So You Think You Can Dance: The 5 Best Auditions from Salt Lake City and NYC

So You Think You Can Dance‘s second round of auditioners chose some spellbinding genres, including Broadway jazz, krumping, and a West Coast, disco-fied cousin of voguing called “waacking” that left me speechless. And nearly decapitated! (Watch those spinning arms, girl!)

Picking the five best auditions from SLC and NYC is no easy task, especially considering that SYTYCD never fails to deliver showmanship. That said, I suppose I’ll have to go with the quintet that I’ve already watched twice:

5. Chyna Smith: How rare is it that a reality-competition auditioner who openly admits an obsession with the show turns out to be a stellar performer? And not a joke? Chyna Smith gushed about SYTYCD‘s past contestants and Cat Deeley’s “fierce” outfits, but her modesty acted as a prelude to a gorgeously self-possessed audition. The smiley blonde wasn’t the most eye-popping dancer of the evening, but she burst with originality using rigid posturing, a powerful prowl, and a subtle maturity that worked in her favor during the judges’ feedback.

4. Brian Henry, a.k.a. Hollow Dreams: But sometimes “subtle maturity” is dull, and unbridled egotism is better! Take the case of krumper Brian Henry, who dissed the styles of choreographer Lil’ C and season six winner Russell Ferguson before unleashing a booming, convulsing krump. So electric! Almost delirious! And so aggressively masculine that his t-shirt flew off his body, revealing a rack of near-metallic abdominals. It was nice knowing you, shirt.

3. Jess Le Protto: Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy must have watched something we didn’t when processing Broadway jazz dynamo Jess Le Protto, whose punchy finesse, bodily flings, and suspender-snapping chutzpah made for a devilishly fun audition. The two judges questioned his connection to the audience, but all I saw was masterful movement and technique — and the confidence of a real Top 20 contender. Check him out here:

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2. Virgil “Lil O” Gadson: Lil O’s audition was a tableau of vibrant styles: hip-hop, gymnastics, breaking, and enough shimmying and backward skipping to qualify as “scandalous.” Even with all his undeniable talent, my favorite part was still his post-critique victory dance, when he broke into an Irish jig and — unless the editing deceived us — referenced the previous auditioner, the riverdancing Mary Kate Sheehan. Sorry, Mary Kate, but Lil O might be the lord of several dances, including yours.

1. Samara “Princess Lockeroo” Cohen: I always root for stylistic over staid. Give me Naima Adedapo over Lauren Alaina any day, you know? I’d rather watch a misfired, reggae-infested rendition of “I’m Still Standing” over a sedate line-reading of “Candle in the Wind,” and frankly, so would Elton John. There’s no reason to choose a career in the arts if you insist on artless copycatting, and that’s why Samara Cohen, a.k.a. Princess Lockeroo, tops my ranks. She presented a full-fledged persona to the judges — a catsuited bandit who dishes diva flair while brandishing a briefcase. Adding substance to style, she employed the aforementioned “waack” dance type, which combines the hand motions of voguing (See: this) with the driving rhythms of disco. Fabulous already. But when Cohen took the stage and started propelling her arms like frenzied, unstoppable gyro-swings, she illustrated the music’s bumblebee panic with an almost lyrical fervor. Her arms became nunchaku, which is no surprise considering Cohen’s martial arts influences. It was fun, ferocious sorcery coupled with what looks like the most bombastic air-traffic controlling of all time. In other (and fewer) words, it must be seen to be believed.

What did you think of last night’s auditions? Could you handle Nigel’s insensitive jokes at the expense of amnesia-stricken auditioner Samantha Hiller? What about Brittany Morgan Starr’s claims about her father, “the real Ringo Starr”? Do you think the mighty talented Brandon Jones should’ve made the ranks this week? Leave it in the comments, follow me on Twitter at @louisvirtel, and read me regularly at! (Your regular SYTYCD recapper Michael Slezak had the night off.)

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. phoenixfox says:

    I think Nigel was way out of line with his comments to Samantha Hiller. It was in very poor taste.

    It was amazing watching Mary Kate Sheehan cover the entire stage the way she did. No wonder she is one of the top celtic dancers in the country.

    • bluz says:

      I totally agree with both of your comments. Nigel’s comments were awful, and I felt so bad for the poor girl and her mom. She’s been through enough already! And yes, Mary Kate was amazing. I can’t wait to see what else she can do!

  2. Terry says:

    I thought the jokes to Samantha were funny and she took it very well..To many people get butt hurt now days over harmless jokes.

  3. Danielle Notaro says:

    I was only able to catch the last 4. Irish girl was awful. Jazz guy was AMAZING-I thought wow he’s the best “jazz” dancer I’ve ever seen on this show. I too thought Mary and Nigel were tripping. I liked the girl who danced to the foreign song, she wore yellow. Would love to know the name of that song.

  4. Saracen Riggins says:

    We LOVED the Jazz/Broadway guy! I’m with you, Michael. We must have seen something different than the judges because we were immediately filled with joy watching that performance.
    Was the little b-boy in the green shirt Lil O? I can’t remember his name, but I really loved him as well.

