"So You Think You Can Dance" moved on to Los Angeles this week, and the season's second episode offered all the awesomeness and absurdity that I would expect (nay, demand) from my hometown, the city of dreams. Jesse Tyler Ferguson as a guest judge! Pole dancers! Hoop dancers! Wackers! Tap-dancing surfers! Martial arts masters! Teddy Tedholm, the Pip of "SYTYCD"! And, let's not forget, the Ninja Twins, who really deserve their own recap, their own key to the city, and, frankly, their own reality show.
Nick, the guy who puts the "Ni" in "ninja," and his identical partner in crime, "James" (he's the "ja"), came to the "SYTYCD" auditions flaunting their "A-list lifestyle on a B-list budget" and basically acting like the Jedward of "SYTYCD." Jesse understandably declared that watching these two was like "watching the greatest TV show of all time"--which might have been an insult to producer Nigel Lythgoe, or maybe it just gave Nigel the brilliant idea to pitch a "Ninjas With Attitude" pilot to Fox's Mike Darnell. (Nigel's recent tweet indicates the latter! Yay!) Surprisingly, the Ninjas weren't bad dancers...but at age 32, they were two years over the "SYTYCD" age limit (Nigel hadn't believed them when they claimed to be 728-year-old vampires), so they were disqualified. ("We're old, but we ain't dead, dang!" they protested.) Nigel didn't change the rules, sadly, but he did tell them, "You have made this show for me right now." Now he just has to make a whole new show, all about the Ninja Twins. Do it, Nigel!
Oh well. There were a few other interesting contestants this week who showed promise and originality, some of whom didn't make it to Vegas, but wherever they placed, they too lit up the screen during the short amount of time that they appeared. And they did my home city proud.
West Coast, represent! Here are my favorite L.A. auditions from this week:
Johnny Waacks - Picking up where last season's Princess Locakroo left off, this dyn-o-mite throwback came out dressed like Jimmie Walker (he freely admitted he'd been born in the wrong decade), cranked up "Shaft II," and started busting loose. "I'm new to America and I missed 'Soul Train'--thank you for bringing it back!" said the British-born Nigel, who was impressed by Johnny's innate musicality. But the judges were unsure about Johnny's ability to adapt to other dancing styles, so they only advanced him to the purgatory-like choreography round, where he soon lost some of that musicality and unfortunately floundered. So we won't be seeing Johnny's wack-y '70s antics this season on "SYTYCD." But Jesse said this kid looked like "if Lenny Kravitz was a Russian nesting doll"--and if you ask me, that sounds like the perfect pitch for another reality show. Make it happen, Nigel! "So You Think You Can Wack." Come on!
Eliana Girard - A trained aerialist, Eliana is a "pole dancer," but in the most legit and respectable way: You won't see her at Hollywood's Jumbo's Clown Room, as she actually performs in Cirque du Soleil's "Viva Elvis" show. But even without her pole, Nigel seemed all riled up by Eliana's hot performance. "Wow! Hello! Those legs!" he exclaimed. Eliana danced with a great deal of joy and grace, and Jesse compared her to last year's winner, Melanie Moore, while judge Mary Murphy called her "definitely top 20 material." And Nigel said, "I just hope the people watching realize why we say we need a performance from the face and from the heart...I felt as though you felt your music, and it was just beautiful to watch. It didn't feel fake." Nope, you certainly can't fake talent like this.
Sam Lenarz - Sam was kicked out of the house by her mother six months ago, without explanation or warning, and of course Mary had to ask Sam about her family onstage, to ensure that Sam would start sobbing and create a big TV moment. (I'm so jaded, aren't I?) The judges thought this emotionally shell-shocked young lady was holding back a bit, but Jesse saw a "simmering sadness" in her. I have a feeling if this girl gets some Travis Wall or Mia Michaels choreography, we'll witness some greatness from her (and maybe her mom will see that greatness on TV, and she'll finally come around). For now, though, Sam is through to Vegas.
Caley Carr - Only in Southern California would you find a surfer-by-day, bartender-by-night, tap-dancer-by-trade with a gloriously lush mustache that might have him easily mistaken for a porn star. "You're this crazy mashup of a person--and you're awesome!" raved Jesse. I too loved Caley's awesome audition, and his sunny attitude, but he didn't make it through the choreography round. To lapse into surfer-speak, this was a major bummer; I think this gnarly kid would have been very popular with viewers and could have gone far. But I have a feeling that life will still be a beach for this happy-go-lucky dude.
Megan Branch - There was something so primal, so animalistic, so intense about this "little firecracker's" Bjork-soundtracked audition. "You are so Megan Branch. You are so 'So You Think You Can Dance,'" purred Mary. I have a hunch that Mary will be handing out a few Hot Tamale Train tickets to this golden girl in Season 9.
Cole Horibe - This man is such a star. A martial arts master (he's a REAL ninja!) who auditioned with a fiery, Shaolin-warrior-inspired routine, he demonstrated just about everything: grace, strength, drama, originality, awesomeness. "That was absolutely stunning to watch," said Nigel. I bet Cole will kick and fight all the way to this season's top 10.
David Matz - This circus performer gave a lovely performance using a spinning hoop, and he received a bizarrely huge amount of screen time. But we won't be seeing any more screen time from David after this week, as he decided to quit when he couldn't keep up in the choreography round. This was probably the right decision--his routine consisted of more spinning than actual dancing, and I suspected he wasn't quite the right fit for this show--but if Fox ever greenlights a spinoff called "So You Think You Can Hoop," he's a shoo-in.
Stephen Jacobsen - This shirtless ballet boy epically failed when he auditioned with a routine that he'd thrown together at the last minute, but the judges thankfully gave him another chance--and when he tried, tried again, he proved that he'd actually learned something during his 17 years of training. So now Stephen already has an overcoming-adversity storyline on this side. The jaded part of me thinks this segment was entirely staged, but regardless, I'm happy he'll that get to go to Vegas and work with some REAL choreographers, ones who actually know what they're doing.
Jasmine Mason & Marshea Kidd - These siblings weren't as fun as the Ninja Twins, but they were even more compelling. Recent victims of a serious car crash that nearly took Marshea's life (he was pronounced dead at the scene and was in a coma for two days), both Jasmine and (repeat "SYTYCD" auditioner) Marshea delivered triumphant performances that had me in tears. (I guess I'm not so jaded after all.) It was actually Marshea's first time onstage since the accident (which occurred only six weeks earlier!), but the steps came back naturally to him--a sign of true talent. I'm rooting for these two.
So next week, "SYTYCD" heads to Atlanta, the city where last season's winner, the aforementioned Melanie Moore, was discovered. Will Nigel and company find another Melanie? We will soon find out. But I bet they won't find another Ninja Twins!