"So You Think You Can Dance" Recap: Auditions in La La Land
Kristina and Vasily at their "SYTYCD" audition (Adam Rose/FOX)
Nothing says summer like the familiar opening beats of the "So You Think You Can Dance" theme song.
The show enters its 14th season by returning to the 18+ age group, and by bringing back fan favorite Mary Murphy. Mary joins Nigel Lythgoe (who comes equipped with slightly off-color dad jokes, as usual) and High School Musical star, actress, and dancer Vanessa Hudgens (who comes equipped with an impossibly sleek ponytail and lots of giggles). And while it may seem like Mary was gone for-practically-ever, her banter with Nigel picks up right where it left off.
Though the show has returned to the older age demo, the format this season is like last season's: First, dancers audition with a solo for the three judges. Those who fall short are sent home immediately. If the judges are torn, they send the dancers to the choreography round with La La Land choreographer Mandy Moore (um, we'd like to be in that round, please). But if the dancers are awesome enough right away, they get a ticket to The Academy. From there, they'll power through various choreography rounds (we spy NappyTabs and Travis Wall!) before eventually being selected by and paired with an All-Star.
But for now, we're in the City of Angels for the first round of auditions. And there's some good stuff! Here are the highlights:
We say: Mark comes from Honolulu, HI, where he was raised by his deaf single mom. He calls his style "thera," because it's therapeutic. We call it lyrical hip hop meets contemporary with an acro and b-boy flair—and we like it! Mark performs with maturity, personality, and charisma.
The judges say: "You raised the roof today, and I loved every second of what you did just now," Mary exclaimed before awarding him the season's first ticket to The Academy (and to the Hot Tamale Train). "I wish I grew up in your house, dang it! I love you."
Kristina and Vasily
We say: The married ballroom couple couldn't remember how long they've been married—one year? two? five?—but their chemistry once they hit the stage was undeniable. And he was blindfolded! Between her gorgeous lines, legs, and abs, and the fact that he was dancing without being able to see for half the performance, we are most definitely here for this couple.
The judges say: Nigel referenced 50 Shades of Grey, Mary cried, and Vanessa gushed. They're through to The Academy.
We say: Robert started as a violin player before discovering dance in high school. "The freedom made me feel alive," he says, and that prompted him to drop out of school to pursue his dance dreams. And while we're all about a solid education, Robert's got the moves to make it in this industry. (The outfit? Eh...) We're not sure which was more entertaining: his street-style-esque choreography and super-sharp movements, or the reactions from one magnificently ponytailed young judge.
The judges say: Vanessa shrieked and squealed the entire time. She loved Robert so much. It's a yes for everyone: Robert's headed to The Academy, and Vanessa is officially living her very best life on the panel.
We say: She's a bubbly, bendy jazz dancer with solid technique and wild hair. Was she super memorable? Nah. But she danced with exceptional control, showed off sky-high jumps, and came equipped with a sassy, spunky personality.
The judges say: Mary said she could feel Alexis's love for dancing "oozing out of her pores." Vanessa called her a ray of sunshine. And Nigel gave a one-word response to her performance: "Academy."
We say: His mom was a single parent, he never knew his father, his mom got into drugs and went to prison, then got out and found herself in an abusive relationship. Darius was abused, too, and it wasn't until he was a teenager that he broke away and was "basically saved" by his godmother (who was in the audience for his audition). "It was rough to get through, but when I found dance, I let all of that out," Darius told Cat Deeley. Darius was easily the most memorable dancer of the evening, performing with effortless grace and beautiful classical technique.
The judges say: Nothing. They just stood up with Academy tickets in their hands.
Anastasiia & Viktoriia
We say: Holy full-out-ness, Russian twins! These two look like Lady Gaga and move like—well, they move like each other and absolutely nobody else. How will they fare individually? We'll find out, because...
The judges say: See you at The Academy! The twins earned a standing ovation.
That's all for this week! (Oh, plus one non-Academy-bound dancer who was goofy enough to get a brief duet onstage with Vanessa Hudgens.) See you right back here next week: same time, same judges, next round of auditions.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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Isabella Boylston in "The Bright Stream" (Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy American Ballet Theatre)
Beloved by ballet fans for her lucid technique and onstage effervescence, by her Instagram followers for the deftly curated photos and videos she shares of her glamorous life, and by fangirl Jennifer Garner for all of the above, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston is one of the rare ballet stars who's achieved mainstream fame. A native of Sun Valley, ID, Boylston trained at the Academy of Colorado Ballet and the Harid Conservatory before joining the ABT Studio Company in 2005. She entered the main company as an apprentice in 2006, and attained principal status in 2014. In addition to her successes with ABT, where she dances nearly every major ballerina role, Boylston has served as artistic director of the annual Ballet Sun Valley Festival, which brings high-level performances and classes to her hometown. And speaking of famous Jennifers: Boylston recently appeared as Jennifer Lawrence's dance double in the film Red Sparrow. Catch her onstage with ABT as Manon, Odette/Odile, and Princess Aurora during the company's Metropolitan Opera House season this summer in NYC. —Margaret Fuhrer