So You Think You Can Dance — LA Auditions — Season 9

3 06 2012

So You Think You Can Dance — Season 9 —  Los Angeles Auditions

By Hilda Clark Bowen

On Twitter, East Coast people are complaining that New York only got 1 hour of airtime last week while California got 2 this week. Judges for this panel were Mary Murphy, Nigel Lythgoe, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

Who I liked a LOT

Eliana Girad; West Palm Beach, Florida. She has an impressive resume including Joffrey Ballet. She does pole dancing. I got distracted on Twitter by the reminder to people that our local Fox 26 Houston did a story about Pole Dancing for Jesus, a group here locally, which then brought up images and comments for me of, “So that was what Christ and his disciples were looking at on the other side of the table in “The Last Supper!” I understand empowerment, I understand exercise, but I don’t envision pole dancing to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Dive.” I do see pole dancing to “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse. Her routine mesmerized me. The judges give her a standing ovation. Vegas baby.

Eliana Girad

Cole Horibe; Honolulu, Hawaii; contemporary. He combined his training in martial arts (silver in the junior Olympics) and dance. He presented a powerful piece. He could be the “Marko” of this year. He is sent straight through to Vegas.

Cole Horibe

Jasmine Mason; Placentia, California; jazz: She was in a wreck 6 weeks prior with Marshae Kidd. She had beautiful lines. Her dance was sultry and sexy. She is sent to Vegas.

Marshae Kidd; Placentia, California: He broke his neck in a car accident 6 weeks prior to the audition. I don’t know if I’d even be out of bed after breaking my neck. I think he has grown since trying out previously. He also gets to go to Vegas.

Jasmine Mason and Marshae Kidd

Who I thought was average

Alexa Anderson; Chandler, Arizona; contemporary: She was on last year, but Ryan Ramirez was picked instead. She had a very strong dance. Quite beautiful. She is through to Vegas.

Sam Lenarz; Lavergne, California; contemporary: Her story was oh-so-familiar-to-me. She was kicked out of the house by her mother (mine occurred when I was 14). She had great fluidity but she wasn’t emotionally connecting with the dance. “You can always believe in yourself.” I felt that way, too: You can take responsibility for your own life and be the captain of your own destiny. It also helps when there is someone there as a safety net as it appears we both did. She is sent to choreography and then to Vegas.

Megan Branch; Gilbert, Arizona; contemporary: She did a great job. She is sent to Vegas.

Who needs improvement

Jontel “Johnny Waacks” Gibson; Portland, Oregon; waacking. The judges could not stop saying “waack” without breaking into hysterics. Johnny was such a good sport and his answers just fed into the hilarity. Jesse called him a Lenny Kravitz nesting doll. While he definitely is no Princess Lockeroo, they put him through to choreography. Unfortunately, Johnny will have to come back another year.

Jontel “Johnny Waacks” Gibson

Jonathan Anzolone; Milan, Italy; B-boying: He was good, but not spectacular. He had tried out previously on SYTYCD. He’s toned down his narcissistic persona, but I get a really negative energy from him. The judges send him to choreography but he did not prove himself worthy of a Vegas ticket.

The Odd-Ball Lot

Nick and James Aragon, contemporary, age 32. (a.k.a. the Ninja Twins). Although they are past the age limit of 30 for the show, these two young men deserve to have a reality show of their own. I LOVE them. They are not only terrific dancers, but charismatic and funny as hell. The judges and the audience gave them a standing ovation.

The Nina Twins: Nick and James Aragon — Someone PLEASE give them their own reality show!!!

Caley Carr; Huntington Beach, California, tapper: He surfs and dances. This is a case where what he looks like on the outside deceives you to what kind of talent he has on the inside. One immediately stereotypes him as a surfer. I did and I’m glad when I am reminded not to do such things. He is sent to choreography and not sent to Vegas.

David Marz; Los Angeles, California; Cyr wheel. What is a cyr wheel? Per Wiki: “The Cyr wheel (also known as the roue Cyr or simple wheel) is an acrobatic device popularized in the early 21st century. It consists of a single large, metal hoop, and is used in a similar manner to a German wheel, with the acrobat rolling the wheel around the stage from the inside. The Cyr wheel was popularized by Daniel Cyr from 2003. There are records of others using a similar apparatus during the 19th and 20th centuries, but Daniel Cyr is known to have popularized it, and claims he created it without any awareness of previous similar devices. It is now used in performance by hundreds of performers around the world.”.  I’ve never seen anything like it before. It was mesmerizing and beautiful. He is sent to choreography and leaves on his own when he finds the choreography difficult.

David Marz using a Cyr wheel for his dance audition.

