Audition rounds open in Atlanta, Mary Murphy's back, and it didn't take long to start getting excited about season 8's dancers

By Breia Brissey
Updated May 27, 2011 at 05:00 AM EDT
Adam Rose/Fox

So You Think You Can Dance

S8 E1
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Well, America, you just crowned your Idol, so now it’s that special time of year when you get to choose your favorite dancer, too! Let freedom (and reality competition shows) ring! It feels like it’s been years since the last season of So You Think You Can Dance, so much so that I couldn’t even remember who took home last year’s crown. (It was Lauren Froderman, by the way.) But now that it’s back, I couldn’t be more excited about the season 8 dancers. It helps that resident hot tamale Mary Murphy has reclaimed her seat at the judges’ table. My ears might regret that last sentence as the season goes on, but absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? The audition rounds opened up in Atlanta, Ga., with Nigel, Mary, and Lil’ C at the judging table. So let’s dive right in and discuss all the people who think they can dance.

Eighteen-year-old Bianka Hinklerian opened up season 8 with her super-speedy Colombian-style salsa. She and her non-competing partner, Giovanni (who will likely be back to audition next season), wowed the judges with their lifts and fast footwork. In fact, their feet were moving so quickly my eyeballs could literally not keep up. Bianka unanimously moved on to the choreography round and got her ticket to Vegas.

The first contestant to get sent straight to Vegas happened to coincide with the first sob story of the season! Melanie Moore, a 19-year-old art major, put all her energy into dance after her dad died following a liver transplant. I must confess I teared up like the sad sap that I am. What’s wrong with me? Only a few minutes in, and I’ve been reduced to tears by some sad-story editing! Lil’ C looked like he was going to fall asleep during Melanie’s performance, but he apparently enjoyed it because he said “Zeus himself would invite you to come and dance on Olympus.” Umm what? He also wouldn’t clap because that wouldn’t do it justice. That’s buck, ya’ll!

Next up were BFFs Deon Lewsa and Damon Bellmon. When they stopped trying to pick up girls and Cat Deeley, they proved that they could actually dance. Their entertaining, fluid movement convinced the judges to send them both straight to Sin City. Who knew Hotlanta was such a breeding ground for talent? The judges sent the next 10 dancers straight through to Vegas. In fact, those 10 dancers were so good we only got to see small edited portions of their auditions and we didn’t even get their names!

Marko Germar brought with him the first really interesting back story of the season. Apparently, he fought back during an armed robbery, and got shot in the arm. The bullet, however, was never removed. Marko underwent intense physical therapy to be able to dance again. Yay for overcoming obstacles and surviving shootings! He moved on to the choreography round where he and his partner (who remains nameless) both made it through to Vegas along with 11 other dancers. I’m glad Marko made it through because his movements slightly reminded me of Mark Kanemura from season 4. But here’s my question: with that bullet still in his arm how will he make it through airport security on his way to the Vegas?

NEXT: A special guest judge, Grandma Mandy…

Day two in the ATL began with 27-year-old Kimalee Piedad and her non-competing partner nailing a ballroom number set to Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity.” In addition to the crazy lifts, Kimalee got special bonus points for reminding me of this season 5 Mia Michaels piece. Lil’ C said the song was inappropriate because “gravity’s not an issue for you guys.” Hardy har har, Lil’ C. When did you get so funny!

Speaking of Lil’ C, the following WTF moments were brought to you by SYTYCD’s very own Prince of Prose:

  • I “love when dancers are absent, yet they’re present.”
  • That was “very oxymoronical. You’re like gracefully clumsy.”
  • That was “internally spiritual. Hard to ingest even harder to digest.”
  • “Your body is a cup. Energy. You got to act like you don’t want to spill it.
  • “You were very submissive unto your own dominance, and I don’t really see that a lot.”

That was a perfect segue into the premiere’s first really awful dancer, John “White Chocolate” Palermo. His dancing was juvenile, but at least he’s got one promising talent to fall back on—rhyming. “You can’t break me. You can’t fake me. You can’t take me. You can’t bake me.” Umm, ok? Since when do we bake people? (Actually, I don’t want to know.) He obviously didn’t make it to choreography, but he got the best consolation prize ever: hugs from all the judges. (Also, do people really not know that surname means last name? Come on, America!)

For the next SYTYCD hopeful, Nigel & Co. brought out a special guest judge, Mandy Walker. You’ve never heard of her? Well of course not because she was the contestant’s grandmother! Before his audition, Kyré Batiste told this judges his grandma was the original dancing machine. So they let her judge his audition. Just when I thought nepotism was going to take over, Grandma Mandy didn’t give Kyré a rave review. He was entertaining, but overall underwhelming. Lil’ C was the only one who really liked Kyré’s performance, and all that got him was a belt whoopin’ by Grandma Mandy. Yes, that really happened. In the end, they sent Kyré through to choreography where he didn’t make the final cut. The judges welcomed seven more dancers, and concluded the Atlanta auditions probably in fear of Grandma Mandy’s belt.

The next stop on the audition tour was the Bay Area. I thoroughly enjoyed the San Francisco footage mostly because it made me nostalgic for Full House episodes. (I swear some of that filler was shot in the exact field that the cast has their opening-credits picnic.) But what does Full House have to do with dance? Nothing. Unless, of course, you want to talk about Stephanie Tanner’s foray into the dance world. Wait. What am I supposed to be writing about? Oh, right. Auditions.

NEXT: Give the stripper a chance!

