After an underwhelming and ballad-heavy top two "American Idol" showdown Wednesday night, Fox aired a new episode of Nigel Lythgoe's other talent show, "So You Think You Can Dance" — and this is when the network thankfully picked up the pace.
The show, now in its 10th season, held auditions for the first time in Detroit, and Wednesday's Motor City movers really revved up the sex appeal. There was a troupe of actual exotic male dancers, an abs challenge, a "jittin" dancer who practically gave judge Mary Murphy a lap-dance, and a smooth tap-dancing showman who could be this year's breakout heartthrob.
Cue [sexy] music! These were Detroit's standout dancers:
Jade Zuberi – The episode got off to an AWESOME start with this phenomenal pop/locker, whose animated style (think last season's Cyrus Spencer) almost didn't seem real. It was like he was a three-dimensional human flipbook. What a brilliant solo: so weird, so raw, and yet so graceful. "I don't want him to stop!" Nigel exclaimed, before all three judges gave him a deserved standing ovation. Guest judge Twitch Boss (Season 4's runner-up, and one of "SYTYCD's" most successful allstars) called this "easily one of the best auditions I've ever seen." Said Mary: "You had me every single second…the music is just through you." I wondered if the judges would question Jade's ability to handle other dance styles, but thankfully, they were so wowed by his audition that they handed him a ticket straight to Vegas. I can't wait to see more of him.
Amy Yakima – This instantly likable 19-year-old brought her father to her audition, and after she mentioned that he attended a beginners' "Dad Jazz" class with her, of course the judges forced poor Papa Yakima to bust a few of his amateur moves onstage. He was a good sport, however, before surrendering the floor to his more skilled daughter. And man, was she ever skilled! Her father was soon crying tears of pride watching her gorgeous, emotional routine. Amy danced with so much heart, yet her technical skill was admirable as well. Nigel praised her "extension that goes on forever…I'm not sure I spotted anything bad in your work, which annoys me!" Mary said, "Absolutely spectacular…the hair went up on my arms, and that doesn't happen often." Amy got a ticket to Vegas, of course — and I have a feeling she'll be getting one of Mary's Hot Tamale Train tickets in the near future.
Morgan "Mo" Williams – This audition was kind of odd. Mo immediately challenged Twitch to an ab-off, claiming he had the more defined six-pack (untrue), then he dedicated James Blunt's "Goodbye My Lover" to his dead grandma. Awkward. Mo's audition was not perfect, but there was some raw potential there, and he elicited a few "woos" from Mary. Nigel — less wooed, so to speak — wanted to put Mo through to the choreography round, but somehow Mary vetoed that decision, and Mo got a ticket straight to Vegas.
Will "Sysko" Green – "SYTYCD" has introduced many cool dance styles to mainstream America (remember "wacking," anyone?), and this week, the show educated the masses about a Detroit dance style called "jittin," a mix of olde-timey dances like the jitterbug and lindyhop with new-school Detroit techno. Sysko's jittin was real fun to behold — very athletic, aerobic, and adrenaline-rushed. But just when I was wondering how he'd fare at other styles…somehow he ended up doing a hip-roll chair dance for Mary, who blushed as red as a hot tamale. It was a bit icky, especially when dirty old man Nigel declared, "You brought the blood to parts of her body that haven't been there in years." Yuck! More seriously, Nigel told Sysko, "You're a great showman, a great advocate for the jit and dance in Detroit." Sysko moved on to choreography, but when he started freestyling in the middle of the round, a horrified Nigel flipped out and stopped the music, yelling that this behavior actually put Sysko's dance partner at risk. And that was the end for Sysko.
Tyrone Cobham Jr. – From lap-dancing to tap-dancing. We hadn't seen a standout tapper on "SYTYCD" for a while, and I know Nigel has a soft spot for them. He certainly had good reason to like this Tyrone fellow. Tyrone had a certain laid-back cool and effortless endurance, and Nigel called him "one of the best tappers we've had on the program." Mary said Tyrone was "the best tapper in all 10 seasons." Said Twitch: "I wish I could be as smooth in everyday life as you were just now." Tyrone was crying. Tyrone's grandmother, sitting in the audience, was crying as well. Aw. I have a very good feeling about his guy.
Darryl "Smilez" Harrell and DeFonte "Prince Charming" Thomas – These guys came as part of a pack of actual male strippers, a bunch of real-life Magic Mikes. Smilez was a krumper with a big…personality. And big talent as well. He was just pure energy. Prince Charming, a pop/locker, insisted on dancing shirtless, which at first I found annoying, but I soon found out why: so that viewers could see every twitching nerve and sinew in his seemingly boneless body. WHOA. Amazing. Smilez and Prince were the only dancers from their posse to get any real screentime or get through to the choreo round. And sadly, only Prince got a ticket to Vegas after that. The fact that Smilez didn’t make it through made me a frown a little bit, but I am looking forward to seeing Prince Charming charm me, and hopefully the judges, at the Callbacks.
So next week, "SYTYCD" moves on to the Austin auditions, where Minnie Driver will guest-judge for some reason. But more importantly and excitingly, Austin will bring the return of…Hampton "The Exorcist" Williams, one of the best "SYTYCD" dancers ever! That's going to be scary-good. See you then.