Stephen Jacobsen; Cincinnati, Ohio; ballet: I wonder if the audition dance was some kind of plant by the producers because it was horrible. However, when Nigel had him do a ballet routine, which was incredible, they put him straight through to Vegas.

Vegas bound

Eliana Girad; contestant numbers 20515 (tapper Aaron Turner?, son of the famous Earl Turner); contestant 20323 (inspired by Desmond); and contestant 20429 (inspired by Sasha); Megan Branch, contestants 20273, 20309; Cole Horibe; Stephen Jacobsen; Jasmine Mason; Marshae Kidd; Sam Lenarz.





So You Think You Can Dance — Vegas Hell Week

11 06 2011

Vegas week for So You Think You Can Dance is for dancers what Navy Seal hell week is for those candidates. All the candidates are the best of the best. For these dancers, it will be the ultimate battle of mind versus body. Some are at SYTYCD hell week for the first time; others have been here before. They started out with 160 contestants and soon they would be whittled down to American’s Top 20.

Joining them on Day 1 were judges Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, a casted Adam Shankman, Robin Antin, Debbie Allen and Tyce DiOrio. After their solos, the dancers would be performing routines in hip-hop, Broadway, ballroom, and then the group round and onto contemporary.

Going in a completely opposite direction of this champion ballroom dancer, Iveta Lukosiute comes out wearing a very naughty outfit. Having been cut 2 times before in previous seasons during hell week, she sets her sights on Nigel. She captivates the judges as well as the “Woo-Hoo” man, (Robert Taylor, Jr.). It is very difficult when your strength is in ballroom, who is used to dancing with a partner, to do a solo, but her unique performance and nice cha-cha moves will leave an impression on the judges. After the first 15 perform, Iveta moves on.

Unfortunately, the only thing memorable about Marlin Pelayo’s performance was his unitard, made by his mother and painted by his friend. I understand the desire about standing out, but your dancing has to be equally impressive (like Iveta’s). After the first 15 performed, he was sent packing.

Pelayo_Unitard

Marlin Pelayo's unitard

I was worried about Wadi Jones’ b-boy performance when it first began, remembering the critiques they gave Legacy in seasons’ past about the pauses in between moves. He has a lot of great moves and I look forward to seeing more of him. I loved, too, his blue sneakers matching his shirt.

The final dancers of the solo rounds were Sasha and Natalia Mallory. I love the energy of them together. While Sasha is a typically built dancer, the rebel in me roots for Natalia is breaking stereotypes. The dance reflects the nature of their relationship: Playful, fun, teasing, antagonistic.

After the cuts from the solo rounds, the number of contestants dropped from 160 to 114.

The hip-hop round was choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo, a.k.a. NappyTabs for those unfamiliar with the show. Chyna Lee Smith (from Idaho “where the potatoes grow”) apparently started to lose her mind at this point during the warm-up, and it went downhill from there. Wadi Jones develops intense muscle spasms in his legs. Three couples took the stage to perform the routine. Chyna’s mind goes totally blank and she begins to just make up the moves. I almost felt like maybe she was intoxicated, but sleep deprivation has been known to cause similar symptoms. Because of her audition in Salt Lake, she is given the first “dance for your life” card from the judges and asked to do the routine again later. Surprise cuts, and some of my favorites, included Hero McRae (from Japan), Patty Anne Miller (the drummer/Berkeley School of Music grad), Mary Kate Sheehan (the Irish step-dancer), Kristen Dobson (the young lady with only 3 years of Latin dance experience) and Samara “Princess Lockeroo” Cohen, a total of 14 cuts.

Wadi Jones works through his pain and is rewarded with a pass to the next round. Eight contestants had to return to dance for their lives including Chyna and Iveta. Nigel does not understand why some of the contestants did bad earlier but now are so much better. This is not rocket science; the first group had to perform soon after learning the routine; each subsequent group had that much longer to practice. The people dancing for their lives had hours and hours. They are all put through the next round.

Day 2

Tyce DiOrio teaches the group a very sexy Broadway routine. On the judges’ panel, Jason Gilkison sits in while Adam Shankman gets his knee checked out at the hospital. A fully recovered Wadi Jones pairs up with Jordan Casanova, who caught Tyce and Nigel’s eye in the original auditions. Also joining these two on stage were Jessica Watanabe and Virgil “Li’l O” Gadson. Jason said Jessica “owned” that routine. All four are put through to the next round.

Chyna Smith, Jess LeProtto, Sasha Mallory, Natalia Mallory, Derion “DC” Chapman, and the “Woo Man” Robert Taylor, Jr. did a fabulous job and moved through to the next round.

