It’s part two of the So You Think You Can Dance auditions and we pick right back up where we left off in Chicago. Hey, did you know that Chicago is a cold place? Oh, it is. It is cold, guys, FYI. Day two of the Chicago auditions continue with Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy as judges, but this time they’re joined by actual dancer Fabrice Calmels of the Joffrey Ballet. Smell you later, Jenna Elfman. As a reminder, dancers who really wow the judges get a ticket straight to LA for the next round. If the judges are on the fence, contestants must pass through a round of choreography with some SYTYCD alumni. And of course, if you suck, you just go home.
First up to audition is 18-year-old Paul Brushhaber, or “The Puppet,” as he introduces himself. Yes, he actually says, “I’m The Puppet.” Oh dear. Paul has created his own style of dancing based on popping, locking, roboting and other forms of animation. He’s tall and gangly and looks like a complete nerd – it’s honestly hard to tell whether or not to take him seriously. Is he a genius or just a weirdo? Turns out, it’s kind of both. But his style of dancing is insane in a good way. He really looks like a puppet! It’s so fluid and whimsical and interesting…I think I love it? Plus, it’s more than just doing weird, bendy things with his body – it’s lyrical. Despite the fact that he has no experience with a partner, Puppet Paul is going straight to LA.
Emily James, 21, has auditioned for SYTYCD twice before, in seasons eight and nine. She skipped season 10 to earn her marketing degree, but she knows that she’s supposed to be dancing. And I think she might be right – her contemporary audition is beautiful. The judges are impressed and she gets a ticket straight to LA. As a bonus, her adorable little niece gets up on stage and performs and she is good, you guys! She does a pretty incredibly graceful one-handed cartwheel. I think she needs to come back for real in a few years. Next is 18-year-old Franchesca Bass, an extraordinary girl and not just because she’s lost her hair to alopecia. Franchesca is immensely confident and talented. Her contemporary audition is about an alien landing on another planet. It’s a little quirky, but just fantastic to watch. She gets her ticket to LA.
Jenna Scaccia, 18, is currently training at the Joffrey Ballet. There’s an adorable little bit where Fabrice is embarrassed for not recognizing her (overall, Fabrice Calmels is effing adorable, just so you know) even though Jenna definitely knows who he is. Her technique is going to be scrutinized for sure – NO PRESSURE, JENNA! Lucky for her, she has fabulous technique. The judges love it, but it’s Fabrice’s praise that really makes her glow. She’s going straight through to LA. Last in Chicago is James Thomas, 18. James is a hip hop dancer who specializes in contortionism and “bopping.” Bopping, he explains, is just starting to gain momentum, though it’s still a pretty locally-based style. Bopping is when you move your legs back and forth – in and out, while bent at the knees – and freestyle. So, James does contortionist movement on top and bopping on the bottom. And when he says contortionist movement, he means it. His bones basically just pop right out of their sockets. “It makes me feel a little bit ill, when I watch you,” says Cat Deeley and James seems to be happy with that reaction.
I’m not really a squeamish person, so James doesn’t gross me out. The way Nigel is acting, you’d think James was performing open heart surgery on stage, but whatever. It’s kind of cool, but it’s definitely more tricks than dancing in my opinion. After lots of screaming and screeching, the judges decide to send him to the choreography round. However, James drops out after he realizes that he’s hindering his partner. I guess bopping will have to hit America some other way. As for the rest, 10 other dancers made it through. We don’t get to see any of them, though. Oh well!
Next up, the SYTYCD team heads to Los Angeles and we have to say goodbye to Fabrice. I WILL MISS YOU, FABRICE. Christina Applegate joins the panel, so I guess we’re back to not-actual-dancers as judges. First to audition in LA is Jessica Richens, 18, whom I instantly dislike. She says stuff like, “Being sexy just comes really naturally to me when I’m on stage!” and then she giggles. The suggested #WerkIt hashtag on screen doesn’t help. Vom. The thing is, Jessica is an outstanding dancer. Just completely spectacular. Her jazz routine to “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” is probably the best audition we’ve seen so far. Plus, okay fine. She is sexy. The judges don’t even bother to say anything – she’s just handed a ticket.
