"SYTYCD" Season 16 Recap: A "Bad Girl," a Kidnapping, and a Baby B-Boy
It's the second week of auditions in L.A., and everyone's feeling feisty! (Well, Laurieann's feeling feisty, that's for sure.) As the search for America's Favorite Dancer continues, here's what was awesome about Week 2.
Sumi Oshima, 26, Japan, Hip Hop
Sumi's life hasn't been easy. Her parents divorced when she was super young, and then she got in just enough trouble to not be able to attend regular high school. But she's able to leave that all behind when she hears two magic words: "Cue music." This girl can pop. This girl can lock. And this girl can do something almost octopus-like, dropping to her knees, doing a 180, and rising back to her feet with beautiful, super-smooth ease. Her performance was good enough that Laurieann rushed the stage afterward to spank her booty and call her a "bad girl," so...there's that. But! Laurieann also reminded Sumi that she'll need to channel her hip-hop edge into every other style on the show. Dominic loved her control and said he couldn't believe his eyes. Mary appreciated the shock of it all, and Nigel called Sumi a thief for stealing the judges' hearts. She's headed to The Academy—"of course," as Dominic said.
Caroline De La Rocha, 18, Knoxville, TN, Contemporary
Caroline's mom and grandparents have always been supportive of her dancing. Dad? Less so. Mary Murphy can empathize: She said her own dad didn't approve, either, and didn't talk for her for two years, but eventually came around. And Caroline has a pretty compelling case for dear old Dad: She's SO GOOD. But between the ridiculously high jumps and the impossibly deep grand pliés in second, there was fight, as Mary said—at times, almost too much fight. But it was powerful. Nigel told Caroline she danced with angst, but that it needed more control. Laurieann disagreed with Nigel and Mary: "You're here to fight," she said approvingly. Dominic said it was shaky, but filled with potential. Mary was a yes, Nigel was a no, Laurieann was a yes, and Dominic was a yes. With three approvals, Caroline's going to The Academy.
Samuel Sweetser, 29, San Jose, CA, B-Boy
Samuel has a really cute son named Koa. And said son gets called onstage to dance. And it's perfect. It's been 16 seasons, and "So You Think You Can Dance" still knows how to tug on our heartstrings. As for Samuel: He started dancing as a joke, but now "B-Boy Exodus" takes it pretty seriously. He came in hot, immediately dropping into all the classic b-boy moves and grooves you'd expect. Nigel said it was clear where Koa gets his swag from, and noted Samuel's extraordinary strength—but also fretted about how he'd do at, say, ballroom. (On that note: Can we bring back the choreography rounds??) Laurieann said Samual said so much while he was so still. Dominic praised his authenticity. And Mary, a self-proclaimed "b-girl" (uh), said Samuel was an amazing entertainer. Ultimately, the vote was unanimous: Samuel's headed to The Academy!
Gianna Newborg, 19, Churchville, PA, Contemporary
Praise, Gianna, for reminding us all that contemporary doesn't have to look a certain way. It can be pretty without being pretty; it can have every exceptional element—power, technique, control, ferocity—without being wrapped in something conventionally sweet or sparkly. Gianna delivered a routine about being kidnapped, which was "dark as it can get," as she told Cat Deeley pre-performance. Mary, who gave it a standing ovation, called Gianna's trip down the dark side "superb," and said she nailed it. Nigel said Gianna connected with him, and that she spoke loudly with her dancing. Laurieann said Gianna raised the bar. And Dominic thanked Gianna for taking a chance on being different. Is she Academy-bound? Duh.
Nazz Sldryan, 21, & Stefen Yeritsyan, 23, Ballroom
Nazz and Stefen came to cha-cha—for the first time together. They've been working side-by-side for two months, but their audition was a last-minute decision. And while they've known each other forever, no, they insist, they are not a couple. (Fun fact: Stefen is a star on an Armenian soap opera! Anyone out there seen it?!) As far as last-minute decisions go, this was a solid one. Was it the best cha-cha "SYT" has ever seen? No. But it was fun, frisky, and worthy of a Mary Murphy standing O. Dominic was thoroughly entertained from beginning to end. Laurieann appreciated their friendship, Nigel wanted more back-lift, and Mary said it was extremely hot. Both dancers were invited on board the Hot Tamale Train, and into The Academy.
"Korra" Obidi Dean, 26, Nigeria, Belly Dance/African
Korra's here to belly dance—but not by herself: She's pregnant! And girl's got moves. (Surely this baby will come out dancing.) Those belly rolls with a bonus belly? That jump-split at the end? "She just did a drop split and saved her baby's life at the same time," Dominic said as he rose from his seat. Laurieann praised Korra, Dominic loved seeing the pre-birth baby do choreography, Mary called Korra "one fierce woman," and Nigel enjoyed it and was shocked by it. She's not going to The Academy, but she's oh-so-inspiring. (Note to pregnant women everywhere: You don't have to stop doing what you love!)
Kaeli Ware, 18, & Brandon Talbott, 19, Contemporary Ballet
If you've been to a competition or convention in the past decade, you're already familiar with Kaeli's looong limbs (she's a casual 5'11") and exceptional pointe work, and with Brandon's insane pirouettes in à la seconde. Their awe-inspiring performance featured so many legs everywhere, and it. was. FABULOUS. What a way to end the night! All four judges loved every moment. Both dancers are Academy-bound—and both are probably sticking around for a while.
That's it for Week 2. Next week, same time, same place, more auditions!
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It's an increasingly common scenario: A talented dancer wins big at a competition, is offered an assistantship with a famous faculty member, and ends up leaving her hometown studio to travel with a convention. Convention-hopping has obvious benefits. Every event generates new content for dancers to post on social media, gives them a better shot at ending up on their favorite choreographers' accounts, lets them learn from the best of the best, and helps them make valuable connections. "Traveling is a great way for dancers to gain admirers around the country," says Jen Jarnot, owner of Artistic Fusion Dance Academy in Thornton, CO. "That's something every dancer craves." So it's no surprise that weekend FOMO has been blazing through studios like wildfire.
But is this jet-setter lifestyle really the most effective road to take? Can weekends of dancing with top talent truly replace the bread and butter of daily work at your home studio? The answer, according to most industry experts, is no. We asked five pros to explain why.
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