Rebecca Hart and Jeremiah Hughes have been to Vegas many times in the past, hoping 8 will be their lucky number. Jeremiah is notorious for having lost his temper previously. Time matures people, however. Despite his timing being off, the judges will let him through; however, Jeremiah needs to work on his facial expressions though because the anger is still there. People have to be able to take constructive criticism so that they will grow; he seems to find any criticism a personal attack. If Debbie Allen says you’re off, you…are…off. A tearful Rebecca, however, is sent to pack her bags once again. “Krumping for Christ” Brian Henry was given a ticket home.

Jason Gilkison teaches the group a jive dance, a notoriously fast dance, in the afternoon. The female dancers have their podiatrists or orthopedists on speed dial as their heels give them hell and ice packs are helping the economic downturn. Ryan Ramirez came inches close to being in the top 10 last season (all-stars round was the top 10 dancers instead of top 20 in a usual season). After delivering that sad news, Lil’C asked her to return to audition the next year. Her toenail is bleeding and I feel horrible for her.

In the first group, Natalia and her partner Josh Williams are given another opportunity but will be paired up with different partners.

In the second group are Sasha Mallory and Ryan Ramirez. Nigel tells Sasha that her knees are supposed to be together, but hers were open. She’s brought enough in previous rounds to get her through. Everyone else gets through as well.

Natalia performs her routine with Bryce “Professor Lock” Johnson and moves on to the next round.

The last group to appear on camera was Alexia Mason, sister of Jeanine Mason, winner of season 5. She does not do well; there is no joy in the jive. She gets the second “dance for your life pass” and returns to dance contemporary. After watching her solo, her level of dance is not up to the other contestants, especially in those facial expressions. Her lines needed to reach greater heights and deeper, but I believe because of Jeanine, she is given the pass to the next round.

At 10 p.m., there are 39 guys and 35 girls left. They are asked to stay up through the night and learn a group choreography number. Nigel says they will be looking for creativity and entertainment. This is when the drama occurs as people are nearing physical and mental exhaustion. This is when emotionality rules. All the dance numbers go well and no one is sent home.

After a break for lunch in the pool, contemporary style is on the dance card for this day. Cat Deeley says 67 remain, but the math does not add up (39 guys + 35 girls before group round = 72). Choreographing this year is the fantabulous Travis Wall, a former contestant from season 2 who has shown his extraordinary choreography skills during the last few seasons. Assisting were former contestants Jamie Goodwin (season 3) and Robert Roldan (from season 7). Ryan Ramirez hurts her back during practice and goes to the hospital. Natalia also goes to the hospital because her blood glucose level dropped.

Sasha and Bryce “Professor Lock” Johnson are in the first group to perform for the judges. I think contemporary is one of my favorites to watch. It is so beautiful and emotional. Both are put through.

More groups perform and more favorites like Robert Taylor, Jr. (The Woo Man), Wadi Jones, and Virgil “Lil’O” Gadson.

After returning from the hospital, Ryan gets a refresher with Jamie and Robert. She is paired up with the handsome Robert. They are a stunning pair. Debbie Allen tells her to ice her butt; she’s made it through to the next round.

The final group performs. In this group are Jeremiah Hughes and Arielle Coker. Both had made it to the contemporary round, 2 and 4 times respectively, and were cut. Derion “DC” Chapman is also in this final group. DC looks lost. Airelle looks shocked when she is sent home yet again and does not know how to respond to Debbie Allen’s remarks. Three times is the charm for Jeremiah who is overcome with emotion. DC makes an emotional appeal and Debbie Allen gives him a “man-up” speech and gives him free dance lessons.

At the end of the day 12 more dancers are sent home including Chyna Lee Smith.

The remaining contestants have to perform their solo and tell the judges why they deserve to be there. Natalia is given a free pass through the contemporary round. None are given “formal” feedback during the solos, but there are comments from the judges’ gallery, especially for Clarice Ordaz. Going home is Kelsey from the first group. Twenty-four more dancers were sent home including Kimalee Piedad, Chase Thomas, and Amber Williams. Alexis Mason danced her solo but showed her immaturity not only in her moves (when comparing her with others that made it through) but also her facial expressions. She has the ability to grow so much since she is only 18.

Thirty-one dancers remain, but, there is still one final cut to be made and only 20 will be dancing for American’s votes.





So You Think You Can Dance — Salt Lake City, NY, LA

8 06 2011

After watching these auditions, there seems no end to the talent still out there. Most of the people picked have contemporary or hip-hop backgrounds; very few ballroom dancers have been seen.

Salt Lake City

Robin Antin from the Pussycat Dolls (and sister of famed hair stylist Jonathan Antin), Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe served as judges for this segment of the trip. I found Robin annoying with her constant talking about the Pussycat Dolls and if this or that contestant would work for her group. This is not about them; this is about THIS show.

