grandmother knows “Gangnam Style.” Oh boy. And then Grandma’s on stage along with the three judges doing Gangnam style. It’s cute and goes on just the right amount of time to be cute without being agonizing.
Local dance crew “F.A.M.E” are there and they are male exotic dancers. I had no idea this was such a thing in Detroit. One guy quips, “I do this for fun and funds.”
Darryl “Smilez” Harrell is the first one up to audition. When asked how long he’s been dancing, he does an impression of him dancing in his mother’s womb and says “My mom would ask, ‘Is he kickin’?” and I was, ‘No, I’m krumping.’” His dancing reminds me VERY much of the Channing Tatum number late in Magic Mike when he’s wearing the flak vest. Except without the clothes-taking-off.
Nigel says he’s not going to give Smilez his critique until they see the whole F.A.M.E. crew and will then give them all their critiques at the same time. We see quick clips of the other guys; the last up is Defont’e “Prince Charming” Thomas.
Nigel asks Defont’e if he forgot his shirt. Defont’e answers, “Actually, I prefer dancing without my shirt so you can see my---,“ but doesn’t get to finish because Nigel cuts him off. Nigel asks him if he enjoys performing in front of ladies and he says, “Ladies? I love it.”
OK, I actually like this kid; he’s got some popping and locking and then what I swear could be samba roll moves if tweaked just slightly. Twitch turns around and asks the crowd, “How’d he do, ladies?” And the swell of feminine screams says he did alright.
As the judges deliberate, all five guys are on stage, shirtless. Sometimes watching this job is such a chore. Smilez and Prince Charming are brought forward and told to stay for the choreography round. The ones not chosen are gracious to their friends and thank the judges for having them on. I bet their bookings go up 1000% after this aired.
Both guys are struggling in choreography, especially Smilez, who graciously leaves after thanking the judges for the opportunity to audition. POLITEST STRIPPER EVER.
They call up Prince Charming to hear his fate. They thank him for coming out to the audition and tell him it was a pleasure to watch him dance. He smiles and nods, but then turns upstage, saying he’s going to go collect his shoes. Nigel tells him he’s not just got to pick up his shoes, he needs to come get his ticket to Las Vegas. He is adorable with how fast he grabs his shoes and RUNS to get the ticket. I hope he gets a crash course in some other dance styles before the Vegas round. I saw potential there and I’d like to see him go far because he’s living up to the “charming” part of his nickname.
So, after one day in Los Angeles and two days in Detroit, we’re done for this week. Next week, we get Day 2 of Los Angeles and Austin, with guest judge Minnie Driver. And special guest star Mary’s giant permed-looking hair.