This week, "So You Think You Can Dance" returned to Atlanta, the audition city where last year's winner, Melanie Moore, was discovered. Did Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and guest judge Debbie Allen find another champion there this year? Quite possibly. In fact, Nigel might need to change the rules this season, in order to justify having a three-way tie for first place.
Three superfriends, collectively known as "Dragon House," auditioned in the ATL this week, and they really need their own spinoff sitcom on Fox. These guys live together in a big Monkees-style house ("We don't have a dining room, we have a dance floor," they said), and I'm still trying to figure out which Dragon House audition amazed me most. Sensitive B-boy Boris Penton, with his Prodigy-style reverse Mohawk and his smooth lyrical moves that Nigel called "mesmerizing" and Debbie called "pure artistry"? Andre Rucker, whose creepy-cool robot act had me shouting "HOW DOES HE DO THAT?" at my television screen, had Nigel calling him a "genius," and had Debbie calling him "mystical"? Or the humorous, lovable, and astoundingly creative Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer, who may prove that Glitch is the new Twitch? I simply cannot decide. I just hope all three make it to the live "SYTYCD" shows this season, so they can do some mind-blowing trio numbers and then Lil' C can praise them with long run-on sentences filled with polysyllabic words. Lil' C might even have to make up some new words for these guys.
Here's who else stood out for me in Atlanta:
Audrey Case - She may look cute and innocent, but this smiley moppet has two sick secret talents: She can fart with her neck and lick her elbow! I can't wait to see how Sonya Tayeh incorporates that into Audrey's choreography! Seriously, though, Audrey's (thankfully fart- and lick-free) audition was legit, the perfect balance of girl-next-door and sex-kitten. Nigel said he had a good feeling about this one, and I do too.
Joshua Alexander - This musician and dance teacher brought a lot of joy to the audition stage, and he played very well to the judges and the crowd--something that will definitely help him in this competition. The judges were in fact so impressed with Joshua, they didn't even critique him. Nigel just cut to the chase and handed Joshua his Las Vegas ticket straight away.
Tim Conkel - I'm not sure how I feel about this wild and crazy guy. On the one hand, he's GREAT television. He's a karate instructor, martial arts champion, Selena Gomez fetishist, and former bullying victim who freely admitted during his audition that he only started dancing to get girls. Nigel said he seemed "slightly crazy." Mary suspected Tim would either be "horrific or terrific." After Tim's audition, she decided he was in fact terrific, but I fear he may be pretty limited in what he can do. Yes, his routine was impressive, packed with death- and gravity-defying flips, but at times he seemed clumsy, and there just wasn't enough actual choreography here. Debbie, however loved Tim's "naughty" vibe and likened him to a "wolfman." Eventually, this wolf in dancer's clothing won over the judges by bragging that he'd completed "seven days of ballet" and doing a jokey ballet number for them--and surprisingly, they gave him a ticket straight to Vegas, instead of sticking him in the purgatory-style choreography round first. I think this guy could be very popular with viewers, but I don't know yet if he's got the goods to go toe-to-toe with the show's more traditional, experienced dancers.
Jackson Alvarez - This part-time club DJ tried out to C+C Music Factory and then lead the other auditioners in a wobble line-dance. What's not to like? And does that mean we'll have our first wobble routine on "SYTYCD" this year? I wouldn't mind that--as long as Nigel refrains next time. I don't need to see Nigel Lythgoe wobble, please.
Janelle Issis - This girl certainly was interesting. A "full-blooded Palestinian" who learned belly-dancing in church, she had nasty Nigel totally perving out. After leering through her sexy audition for a bit, Nigel finally stopped her, exclaiming, "One heart attack's enough in my life!" Well, Nigel better renew his heart-pills prescription, because after passing the choreography round and proving that she can master other dancing styles, this little moneymaker-shaker is sticking around and heading to Vegas.
Danielle Dominguez - Danielle is one of my favorite girls of "SYTYCD 9" so far. A self-described "weird dancer" (in the best possible way, of course), a total mama's girl, and someone who somehow subsists on a daily diet of bacon and still has the flawless physique of a world-class athlete (seriously, the pork industry needs to hire her as a spokesmodel), Danielle is fascinating. She's also gorgeous, and so is her dancing--although it's gorgeous with a compellingly freakish edge, thanks to her bizarre double-jointed shoulders. After this audition, Mary was already dreaming of a Danielle Dominguez/Sonya Tayeh partnership, and Nigel even proposed that Danielle one day dance with my all-time favorite "SYTYCD" alum, Mark Kanemura. These things must happen.
Courtney Kirby - Danielle may be a mama's girl, but Courtney is a grandma's girl. Courtney attended her audition with her adorable grandmother, a former dancer and dance teacher, and Grandma nearly stole the show when Nigel invited her to temporarily sit on the judging panel. Eventually, Courtney made her grandmother proud with a big, bold, athletic routine that reminded me a bit of Season 7 winner Lauren Froderman. And Courtney of course made it to Vegas. Now what can we do to convince Nigel to make Courtney's grandma a real guest judge later this year?
Asher Walker - Asher, a self-described "redneck" from Virginia, certainly didn't seem like a typical hip-hop dancer. But after practicing hip-hop alone in his garage (unsurprisingly, there's no dance scene in his small town), he somehow defied odds and expectations, and delivered a fresh, fun audition in Atlanta. I sincerely hope Justin Bieber was watching this--since it's Asher's dream to someday dance backup for the Biebs, maybe Justin can call him if "SYTYCD" doesn't work out. But for now, Asher's off to Vegas.
George Lawrence II - This former track star quit sports to pursue dance, a decision that greatly disappointed his dad. That's really too bad. His father should actually be immensely proud. George II said he was hoping to win over his dad by succeeding on "SYTYCD," and I bet after watching his son's stunning, fluid, magical routine, George Sr. has had a major change of heart. Come on, what parent wouldn't be proud of this?
Brittany Ortner - This sweet rural girl from "Chicken Town" showcased a certain robust, healthy sensuality reminiscent of last year's Jordan Casanova. I was kind of surprised that the judges didn't put her straight through to Vegas, but not at all surprised that she passed the choreography trial. We'll be seeing a lot more of this Chicken Town chick, I am sure.
Damon Bellmon & Deon Lewis - This dynamic duo, who also tried out last season, weren't as awesome as last week's Ninja Twins, but they came close. After flirting with Cat Deeley (and sheepishly apologizing for losing her phone number last year, ha), and clearing up a controversy about them supposedly stealing another duo's choreography (short version of the story: They didn't), they performed their own routine this time. It was a ton of fun, but after they were put through to just the choreography round (a panel decision that elicited boos from the crowd), only Damon survived. What a shame that Nigel had to break up the D&D act...but I'm looking forward to seeing more from Damon.
So we have one more audition stop to go--Salt Lake City--before it's off to Vegas, baby, Vegas! So far it's been a fantastic season packed with talent. Will SLC keep up the pace? Cue music, because we'll soon find out.