So You Think You Can Dance — Vegas Hell Week Recap

23 06 2012

So You Think You Can Dance: Vegas Hell Week

By Hilda Clark Bowen (PBMom)

Vegas week–the dancers’ equivalent to Navy SEAL hell week. Eight grueling rounds. Late nights. Early mornings. No sleep. Pushing themselves to the brink physically, mentally, emotionally. That is what it takes on the road to becoming America’s Favorite Dancer. There were 8 rounds. Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Adam Shankman, Debbie Allen, Tyce DiOrio, and Lil’C were the primary judges with others sitting in to comment on their own choreographed segments.

Round 1: Solos

Hampton “The Exorcist” Williams from Richardson, Texas (Dallas auditions) danced his unique style to Evanescence’s “My Immortal.” He was mouthing the words to the song which I did not like. Debbie Allen was crying. It was very similar to his Dallas audition. After 10 solos, Jennifer and Briana go home. Hampton and 7 other dancers make it through to the next round.

Hampton “The Exorcist” Williams

Next bunch included Janelle Issis, the belly dancer from Birmingham, Alabama. Both Tyce and Adam loved her. By the end of the round, 51 dancers were cut, including martial arts expert Tim Conkel.

Round 2: Hip-Hop with tWitch and Comfort

This proved too much for two contestants. Hampton felt that the choreography was too difficult to learn left the competition. I praise the respect he showed the judges by coming up on stage and sharing that. Andre Rucker, from the Dragon House trio, just left. Good impressions are won, and you just do not up and leave. It’s too easy just to quit. I hope that Hampton gets some experience in some other areas and comes back to the competition next year. The song chosen was “B.O.B.” by OutKast. It was fast and slick. After the first group, Boris Penton from Dragon House was cut as was Gene Lonardo (the praying mantis guy), and Bree Hafen. After the last group performed, and Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer. Glitch meets tWitch and I’m loving this. All the members of the final group survived, which totaled 105 dancers surviving to the next round.

Round 3 (Day 2): Broadway with Tyce DiOrio

Tyce comes with a story about dancers in a club at 2 a.m. and drinking water and then POW!…a lust force seizes them. Witney Carson and Lindsay Arnold, from the Salt Lake City auditions, are out of their comfort zones. They have known each other since age 9 and found out they were roommates in Las Vegas. The song, “Must Be the Water” by Marc Broussard. Everyone who danced in the morning made it through. The judges gave Alexa Anderson a stern lecture about lacking an emotional connection and getting tired of fighting for her. I think she is terrified that she will not make it through again at the very last moment and she is guarding her heart. Joseph and Trey were gone. Teddy Tedholm went home. After this round another 23 dancers went home, which by my count 105 minus 23 leaves 82 dancers for the next round.

Round 4: Jazz with Sonya Tayeh

Eighty-two contestants remain. Sonya is looking for strength, aggression, texture, and musicality. Shafeek Westbrook is struggling, but bacon-girl Danielle Dominguez is trying to be supportive. The song is “Freak Out (Gold Chains, Panique Mix) by Brightest Diamond. Shafeek was cut and left with a terrible attitude. Danielle steps forward to partner with Giovanni and is rewarded with a big smack to her head. She is sent to the hospital; he is sent home. Cyrus partners with Lindsay and does an adequate job. I think his uniqueness and the judges desire to have him through to the top 20 is allowing them to forgive mistakes. This is about the favorite dancer and not necessarily the best dancer. They ask Amelia Lowe to dance for her life. Rachel Applehans is asked to dance for her life (It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World by Leela James). Sonya, Nigel, Mary and Tyce all say no. I have to say I am glad about Rachel because she just did not fit into the show. It’s fine to turn on the sex appeal once or twice, but every time it makes me uncomfortable, like she is dancing for men at a strip club. Amelia danced to “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Elmer Bernstein. Adam is visibly moved. Sonya is smiling and says she wants to get her hands on her. Sonya, Mary, Lil’C, Tyce and Debbie say yes. Adam says “yes” and thanks her. Nigel gave a surprising no.

Round 5: Groups

It’s now day 2 at 10 p.m., and it is group time. The twist this year was that the people got to pick their own groups (about 5-6 people). The first group up on day 3 in the morning includes Daniel Baker, Audrey Case, Danielle Dominguez. Danielle got back late from the hospital. They danced to Gotye’s song, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Charlie and Danielle are sent home. The judges should have allowed Danielle to at least dance for her life. She did not have to volunteer to partner in the previous round a second time. Boo to the judges on that. In the next group, Taylor Giri (? spelling) was sent home. The next dance, choreographed by Aubrey Klinger, was praised by Nigel, and he complimented her by calling her a mini Mia Michaels. Aubrey danced with 4 other guys. The story was that she was the only girl at the prom and they called themselves the “High Schoolers.” The song was Side Project’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody.” The entire group is sent through to the next round.

The High Schoolers

The first group in the afternoon were The Wolfpack which included Dres Reid, Adrian Lee and Alexa Alexander, all who auditioned in previous seasons and danced to “I’m Glad You Came” by The Wanted. Alexa was called out again by the judges. They prodded her until tears flowed. They allow her one more chance. Sixty-one contestants now remain for the next round.