For this leg of the auditions, Toni Redpath and Tyce DiOrio (my favorite judge who’s name sounds like “tasty oreo”) joined Nigel at the judges’ table. First on stage was 18-year-old Amber Williams. You read it here first, people: Amber will make it to the live show. I might just eat my words, and I’m okay with that. But if she does well in the Vegas rounds, she’ll make it to top 20. Notice I’ve said nothing about her dancing, which was also pretty good. Toni described it as “white girl freaky with ghetto funky.” But it’s all about that larger-than-life, over-the-top personality. Amber’s got it. And let’s not forget the fact that she’s blonde and adorable. Nigel loves that.

Next up was b-boy, stuntman extraordinaire, Timothy Joseph. I was pretty excited to see him perform mostly because I was sick of them teasing his skills with that jump off the rocks in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. I saw it so many times I lost count. Then again, I’m not so great at math. All I know it was one too many. He wowed pretty much everyone with his tricks, so he was sent to the choreography round. There, he clearly struggled and subsequently “tweaked his knee” and bowed out of the competition. Call me a cynic, but I’m pretty sure he just didn’t want to get the “sorry you didn’t make it” news. So away he went.

My biggest problem with the next hopeful, Ieshia Moss, was that she was missing a tooth. The front one, no less. That’s really all I could see as she performed her “mostly freestyle” routine. And that’s saying a lot considering all the violent ass popping going on. The judges loved her personality, but her dancing was laughable. Part of me wanted her to be really awesome so she could be the show’s first stripper. (I mean, Kendra Wilkinson was on Dancing with the Stars this season! Equality!) Alas, she was sent home. Not to be outdone, Marcos Prieto attempted to impress the judges, but only blinded them with his intensely sparkly shirt. (Not even Annie Barrett would like that thing! Oh, who am I kidding? She’d love it!) And then there was Paul Keelan who lost his glasses on stage along with his dignity, as he received unanimous no’s.

To save us from a string of bad dances, Danielle Ihle performed a contemporary routine to Florence + The Machine’s “Cosmic Love.” I think everything is better with Florence, so I was quite partial to Danielle. Also, I’m totally getting a Lacey Schwimmer vibe with her two-toned hair! The judges didn’t love Danielle, particularly the emotional content of her dance. But it was good enough to push her through to choreography where she got her ticket to Vegas.

NEXT: Dancing hopefuls mark their TURF…

Another straight to Vegas-er was 22-year-old, Ashley Rich. She was one of my favorites from the night. Her performance wasn’t over-the-top, it was just really simple and beautiful. Toni said Ashley was like dessert, which really just gave me a craving for chocolate cake. Tyce said she “moved like a deer flying through the forest.” That enTYCEed me (ha) because I’ve never seen a flying deer, unless you count reindeer from Christmas movies. Despite their weird comments, I really liked her. And she led the judges to sing an impromptu version of “You Light Up My Life.” (Clearly these auditions were held before this happened this week. Ooops!) Joining Ashley were three other nameless dancers who got the editing short end of the stick.

The last contestant of the day was D’on-que Addison. D’on-que rocked some Dennis Rodman/Sisqo hair and was there to tell some sort of story. I’m still not really sure what the story was. It has something to do with rising and underdogs and stories and dance? Oh, and then there was a lot of screaming and crying. Then some laughing. It was incredibly uncomfortable to watch. Nigel tried to figure out what just happened, along with the rest of America. I’m no doctor, but maybe D’on-que should seek medical help. Toni summed it up nicely when she said it was a complete waste of time. As a matter of fact, I can’t even believe I devoted a whole paragraph to his antics. My deepest apologies. At the end of day one, 14 more people were sent to Vegas.

After the former hustler turned b-boy Jeffery “Machine” McCann performed, Tyce channeled Randy Jackson and told Jeffery he was “in it.” Sure, he didn’t complete the phrase, but the damage was already done. Tyce: Do us all a favor and ban that from your vocabulary for the rest of the season. At least 28-year-old(!) Jeffery was talented, and the only b-boy of the night to go straight through to Vegas. I really want him to do well in Vegas, because I think I’m in like.

The only returning contestant of the night was 18-year-old Ryan Ramirez. I didn’t remember her at all from season 7 (it’s been so long!), but we were reminded that she made it to the top 24. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it to the live shows. I think this year might just be her year. Also, she totally resembles Cat! Whitney Bezzant and Lilly Nguyen both followed Ryan’s footsteps and went straight through to Vegas. We didn’t get to see a full audition from either, but for some reason we did get to learn their names. I’m really intrigued by Lilly even though she got minimal screen time. I’m hoping we get to see more of her during the Vegas rounds.

To cap the auditions off, Levi “I Dummy” Allen showcased Oakland’s very own Turf dancing. Turf, an acronym for Taking Up Room on the Floor, is a style new to SYTYCD, and me for that matter. I Dummy pleased the judges enough with his contortions and effortless gliding that he made it through to choreography. But his turfing skills didn’t keep him in the competition. Still, props to I Dummy for not permanently dislocating anything. Seven other dancers got their tickets to Vegas.

There you have it, folks. Season 8 seems to be off to a good start. Who are your early favorites? Are you glad that Mary is back? And can someone tell me why the dancers who get sent to Vegas always run out of the auditorium and into the streets barefoot? Do these people not own shoes? And finally, who else thinks the guy who does “the insect” would probably dominate a game of Twister? Sound off in the comments.

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So You Think You Can Dance

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