"So You Think You Can Dance" is back for its 9th season and I already know there's some format changes (1 night a week, instead of 2) and two winners, a male and a female dancer. Let's see what else they tell us about on tonight's premiere.
We start tonight with auditions in New York. HI CAT DEELEY. If you read my "So You Think You Can Dance" recaps, you know I love Tom Bergeron the mostest, but Cat Deeley is a VERY close second for host(ess) that wins my heart.
Judges in New York are Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and Tyce Diorio. Audition process is same as seasons past - immediate ticket to Vegas, or sent to do choreography, or sent immediately home.
Our first auditioner is a very Clara Bow looking little dancer, complete with flapper bob and Cupid-bow lipsticked mouth. I need to know her better to decide if this is awesome or a shtick that I hate. Let's see, now it's revealed her name is Amelia Lowe, 18, from Butler, N.J. And, of course, OF COURSE, she's dancing to Edith Piaf, who was but a child during the 1920s, so way to mix your eras, Amelia.
She's not a bad dancer, but given what I've seen on 8 previous seasons, I'm not unduly impressed. They're sending her straight to Vegas, but I predict she either gets out early or struggles mightily there.
And now, all the way from Japan, with some VERY red hair, is Toshihiko Nakazawa, 26. His English is not fantastic, but it's better than my Japanese and certainly doesn't require the subtitles the producers are putting up on screen. His routine is very unusual and inventive and has a lot of humor, but I'm not super grabbed by it until he becomes a human pretzel on a spring.
Nigel compares his inventiveness to Twitch, which I think is a bit premature based on one audition piece. (Twitch is one of my all-time favorite SYTYCD dancers.) They put him through to choreography, because inventive hip hop dancers need choreo testing, but mediocre contemporary dancers who have flapper fetishes are ready for Vegas. Bah.
Austin Freeman is 21 years old and he will be dancing "The Wiggle" which looks like a slow-motion seizure? He claims it's something no one's ever seen before. Yeah, all those people who've never been forwarded a clip of a 3-year-old dancing on YouTube. He states that what he wants to do with his life is "be a celebrity." Sigh. And of course his music selection is LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It." Sigh. In case you can't tell, the joke auditions are never my favorite. He's a no.
We get a quick montage of people being given tickets to go to Vegas and this is what bugs me about the joke auditions. I'd rather spend the time watching the dancers who are good enough to get sent straight to Vegas. I watch "SYTYCD because I LIKE dancing and people WHO DO IT WELL.
Up next is 22-year-old Philadelphian street dancer Shefeek Westbrook. He likes to flip over things -- he's showing a lot of typical b-boy moves, aside from the "flipping." His music starts up and I'm already impressed by his sense of movement and his flexibility. I'm thinking a lot of the choreographers are getting bright eyes picturing what they could do with this guy.
He does this handstand that lowers into a backwards plank maneuver and his core strength and balance to do this is INCREDIBLE. I can't WAIT to see him tackle a contemporary routine. I don't know if Mia Michaels is back to choreograph this year, but I'd love to see what she'd make of him. He's through to Vegas. Yay!
Now it's time for the first choreography round, Robert Roldan (Season 7) and Courtney Galiano (Season 4) are on hand to put the dancers through their paces. Toshihiko quits, overwhelmed by the choreography, but 10 more dancers get through to Las Vegas.
Day 2 of New York auditions. Same judges. FIrst up is Leo Reyes, of Brooklyn, who never auditioned for the show before but he's doing it now at age 21 for his mom, who attempted suicide. Her near-death convinced him to do something with his talent while she could still see it. He's a contemporary dancer and the extensions and range of motion are excellent. I relate to him more when he finishes the routine and shows off a smile that's half as big as his head. No commentary from the judges, just an immediate ticket to Vegas.
And now it's a montage of not-so-great dancers - yeah, that's how you do it - montage the ridiculous and the mediocre. Hello, cute Swiss ballet dancer. (Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, 22, Zurich) Hmm, I'm re-evaluating the cute based on this weird, one leg up/one leg down bandana tied around one knee fashion choice.
However, his dancing is great. Powerful when it needs to be, light when it doesn't, and his leaps are beautiful. Tyce thinks he's great and may also be in love. Mary takes the opportunity of handing him his ticket to feel up his nicely muscled body. Attagirl.
