So You Think You Can Dance is taking its act to Detroit this week, with Paula, Jason, and Nigel back in the judges’ seats—where, according to Cat, “they’ll remain from day one all the way to the finale.” She sounds really thrilled about that. Get used to your new judges, America—they’ll be with you until everything you love is dust.
It’s -2 degrees outside and Cat sounds like she’s sick, so let’s heat this up.
Christine Shepard, 18 (Team Stage): Is it too soon to have a favorite? Christine is adorable. She lets the music hit her in all of the right ways, her spirit is completely unforced, and she knows she’s got the hair for this. Paula calls her “a bright light, a breath of fresh air, hashtag everything,” because she left American Idol before people said “hashtag,” not that anyone should ever say “hashtag.” But she’s right. The judges praise the nuances in Christine’s performance and the African vibe that she brought to her routine. Christine praises Jason Derulo’s distractingly attractive face. Christine is going to Vegas.
Kenya “Standing O” Sutton, 29 (Team Street): Kenya is known in Michigan as the “Queen of Detroit,” and she earns the title. Every pop in her routine is so sharp that she’s got Paula yelling “YESSS” 10 seconds in. (Paula is really working the Internet-speak today.) The audience gives a standing O to “Standing O,” and Jason calls her routine sexy. In one of the most surprisingly sweet moments of the night, Nigel asks Kenya why she never auditioned before. She tells him that she didn’t want to fool herself—she figured that the judges would overlook her style, and she didn’t have training in anything else. This is where, for all of its emphasis on competition, the show’s new format starts to feel more inclusive. Kenya is going to Vegas.
And now for two people who met at auditions last year and got engaged two weeks later. Sadly, their audition is not a joint performance set to Taylor Swift’s “Love Story.” (Missed opportunities, guys.)
Kelly MacCoy, 19 (Team Stage): Kelly reminds me of the kind of girl who might steal your man in an episode of Boy Meets World. I think it’s the braided half-up hairstyle that does it. She performs an emotive contemporary routine, and while her arms feel a little sloppy sometimes, her legs and footwork are strong. Nigel says that she reminds him of Ginger Rogers. (He also assumes that she doesn’t know who Ginger Rogers is. She’s a dancer, Nigel.) Paula compliments her connection to the piece. Kelly is going to Vegas.
Tyrell Noll, 21 (Team Street): Will Kelly’s fiance be joining her in Vegas? And if not, where will we find our Romeo and Juliet stage vs. street love story? He’d better be good. Tyrell is… okay. He’s not the sharpest animator (though he describes his style as freestyle rather than animation), but he’s graceful—the kind of street dancer you’d expect to surprise everyone when he gets a contemporary number. Tyrell also picks a slow song for his audition, which Paula thinks is an intelligent choice. She loves him for telling a story.
Nigel disagrees. He’s seen the dancing done before and done better. Tyrell is quick to say that he understands, but when Paula defends him, he defends himself: “Dance is about showing emotion and pouring your heart out on the stage.” Nigel Lythgoe doesn’t need dance defined for him any more than Kelly needed Ginger Rogers defined for her. After a dramatic pause, tie-breaker Jason gives the routine two thumbs up. He liked the acting. Tyrell is going to Vegas. Romeo and Juliet live on (for now—we know how this ended for Shakespeare).
NEXT: Avengers assemble[pagebreak]
INTERLUDE: Cat tries on her movie-trailer voice and reimagines this season’s mentor battle as a superhero blockbuster: Super tWitch vs. Travman. We’re going to have to workshop that title, but I would absolutely watch Travis Wall play a handsome billionaire by day/mysterious vigilante by night.
Corey “Mission” Whitfield, 30 (Team Street): The local Detroit breakdancer/ hip-hop teacher brings a lot of energy to his audition, which starts with a flip and involves a dizzying amount of spins. Corey’s routine loses a bit of steam toward the end, but the judges are impressed. Jason likes the way he merged multiple styles of dance, and Paula’s proud of him for still hitting hard at 30, which might as well be 70 in the dance world. There’s no difference. Nigel asks Corey to perform with his students onstage and thanks him for passing on his knowledge. Also, let’s give an audition to the kid in the short sleeve shirt. Corey is going to Vegas.
Brooke Fong, 18 (Team Stage): Brooke does a sultry, finger-snapping routine to “Fever,” and aside from her tendency to flash the occasional stage smile in a routine that doesn’t call for it, she’s fantastic. She has great legs, and she’s sharp—“sharper than the quills on a porcupine’s ass,” according to Nigel. Her dad is also adorable. She extends her leg mid-pirouette without losing her center, which Jason says is one of those moments they’ll still be talking about when they go home. Paula sums it up: “You’re crazy, but I like it.” Brooke is going to Vegas.