First to perform are a pair of steppers, Devon McCullough and Micah Clark from SLC. They were in-sync with a very difficult routine. During choreography, however, only Devon made it through to Vegas.

Chyna Lee Smith from Pocatello, Idaho, had overflowing enthusiasm and a long list of SYTYCD alumni with whom she has worked: Matt, Natalie, Brandon, and Allison Hooker did the choreography for her audition. She comes from a dancing family, her mother having danced with the Osmond’s. She’ll be one to look for during the Vegas auditions.

It was fun to watch Annie Gratton, of Phoenix, Arizona, with her father, Francois Gratton. I dare say that the father performed better than the daughter when they danced together at Nigel’s request, but Annie is going to Vegas; dad can’t meet the 30-year-old cut-off.

Tadd Gadduang reminds me of the playfulness of Dominic Sandoval. He performed his hip-hop routine to classical music. He was straight through to Vegas.

Samantha Miller many have lost some of her memories, but her muscle memory is still there. She was put through to choreography but was told to come back and audition next year.

Day two of Salt Lake City discovered the talents of Chase Thomas from Provo Utah. Performing a contemporary routine, he showed a lot of strength. His lines were not the cleanest, but he did okay. This is the young man whose former girlfriend cheated on him, but found someone else and is now happily married. He is through to Vegas.

I am not sure what I make of the Brittany/Ringo Starr thing. If her father was just acting, then no harm, but he was demented and has delusions thinking he is Ringo Starr, then that was wrong to have exploited him.

New York Auditions

From my birthplace, Brooklyn, Jason Gilkison, Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe were judging this set of performers. I was introduced to a new term: Whaackin. It is a style of dance that came into prominence around the 70s in predominantly gay club scene. It draws from modern jazz, funk, soul and ballet to name a few. It also has distinct elements of vogueing and locking as well. Samara “Princess Lockeroo” Cohen from Brooklyn brought this unique style of dance to life and got a ticket straight to Vegas.

Performing a contemporary/lyrical dance was Brandon Jones from New Brunswick, NJ. He had great height and strength. He was given a ticket to Vegas.

Brian Henry from Brooklyn was an odd dude. Performing an energetic and aggressive krump dance, he looked angry. However, when he said it was his “praise dance” and that he “krumped for Christ” I did not know how to understand that. After choreography, he was given a ticket to Vegas.

Our Irish step-dancer, Mary Kate Sheehan, also from Brooklyn, was up next. She made great use of the stage and made step-dancing look easy and graceful. She was sent to choreography and then earned her ticket to Vegas.

Virgil “Lil’O” Gadson from Philadelphia was also given a ticket to Vegas.

Day 2 of the Brooklyn auditions brought out dance styles other than contemporary and hip-hop. Jess LeProtto from Little Falls, New Jersey performed a cute jazz routine. He reminded me of Evan. After choreography, we will be seeing more of him in Vegas.

One of the few contestants we’ve seen performing a Latin dance, after only 3 years of ballroom experience, Kristen Dobson impressed Mary Murphy. Jason gave her some constructive criticism about her performance. We’ll be seeing her in Vegas after showing her abilities in the choreography session.

The “Woo” Man, 30-year-old Robert Taylor, Jr., of Brooklyn, was a lot of fun in his hip-hop routine. He was not as tight as others we have seen, but he was given a ticket to Vegas.

Los Angeles auditions

Tyce DiOrio, Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe were the judges for this last on-the-road auditioning segment.

Jordan Casanova of Chino Hills, CA, was a sexy spitfire. She said she “turns into something else on stage.” Indeed she did and earned the first ticket to Vegas.

Derion “DC” Chapman of Reseda, CA, reminded Nygel of Twitch, who was in the audience. He was given a ticket straight to Vegas.

Having tried out many seasons in the past, Arielle Coker of Los Angeles wowed all the judges with the improvements she had made. We will be seeing her in Vegas.

Hero McRae, hailing from Japan, was crazy good with her hip-hop routine which was rewarded with a ticket to Vegas.

The last day of on-the-road auditions brought us such potential as Alexis Mason, sister of Season 5 winner Jeanine Mason). Patty Anne Miller, a style consultant, also of Los Angeles, did a fabulous hip-hop routine. She had received a full scholarship for drumming to Berkeley School of Music and had graduated. Both received tickets to Vegas.

The last audition was for sisters Sasha and Natalia Mallory from Bakersfield, CA. Sasha had previously been a dancer on Adam Lambert’s tour. Nigel was surprised at the dancing that came from Natalia because of her weight. Nigel has a short memory (Donyelle Jones, 3rd place winner in season 2). They were sent to choreography and both sent through to Vegas.

Vegas week is grueling and only the strong (and those who avoid injuries) survive. I hope some of my favorites will be there.