Wolfpack

Round 6: Ballroom, specifically the cha-cha with Jason Gilkison.

The song: “Let’s Get Loud” by Jennifer Lopez. I was shouting GO CYRUS. I just love this guy’s attitude and energy. He is asked to dance for his life. It was a no to Asher Walker, Dee Tomasetta, and a huge surprise Aubrey Klinger who had just been highly praised in the group round. My heart was hurting for her as she said she was not able to get work as a dancer audition after audition. While hurting for her, it reminded me what is so fantastic about this show: Even dancers who are not crowned the winners are getting work in the industry as evidenced by the many times I’ve seen them especially on Fox shows. Witney, Stepheon Stewart (great hip work!), Eliana Girard and Alexa (who was being cheered from the sidelines by Tyce and Adam) all received a yes to the next round. Cyrus dances to “Holy Ghost (Helicopter Showdown and Sluggo Remix) by Messinian. He BLOWS my mind. I was so glad he got to dance for Lil’C who thought it was EXTRA BUCK. I loved the support he was also receiving from his fellow contestants in the audience. A total of 52 contestants are put through to contemporary.

Round 7: Contemporary with Travis Wall

The contestants only have 1 hour to get the steps down. That’s insane. Travis says, “Technically I’m looking for perception.” Travis, your standards are set so low. The song is “I Won’t Give Up” Jason Mraz. Cyrus, Eliana, Lindsay, Janelle, Trenton, Daniel, Witney, Amelia, Luciano, Cyrus and Tiffany are all put through. Eighteen dancers’ fates were in question. The judges asked them to perform again and only Joshua and Abigail make it through. I was so sad about white-girl krumper Mariah. I thought she did very well.

Round 8: Final solos

Trying to stand-out, Joshua attempted to do a new trick in the waiting area and fell smack to the ground. The medics are called and he is taken away. He was not able to perform his final solo. Alexa Anderson was first, dancing to The Naked and Famous’ “Young Blood (White Sea Remix)”.  (PS Thank you Warren for the correction on this).  Debbie Allen said to her fellow judges that “This child could win” but Tyce balked at that observation. The last solo was Chehon Wespi-Tschopp of Zurich, Switzerland, the ballet dancer. The heights he could reach were phenomenal. The song to which he danced was “Suite of the Winter Songbirds,” by Noah Lifschey.

The guys were called up. Adrian Lee, who almost made it in season 7, and whose mother stopped watching the show because of it, was cut. Nigel reminded the group that they were not going for the “best dancers” but the uniqueness. The girls get called up; no one is cut….at this point.

There are 35 in the end. Next week, they will have to cut that down to 20 people. Joshua will find out if his stunt to try to impress will cost him a spot in the final 20.

Who are your favorites? I think Chehon and Cyrus are going to make it simply because of their unique styles. Cyrus improves with each lesson and America adores him. Chehon is, I think, the only ballet dancer in the group and they tend to like a diverse group of individuals. I am unsure about the girls. Amelia is very unique. I was truly rooting for Mariah. Janelle should make it.





So You Think You Can Dance — Salt Lake City auditions

14 06 2012

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 9, Salt Lake Auditions — 2012

Judges Adam Shankman, Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe gave a tutorial about what NOT to do when you are auditioning: No booty shaking; no self-worship (rubbing, touching yourself); and no reaching, with Adam Shankman doing the illustrations. The girls dominated in this city as did ballroom dance, which has been not seen much at all in the other cities.

Who I Liked A LOT

Witney Carson, American Fork, Utah, Cha-Cha/Tango: The girl on FIRE. It was hot and she is only 18 years of age. Her father looked very uncomfortable in the audience as Nigel talked about her sensuality and sexuality within the dance. Mary, for the first time this audition season, put her on the HOT TAMALE TRAIN, and blew out the eardrums of Nigel and Adam. Adam claimed, “I’m a slave for you.” And uses the “F” word in Salt Lake City. She is definitely through to Vegas.

Witney Carson

Gene Lonardo; Las Vegas, Nevada; contemporary: Although I should put him in the Odd-Ball LOT because he came out saying he was going to do the dance of the male praying mantis, it was stunning to watch, and I immediately thought that Sonya Tayeh (choreographer) would love to play the female praying mantis. The routine really made him stand out. He was an average dancer as contemporary styles go, but the fact that he choreographed the dance himself set him apart. Although it did get weird when Gene told Nigel he imagined him as the female praying mantis (because Nigel was fearsome to him). Awkward. He is through to Vegas.

Gene Lonardo, male praying mantis

Lindsay Arnold; Provo, Utah; ballroom Latin: She dances wonderfully. It was a shame her partner was not competing because he deserved a ticket as well). She was through to Vegas.

Lindsay Arnold

Mariah Spears; Phoenix, Arizona; krump: White girls CAN KRUMP! I was not expecting this. When she said she was going to krump, Adam spat out his drink. But she lived up to the hype. She was fabulous. I wished L’il C was in the room judging then. I think she needs to work on the open-mouth look. The anger should come through her movements without the “O” face. She was sent to choreography and then on to Vegas.

