It was Week Two of auditions for "So You Think You Can Dance" -- two hours of fresh-faced hoofers who will head enthusiastically into the grind that is the L.A. call-backs (no more Las Vegas, baby), and many more hopefuls who were sent home.
To this show's credit, many more of the positive auditions and incredible dancers are shown, with only a light touch to the not-so-talented or the dancers only in their own minds. We all know that everyone does not make it past the auditions, but there certainly doesn't need to be heavy-handed ridicule at their expense.
Justin Bieber and Nick DeMauro, his choreographer, were on tape again to introduce two more dance crews to be voted on via Twitter. The Biebs, said executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, is a big fan of the show and agreed to videotape the introductions when he was in Cannes, France, which meant a quick flight to Europe for Nigel and his production crew. Hard work, huh?
I don't mind Justin and Nick, but it's a real shame that the dance crews are shown in broken-up bits and not a full routine. If the program is going to have such a competition, they should allow enough time to show what the dancers can do. This week, the crews were Breaksk8, a group from the Midwest that does break dancing and stunts on roller skates, and Academy of Villains from Northern California, an "illusional dance company" that relies on theatrical tricks in its routines.
No final scores were revealed for last week's crews, and we were only shown that Academy was leading in the Twitter voting at show's end.
As for the auditions, there was once more awesome talent on display, some with incredible, emotional stories. The judges for Chicago were Nigel, ballroom expert Mary Murphy, and Fabrice Calmels, choreographer, model and dancer for the Jeoffrey Ballet. It's impressive how much the judging panel knows about dancing! For those who don't know, each applicant does an individual audition in a style of their choosing and will be sent directly through to the call-backs, or sent for a test of learning choreography, or gently shown the door. Those who make it successfully through the choreography also get tickets to the L.A. call-backs.
I guess I'm getting a little tired of so many dancers doing contemporary with some of the identical moves. So some dancers tonight who were a little different caught my attention. I really liked Paul Brushaber, an 18-year-old from Illinois, who created a style of dance he calls "puppeting." When he dances, he looks like a marionette without the strings but in a much more lyrical way. Nigel was dazzled by his body control and Fabrice was impressed that Paul created his own style. Yep, he got a ticket.
Franchesca Bass, 18, has a condition called alopecia areta where all of her hair has fallen out. But the Indiana teen used her condition in her dance by pretending to be an alien being. Nigel was fascinated by her routine. I couldn't take my eyes off of her, however, I don't know how well her style will help her when she has to do couples work in the call-backs.
But Chicago also had its "ICK Factor" -- James Thomas called himself a hip-hop dancer who specializes in contortionism and bopping, a style created in the Windy City. It was just so weird to watch his shoulders pull out of joint and he did so many strange things with his arms that his dancing suffered. He was sent to choreography but dropped out because he couldn't pick up the routine as quickly as his partner and he didn't want to hold her back.
In the end, host Cat Deeley said that 10 dancers from the Chicago auditions won tickets to the L.A. call-backs. Then it was on to Los Angeles, uh, Hollywood, since it was the auditions, not the call-backs. This is getting confusing -- why didn't they try another city, like San Francisco or Oakland? Oh well. Nigel and Mary were joined by actress Christina Applegate, who knows a thing or three about tripping the light fantastic.
Standouts for me included JaJa Vankova, a dancer from the Czech Republic now living in Chatsworth. She brought her female version of animation/crumping, and she really did it well. As Cat said in a short interview, "As a girl, I imagine it's quite difficult." But JaJa got a standing ovation from the judges and a ticket to the call-backs.
I thought the most fun was Kyle Taylor from Wichita, Kan., who said he only danced popping in his living room. After his audition, Nigel took advantage of the fact that there were several alums from previous SYTYCD seasons and proposed a "popping battle." Soon, Kyle was joined by Fik-Shun (Season 10 co-champ), Cyrus from Season 9 and Legacy from Season 6. All were very good and Kyle was sent to try choreography. Unfortunately, it wasn't his cup of tea and he dropped out.
After a montage of dancers who were heading to call-backs, the most romantic audition by far was a ballet duet by Mauricio Vera and Deise Mendonca, ballet dancers who fell in love at their first meeting in the Santiago Ballet Company. This time, the standing ovation included the entire audience. Mary said the couple were a pleasure to watch, and Christina, with tears in her eyes, said, "I can feel the love between you." And the pair will get to be romantic at the call-backs since they both received tickets.
Dani Platz of Moorpark received a lot of positive feedback for her dancing and for her story of triumphing over an eating disorder, and she also succeeded in choreography, along with tap dancer Valerie Rockey, and on to the call-backs.
But my eyes and heart were taken by Marie Bonnevay of France, who is known as "Marie Poppins" for her popping routine. She began dancing on the stage, then came down and over to the judges' table. But before she could reach them, Fik-Shun came over and they spontaneously began a "popping couples dance" that was mesmerizing and as cute as can be. When he led her back on stage and they finished up the serendipitous dance routine, they embraced happily.
Yes, the judges were overjoyed -- Nigel called it "above sensational," Mary called Marie "a pure artist, a genius," and Christina said it was unexpected and that she loved being surprised. And yes, Marie got a ticket to the call-backs. Cat announced that 14 dancers received tickets at the Hollywood auditions.
Next week, the auditions will continue for another day in Hollywood, and then head out to Philadelphia. See you next week -- keep dancing.