It’s summer, which means it’s time for So You Think You Can Dance to return! Even though this show’s been a staple of my summer since the beginning, it’s hard for me to believe that it’s been on for a decade already. But the beautiful and always sunny Cat Deeley tells us that it has, and Cat Deeley would never lie. It’s season 11 now and auditions begin in New Orleans, then Chicago. The rules are pretty much the same as ever, with three possible scenarios taking place: if the judges love your audition, you get a ticket straight to
Vegas Los Angeles (they moved it!) and if they don’t love your audition, you get to pack your sh*t and go home. If the judges are uncertain, dancers are asked to participate in the choreography round at the end of the day before a final decision is made. Joining regular judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy are celebrity guests Wayne Brady and Jenna Elfman. Over the years, this has been one of my only real beefs with the show – I prefer choreographers to their random revolving door of celebrity guests. Also, Jenna Elfman? Seriously? Yes, I know she used to dance, but meh.
First up is Shelby Rase, 18, a fantastic dancer who is wearing too much makeup. That doesn’t really matter, though. She’s great, just lovely. The judges send her through with a ticket (it’s weird not hearing Mary Murphy scream, “Vegas, baby!”) but not before making her father get up on stage and do his famous “bottle dance.” As great SYTYCD moments go, it’s sort of low on my list. I could have lived without the old white guy grinding down on a water bottle to “Blurred Lines.” Really. I could. But hey, congrats Shelby! Your dad is a weirdo, but you’re going to LA.
Next is Tanisha Belnap, a 19-year-old from Utah who has 11 siblings. All her siblings dance as well! That is a TLC series waiting to happen, guys. She’s a ballroom dancer who’s been doing ballroom for about six years. She’s not dancing with a partner, though, which is interesting. Why not one of your siblings? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Tanisha is fantastic, or as Wayne says, ridiculous. She adds this really cool gymnastic element to her dance and earns a ticket straight to LA. Shelby “Skip” Skipper and his little brother Shane audition together, though some people might remember Skip from season 6 of the show. I don’t, but hey, it’s not up to me. They are both really enjoyable to watch, though Skip is a lot more precise in his movements. I will say though, that we’ve seen much more impressive auditions from this style of dance. Shane gets sent home, but Skip makes it through to the choreography round.
The following story from Megan Marcano, 22, is the first tear jerker of the night – she even makes Cat cry. Megan comes from an abusive childhood and has been on her own since she was 12 years old. After her mother’s arrest, she was separated from her six siblings and floated between foster homes until adulthood. Despite this, Megan has graduated from college and made her way to these auditions. I will mention, also, that she is stunningly gorgeous. I mean, stunning. I expect her audition to be kind of sad, but it was light and playful and really sweet to watch. She’s immensely talented and obviously gets her ticket to LA. Yay!
Next, we are assaulted by yet another performance by the bottle dancing dad. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING. He is having a “battle” with another dad dancer, which I suppose is kind of funny in theory, but also, no, thank you. Do not want. And yet, here we are. I am also offended at having to hear “Blurred Lines” for the second time in one hour. Thankfully, we have 18-year-old Trevor Bryce to cleanse the palate. Trevor comes off as a little cocky (“Lots of people try to do what I do, but it doesn’t really work out”) but he ends up being a real star. He has such a great sense of humor, but he’s also got great technical skill. He’s straight through to LA.
At the end of the day, 18 dancers go through the choreography round, led by So You Think You Can Dance alumni Marko and Kathryn, but Skip cuts out early for some reason. Some dancers make it through, but we don’t actually get to see any of them dance, or know their names. Congrats, random strangers! The next day, we’re back in New Orleans for more auditions. Courtney Barnes, 22, is ready to bring it. Courtney is very tall, very lean and very bendy. He also has A LOT of personality. Like, a lot. When asked by Cat to describe his performance, he says, “Fabulous. Interesting. Stylish. Unique. Classy, but never trashy.” Mary Murphy calls him “divalicious” and that’s a pretty apt description. Courtney almost makes Wayne fall out of his chair with a spot-on Wendy Williams impression. Despite that, Nigel doesn’t think he’s a very good dancer. However, votes from Wayne and Mary get him through to choreography.
