"So You Think You Can Dance," aka the best show in the history of television, returned to Fox this Tuesday, after a shaky ninth season plagued by format changes and preemptions. I was thrilled to see the show come back. "SYTYCD" is just pure talent — no silly feuding, no gimmicks, no TMZ gossip about the contestants' pasts or supposed showmances, no industry talk about the judges' inflated salaries. Just talent, talent, talent. You know, the way a talent show should be.
Say what you will about Nigel Lythgoe's shenanigans as the controversial producer of "American Idol." With "SYTYCD," he always delivers.
Speaking of talent, the cold open of Tuesday's "SYTYCD" Season 10 premiere celebrated the series' past alums — similar to what "Idol" has done this year with its popular former contestants — as allstars like Dominic Sandoval, Allison Holker, and last season's Witney Carson and Will Thomas talked glowingly about how the show launched their dance careers. They spoke the truth. Maybe none of these people are household names like Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood, but they get work, regularly. And they're some of the hardest-working, or werking, people in showbiz.
Will "SYTYCD" Season 10 discover a B-boy as charismatic as D-Trix or a contemporary queen as exquisite as Allison? Possibly, because Tuesday's kickoff episode, focusing on the L.A. auditions, featured a stellar array of talent. These were the night's standout dancers:
Du-Shaunt "Fik-Shun" Stegall – Fans of niche dance shows may remember this Las Vegas street performer from Paula Abdul's extremely short-lived "Live to Dance" on CBS two years ago. He was just 16 then, and he didn't make it past the semifinals, but he may go farther now on "SYTYCD." I'm not sure if this popper has what it takes to be this year's Twitch (or Glitch), since we've seen this sort of thing on "SYTYCD" before, but the kid had personality for days, seemingly no hip joints (check out that split!), and a real talent for rump-shaking. He's the type of contestant that could become a fan favorite. After Fik-Shun received a standing ovation from Nigel, Mary Murphy, and guest judge Jesse Tyler Ferguson (LOVE HIM), he also got a golden ticket to Vegas. Ironically, he would have been flying back to Sin City anyway, since he lives there, but this way, he presumably got to fly first-class. Now it'll be interesting to see if he can keep flying high in the series' next round.
Malece Miller – Season 10's token adorable manic pixie girl (think last year's Amelia Lowe, Season 8's Melanie Moore) with a hard-luck backstory, Malece seemed like the type of contemporary dancer who often wins this show, frankly. Her solo choreography wasn't that impressive, but that can be fixed — put this charismatic "cutie patootie" (Mary's famous words) in a room with Mia Michaels or Mandy Moore, and she could be a true stunner.
Paul Karmiryan – This 21-year-old Latin ballroom dynamo actually won "SYTYCD" before…in Armenia. Does that give him an unfair advantage on the U.S. version of the show? Maybe, but it's not like ballroom dancers tend to win "SYTYCD" very often. Paul might be able to add a second "SYTYCD" trophy to his mantel, though. It was easy to see how he won "SYTYCD Armenia" after his fun, flair-filled audition. Mary praised Paul's "movie-star looks" and told him, "You have it all"; Nigel compared him to personality-plus Season 2 champion Benji Schwimmer. Could Paul follow in Benji's fancy footsteps? We'll see, but for now, he's at least headed to Vegas to pursue his American dream.
Elijah Laurant – I admit it. I thought this guy was going to be one of the show's wackadoodle reject auditioners. He showed up with a black-swan tutu circling his neck (it kind of looked like one of those bite-proof cones that dogs wear after surgery), and he was talking some nonsense about the whole world being his theater. But then Elijah started dancing, and I was fascinated. I thought he was going to suck. He did NOT suck. There was a spookiness, a darkness, to Elijah's routine that just drew me in. "He's intense," Mary murmured. Nigel described Elijah's solo as "a real artistic thing of beauty…it was androgynous in a strange way…there was a feline quality of movement. Quite astounding!" Said Jesse: "You really understand how to make someone feel something with the simplest of motions." Mary told Elijah, "I'll never forget that piece." I never will forget it, either. I cannot wait to see Elijah and his ruffled collar in Vegas, where I imagine he'll fit right in.
Taylor Ward – This 20-year-old former softball player recently gave up all her athletic scholarships to pursue dance. So my heart broke for her — actually, my heart stopped — when she injured herself in rehearsal, dislocating her knee. But like a star athlete used to picking herself up and dusting herself off, Taylor popped her knee back into place (ouuuuuuch) and went on with her audition. What a trooper! Although she relied more on her non-busted leg and upper body during her solo, she did a fabulous job, and honestly, I would have never known she was injured if her rehearsal footage hadn't been shown, or if she hadn't been wearing an elastic brace on her leg. I cringed during her entire routine, terrified that she might hurt herself again, but she soldiered on. "You're just a warrior, a true professional," said Mary. The judges put Taylor through to the choreography round instead of giving her a ticket straight to Vegas. How cruel of them to make her dance more! But I sure did enjoy seeing two other "SYTYCD" alums, Season 8 runners-up Sasha and Marko, teach during the choreo round. And thankfully, Taylor sailed through that round as well. Now it's time for RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) before Vegas Week!
Eric and Lorenzo Chapman – These guys didn't make it to either choreography or Vegas, but I'm glad they got their screentime. Wayward sons of an elder B-boy who tragically died, as adults the Chapmans got their act together and started an afterschool dance club for kids called the Gr818ers. Their audition (accompanied by a third brother) wasn't exactly "SYTYCD" material, but it was immense fun to watch; it's always so incredibly inspiring to witness how dance can affect different people's lives. "Inspirational, gentlemen! You are not built to dance, but you can certainly move really well," said Nigel. "You're such an inspiration! Keep working with the children," smiled Mary. Why didn't anyone as cool as Eric and Lorenzo come to my school when I was a kid, huh?
So on Wednesday, the "SYTYCD" auditions move on to Detroit, where Nigel and Mary will be joined by another beloved alum: guest judge Twitch, one of the most successful allstars to ever emerge from the show. That should be an awesome night, so come back then. Cue music.
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