But the least disappointing (as is, most awesome) moment of all was when a beloved dancer from Season 9 showed up at the end of the episode to give "SYTYCD" another go. Will this be the year that Hampton Williams, aka the so-brilliant-it's-scary "Exorcist," makes it to the live shows? If so, he's definitely going to be the man to beat.
Below is a rundown of my favorite dancers from this Tuesday. Cue music!
Nicholas "Slick" Stewart – Dance show fans may remember this seemingly boneless, quadruple-jointed street dancer from Ringmasters, the contortionist crew on Season 3 of "America's Best Dance Crew." The guy's memorable, that's for sure, with his cool but cringe-inducing ability to twist himself up like a human balloon animal. Slick's routine was more than just freaky sideshow gimmickry — judge Mary Murphy praised his adept, gliding footwork — but like many other very specialized hip-hop dancers who try out for "SYTYCD," he floundered in the choreography round. "Keeping up is not good enough right now," guest judge Jesse Tyler Ferguson told Slick. Oh well. Slick was great fun to watch, while it lasted. And he inspired me to take up yoga again.
Sebastian Serra – This 23-year-old ballet dancer brought a huge amount of energy and athleticism to the stage. I felt winded just watching him. Jesse called him a "Puerto Rican jumping bean." Jesse also said: "You're soooo handsome! The girls that watch this show, and some of the boys that watch this show, will think you're great." BINGO. No wonder he got a ticket straight to Vegas. Maybe Sebastian can be this year's Chehon.
Misha & Mariia – This Latin ballroom couple's routine was a thrill to behold, but frankly, hot tamale Mariia stole the show. The moment this Kardashian-esque beauty strutted onstage, pervy Nigel Lythgoe perked right up, murmuring under his breath, "She looks great." She danced great, too. "Wow! You are really good. Very sexy! Tremendous!" declared Nigel. Mary just screamed. Both dancers received tickets to Vegas, but I have a feeling once they get there, they'll be separated, and Mariia will be the one who makes the top 20.
Emilio "Millie" Dosal – The roommate and BFF of Phillip Chbeeb (a fan-favorite Season 5 "SYTYCD" contestant, and the leader of winning "ABDC" troupe IaMmE), Millie brought tons of personality to his audition…which could make him a fan favorite in Season 10. His little freaky fakeout move, when he pretended to break his elbow, was a highlight of his fun, fast-paced routine. It was understandable that the judges opted not to put him straight through to Vegas (as Slick proved, not all hip-hop specialists can adapt to other styles), but happily, Millie survived the choreo round. I think he could be this year's Phillip Chbeeb, or maybe even this year's Dominic Sandoval.
MacKenzie Dustman – The daughter of jazz singers who spent her childhood on the road, this 18-year-old stunner clearly has showbiz in her blood. She was simply thrilling to watch: her lean and gazelle-like lines, her breathtaking leaps, her star quality. Her audition was so compelling. This girl could be a real contender. "You're so 'So You Think You Can Dance,'" purred Mary. "Dance is in you. You're marinated in it," marveled Jesse. Of course she got a ticket to Vegas. And I am pretty sure Mary, who called MacKenzie "amazing," has a Hot Tamale Train ticket set aside for MacKenzie, too.
Anthony "J Freeze" – At age 4, J-Freeze, the first auditioner in Austin, wasn't quite old enough for the show (although he did adorably try to pass himself off as 18). But it's contestants like this one that should make Nigel start a spinoff show called "SYTYCD Kids." Inspired by last's year's popular contestant Cyrus Spencer, this talented toddler did a pop/lock routine that thrilled the crowd. He didn't get a ticket to Vegas, but his family got tickets to Disney World! I just hope J-Freeze comes back in "SYTYCD" Season 24.
Donovan Gibbs – The son of dance studio owners, this was another contestant who was quite literally born to dance. His family even lives in the studio, since they lost their home (and would rather be homeless than studio-less, which shows their dedication to their craft). Donovan danced with so much passion and power, like he was literally dancing for his life. "You're the first person that brought fire today," said Mary. Then Donovan's dad got onstage and also brought the fire — so much so that I wished Nigel would raise the show's age limit. How awesome that "SYTYCD" showed that talent comes in all sizes and age brackets.
Dannon O'Brien – Okay, I think I have a new favorite. The guy's family runs a haunted house. His day job is painting scary makeup at that house. How cool is that? He's like a real-life Munster or Addams. Dannon's creepy-cool routine was haunting indeed, and the fetal position at the end was everything. What a finish! "Very strong, very creative," said Nigel. "Very engaging; I couldn't keep my eyes off of you," said Mary. Guest judge Minnie Driver, replacing Jesse Tyler Ferguson in Austin, said, "You were clearly meant to do that forever." I can't wait to see Sonia Tayeh work with this boy.
Shane Garcia – Is stutterer Shane the Lazaro Arbos of "SYTYCD"? No, because he's actually good. (Oh, snap.) Shane, a breakdancer by trade, explained to the judges that he took up dance "to speak freely" through his body. And once he started dancing, it was like he was speaking the words "I AM AWESOME" with his feet. What a stunning routine. "This kid's getting to me," admitted a weepy Mary, and Minnie started to cry as well. By the end, even Shane was tearing up. "You're magical, Shane. When people want to say something, they find a way to say it, no matter what," said Minnie. "I feel like we just had the most amazing conversation through that body," said Mary. Shane advanced to the choreography round, where he fortunately once again "spoke" the language the judges wanted to hear. Shane is now off to Vegas!
Danielle Bustillos – This Venezuelan kidnapping survivor danced a triumphant contemporary routine, although she was not as flamboyant as some of the other dancers of the day. I was surprised that the judges only put her through to the choreography round, but I wasn't surprised when she got a Vegas ticket after that. Danielle could be this season's dark horse.
Nick Muckleroy – A real thoroughbred of a dancer, beautiful and brawny, Nick performed a solo full of daring acrobatic flips and major power moves. Truly amazing. "I have got hairs standing up that I didn't even know I had. That's what people literally pick up a telephone for," said Nigel. "I would call until I got through at least 10 times," added Minnie. "That is a religious experience…you were born to dance!!!" howled Mary. I would be shocked if Nick didn't make the top 20.
Hampton "The Exorcist" Williams – Hampton's baaaaaaack! His audition last year was not just a highlight of "SYTYCD 9," not just a reality TV highlight for 2012, but a TV highlight, period. It absolutely broke my heart when Hampton quit during last year's choreo round, and it gladdened my heart this week to see his return — especially since this time, he brought his family with him. See, the Exorcist isn't so scary after all…he's the loving dad of an adorable daughter named Keira, and she can dance too! Keira adorably joined Hampton onstage for his routine, and eventually so did Hampton's girlfriend. It was a family-style Exorcism! Nigel sent all three of them to Vegas. I hope he gives them their own spinoff show.
So next week (because, tragically, "SYTYCD" isn't on two nights a week anymore), the show moves on to the Boston auditions, and there's sure to be more amazing talent in store. See you then!
- Arts & Entertainment
- Nigel Lythgoe
- Mary Murphy
- Jesse Tyler Ferguson