Mariah Spears

Murphy Yang; Roy, Utah; contemporary: His family disowned him and moved to California. He was homeless for awhile. I admire him for sticking to his dreams despite his idiot family. He had quite a mixture of styles in his dance. There was a good sense of humor, good musicality. Then he lifted his shirt with “Vegas?” on it and I loved it. He has had no formal training. I bet you if Debbie Allen had been the judge, she would have offered him free lessons at one of her schools. Adam Shankman was on the verge of tears. Murphy was sent to choreography but for this year it was a no to Vegas. Murphy–Keep on refining your technique. You are SO close to getting a ticket to Vegas. Do not give up. I ADMIRE you.

Murphy Yang

Dareian Kujawa; Boulder City, Nevada; contemporary: He, too, had a very rough life. They were very poor and it was a depressing, dark life. He decided to create a roadmap for himself and dancing pulled him out of this dark place. This man is filled with inner strength and it showed in his dance. It was filled with great emotion and great athleticism. He had beautiful lines. Of course he was going to Vegas!

Dareian Kujawa

Leroy Martinez; Sacramento, California; hip-hop. He also has had a rough life, but turning to dance helped him. He is the only one in his family to live a straight life. It was his first audition ever. He works at a doggie day care by day and gives back to the community working with the Peacemakers program, a group who works to establish afterschool programs in the community. There is an article done in a local paper about this group. Please click here to read more about it.  Because of his larger size, one thinks he is going to be unable to do impressive moves. He breaks stereotypes. He was AWESOME. Adam was crying and hesitated to say it, but said it was “fucking awesome.” Of course it was bleeped out. He went on to choreography and it was a no for Vegas, but something inside of me tells me that Adam is going to do something for this young man.

Leroy Martinez

Who I Thought Was Average

Deanna “Dee” Tomasetta; Millbury, MA; contemporary: She was beautiful to watch. I really liked the backbend move she had which showed really excellent control. The one thing that did not match for me was the smile with the song, which then reminded me of Ryan Ramirez. The song she chose was “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt. The song is about unrequited love. But she is smiling the ENTIRE performance. I should have felt angst in there. That is the only reason why she is in the “average” category for me. But the judges loved it and she is through to Vegas.

Deanna “Dee” Tomasetta

Adrian Lee; Los Angeles, California; contemporary: In season 7 he came so close to being in the show, but that was the year they picked the best 10 and had them dance with 10 all-stars. He was not invited. His family became very down on the show after that and he chose not to tell them he was auditioning this time. However, between then and now, season 8 happened–the top 20 best dancers EVER chosen, and his dance looks very amateurish when comparing it to people from last season. He is doing the self-worship moves despite being told that the judges did not want to see that. Mary was crying because the emotion of having to tell him “no” in season 7 came flooding back. He did get a ticket to Vegas and Nigel gave him another ticket for his mother to come along. He has to do better in Vegas or he will be cut.

Adrian Lee

Rachel Applehaus; Denver, Colorado; burlesque jazz: She claims she was shy growing up. She hoped that her dance would make Nigel uncomfortable.  She was hot and sultry but she rolled on the floor too much. Then I started thinking this reminds me of a dancer in a gentleman’s club and I became uncomfortable. There was not enough substance in her routine. Then they said she was doing burlesque jazz (Is that like Anchorman’s jazz flute?) and she is through to choreography and then on to Vegas.

Rachel Applehaus

Odd-Ball LOT

Lynn Gravatt; Portland, Oregon; space dance: The story was being set up as a disaster. She claims that her energy comes from the Pleiades constellation. She has three spirit guides (Divine DeFlame–which is her highest self; they flash Mary Murphy on the frame; then Devil DeFlame (which is her “male” dancer, and of course Nigel is flashed on the screen; the third is Rainbow Light Bright, which is of course Adam). Before Lynn starts, Mary is giggling a lot. Lynn is a former aerospace engineer that has worked on aircraft we will see in 10-15 years. Very intelligent woman. She was not that bad considering she has had no formal training. Being 33, that automatically disqualified her from being part of the show, but the judges were very kind to her.  She left with a wonderful message for people to never give up on their dreams, no matter what their age.

Lynn Gravatt

Johnny Ahn and Whitney Hallam; Orem, Utah; ballroom: This guy is so full of EGO it isn’t funny. And the look on his partner’s face the entire time she is with him is one of contempt. I do not blame her. He should spend less time on watching videos on how to get dates and more time on how to be a good dance partner. There is a 10-year age difference between them. She is unimpressed with his MAN-GO. His ballroom “O” face bothers me. He NEVER looks at his gorgeous partner. The dance is all about him–“Hey look at me–I think I’m hotter than I really am.” They are sent through to choreography but it is a “no” to Vegas for both of them. My advice to Whitney is to get another dance partner quickly and come back next year. I would never pick up the phone and vote for him, so he should just not come back to audition for the show.

If looks could kill….Whitney Hallam and Johnny Ahn

Next week is So You Think You Can Dance Hell Week! I cannot wait.