The competition travels to Los Angeles and Seattle, where we run into some familiar faces, a young standout, and more than a few trainwrecks

By Adam B. Vary
May 29, 2009 at 05:45 PM EDT
Michael Williams/FOX
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Altogether now: Chbeeb! Chbeeb! CHBEEB! On a night when the Los Angeles and Seattle auditions for Season 5 of So You Think You Can Dance looked a heckuva lot like the auditions for Season 4, the return of liquid-limbed, ample-lipped Phillip Chbeeb was by far the most welcome repeat contender. And not just by me: Between Chbeeb’s season 3 audition, season 4 audition, and dance-off appearance on last year’s season 4 finale, judge Nigel Lythgoe clearly felt the Chbeeb had more than earned his place at Vegas week and gave the kid his novelty ticket before he’d even finished warming up. Just in case you wondered if Nigel had foolishly jumped the gun, the pop-locker danced anyways, partnering with his, er, ”friend” Arielle Coker, a contemporary dancer who was easily outshone by the Chbeeb’s impressive ability to solidify his skeleton just long enough to effortlessly lift her from the stage. Fortunately for him, his upstaging didn’t keep Arielle from going to Vegas, where the Chbeeb will no doubt continue his campaign to Duckie his way into Arielle’s heart.

In Vegas, the Chbeeb will meet fellow returning season 4 auditioners Brandon Bryant, Natalie Reid, Janette Manara, Evan Kasprzak, Bianca Revels and Asuka Kondoh. You’ve got one third of a possible Season 5 Top 20 right there. Indeed, since everyone listed above (save the Chbeeb) made last season’s Top 40 only to miss the cut for the Top 20, it almost makes one wonder why Nigel and Co. didn’t just take those 20 dancers and make them this season’s Top 20. I’m not really sure if what I just wrote made any sense, but that’s okay, since I don’t really believe it anyhow. It was certainly exciting to see Bianca Revels’ top-notch tap routine at the start of the show, but unlike Wednesday night’s tapper Eric ”Silky” Moore, she didn’t quite demonstrate that she’s capable of extending her virtuosity into other genres. And other than her come hither glances, I was at a loss for why the judges gushed over Asuka Kondoh’s slightly stiff and unconnected ballroom routine with her more engaging partner Ricky Sun.

The two-hour evening did manage to showcase a few new dancers who didn’t smell of slightly stale leftovers. Not only did red-haired pop locker Sammy Ramirez ooze charisma, but after he mentioned he’d been a wrestler before he took up dancing, he even coaxed Cat Deeley to unleash her inner WWE diva — which was surprisingly not as much of a stretch for the host as I would’ve thought. At least she was already sporting the necessary tasseled, knee-high boots. (Match them with the billowing brown poncho she wore on day one of the L.A. auditions, and I’d say Cat could have a go at joining G.L.O.W. as the Hot Potato. Who’s with me?) Kelsea Taylor and Kuponohi’ipoi Aweau, meanwhile, both brought some quirky-jerky kool to the otherwise soggy Seattle auditions. (Get it? Soggy? In case you didn’t notice it was raining in Seattle? As was explained to us by the dancers forced to scream ”it’s raining!” while holding umbrellas, while standing in the pouring rain?) I especially enjoyed how much judge Mia Michaels was into Pono’s look, given that they’d both apparently had their hair done by the same Scandinavian elf responsible for the signature coifs of pop star Robyn and budding pop star Adam Lambert.

And, of course, there was 17-year-old Nathan Trasoras, whose Los Angeles audition may have been the most effortlessly spectacular solo routine I’ve seen on the show since the likes of Danny Tidwell in Season 3. So, obviously, he was too young to compete. Thank jeebus Nigel had the presence of mind to upgrade Nathan’s novelty ticket for a Vegas berth on Season 6, which, due to Fox’s clear desire to never let the poor folks at 19 Entertainment sleep again, is already commencing auditions for a start this fall.