Chelsea Harold, 26 (Team Stage): Chelsea drove from the Bronx with her friend Samantha Reyes, who’s auditioning for Street. Growing up, she was bullied for having a single parent and a mixed heritage, and she tears up describing how dance saved her life. Chelsea performs a contemporary routine that shows promise, but none of it lives up to the leap we saw in her introductory package, which is a shame. Jason says that he felt her emotion was internalized more than it was expressed; she was good, but she wasn’t quite there. Chelsea is going home.
NIGEL-ISM OF THE WEEK: “Can I call you Klassic? Thank you Joseph.”
Jessica “J-South” Southwell, 23 (Team Stage): We’ve already seen Jessica fall in more than one disaster montage, so I spend most of her tap Charleston routine waiting for it. To her credit, she gets up and keeps right on going after a hard landing, but it still isn’t an exciting performance. Nigel calls it juvenile, except where her garters are concerned. Jason likes the garters. Paula: “Of course I’m sitting between two horndogs.” Paula praises Jessica for her quick recovery but says that she needs to work on the cleanliness of her tap. Jessica is going home.
Samantha Reyes, 19 (Team Street): Chelsea’s road trip buddy has had a rocky journey to the stage. Her mom is disabled, her dad struggles with alcoholism, and she was kicked out of two high schools for fighting. Samantha dances on the subway and takes care of her siblings. “Not only do I want to do this for my mom,” she says of her audition, “but I have to do this for myself.” Paula likes her already, and so do I. Her routine is sharp and flexible, and her legs must not feel pain anymore: Not only does she dance on her toes in sneakers, but she leans almost all the way back to the ground without falling. The judges agree that she has a softness beneath her fighter’s spirit. Samantha is going to Vegas.
NEXT: This opportunity comes twice in a lifetime[pagebreak]
Miranda Wilking, 18 (Team Stage): The fist pump is a bit of a cliche, but it’s her 18th birthday, so I’ll allow it. Miranda is, to quote Nigel, “fierce.” She’s a powerful dancer with great extensions and a strong ponytail who earns the best birthday present ever—three tickets from the judges. Miranda is going to Vegas.
Aaron Viland, 27 (Team Street): Aaron only started dancing five years ago, and he only became obsessed within the past two months. In that sense, it’s just nice to see him out there following his passion, right? He had me worried that we were in for something cringe-worthy, but Aaron turns out to be this week’s “not good enough, but fun to have around” auditioner. His routine—set to The Lonely Island’s “The Creep”—has everyone creeping by the end. Paula tells him to prepare for Internet stardom, and the judges thank him for the good time. Aaron is going home.
Michael Manson (“That Be Dancin”), 26 (Team Street): Mike gets off to a great start by telling Paula that she’s looking good. (In all seriousness, is Paula aging?) He started as a popper, but today he’s doing Detroit Jit, an energetic style founded in 1974. Mike’s feet never stop moving. His footwork is so intricate that I’m not even mad when the camera zooms in on his shoes. Nigel and Paula both compliment Mike for taking the Jit in a new direction, and the judges all have fun with colloquialisms. (“Jit happens.”) Mike is going to Vegas.
Kelsey Rose Young, 18 (Team Stage): Kelsey has the voice of a cartoon character, but she means business. Her tap routine, set to Jessie J’s “Bang Bang,” is appropriately explosive—she’s almost bursting with personality and sass. She just needs to get her hair out of her face. Nigel says that Kelsey is a born performer and praises the modern song selection, even if he thought her performance might have been a notch over the top. She actually reminds Nigel of a young Paula, who says that she wants to carry Kelsey in her purse. Kelsey is going to Vegas, maybe in Paula’s purse.
Gaby Diaz, 18 (Team Stage): Gaby was rejected a week ago in Dallas, but she’s back to try again. These situations generally don’t end well, because a week isn’t a lot of time to improve—unless you’re Gaby, apparently. She’s taken the judges’ critiques to heart and created a completely new, stripped down routine. This one is smooth as can be. The judges are all impressed by Gaby’s dancing, but they’re more impressed by her ability to take criticism. Gaby is going to Vegas.
Roydell Shannon, 26 (Team Street): Detroit is really bringing us some heartbreakers this year. Roydell’s dad died when he was 8, and his mom died two years later, leaving Roydell in his older brother’s care. But there’s a happy ending to all of this—he has a girlfriend and an adorable son, Bam Bam. (How many times is this little one going to have to hear about Pebbles?) Roydell’s moves are big but accented with musical details, which Jason calls “buck.” He reminds Nigel of fellow Krumper Russell, who won it all in season 6, but he also reminds me of tWitch. They both dance with a lot of heart. Roydell is going to Vegas.
FINAL COUNT: 55 members of Team Stage, 60 members of Team Street, two orange tap shoes, one Shakespearean tragedy. See you next week, America.