    • Aeol says:

      I gotta say I’m with Nigel and Mary. Even before their comments I was thinking, “has this kid completely forgotten about his face?” I live in NYC and see a lot of Broadway shows, and those dancers are giving just as much expression as movement. He was technically great but he does lack showmanship. A smile won’t kill you, Jess!

    • corrydon says:

      He can learn to smile if that is what is needed. But oh, man he sure as hell knows how to dance. He doesn’t just think he knows, he KNOWS.
      Wonder if the self important judges know how. Well as they say those who know how to dance, do, those who don’t, teach, those who can’t teach become judges.

  5. OK says:

    I thought what princess lockeroo did was cool, but I just don’t know if she could do anything else. I was kind of surprised they sent her straight to vegas. I want to know if she can do anything else other than swinging her arms..

    • Christina says:

      I was surprised they sent her straight through too. While her audition was cool, she really didn’t do any dancing with her legs, and well that’s a large component of this show.

    • Selbs says:

      Thank you for your comment. I always thought dancing primarily involved using ones feet. Hand motions are an integral part of dancing, except Irish step dancing, so why did Nigel and Mary react with delicious abandon and send the young lady through to Vegas? I think it would have been the better part of valor to at least send her to choreography to see what she can do with her feet. Our young Broadway dancer sure proved he deserved to go to Vegas in spite of Nigel’s and Mary’s snippy remarks about his face. Again, folks, let the feet do the dancing!

  6. bethany0403 says:

    The best audition was when the redhead’s dad got up to dance with her and then got his ballet on! It was amazing and totally adorable. God, I love this show!

  7. David says:

    I really liked “Princess Lockeroo” too, but I hope she doesn’t turn out to be a one-trick pony.

    I was surprised they put the young jazz guy through choreo. He screams the type that is just gonna suck up votes from tween girls.

  8. Sandi says:

    I thought Mary Kate Sheehan and Princess Lockerloo were both spectacular. I really hope they can do other styles of dance but I want them to stick around.

    Maybe I’ve been reading too much Slezak but I’m thinking the jazz guy ambivelence was feigned. Maybe he’s a favorite and they want him to look like an underdog to make for an interesting narrative in Hollywood. Or maybe they’re off their rockers. Either way, he was awesome!

    By the way, I don’t remember her name but there was one redheaded girl in Salt Lake City that they gave big props to and it left me scratching my head. She was a high-energy cheerleader short on style and grace all the way. I thought for sure they’d tell her so…

  9. Lisa says:

    Jess was my favorite of the night. Yes, I’m starting the Black Helicopters here, but I think that Nigel and Mary were so hard on Jess because they saw another Evan Kasprzak happening. Viewers (like me) loved Evan, yet the judges never seemed to share the extend of my passion. They thought he was good, but obviously liked other dancers better. I think it ticked off the judges that Evan never landed in the bottom three, thus the judges never got their hands on him to send him away. Jess has the same likeable quality.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I think your comment is right on the money. I loved Jess…my favorite last night as well, but I think the judges were just scared of another Evan. Then again, I loved loved loved Evan, so if that’s not what they want, then maybe they’ll get rid of him in Vegas.

  10. Ronnie says:

    I thought the night was filled with interesting, stylized contestants. I am unsure how well many of them will perform once out of their comfort zone. Whether its krumping, step or stomp. It will all depend on how well rounded they are and its hard to see that in these short clips.
    One thing I want… Less cutaways during performances. I would love to see an entire performance beginning to end, without-cut to Mary going wow-cut to parents crying-back to dance-cut to nigel going ohh. Give me a full performance.
    I don’t know how you could exclude Brandon Jones! (the lyrical-contemporary guy who talked about his father understanding him before passing away). He was great. I will admit my bias towards contemporary.. but still he was just fantastic. I’ll take this over step any day, even the best step ever done (tap is in the same category for me). Don’t want to disrespect those styles (they work amazingly hard I know)… just not my thing.
    Can’t wait for Vegas and the live shows.

    • Tucker says:

      Agreed about the cutaways. In particular, I think they affected the presentation of Chyna Smith. Personally, though I saw some skill, I wasn’t anywhere near as wowed by the audition that was shown on-screen as what the judges reaction to it was.
      In general, there seemed to be a kind of disconnect with making a, well, connection with any of the performers in last night’s show, especially compared with last week’s Atlanta/Bay Area auditions.
      I would say I would agree with this list. These were the ones that really managed to stand out performance-wise. (The Brittany Starr/”Ringo Starr” tangent was a waste of time and, unfortunately, became the most “memorable” part of the evening. Irish dancing and the young woman with amnesia are really the only other parts that stood out.)
      I agreed with the judges regarding Jess. The work and a majority of the technique are there but he doesn’t outwardly appear to enjoy it, which actually makes him look less passionate in his dancing. It was very noticeable between his audition, the choreography round, and the moment outside when he was jumping up and down about going to Vegas. He just needs to let that shine through in his performance.
      And it was a nice touch/bit of editing to show the braggadocio of Hollow Dreams and then follow it up with his reaction to making it to Vegas.
      Overall, though, I wasn’t really jumping out of my seat with any of the auditions. Here’s hoping L.A. proves much, much better.