And that was pretty much it. I mean, I guess I could include Amanda Kerby among last night’s standouts given that she earned a ticket to Vegas straightaway, but Nigel himself admitted that she was put through based more on her TV-camera appeal than her scattered dancing. Otherwise, all the other Vegas-bound dancers were relegated to drive-by appearances. There was the Scarf Lift With Foot Chick, the One Sock Dancer Dude, the Naughty Ballerina, the Grey Hotpants Girl, the White Hoodie Guy, and the Orange Bandana Boy, who Nigel said he has ”high hopes” for — just not enough to, you know, tell us the kid’s name. At least Alexie Aydeppa (all limbs) and Diana Vaden (all legs) got themselves a chyron, something I doubt Chanel Smith is thrilled about given her most memorable camera time was spent gaping at the precise nanosecond her dreams crumbled down around her.

NEXT PAGE: The trainwrecks

Instead, Nigel and Co. chose to devote time to trainwrecks who made for ”good TV,” or, one assumes, what they believed to be good TV. Which is what lead us to meet unnervingly close siblings Xavier and Brynelle Blanton, whose audition was indeed like watching two kindergartners bouncing around their basement as they attempt to reenact the Mia Michaels Lacey/Kameron contemporary routine from season 3. Or Stacey House, whose style of dance is best described as ”epileptic fit.” Or Kevin ”Shakiro” Cormier, the 29-year-old hip-swiveling dervish with the most oddly fitting jeans I’ve seen on a man in quite some time. (Was I alone in wondering if he had an adult diaper on under there?) Or aspiring tattoo artist Nick ”Nasty” Salzman, whose entire audition still has me wincing, from watching him scrape his closely cropped head across the dance floor (OUCH!) to watching him talk his way out of the judges’ good graces. Were some of these auditions oddly compelling in their awfulness? Sure. Was it touching to witness moments like when guest judge Adam Shankman told Debra Lawson, stymied from dancing by her Orthodox Judaism, to keep reaching to connect with God through dance? Of course. But could we have also spent some of these segments’ screen time on, you know, telling us Orange Bandana Boy’s actual name? Absolutely.

If only these digressions were all as fun as Calico Sequeira’s audition, maybe I wouldn’t be so grouchy. First of all, even though her Lindy Hop was at a Dancing 101 level, I’m just grateful to learn that there is a person in the world with a name as awesome as ”Calico Sequeira.” Perhaps it was her name that gave the 30-year-old the fortitude to challenge guest judge Adam Shankman to dance with her on stage just as the judges were politely giving her the brush off. Whatever the reason, the Hairspray director happily obliged, and improvised a cute little number with Calico while delivering some notably fleet footwork. Even visiting Season 4 favorites Joshua, Katee and Comfort all appeared duly impressed — although I do wonder if Mr. Shankman is entirely happy with his decision to squeal, titter, and mug for the camera about ”winning” a novelty ticket to Vegas, given that he’s, ahem, a grown-ass man.

Now, were there any other memorable moments from last night? Hmm. [Flips through notes.] There’s something in here about a ”wise Leo” and an ”Eastern bloc warehouse rave at 4:49am,” but I don’t even remember writing that. Huh. It would appear there’s a 10 minute gap in my notes that corresponds with the final 10 minutes of the show. That’s odd. I know I can occasionally slip into a state of complete catatonia, but that only happens when I see that (literally) spine-chilling Aphex Twin ”Come to Daddy” music video. Weird. Oh well. I can’t imagine anything of importance whatsoever happened in those 10 minutes anyhow, certainly not deserving of any more attention or encouragement than was already bestowed upon whatever pathetic case was patronizingly trotted out in front a national television audience for the fourth year in a row.

So I guess I’ll just tee it up to you, dear readers. How have you felt about this year’s SYTYCD audition episodes? Who are you most rooting for in Vegas week? Are there any repeat players from last season that shouldn’t be there? Or, for that matter, any you feel should’ve gotten a ticket not just to Vegas but straight into the Top 20? And wouldn’t you like to borrow Broadway-babe-from-1949 Evan Kasprzak’s time machine so you could zap yourself to the fall just to be able to watch Nathan Trasoras’ dancing as soon as possible? Or, um, is that just me?

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.
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