Regular readers know my column has been dormant lately because I've been on a much-needed post-"American Idol" Australian vacation, seeing my all-time favorite band the Cure play a one-off historic show at the Sydney Opera House. (Click here to relive that epicness.) But now I'm back in the Northern Hemisphere and tackling my maxed-out DVR.
And what better homecoming could I receive than three fantastic hours of "So You Think You Can Dance" and dozens of fantastic dancers from Salt Lake City, New York, and Los Angeles all waiting for me? There were also plenty of, um, interesting moments, including a wackjob named Brittany Morgan Starr who claimed to be the long-lost daughter of the "real Ringo Starr" (and twin of Lady Gaga), a guy who claimed to be Santa Claus, a girl who suffered amnesia three weeks before her audition but still remembered her dance steps, and an overzealous Tahitian dancer who (inadvertently?) exposed himself. Good times.
Here are my favorite successful auditions from last week...
SALT LAKE CITY:
Devon McCullough - I enjoyed the chemistry stepper Devon exhibited with his partner, Micah Clark; their energy was infectious and their synchronization was impressive. But when it came time for the choreography round, it was Devon who was one step ahead of the game, and he got a Vegas ticket while Micah remained behind. Will Devon (the one in the white shirt at right) be able to survive in this competition without his trusty partner? I'm interested to find out.
Chyna Smith - An obsessed "SYTYCD" superfan who auditioned with a piece choreographed by allstar Allison Holker and who has danced with several other "SYTYCD" alums, Chyna's fandom was a little over-the-top and annoying, but who could blame her for being such a fan of this awesome show? Her enthusiasm worked for her in the end, as she delivered a totally white-hawt, sex-kittenish performance that had guest judge Robin Antin, the Pussycat Dolls' creator, claiming Chyna would be a great addition to the PCD lineup. (This was a compliment, by the way.) Meow!
Annie Gratton - A fun and fiery redhead (redheads rule, in case you didn't know), this girl was vivacious and spunky enough to make Chyna look like somebody's arthritic grandma. Tigress Annie ATTACKED the stage and was a little fighter. Then she danced with her dad and further won the judges' hearts. This girl is in it to win it, y'all!
Tadd Gadduang - This quirky B-boy gave one of the most entertaining auditions in Salt Lake, walking down the stage steps on his hands, crawling on his fingers like Spider-Man, and flaunting a Twitch-like sense of humor that Mary Murphy dubbed "fantabulous." It's unclear how well he will adapt to other types of choreography, but apparently the judges had enough faith in him based on just this audition, because they sent him straight through to Vegas.
Chase Thomas - Chase made a major impression wearing only an itsy-bitsy Speedo to his audition, but who could blame him for wanting to flaunt what he's got? With a Greek-god physique like his, it'd be a shame for this man to ever wear clothes. Luckily, his body moved as well as it looked. His audition was incredible, and I am sure many viewers will forward to seeing him strut his stuff in as little as possible in Vegas. Bring on the Speedos!
NEW YORK CITY:
Samara "Princess Lockeroo" Cohen - When this specialist in the arm-flailing dance style known as "wacking" showed up looking like a cast member of The Matrix, I assumed she was just another crazy like Brittany. But her audition was actually really entertaining and original. I was still surprised that the judges put her straight through to Vegas rather than seeing how versatile she could be in the choreography round, but something tells me Princess will be right at home in Sin City.
Brandon Jones - A stunning lyrical technician (one of those "strong male dancers" Nigel Lythgoe appreciates so much) and an obvious favorite with the crowd in NYC, Brandon seemed like EXACTLY the type of guy who goes far on "SYTYCD," in the same mold as Will Wingfield, Danny Tidwell, Brandon Bryant, and Robert Roldan. I predict top 20 for this guy already.
Brian "Hollow Dreams" Hen - This krumper didn't really earn the judges' favor by dissing both Season 6 winner Russell Ferguson and "SYTYCD" choreographer/judge Lil' C ("Lil' C brought krump to the mainstream, and I'm taking it back," he said). His arrogance was very offputting, and his braggadocio, no pun intended, rang hollow. "It's great being cocky, it's great being confident, but be careful when you knock fellow dancers that have come before you," warned Mary. Fortunately for him, his audition was good enough on its own, personality aside, to get him to the choreography round. And once he was told he'd made it to Vegas, he showed a softer and humbler side of himself that might help him get back in the judges' and viewers' good graces.