A return auditioner, Novien Yarber, 22, is back to try again. Novien was last seen at Memphis auditions in season 10. He didn’t make it through and he really seems to suffer from a lack of confidence. He’s in tears before he even starts, saying he questions whether or not he’s good enough. However, his dancing is gorgeous. I mean, really gorgeous. I don’t know why he was so worried. Novien makes it right through, getting a ticket to LA. The next tear jerker of the show Caleb Brauner, another return auditioner from last season. When he auditioned last year, his father came up and danced with him. I remember this – unlike bottle guy, this was a great moment of support and joy and fun. Sadly, Caleb’s father has since passed away and Caleb comes back to honor his father’s life with another audition. It’s light and beautiful and not sad at all – as Caleb says, he doesn’t want it to be sad. He wants it to celebrate his father and it really does. The judges are clearly moved (Mary is crying) but they think he needs more work. He’s through to choreography.
Jacoby Jimmerson, 18, has trained in ballet and jazz, though not as much training as he’d like. Jacoby is also a big dude. I don’t mean this to sound like it sounds, but Jacoby really has a great personality. He does! He’s got so much spirit and a great sense of humor. He can also do one hell of a jump split. I mean, really, it’s impressive! Another thing about Jacoby? He teaches Zumba – and he gives Wayne a short aerobics lesson to prove his skills. It’s adorable. Unfortunately, his dancing is not really up to the level of this competition and he’s sent home. Next up are Marcquet Hill and Brooklyn Fullmer, both 18 years old. They are auditioning as ballroom partners and NOTHING MORE, OKAY? NOTHING. Marquet actually auditioned with Whitney Carson two years ago (I liked her!) but he was too young for the show. Brooklyn has really bad ombre hair. It pains me. As for dancing, they are both fantastic, despite making me listen to “Blurred Lines” for a f*cking third time. MAKE IT STOP. They get their tickets to LA.
Marko and Kathryn are back for another round of choreography after that. It’s a total bummer, but neither Courtney nor Caleb make it through. Caleb sobs in the corner after saying that he knows his father is proud of him and I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING. Ugh. And then as if I wasn’t upset enough, now effing Justin Bieber is here to tell us about a new element to the So You Think You Can Dance show – dance crews. I try and remind myself that just because I loathe Justin Bieber doesn’t mean I loathe dance crews – on the contrary, I think this is a great idea, even though it involves Twitter voting, the most unscientific method of voting ever invented. But over the course of the season, the home audience will hashtag some crews through until they’re featured on the show itself. We meet two of them, but there’s no formal dance routine, so it’s kind of annoying. You know what else is annoying? Justin Bieber. Moving on.
The auditions arrive in Chicago next, where it is very cold. Poor Cat Deeley is forced to stand in 7-degree weather without hiding her beautiful face from the wind. She’s somehow still smiling, because she is Cat Deeley, a force of light and love. The first auditions are two BFFs, Nick Garcia and Rudy Abreu. These 18-year-olds from Miami have been dancing together for 11 years. There’s a very cute montage of them, which is filmed right where I used to live, so I feel like I am their friend, too. Nick does a solo Latin ballroom routine and he is good, guys. Really, really good. Then Rudy comes out and he’s totally different, doing his own unique style of “warrior” dancing. It’s really incredible to watch and I love them both. So do the judges – both get tickets to LA.
And…apparently, that’s all we get from Chicago? No more auditions, just montages. More people made it, whoever they are. I am disappointed until Caleb Brauner comes back! You guys, he’s back! Caleb wants to audition again, which I don’t know if that’s really fair, but I don’t even care because his dance is beautiful. It’s about letting yourself grieve and he incorporates the last voice mail from his father into the song. Half of the audience is crying and so am I. He’s sent through to choreography again, but this time he makes it through. Yay! I kind of wish his accomplishment wasn’t broken up by a group of strippers giving Jenna and Mary a lap dance, but hey. It’s SYTYCD, right? Next week, more from Chicago and then Los Angeles. Until then, here’s Caleb’s second audition. Enjoy!