You know when they show the montages of the happy dancers running out with their tickets? I watch Cat as much as or more than I watch them, because she's as happy as they are.
Now we're on to auditions in Dallas. Nigel and Mary, of course, are back, joined by Lil' C. Now we see a dancer with a 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. Like just about every other mom on the planet, she finds it difficult to balance her wants with the needs of her children. During the run up to her performance, Nigel invites the son and daughter to come up to the judges table while Mommy performs. So let's see how 29-year-old Bree Hafen dances.
I already find her a stronger dancer than Louise Brooks from the New York auditions. Aw, Nigel sends her son up to the stage with her ticket to Vegas. She accepts the judges' comments while holding her daughter, who is pretty darn cute and they cue music so she can hop around in her little tutu and ballet shoes. She's at least as good as the Wiggler from earlier.
And now we have a guy who calls his style "Exorcist" and a guy who calls himself "Zombie" and makes faces that will give me nightmares. Don't be scary, favorite dance show! Up first to dance is Stepheon "The Zombie" Stewart, 21, from Katy, Texas. He's very limber and the backbend backwards down the steps is fairly impressive. Nigel says when Stepheon rolls his eyes back into his head, he (Nigel) is scared. Me too, Nige, me too. Lil' C talks about himself a lot as a way to tell Stepheon he's good. And he's through to Las Vegas.
Hampton "The Exorcist" Williams is up next and promises to interpret the audience's pain and fear and take it away from them. Oh, just hush and dance. So far, he reminds me of that guy that wore the bowler hat back in Season 3, the one that did the slow-motion articulated moves to Aguilera. Remember him? Mary's crying, Nigel calls him a genius, and while worrying about him in a dance competition, Nigel says he doesn't give a [flying fig].
And now Mary cries through her comments, then laughs, then screams. Lil' C wants to kick him in the face because it was so "buck." He's through to Las Vegas. I giggle a little bit at them showing the makeup girl touching Mary up after her sobfest.
Day 2 in Dallas. First contestant of the day is Daniel Baker, originally from Australia, currently living in San Francisco. He's a dancer with the San Francisco ballet and he's cute and auditioning in shorts - O DANNY BOY. Nigel mishears "ballet" in Daniel's accent as "belly" which I did earlier in Daniel's interview, so I'm glad it's not just me. He is clearly a very accomplished ballet dancer - I can't imagine any reason he doesn't make it straight through.
And now a montage of successful female dancer auditions - yeah, with the exception of the mom, we've mostly seen male dancers in Texas so far.
Sam Shreffler from Lubbock, Texas, is on the autism spectrum and is a terrible, terrible dancer, but I think the show wants us to think that they're doing a "good thing" by letting him express himself this way. I'm not entirely comfortable with this whole situation. I hope Sam felt good after this experience and I hope people who see this treat him kindly.
And now a montage of dancers talking about how they've grown up watching SYTYCD or how they became a dancer because of this show. THIS MAKES ME FEEL OLD, Y'ALL.
So now it's a b-boy who starts out trashing the show. He's got a gimmick of a hamster costume, but doesn't need it because he's "super dope." So he's trying out for something because he doesn't like it. I want to smack him already, especially because he almost makes Cat Deeley have to be mean. No one should make Cat Deeley unhappy. So here goes Von Kipper.
Look, guy, if you want to criticize the show, and b-boys that have been on it before, I think you need to bring a better game than all the b-boys who have been successful on it. You did not. I would rather have seen some of those great female dancers from the earlier montage than give this blowhard one more second of talk time.
Our next contestant has a mother who's going blind and he wants her to see him dance on the show. The judges invite Mom to come sit with them so she's closer to the stage and better able to see. Aw, Nigel holds her hand. So, let's watch Jarrell Rochelle dance - he's a contemporary dancer, a style I often don't feel qualified to judge. Nigel loves him. Lil' C was touched by "every millisecond" of his performance. Mary calls it "complete entertainment from beginning to end." He's through to Las Vegas.
Next week: Los Angeles and Jesse Tyler Ferguson as a guest judge! He was fun as a guest judge last season during the regular shows - I think he'll be equally fun in auditions.