By Jessica Isner, Hollywood.com Staff
It has finally arrived, people: The end of auditions for Season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance. Here we have it: Our final crop of contenders for this year's coveted Favorite Dancer of the Year crown. You know what this means.
One more week. 'Til we meet The Exorcist again.
Until then, though, let's review the talent that Nigel, Mary and this week's extremely introverted guest judge, Adam Shankman, sorted through in Salt Lake City.
(Also of note: Cat wore leather this week, not a furry carcass.)
We kicked things off with Whitney Carson, a Latin ballroom dancer who was SYTYCD's answer to American Idol's Lauren Alaina. Her description of the cha cha tango routine she'd be embarking upon was very disconcerting because she had the face of a 14-year-old on the body of an adult and kept throwing around words like ""sensual"" and ""sexy." Maybe it was just weird because she was an 18-year-old with braces.
To her credit, though, she was excellent. It was still weird in a child-beauty-pageant kind of way to see someone so childlike being so sexual, but I suppose when you're doing the cha cha tango, that's the nature of the beast, right? I think I caught Nigel salivating at one point (ew). After a standing O from all three judges (and a not at all over-the-top decree from Adam that she's ""everything this show is all about""), Whitney was sent right on through to Vegas.
""Alien space dancer"" Lynn Gravatt, an unemployed former aerospace engineer, wanted everyone to know she doesn't fit in the box. Considering her True Blood Season 2 zombie eyes and Demi Moore in GI Jane haircut, that was somewhat evident. She claimed that one afternoon, while sitting around with her friends, the dancing spirit entered her and never left. She is a human body, she said, but her soul is from the stars.
With more secondhand embarrassment than amusement, we watched her do little more than writhe and spin in time to dubstep. Sometimes when I watch this show, it amazes me that Nigel nurtures the crazy in people like this by telling them that they have excellent spirits but little talent. What nurturing words does Nigel have for those of us who spent 10 minutes enduring that audition?
Soon thereafter, we got a glimpse of another alien. This one was dressed as a male preying mantis, and his routine was meant to portray its life cycle and its gruesome death. Raise your hand if you had to Google, ""How does a praying mantis die?"" during this audition!
He certainly got points for creativity, technique and flexibility, and for dancing like Rafiki from The Lion King at times, but his audition ended really awkwardly when he told Mary he envisioned her as the female mantis who ate his head. The judges invited him to Vegas anyway.
Perky blonde Dee Tomasetta didn't bring her large Italian family to her audition, much to Cat's disappointment, but we saw plenty of them in her pre-package, as they harangued her about whether or not she had a boyfriend. "Dancing is my boyfriend!" she decreed proudly, before embarking upon a ballet routine to ""Can't Make You Love Me"" that got off to a slow start with lots of back bends and stretches. I didn't think her routine or her countenance matched the music at all, but the judges were very impressed with her technique, her length, and her transitions. They raved before sending her right through to Vegas.
My favorite audition of the night was definitely that of Mariah Spears, a little white blonde female krumper. She clearly belonged in Eliza Dushku's role in the original Bring It On. As Nigel astutely pointed out, she stank-faced her way through her whole routine, and Adam said she was the best girl-krumper who's ever auditioned for the show. I'd have to agree (whatever, I don't care if she was the only one they've ever aired). She was one of those dancers who seemed mousy when she first came out onto the stage but came alive completelyand believablywhen she started dancing.
As expected, though, the judges wanted to see what else she could do and sent her on to choreography before moving her on to Vegas. Yay!
Next: Day 2 kicks off with a ""nipple guy.""[PAGEBREAK]We kicked off Day 2 with Hawaiian dreamboat Dareian Kujawa, the nipple guy. As in, the guy who provoked this gem from Nigel: ""You could cut someone's eye out with those nipples."" He was armed with no shirt, meticulously groomed eyebrows and a sad story about being raised amidst poverty, Dareian told us that dancing is what pulled him out of his dark place.
His ballet routine was by far the best of the day, and his agility and flexibility were so awe-inspiring that they made Adam cry. The judges complained that his feet were far from perfect, but they were distracted enough by his heart and his abs that they didn't care and handed him a well-deserved ticket to Vegas anyway.
For some reason, we were supposed to care about Johnny Ahm, a gross and smarmy ballroom dancer whose insufferable pre-audition routine of parading around the auditorium and asking teenage girls if they were 18 yet was just unbelievably creepy. I felt very sorry for his partner, Whitney Hallam, who seemed as grossed out as I was, except she had to touch him. What a trooper.
Whitney was pretty excellent (or maybe it was just her bright pink costume), but I was so distracted by Johnny's utter mediocrity and his hamming at the camera that it was hard to notice her at all, which is always a good sign for a ballroom dancing duo. Nigel called them out for their lack of chemistryand for Johnny's ridiculous facial expressionsbut both were sent on to choreography before getting the ax.
Next up: Rachel Appelhaus, who was once a painfully shy wallflower until she discovered her true ambition: Starring in a Burlesque remake. Oops. I was just distracted by her porn star wear and her porn-starry ""burlesque jazz"" audition. The judges reacted to her routine with lots of nervous laughter and said she was a little too much burlesque and not enough jazz, but they were enchanted enough to send her through to choreography, where she was alternately "sloppy" and "fabulous." Fabulous won out, and she advanced to Vegas.
Adrian Lee returned to the SYTYCD stage after getting cut by Mary Murphy in Season 7 in the comfort of his own living room. He didn't take well to defeat, but in his year off from the show, he realized he couldn't give up without giving his dreams another shot. A twist: He didn't tell his family he was returning for a second go.
The judges were impressed with the lines and the technique in his classical routine, but not so much with his choreography, which Mary described as too ""self-worship""-y. Still, the judgesinspired by raucous cheering from the in-house audienceawarded him with another shot at Vegas.
We only got two heartstring-tuggers tonight, and neither of them made it through to Vegas. What a tease. The first came courtesy of Murphy Yang, whose family never supported his dancing and disowned him before moving to California last year. Left homeless, he moved in with his girlfriend, who supported him while he continued to chase his dream.
His routine started off classical and Charlie Chaplin-y and then evolved into something with a more hip hop edge. I really wanted to like this because it was hard not to like him, but the whole thing was a little slow, lackluster and gimmicky for me (he ended the routine by pulling up his shirt, and his stomach had, ""Vegas?"" written on it). The judges said his energy and his vibe transcended his technique, so they sent him on to choreography before cutting him. I may have shed a tear or two.
Finally, there was the hefty Leroy Martinez, the only male in his family to never go to jail. Now 29, he works with the Peacekeepers, who create the kinds of after-school programs for underprivileged youths that helped him so much as a kid. As soon as he entered the stage, Adam mumbled, ""I love this kid, please let him be good!""
And he was. Within moments, Adam was in love (his words). Leroy could do back flips. He could do headstands. He made Adam cry again (and me, too) and got a standing O from the crowd. There could not have been a better audition on which to end. But although the judges raved about how inspired they were, they didn't think he could succeed on the show. Instead of changing the show to suit the person who clearly would've been the star of Season 9, they sent him through to choreography, but not before Nigel said, ""I don't think you're going to be able to do it." I so badly wanted Leroy to prove them wrong! But no dice.
And that's a wrap on the auditions. Who are you most excited to see again next week? Who do you wish had stayed home? More importantly, who do you still remember from Week 1?
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