    • Amber says:

      The contemporary dancers generally bore me to tears.

  11. Volcfom says:

    I’m glad that they’re showing less of the bad/weird ones – aside from Starr, of course. I’d much rather watch more good dancing.

  12. Robin says:

    Loved Jess! Totally did not see what the judges did, but jazz/broadway is by far my favorite style, so that helped me love him. (misses Kazprzaks!)

    Loved Mary Kate and Brandon also. I am undecided on Lockeroo – fabulous or crazy, I can’t tell.

    The amnesia jokes were in poor taste, largely because the poor girl is working with 3 weeks of memory and it’s gonna be harder for her to get the sarcasm. Big meanie.

    And was the Ringo Starr lady trying to be funny or was she mentally unstable? I couldn’t tell. Someone weigh in on that please!

  13. T says:

    Yeah, what was up with Nigel’s comments to the poor amnesia girl? Totally insensitive, which makes me think maybe it was all an act. I was NOT impressed with the episode. The only one that stood out to me was Chase Thomas, and not just because he danced in his underwear.

    Check out my recap here:

  14. Karen says:

    Nigel insensitive? Imagine that?! And yes, I think he was, by the way. Also, why spend so much time on the Ringo nonsense? I wanted to see more of the guy with the red glasses. Whoever you are, you rock!

    Slezak, I agree with you about Jess. I thought he was awesome. Not the candidate Nigel wants to push on us, huh? Well that makes me like him more. So there!

  15. Lyndsey says:

    PLEASE!! The amnesia thing was such BS! I’ve gotten a concussion from my head getting thrown into a windshield & I’ve known several guys who took vicious hits to the head, none of which caused total amnesia so her claiming she had it after fainting is just absolutely ridiculous! I have memory problems after a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler yet I never didn’t know who I or my family was! Plus if she had such horrible amnesia how was she able to audition! That was nothing but a sob story that she hoped would cover up her bad dancing & get her on the show!!

    • Stephanie says:

      Because amnesia doesn’t exsist, it’s just a made up disease, hm?

      Please…there are people who do get amnesia. Just because you and some other buds of yours got wacks to the head and didn’t get it doesn’t mean it was BS. I didn’t think she was terribly good, either, but even if she makes it to the top 24 she’ll get voted off quickly. I don’t think she’ll make it that far, though.

      Ringo Starr’s daughter? And dude was saying he was born in England in 1954. Which would have made him 10 when they played The Ed Sullivan Show.

      • cjinsd says:

        No way that guy was born in 1954. That would make him 57 and he’s at least 20 years older looking than that.

      • Lyndsey says:

        Where did I say that amnesia doesn’t exist??! That would be a ridiculous statement. Heck, I lost two weeks of my life lying in an ICU with half my body crushed thanks to the morphine drip I was on! In fact I lost most of my memory of the week leading up to my wreck so trust me, amnesia most certainly exists!

        My point was that her story made absolutely no sense. She fainted because she had mono then lost her ENTIRE memory? Really? I’ve never heard of a case of fainting or mono that caused amnesia, especially not total memory loss. Football players suffering mental deterioration after repeated blows to the head don’t even get amnesia that severe. I’m sorry but nothing about her story made a bit of sense.

        • Damian says:

          I actually know (and taught) Sammi. There is more to the story than what you heard on television, but be clear that her amnesia was not only very real, but very serious. It was not a sob story as you put it. She is a fantastic young woman, whose family received quite a scare.

      • Lyndsey says:

        Wait, I thought they rejected her after the choreography round?!

        The “Starr” girl was frightening! She was a trainwreck from top to bottom, inside & outside! The saddest part is that I think she really thinks that story was true. I didn’t realize delusions of grandeur are genetic either! Yikes!!

  16. NyGvBh says:

    Picking up with what Lyndsey posts above, I think Nigel was teasing the amnesia girl because he suspected she was fabricating the extent of the trauma. In fact, I think he was testing her a little bit. I don’t think he was particularly rude. If you want to truck your problems out in front of the judges, you have to be prepared to have the problems commented upon. Big deal.

  17. ceebee says:

    Why is no one mentioning the HORRIBLE job from Robin Antin…she looked like she was bored the entire night…or…maybe she was bored but couldn’t show it on her face from all the cosmetic surgery! That is one SCARY looking woman!!

    • cjinsd says:

      Totally agree on all points. I hope she doesn’t become a regular. I shudder thinking about having to look at her again. Yikes!

    • Lyndsey says:

      Agreed! She was the worst judge I’ve ever seen! I hope I never have to hear the term “pussycat” again! She was even getting on Mary’s nerves!