So You Think You Can Dance might be the only reality competition series on television where the audition rounds never seem to wear out their welcome. And indeed, while this week’s Salt Lake City tryouts — the final pitstop on the show’s Season 9 contestant-hunting tour — didn’t quite measure up to last week’s legendary Atlanta telecast, I still found myself getting a little wistful when they ended.
Such a melancholy reverie makes sense, though, when you think about it: By this time next week, we’ll be done with the earnest pleasure of watching amateur hoofers take their first steps toward national prominence, replacing it with the brutal business of whittling the 181 Vegas-bound dancers down to a tidy, ready-for-primetime 20. No more alien-energy-inspired pieces. No more time to focus on inspiring dudes like Leroy Martinez, whose work with the “Peacemakers” dance troupe gives kids from tough backgrounds a place to focus their energies. No more Cat Deeley getting to display extreme grace and good humor interviewing all varieties of dancing fools.
But before we turn our attention to Vegas, allow me to count down my five favorite Utah auditions. Check out my picks, then tell me if they match up with your own!
5) Deanna Tomasetta | I could’ve used about 50% less smiling for a routine set to “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” but Deanna displayed such control and flexibility — and as Adam Shankman noted, managed such gorgeous transitions between her movements — that I can’t not include her among the blonde-chick onslaught that gave Salt Lake City an extra spring in its step.
4) Murphy Yang | Yes, the judges were ultimately correct in their assessment that self-trained Murphy didn’t have enough vocabulary in his dance language to compete with the beasts that populate this show, but there was such a buoyant elegance and kicky humor to his piece, set to “I Won’t Dance,” that I had to include him among the night’s best. From the mimed horn play at the start to the way he blended jazz and hip-hop, the kid definitely has a rare raw talent that makes his lack of family support all the more inexplicable.
3) Lindsay Arnold | I didn’t necessarily see the hip-hop infusion Lindsay mentioned bringing into her ballroom routine (a paso doble, I think?), but her technique and speed were pretty dazzling, and it sure would be nice to have a season with a couple of first-class ballroom types, no? Mary predicting a future U.S. Championship certainly bodes well!
2) Whitney Carson | I’ll admit that before I rezalized she was actually 18, I was perturbed by Whitney’s banter about wanting to feel “really sensual and sexy.” (With her braces and her angelic face, she looks like such a kid!) But honestly, Nigel’s comparison to SYTYCD alum
Pasha Anya was apt: The girl has incredible precision to her movement, and her spins are zippy enough to make the Tasmanian Devil a little dizzy. Plus, there was indeed a sultry artistry to her routine, set to Bond’s “Libertango.” Did Whitney score Mary Murphy’s first “hot tamale” of the season? Yes she did! Woohoooooooo! I just wish Nigel hadn’t been quite so lascivious in describing Whitney’s “great legs, great feet, great back, and smokin’ hot face.” Blerg.
1) Dareian Kujawa | Let’s add this zinger to the list of Nigel comments I wish I could erase from my brain: “It’s bloody cold here today; you could have someone’s eye out with those nipples.” And yet something tells me we’ll be seeing that clip on repeat loop as Dareian works his way throught the competition. Honestly, the 19-year-old from a hardscrabble background showed such a stunning combination of grace and athleticism that it’s not hard to envision him taking home the Season 9 crown — awful feet and all. There was so much to love about this gorgeous routine: That sensuous floor-writhe that transitioned into a flawless handstand; that leap where his torso was parallel to the floor, his form briefly resembling a bird in flight; leaps so high and natural that I wondered if he might be one-sixteenth gazelle. Oh, and yeah, the torso wasn’t bad, either, as Mary noted. Can we send him straight to the Top 20 now?
What did you think of the Salt Lake City auditions? Sound off below! And for all my reality TV news, interviews, and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!