The Los Angeles auditions deliver several gotta-watch-THAT-again routines, dominated almost entirely by women

By Adam B. Vary
June 03, 2011 at 10:30 AM EDT
Adam Rose/Fox
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Well that was a relief, wasn’t it? A common refrain in the comment boards about Wednesday night’s two-hour audition episode of So You Think You Can Dance was the lack of any auditions that demanded we snatch up the DVR remote to watch it again. Well, I don’t know about you, but I rewatched two routines from last night’s stellar Los Angeles auditions — well, actually three, and more on all of them in a bit. Host Cat Deeley called Los Angeleese the season’s “most talented city,” and the hour-long episode — which, with rare exception, showcased a thrilling gamut of female talent from start to finish — left me with the overall feeling that season 8 could be shaping up to be a solid year for the show indeed.

Granted, it took some time for that feeling to blossom. Our first audition of the night, from Jordan Casanova, was to my eye a series of sexy leg extensions, groin thrusts, and come-hither gazes, with barely any actual, you know, dancing. The judges, however, could not get enough of her. “One of the hottest performances I have ever seen!” raved Mary Murphy. “I don’t even have words,” gushed guest judge, “Emmy winning” Tyce DiOrio, who then proceeded to prove himself wrong and right at the same time: “Naughty, naughty, naughty girl! That’s number one. And number two, it was like [grunting] AAWWWHHHHH!” (I typed “SHUT UP TYCE” into my notes before Jordan had even finished her routine, a new record.) As for Nigel Lythgoe, he dutifully avoided coming across like “some dirty old man,” betraying his interest in the 18-year-old Jordan with just a cocked eyebrow; then he praised her ability to grab our attention, which is a little bit like praising a fire hose for getting you wet. I actually rewatched Jordan’s routine just before I started writing this recap to be sure my first impression wasn’t crazy; it wasn’t. Jordan snagged a ticket to Vegas anyway, so maybe she’ll prove me wrong. Or maybe it will turn out that Las Vegas is exactly where she belongs. (Okay, that was harsh; and didn’t I just give Chase “Black Hot Pants” Thomas a pass on his just a’ight dancing yesterday ’cause he was only wearing black hot pants? Well, yes. But Chase didn’t wag his caboose at the judges, either. I should move on. Moving on.)

Derion “D.C.” Chapman was also on the receiving end of some dubious hyperbole by the judges, especially from Mary Murphy, who declared his trick-filled hip-hop routine “the most entertaining thing I’ve ever seen.” (If that is true, it is the saddest thing I have ever heard…in the last six hours.) But the expectant father gets a pass, in part since his audition was definitely fun and engaging and not once evoked a stripper pole. Mostly, though, I would’ve handed him a ticket to Vegas after the brief, brilliant moment when he made Nigel cool by teaching him the “Cat Daddy.” See, you’ve got to roll the (imaginary) wheelchair, i.e. skirt it, and then you dip it deep while skirting, which I can barely pick up let alone sound cool merely writing about it, but Nigel was able to grasp almost immediately. It was actually quite impressive.

But the hour didn’t really get going until Arielle Coker took to the stage. A serial SYTYCD auditioner (she’d tried out for seasons 4, 5, and 7), Nigel gave her a dismissive, “Oh, you again” wave before she began, but his attitude flipped right around almost immediately. Put simply: Arielle actually pulled off what the judges kept saying Jordan had done. Arielle was sexy, powerful, grabbed your attention immediately and did not let it go until she was done, and she actually danced. This was my first gotta-watchthat-again-rightnow routine of the night; it’s not for nothing that several SYTYCD alumni (like Brandon, Comfort, Legacy, and tWitch) gave her a standing O. Arielle sailed through to Vegas, and I’m personally hoping I get to type her name many times over for the rest of the summer.

I’m going to jump a touch out of chronology for a moment, just so I can get Santa Klaus krumper Joe “Big C” Doyle out of the way: He came, he kinda krumped, he ripped off his shirt, he showed off his “six pack,” he had Tyce rightly asking, “What are you trying to do to people,” and, as he left, he caused Mary to observe, “That’s the first time we’ve had a Santa.” He was also the only “bad” audition of the night, and rightly so, since L.A. was bursting with so much exciting talent that I didn’t really mind the multiple montages that blew through dancers praised as “special” and “a star.”

NEXT: And then a Hero comes along…

Exciting talent like Hero McRae, a Japanese import pop-lock and isolation dancer who I suspect will provoke the most love her!/hate her! comments of the night. Me, I adored her, from her bright gold jacket and tiny shiny black leggings (someone’s been hanging out at American Apparel!), to her admission that she picked up English during her four years in the country via friends, movies, radios, and “my lover at the time.” Also: The woman rendered Tyce speechless, and that accomplishment alone earns her a ticket to Vegas. The crowd of fellow dancers in the Orpheum, meanwhile, erupted in cheers after her audition, which featured some robotically fluid pop-locking with a bright, joyful center and some adorable idiosyncrasies. I couldn’t help but watch a second time. As if I wasn’t already impressed enough, Nigel then asked Hero about her family back in Japan post-earthquake, and it hit me: That catastrophic event was on March 11. The L.A. auditions were on March 12. If I had been in her position, I doubt I would have been able to get out of my sweatpants and away from cable news, let alone audition for a nationally televised dance competition show. Point of fact, I don’t believe I did get out of my sweatpants and away from cable news that day.

I guess dancers are just wired to perform under pressure. Alexis Mason sure was; the younger sister of season 5 champ Jeanine, she had chutzpah and poise to spare, puckishly sharing that her older sis “runs around the house naked.” I liked her instantly. Her performance quality, though, needs a wee bit of work. Besides the fact that her routine took a bit of time to really get going, Nigel pointed out she’s got a “goldfish” mouth issue, and I’d add that she doesn’t need to make her face quite so anguished when she’s dancing somber material. It was certainly a sound audition, but I reckon the judges gave her a ticket to Vegas out of deference to her genes and affection for her sister.

No need to patronize Patty Anne Miller. Between her dapper tomboy style, her open-hearted personality, and her exciting blend of krump, hip-hop, pop-lock, and isolation styles, she’s basically a perfect candidate for So You Think You Can Dance. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that she really did miss Nigel’s question about other styles she’s able to dance because she was too overcome with emotion to hear him — I just hope she can dance in other genres, or at least her Berkeley Berklee*-educated sense of rhythm will help her pick up those genres quickly in Vegas. (*Many thanks to the commenters who pointed out my error.)

Goodness, I’m just collecting favorites here willy nilly, and I guess I’ve got to add sisters Natalia and Sasha Mallory to that list. Their hybrid of modern and African dance was fabulous to watch — for some reason, my eyes kept falling to the younger sister, Natalia, but they were both superb. Nigel seemed drawn to Natalia too, so much so that he skated right by his requisite comment about her size not being ideal for a dancer. Neither sister seemed to pick up the choreography quite as swiftly or solidly as they’ll need to in Vegas; indeed, the promo for Vegas next week seems to hint that heartbreak of some sort is in store for them. If things don’t work out, maybe they could sign on for a reality show, or a web series — anything that lets us in on their adorable banter even just a little more.

How did you feel about the Los Angeles auditions, fellow SYTYCD fiends? Was it truly the Best City Ever in the history of the show? Are you concerned about the real lack of standout ballroom dancers this season? (Although, “no ballroom” did provoke the best joke I think I’ve ever heard out of Nigel’s mouth: “Like Tyce’s trousers.”) And now that the audition episodes are over, who are your favorite standout dancers so far?

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