Ah, that old "So You Think You Can Dance" theme song. Whenever I hear it I'm reminded that summer is here, and with that comes everyone's favorite dance competition: Welcome, to "So You Think You Can Dance!" [Insert adorable Cat Deeley British accent here.]
Last night's two-hour Season 9 premiere kicked off with auditions in NYC (with guest judge Tyce "Keith" Diorio joining Nigel and Mary on the panel) and Dallas (well hello there, Lil' C, you crazy non-English speaking krump king).
So how did our first round of dancers fare?
Um. I'll say it was a mediocre season kickoff. I wasn't overly impressed with the talent, but there were a few highlights. Let's break it down...
The Top 5 Moments From The "SYTYCD" Season 9 Premiere:
1. The most awwww-worthy audition came from 29-year-old Bree Hafen, the darling mother of Luke and Stella. Luke (sporting a killer mohawk) told Nigel he doesn't krump, "he shuffles." When Nigel let the two kids sit in his seat at the judges' table, I smiled. When Luke screamed, "I love you, Mommy!" as Bree began to dance, I was beaming. And then, when Nigel snuck Luke a ticket to Vegas and let him walk onstage to hand it to his mom, I totally melted. Oh, and then Stella performed. She nailed it. Brava, young Stella. Brava.
2. Cat Deeley's braids. Expect to see The Great Ms. Deeley making DS headlines weekly. We love her, and while she wasn't decked out in sequins for auditions, her behind-the-scenes braids (two different styles, one in NYC and another in Dallas) were way cute.
3. Daniel Baker, you handsome Australian devil. He tells us that he dances with San Francisco Ballet like it's no big deal. NBD. So Daniel moved to America to become a ballet dancer, and I guess he's the Alex Wong of this season: leaving a renowned ballet company to be on "SYTYCD." Daniel was the first dancer I truly enjoyed watching last night. That had nothing to do with the fact that he "lost his shirt backstage." It was just because he's talented and technical. I swear.
4. Tear-jerker Jarell Rochelle had to go and wrap the episode up with a sob story, didn't he? Normally these make me cringe, but Jarell was so genuine and so sweet, and he performed for his mom, who is semi-blind. Nigel let Mrs. Rochelle sit in his seat close to the stage so she could see her son perform, and the performance was indeed lovely.
5. Can we talk about Hampton Williams now? So he "invented a style" and it's called "Exorcist Style." Apparently while he dances, he can remove the bad from our bodies. Hampton was actually a pretty good dancer, and his feet were smooth, but what happened above the waist was downright scary. And yet, it brought Mary Murphy to tears. Did he exorcise her demons? I don't think Hampton will make it to the Top 20, because while he's good at what he does (whatever, exactly, that is), I'm not sure how "Exorcist Style" is going to translate into a Viennese Waltz, Paso Doble or jazz-hand-packed disco routine.
The "So You Think You Can What?!" Moment of the Night:
There were two: First, there was "The New York Legend," Austin Freeman, doing "The Wiggle." I get that on shows like "American Idol," seeing the untalented people is amusing. People try to sing, we laugh with [at] them and everyone has a good time with it. But on "SYTYCD?" The bad dancing isn't funny, it's tragic. Show me the stars!
Then there was Vaughan "Legend" Kipper, with his bad attitude and his declaration that he's "actually against auditioning for the show." Oh. OK, then. Cat Deeley saying, "I can pretty much guarantee you will be cut. Take your gerbil outfit and get out of here," was amazing.
Next week: We go to L.A. for "the most stunning auditions of the season." More importantly, Mitchell from "Modern Family" is the guest judge. It will be amazing.
Chime in: What did you think of last night's premiere? Loves? Loathes? Dancers you're dying to see in the Top 20?
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.