The auditions move on to New Orleans, minus Nigel, and scouts out dancers with some serious talent and some with serious promise
Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ Fox

Hello, dance fans! It’s your Wednesday-night SYTYCD reporter, and I’m super excited to be here. A big shout-out to Kate Ward for so graciously sharing the week: I may not have 12 years of ballet training under my belt, but I can boast many dedicated years of studying dance on movies and TV. And, as it turns out, Kate wasn’t the only one taking a breather this Wednesday. SYTYCD executive producer and resident bad cop Nigel Lythgoe was also missing from this episode, off in jolly olde England and accepting an honorary degree from the University of Bedfordshire. Hey, didn’t he get that award last season? Oh, that’s right, he did (during a season 5 results show, when Debbie Allen and Mary Murphy assumed his duties). That would place these New Orleans auditions back in July (and would also explain the sweltering heat). In Nigel’s absence, new series regular Adam Shankman and Lil’ C joined Mary Murphy at the judges’ table. And fortunately for us, we were spared any unseemly crotch flashes.

It was a good thing the show held auditions in the Big Easy. Had they stopped somewhere else in the country, we wouldn’t have seen footage of beautiful Bourbon Street, the requisite Dixieland bands, or the Mardi Gras masks. Nor would we have been introduced to the New Orleans Bounce, as performed by Shelby ”Skip” Skipper. None of the judges admitted to knowing anything about this local style (though Mary sassed, ”I heard you learned the New Orleans Bounce last night!” to Adam – ooh, Mary!), but no primer was necessary to appreciate the opening number’s jolt of fun and excitement. The movement showed off seismic shoulder shakes and the power of ten thousand horses in Skip’s legs — and kind of reminded me of a stylized seizure, set to a bumping beat. Lil’ C even broke out his special vocabulary and called it ”buck” — the first time we’ve heard it in three audition days. (And I thought the term had gone out of style! He probably just didn’t want to dilute its power.) Though was anyone else surprised when the judges sent Skip straight through to Vegas without doing choreography? I realize this was probably a show of support both for this unique dance and the city itself, but this type of specialized dancer does not usually pass untested.

Also sent straight to Vegas: Kimalee Piedad. Now, this I can get behind. Not just because she represents another genre the show hasn’t seen before (theater arts, ballroom division), but because she’s so freaking good at those lifts. Her seemingly effortless acrobatic holds were very Cirque du Soleil, and she gets an extra shiny star for being able to maintain them for crazy-long. Plus, who knew you could ice dance without skates? Or ice? And what did Lil’ C mean when he said her routine was ”visually informative”?

And then there was Jakob Kerr, who looked like he was genetically engineered to fit the SYTYCD mold: cute, contemporary, and with amazing strength and extension. His wowza audition, with pointed-toe leaps, emotional connection, and great control, was the first in New Orleans (well, that we’ve seen) that registered some genuine excitement (and decibel levels) from our resident hot tamale Mary Murphy. And to me, Jakob’s was the first full audition we’d seen this evening that was a consummate performance. The judges fawned over young acro dancer Jonathan Litzler as well, another corn-fed contemporary wonder who was cute as a button, but I didn’t think he was as strong as Jakob. Still, Lil’ C. launched him into the fourth dimension and called him a ”perfect blend of weight, energy, space, and time,” Mary Murphy dubbed him ”another little gemeroo,” and Adam Shankman went so far as to say it was one of the best auditions he’d ever seen. I thought his tumbling passes were great, but the transitions seemed a little awkward. Ultimately, both Jakob and Jonathan were sent straight to Vegas, where they can duke it out in the next round. Who will end up in the top 20, and who will end up at Abercrombie & Fitch?

NEXT: Micah’s debut…and exit

Showing great heart was Diana Drexler from Lexington, Kentucky, who was on her way to the New Orleans audition when her grandfather passed away. And her dignified way of dealing with the devastating news and channeling it into her performance was particularly admirable. ”Before it was just a dance. Now it has a story,” she said. But even as she fought back tears after the audition, Diana chose not to milk her personal tragedy to curry favor, which I also admired. And while it didn’t display the strongest dancing, her routine did display honest heart and spirit, which earned Diana a yes for choreography, then a yes to Vegas, and a yes in my book.

Lost in a mélange of contemporary split leaps and short shorts were Alison Nancy, Calvin Turner Jr., and Edward Spots, who may have had inspired, brilliant audition pieces, but were glossed over so quickly on their way to Vegas that one wonders if we’ll ever hear from them again (I would have liked to have seen more of Edward Spots, though: His jumps were through the roof, and he shone about as bright as a ray of sunshine).

Still on the fence about Justin Kenney. And by that, I mean how can Justin Kenney do a handstand on that fence? The daredevil b-boy, who got a new lease on life when he walked away from a devastating car crash, chose to put his life squarely in harm’s way again with some death-defying break-dancing skills. (Those air flares! That one-handed handstand hop! That handstand off the escalator!) But even though he blew chunks in the choreography segment, the judges decided to take a big gamble and send him through to Vegas anyways. Certainly those piercing eyes and that strategically-placed headband will take him far in viewers’ hearts, but homeboy better brush up on his ballroom skills if he ever hopes to make it past Sin City.

I’m hoping we’ll see Micah Mixon again. Not this season, of course, but maybe in the future. At first glance, I had dismissed the b-boy, with his long skater boy locks, big hat, and ill-fitting sweats, as a guy just looking to get on television with some crazy antics. And his bit about how dance saved him from a life on the wrong side of the tracks left me waiting for the inevitable punch line. Turned out the joke was on me: The audition got off to a shaky start, yes, but once Micah got to the popping and gliding I was completely transfixed. As Adam said, while the moves weren’t original, ”it felt fresh.” He had won me over by routine’s end, and I was convinced he was a diamond in the rough, and this season’s Joshua. Sadly, the choreography segment proved too much for Micah, and he was rightly sent home. But this was one of those rare instances where I was actually glad to see footage of a dancer who didn’t make it past the first day.

Which is more than I can say about Eric Le Blanc. After fortifying himself with an arsenal of Red Bull and displaying his penchant for loud, piercing noises, Le Blanc boom boom powed his way not only onto the audition stage, but into the choreography round (would Nigel have stood for that?), even as he was in direct violation of two of Mary’s rules. Really, there ought to be limits set to how much Red Bull a guy can ingest, and how much television air time he gets as a result of it.

What did you think? Did you miss Nigel? Should New Orleans Bouncer Skip have been sent directly to Vegas? Why would Mary nix men’s booty shaking, but not women’s? And keep an eye out next week for a special guest recapper. Hint: You haven’t seen him since the summer. So be sure to give him a warm fall welcome.

Episode Recaps

So You Think You Can Dance

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

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