Mary Kate Sheehan - Normally I'm not into Irish step dancing--those cloggers that were on "America's Best Dance Crew" once totally annoyed me, for instance--but Mary Kate's audition was a revelation. She glided all over the stage and her clogs seemed to barely skim the stage floor. "You make me proud to be Irish!" raved Mary Murphy. I have a feeling with talent like hers, there's more that Mary Kate can do than just Celtic jigging.
Virgil "Lil O" Gadson - This guy was a bundle of energy--confident, but unlike that Hollow Dreams guy, never arrogant. He also had some killer moves and was cute as a button. Lil O just might be destined for the big-time.
Jess LeProtto - This adorable Broadway baby was one of my favorites of the season so far. He kind of reminded me of Season 5's Evan Kasprzak, and I loved his energy and fierceness. And while Nigel and Mary claimed they didn't get a sense of enjoyment from him (he claimede he isn't used to smiling because he had braces for years), I certainly enjoyed it. I am sure Jess can loosen up in time, and I can't wait to see what happens when Tyce Diorio gets his hands on this kid.
Robert Taylor Jr. - At the ripe "old" age of 30--dancer years are sort of like dog years, you see--this was Robert's last shot. "It's now or never," Nigel sang to him. Well, clearly Robert's time is now. Robert danced with all the energy of this show's 18-year-old kids (plus he danced to Kid Sister, which scored extra points with me). It turns out this guy auditioned for "SYTYCD" in Season 2, and made it to Hollywood Week on "American Idol" too, but apparently in his case, good things come to those who wait.
Jordan Casanova - The 18-year-old's (18!!) overt sexiness during her "Naughty Girl" routine was a little offputting, and Jordan definitely brought out Nigel's dirty-old-man side (his eyes were bugging out like an old Looney Tunes aah-oooga character as he gazed upon her). But Jordan oozed raw talent as well as raw sexuality. She therefore made it to Vegas, but hey, if things don't work out for her there on "SYTYCD," I'm sure she can get work there as a pole dancer...or maybe as a Pussycat Doll!
Derion "D.C." Chapman - This B-boy had personality up the wazoo and was one of my favorites of the week. I couldn't help but root for him, with his huge smile, expectant-father backstory, and incredibly original choreography. "I don't think I've enjoyed a routine like that since Season 4 when Twitch did the conducting thing," said Nigel, echoing my own thoughts. "People like you are a rarity," added guest judge Tyce. I cannot wait to see more from this guy.
Arielle Coker - She's a repeat auditioner, but I think this will be her year. Her audition this season was full of smoldering emotion and power, and all the judges noticed the "fire in her eyes" and how much stronger she'd become. "THIS is an audition!" exclaimed Mary. "Are you kidding me?" howled Tyce. Arielle was just brilliant, one of my favorite girls so far. I am so glad she never gave up on her "SYTYCD" dream.
Hero McRae - This was yet another example of "SYTYCD"/"ABDC" crossover--new Season 6 "ABDC" winners featured "SYTYCD" alum Phillip Chbeeb, for instance, and other "SYTYCD" ex-contestants on "ABDC" have included Dominic Sandoval, Donyelle Jones, Ryan Feng, and Hok Konishi. And hey, it turns out Hero is a member of Season 4 "ABDC" winnin crew We Are Heroes. That may put her at an unfair advantage here, but the sheer heroic awesomeness of her "SYTYCD" audition cannot be denied. This is a dancer worthy of serious hero-worship.
Alexis Mason - I didn't think Alexis was as stunning as her older sister, Season 5 winner Jeanine (who was in the audience during Alexis's audition--no pressure!), but clearly talent runs in the Mason family. I do worry if the pressure of being "Jeanine Mason's sister" will get to Alexis in Vegas, though.
Patty Anne Miller - A Berklee-educated drummer and style consultant as well as a highly skilled B-girl, Patty just oozed cool. She was also "friggin' cute," according to Tyce. I simply adored this girl, and I think the show needs her. I certainly need more Patty Anne Miller in my life.
Natalia & Sasha Mallory - Two sassy sisters, one of whom (Sasha) dances for Adam Lambert on tour, they impressed with their African fusion routine--and Nigel minced no words when he said that he was surprised that Natalia, the heavier of the pair, kept up with svelte Sasha. (Hey, newsflash: Big girls can dance too!) Both Mallorys made it to Vegas, but I do think Sasha excelled more in the choreography round, so I fear the sister act might get split up this week.
And speaking of this week...yes, "SYTYCD" is finally headed to Vegas, baby, Vegas! Tune in Wednesday for that, and cue music.