‘So You Think You Can Dance’ 18 episode 3 recap: In ‘Auditions: Day Three,’ one hopeful was like ‘the LeBron James of dance’

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So You Think You Can Dance” season 18 ended the first stage of the competition on Monday night, March 18, with the last dance hopefuls looking for a spot in the choreography round. So far the bar has been set pretty high by standout performances from dancers representing a variety of dance styles, shapes, sizes and ability levels. So who stood out among the last crop of contestants? Did the show save the best for last?

“We’ve put 25 people through,” said judge Allison Holker at the start of the show. She singled out contemporary dancer Braylon Browner and gymnast Dakayla Wilson as standouts from the first two days of auditions. Comfort Fedoke agreed that Wilson is capable of anything a professional choreographer could throw at her. Maksim Chmerkovskiy was especially impressed by contemporary dancer Easton Magliarditi. But “there’s so many other things outside of dance that we’re also looking at.”

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SEE‘So You Think You Can Dance’ season 18 premiere recap: What went down during ‘Auditions: Day One’? [Live Blog]

The first audition we saw on day three was by Ali Deucher, from Orem, Utah (also Holker’s hometown). In her clip package she told us about dancing in Las Vegas. She spent the last year doing Katy Perry‘s show. On a darker note, her dad ended up going to prison for seven years for perpetrating a Ponzi scheme. She was only 16-years-old when that happened, so dealing with the fallout was tough. Dance was her “safe space,” so she’s on “SYTYCD” to show people you can find your own strength even when others don’t treat you kindly.

Her contemporary routine to Celine Dion‘s “Ashes” got a standing ovation from the judges, which wasn’t too surprising: when you get a clip package, you’ve probably made it through to the next round. Holker thought it was “beautiful,” and she was “so moved by that.” Fedoke said, “You were testifying everything you needed on the floor.” She exuded passion. Chmerkovskiy thought she was exactly the kind of dancer choreographers look for. All the judges agreed to send her through to the next round.

Jaylin Sanders started dancing when he was six. His dad taught him how to pop and wave, and then in LA he found a mentor in Missy Prissy, the queen of krump. Fedoke thought he had a “great foundation” of skills. Chmerkovskiy agreed, but now that he’s got the first-performance jitters out of the way there’s more space he could fill. Holker wants to see more of his abilities in the choreography round, so it was an “absolute yes” from her. Another yes from Chmerkovskiy. And Fedoke made it unanimous.

SEE‘So You Think You Can Dance’ 18 episode 2 recap: Who were the standout performers during ‘Auditions: Day Two’? [LIVE BLOG]

Mariyah Hawkins just turned 21. She’s another contestant in the competition who previously auditioned for “So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation” when she was a child. She was a self-conscious kid, unkind to herself, and now she’s looking to heal. The judges disagreed on her performance, though. Chmerkovskiy wanted to see more of her personality in her routine. It looked to him like she was doing work. But Holker felt the way Hawkins spoke was the way she danced. Fedoke was with Holker, calling Hawkins “unique” with her Afrobeat touches. It was a yes from all three judges, however. “I never said it was a no, by the way,” Chmerkovskiy pointed out. But she’s going to have to step it up moving forward.

Cipher Goings arrived with a little click in his step. Sounds like we’ve got a tapper! He started at his dance studio at age seven, and it’s been 15 years. “I cannot imagine a life without dance,” he said. It helped keep him out of trouble. So he wants to show his students they can do whatever they put their minds to. “Your personality lights up the dance floor,” Holker said. “Your musicality is there, but it feels like the movement was being forced onto us.” Chmerkovskiy thought it took him until halfway through to settle into his routine. Fedoke told him to focus more on the articulation of his feet. So mixed reviews all around. Chmerkovskiy gave him a no. Fedoke said yes. But Holker thought he needed more work on his craft, so it was a no from her as well. Surprised he didn’t go through. He got a clip package and everything, and it turned out to be the only tap routine we’d see during auditions.

Contemporary performer Anthony Curley wanted to quit a lot of times along the way, but the encouragement of his mother kept him going. Another standing ovation from the three judges, so there was no doubt about this routine. “I’m still goose-bumping,” Chmerkovskiy told him. “You’re the LeBron James of dance!” Holker thought the height he got in his jumps was especially outstanding. Fedoke thought it was a “captivating” number. Yep, yeses all around.

Lihi Catriel auditioned with a jazz funk routine. She was born in Israel, moved to the US when she was just eight months old. She was on tour on October 7, which she described as the worst day of her life. But “to be able to represent my people through it all is the biggest blessing.” Chmerkovskiy liked her performance, thought it was full of personality, but was curious about the range of her skillset. She assured him she has training in all styles. Fedoke thought Catriel showed “joy and peace” within her dance. Holker liked it too, but it didn’t seem like she thought Catriel made enough of an impression. Ultimately, Catriel does get yeses from all the judges, but Holker wants more from her in the future than she delivered.

Julian Carmolinga grew up in Chicago around a lot of gang violence. His father was a gang member, so he wants to help the next generation escape their own difficult circumstances. Chmerkovskiy loved his hip-hop/contemporary fusion routine, but Fedoke noted that there wasn’t really any hip-hop in the fusion. Holker could feel his pain when he danced, but he also made it light. Holker was a pretty enthusiastic yes. Chmerkovskiy was also “inclined to say yes.” Fedoke was the most hesitant of the three, but she said yes too.

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Next we got a drag performance from Juicy Love Dion, who hails from Miami, Florida. This show was always a childhood dream for him. Growing up, his dad never let him be feminine. He was taught to hide it. But he brought the femininity and sparkle and acrobatics (in heels!) to his performance, which elicited yet another standing ovation from the panel. Fedoke thought it was “unexpected” and had her like “wow.” Holker loved the character and personality of the dance, it was “the full package.” Chmerkovskiy called it a “phenomenal performance.” A yes from him. A yes from Fedoke. And with a flip of her hair, a yes from Holker.

That left one spot for the choreography round, and we got a montage of dances before the final routine of the day, a 30-year-old pro named Victor Ramos who has been at it for 23 years. Since 30 is the upper age limit for “SYTYCD,” this was his last chance to be a contestant on the show. During the pandemic he lost a job and a relationship he loved, but he got the day’s last standing ovation from Chmerkovskiy, Holker and Fedoke. Holker said it was “so well done,” especially after he got so vulnerable telling the judges his story. Chmerkovskiy asks him, though, if he’s still willing to learn and “take more in” at 30. Ramos says yes, and so do the three judges.

“With that the season 18 auditions come to an end,” said host Cat Deeley. “But for 35 dancers, it’s just the first step on a long, career-defining road to the finals.”

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