It's baaaaack! We're so excited that our favorite dance show (Sorry, "Dancing With the Stars") is finally back on the air.
Naturally the episode kicks off with some big, montage-y footage of what we can expect from the audition rounds over the next few weeks. Hey, Ryan Ramirez! We know you. If the opening montage is any indication of the Top 20, we spy a familiar face!
And then: "Season 8 starts right now." Cat Deeley, how we've missed you!
The first stop on the audition tour is Atlanta. There are lots of slow motion clips of dancers leaping and flipping while waiting in line. Cat says they are ready to compete.
On the judging panel: Nigel, Lil' C and the return of hot tamale train conductor, Mary Murphy.
So you know how this works: The dancers perform a solo for the judges, then they're either straight through to Vegas, through to the choreography round or they are told "Thanks, but goodbye."
First up is Latin dancer Bianca Hinklerian with her non-competing partner, doing Colombian-style salsa. Their footwork is fast and furious, but her facial expressions totally freak me out. They do a few cool partnering things and he tosses her around like a technically-trained ragdoll. Nigel says it's like they "have ants in their pants." Apparently that translates to: "I loved it. I thought you were tremendous." Mary thought it was fantastic. Her voice octave remains controlled. No shrieks yet. Bianca is a definite yes to the choreography round.
Melanie Moore is next! She's at Fordham majoring in art, not dance. She's a sketcher! We first spotted Melanie at JUMP Nationals last year and she was a major standout, winning the senior VIP title. We find out that Melanie's dad died when she was 12 after undergoing a liver transplant. It's an emotional backstory that tugs at our heartstrings, but we can't help but smile at how adorable and charming Melanie is with her closely-cropped hair and her Ginnifer Goodwin-esque looks. She has such strength and control and her penchee into a forward roll—a staple on the comp scene these days—made her an early favorite from the judges. Seriously this girl's thighs are killer. She jumps high, developpes long and is a wildly captivating performer. Nigel asks her if she competes, and she says she does well at competition. He says, "You are amaaazing. Amazing." He says he has already fallen in love with her, but worries it won't work out in Vegas. He doesn't want to see her disintegrate there because she isn't trained in other areas. (Are you taking notes out there, comp kids?) Everyone agrees that Melanie is extraordinary and she's straight through to Vegas. Love how genuine she is.
"The Georgia peaches are out in full force." Cat Deeley, I love you. Only you could make a cheesy line like that sound kind of cool.
Next up is the hip hopping, charming duo of Deon and Damon. "Y'all can really bust, so I respect that," says Lil' C. Deon is straight through to Vegas. Aaaand so is Damon! They're both through.
The judges are giving out lots of consecutive Vegas trips. "Records have been shattered," we're told. Ten dancers in a row are sent straight to Vegas.
Next we meet a gunshot victim. Holy crap. The bullet is still in his shoulder, "near the joint, but not quite," he says. He's adorable, he's got a good story...he is Marko Germar. He's 22 and dances with a youthful energy. He can tumble and do lots of stuff people without bullets lodged in their bodies can't do, so that's cool. Again, in talking to the judges, we are reminded that the bullet is still in his arm. We should talk about his dancing though, judges, don't you think? Anyway, he's through to choreography.
Twenty three dancers are in the choreography round with Katee Shean and Jakob Karr. They get an hour of rehearsal before "getting down to business." They're dancing to "DJ Got Us Falling In Love Again" and, man do people fall apart during this round.
Bianca is off to Vegas. She's pretty pumped about it.
Eleven more dancers get tickets to Vegas, including Marko.
That was only the first day in Atlanta, though. "The judges are hungry for more" says Cat, and Mary says "I had the time of my life."
Nigel is so casual in Hotlanta. He's wearing plaid. Unbuttoned.
Kimalee Piedad is up first on this second day of Atlanta auditions, auditioning with her irrelevant partner. FYI, her name isn't Kimberly, it's Kimalee. Don't mess that up. They do some weird partnering stuff, and then I realize that Mary Murphy is wearing some sort of shiny sequiny bedazzled turtleneck. Yowza. This routine is all lifts, and the lifts are cool, but there's basically no dancing. Tricks are for kids, Kimalee. Why don't you show me something—anything—else. Oh, but Nigel says "it really was fabulous" and Mary says "beautiful dancing." Huh. She's straight through to Vegas and I am baffled.
Mary then says the word "organtic."
Lil' C says he "loves when dancers are absent yet they're present." Then he says someone is "gracefully clumsy." Another is "hard to ingest, even harder to digest." From there we get this gem: "Your body is a cup. Energy. You don't want to spill it. You were submissive to your own dominance. I don't see that a lot." No one knows what he is talking about, and yet I am in love with him.