Valerie Rockey looks pretty snazzy with her shiny red tap shoes. The 20-year-old is our first tapper, which of course makes Nigel pretty excited. God, he’s a sucker for tap. It’s kind of cute, actually. Valerie is good, but not outstanding, and the judges send her through to choreography. Following Valerie is Jaja Vankova of the Czech Republic. She’s in the United States literally thanks to So You Think You Can Dance – season five’s Phillip Chbeeb saw her battle and brought her to America. Jaja is pretty damn unique – with her thick accent and fiery red hair, she already stands out. Then you see her crump and damn, she is incredible. Oh my God, I love her. The judges do, too, and she gets a ticket straight to LA.
After a montage of crappy auditions, we meet Kyle Taylor, 28, who’s from Wichita, Kansas. Kyle is a popper who has only recently gotten serious about his dancing in the past year or so. He has no experience performing or professional training and he’s very excited to see some of his inspirations in the audience, like SYTYCD alumni Cyrus (season 9), Legacy (season 6) and last year’s winner, Fik-Shun. Guys, I love Fik-Shun. LOVE. HIM. Anyway, Kyle is pretty great, especially considering his lack of experience, but the judges aren’t totally sold. How about a battle to sort it out? Legacy, Cyrus and Fik-Shun join him on stage and help him rise to the challenge – and it’s UH-MAY-ZING. I mean, wow, these guys just make me smile like an idiot when I watch them. It’s enough to convince the judges to send Kyle to the choreography round.
Justine Lutz, 19, has been dancing since she was three years old. She says she’s only been trained in jazz and ballet, but her contemporary piece is pretty damn impressive so I’m calling her bluff. Her audition is really very lovely. Christina Applegate looks like she’s about to burst into tears. Without comment, the judges give her a ticket to Los Angeles. Then it’s time to get out the tissues because the next audition will make you cry, either because it’s so beautiful, or it’s bound to make you feel TERRIBLY ALONE. Daisie Mendosia and Mauricio Vera, both 27, are in love. I mean, they are in love. You know when two people just look at each other and you can see the pure devotion in their eyes, just pouring from their souls? Well, those people look like enemies compared to Mauricio and Daisie. The two are stunning in their ballet audition. Just stunning. This time, Christina is crying because she was so moved. They’re both off to LA.
Oh God, it’s Bieber again. Is this garbage going to happen every week? Well, two more dance crews audition for your tweets. I don’t know. It’s not just the Bieber thing – I hate the format of this whole thing. Can’t we just see a dance routine? Why do we have to see clips broken up with talking? Ugh. Anyway, moving on. Next up is spiky-haired Hailee Payne, 19, who is pretty damn obnoxious, I’m not gonna lie. Her jazz-funk audition is much more palatable than her personality. Pro tip: terribly spunky enthusiasm works much better in dance form. The judges love her (“to death,” says Nigel) and she earns a ticket to LA.
Something we’ve been lacking so far this season is good male contemporary dancers – that is, until Sebastian Serra, 24, comes along. He’s a return auditioner and I don’t remember him, but boy I will now. He commands the entire stage – I mean, all of it – and he’s so graceful and lovely to watch. I am happy to say that he gets a ticket to Los Angeles. Dani Platz, 18, is next and she’s been dancing since she was three years old, though she took two years off at age 16 because she had an eating disorder. Her time in treatment helped her recover physically, but her performance shows the emotional ramifications of what she’s been through. There are “broken” elements of her performance that Nigel describes as both beautiful and ugly. I think it’s demonstrative of what she’s feeling (so does Christina) but they end up sending her through to choreography for some reason. Regardless of what happens, I am glad she had the chance to tell her story – eating disorders are so common amongst dancers and they never mention it on this show. I’m glad they’ve stopped shying away from it.
Our last audition is 27-year-old Marie Bonnevay, stage name Mary Poppins. She’s from France and her style is “popping with a little French smile in it.” Oooh, I get it – because she pops! I don’t know if she will be any good, but boy she’s got personality. Then – oh my God – her audition begins and I am a lifetime fan of Mary Poppins, you guys. First of all, she auditions to Sade’s “Smooth Operator,” which, YES. Second, she’s amazing. Just amazing. Third, Fik-Shun joins her (Was it planned? Was he just inspired? Who cares?!) and they freestyle together and I want a show of just them. FIK-SHUN AND MARY POPPINS FOREVER. Everyone goes nuts, duh, and Mary Poppins is heading to LA.
In the choreography round, battler Kyle Taylor can’t keep up, but Valerie the tapper and Dani Platz both make it through. Also, someone pukes, which we 100% did not have to see. But hey, they showed it anyway! Thanks, So You Think You Can Dance! Next week: more LA auditions and then Philadelphia. See you then!