Next: "My name is John AKA White Chocolate." He says he doesn't have a last name. Oh, it's John Palermo. Lil' C's face is priceless. He is so clearly unimpressed...or some other fancier word for bored. Which is fine, so are we. John/White Chocolate is a cutie and he's harmless, but there's nothing cool about him, and Nigel says it was "juvenile." Mary asks if he's ever seen the show. "What did you think was gonna happen here today?" Ouch. Lil' C says his transitions are "bad, sloppy, no mechanics." No's across the board. But W.C. asks for a hug, and the judges oblige. How awkward.
Kyre Batiste is up. His jeans are tighter than any of mine. He's making Mary laugh, so he gets points, and his teacher is sitting at the judge's table, so that's weird. He isn't doing much, though he's got some Matrix-y stuff in his pocket. I'm bored. So is Lil' C. Again. Weird things are happening with this old lady (Kyre's teacher, I believe—I dozed off for a minute) and I think she just spanked Lil' C. I can't wait for the audition rounds to be over. This is brutal. Kyre's personality gets the judges excited, but he's a no. What a waste of time. In a "shocking" turn of events, Grandma Judge gives him a yes, and I feel weird, because for whatever reason her vote lets him through to choreography.
Fourteen dancers go to the choreography round this time. Kyre is done. He's pleasant, but he's not through to Vegas. There's a Jakob lookalike who gets through to Vegas. I don't remember seeing him dance.
Seven dancers move on to Sin City. Weird, because I thought Contoocook, NH, was sin city. Rock on, hometown.
Next stop: San Francisco. Cat says the talent there is golden. Like the Golden Gate Bridge. Do you get it? It's hilarious.
On the panel: Nigel, Tyce Diorio and Toni Redpath
Sparkplug Amber Williams from Utah is first, wearing lime green. I think her technique is less than stellar, but the judges disagree with me. She gets a "Yeahhh grrrrrl" from Tyce. He says she "commands attention" and her "body does fantastic things." Hm. Is she quirky? Yes. Is she technically gifted? I'm not convinced. Toni says she's "white girl freaky with ghetto funky." Nigel references Shirley Maclaine, and I don't know how that's related, but then he calls Amber sexy and compares her to a traffic light. He also says she's through to Vegas. Oy.
I am exhausted. I just want to know who is in the Top 20.
Timothy Joseph is next and I want to disregard him because he has two first names and that weirds me out a little, but he's actually pretty good. He does lots of those spinning arm hops that B-Boys can do and I'm said Tyce is on the panel and not Lil' C, whose judgment I actually trust. Through to choreography.
Then there are some really bad and not funny people, at which point I start dipping pretzel sticks in my fancy new chocolate peanut butter.
Danielle Ihle's turn. We hear her story about being homeless. Then she dances and I don't think she's great. She's not refined enough. She's really pretty though, with a nice tan and sick abs. The judges aren't super impressed, either. They acknowledge that her turns are good (I think she just got lucky) but they needed something more. Nigel says it was a shame that the routine was so sad because she has a lovely smile. "I didn't know why you were angst ridden," he says. And yet she's through to choreography.
The next girl is pretty but she's wearing too much makeup. Her name is Ashley Rich. She has weak turnout, but Tyce instantly loves her, in a way over-emotive, dramatic kind of way. Ashley has good extension, but needs to straighten her knees. I also feel like she has really big feet. She's straight to Vegas.
D'on-que Addison. I can't even talk about him. Do you know why? Because he performed then had a full on breakdown onstage. He cried a lot—and I mean total, hysterical sobbing after his performance. He has two-toned hair and is really sweaty and I can't believe he is still crying.
Katee Shean and Will Wingfield lead the choreography round. Will is hot.
Timothy Joseph is done.
Some more people get through to Vegas.
B-Boy Jeffrey McCann dances next. He does some cool jumps and hops and things with names I don't know. Everyone loves him.
Save the best for last: Ryan Ramirez! If you're a competition or convention kid, you know Ryan. She has assisted Mia Michaels, she's a PULSE Protege and she's a dynamic performer. She auditioned for "SYTYCD" last season and made it to the Top 24. This time around, Ryan performs a very pleasant, mature contemporary solo. At this point I would like to say that I watched the second half of this episode with a clueless, non-dancer friend who remarked about Ryan's performance: "She's the first real dancer I've seen this entire episode." The judges love her, Dance Spirit loves her, and we hope to see Ryan in the Top 20.
Check back next week for more audition coverage! And be sure to follow DS on Twitter @Dance_SpiritMag to share your thoughts during each episode.