So You Think You Can Dance Recap: The 5 Best Auditions From Salt Lake City

dareian kujawaSo 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!

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. Matt says:

    Not that it’s particularly important, but I think Nigel compared Whitney to Pasha’s partner Anya (that is how he phrased it, too, I think which pissed me off relegating her to that). She was my favorite of the night, and I think she makes at least top 5.

  2. S says:

    While I know it is Nigel’s personality, he is blatantly sexually harassing these contestants and it frankly makes me wonder what happens during the show for the top twenty girls. I feel sorry for them in particular. It is almost like he is trying to bring the famous casting couch right out onto the main screen. For me, it is such a shame that we are asking kids to watch this show and telling them “if you want to make it in this business…these are the things you will need to put up with.” While I know this is the case, someone promoting “Dance” as a positive thing should be also trying to promote all aspects positively and not moving into creeper mode as soon as a “pretty thing” comes on stage.

    • Linda says:

      Maybe it is Nigels personality and he used to temper his comments. He never used to make such blatant sexual comments when the show first started. I guess as each year goes by, he’s gotten away with more and more. This year takes the cake…..

    • big cheddar says:

      Yeah, Nigel’s gone full throttle leech this season. The thing that sceeved me out the most about his comments to Whitney is that the girl is clearly 18 going on 12.

      • Eli says:

        Funny, I think in that one sentence you show more disrespect to Whitney than Mr. Lythgoe in the entire episode…

        • Claire says:

          Agreed! I think as a dancer, especially a ballroom dancer, it is more of an insult to say she is childish and like a pre-tween, than to say she is sexy.

    • i fear words says:

      Dear S
      You’re awful.
      Sorry for blatantly truth harrassing you there.

      • p says:

        let me guess: you’re male, right? try watching again without the privilege goggles that came with your d**k and you’ll realize you come off as an insensitive and ignorant d-bag for defending nigel’s appalling behavior.

    • ohreli says:

      Agreed! He seems like an intelligent guy. I cant believe he would be saying these things unless its some kind of strategy. But does he really believe that introducing the “yuk” factor into things is going to help ratings? Maybe it will—if you cant sell dance on its own merits, lets sell it on Nigel’s version of the Howard Stern “Shock Jock” factor…(Hmm is it working for “America’s Got Talent”??)

  3. soarin829 says:

    Dareian Kujawa was defintely my favorite of the night as well. Maybe my favorite period so far.

  4. flutiefan says:

    I’ve never watched the show, but Whitney is my longtime friend’s cousin, and it’s exciting to see her do so well!

  5. I was very disappointed that Murphy Yang didn’t make it to Vegas. His was my favorite performance of the night. So entertaining!

    • p says:

      i am appalled that rachel applehans even made it to choreography after that awkward cringe-worthy “burlesque” number, let alone vegas, and murphy wasn’t sent straight through. i loooooved his routine.

    • J2 says:

      especially when that heavy-set hip hopper with the “one week’s worth of ballet training” made it straight through.

  6. david7118 says:

    So our top 19 according to Michael (and I concur) will be made up of Jarell Rochelle, Bree Hafen, Hampton Williams, Daniel Bakers, Shafeek Westbrook, Jasmine Mason, David Matz, Megan Branch, Eliana Girard, Asher Walker, George Lawrence II, Audrey Case, Boris Penton, Andre Rucher, Cyrus Spencer, Deanna Tomasetta, Lindsay Arnold, Whitney Carson, and Dareian Kujawa. That’s 11 men and 8 women so we’ll have to lose a guy we like and gain two women but what I see from this list…it’s going to be a GREAT season!

  7. Sandi says:

    No Gene Lonardo? He was, by far, the most interesting and captivating contestant of the night – IMO. When he first came out in his green body paint, I thought he’d be a joke contestant but he was superb. I’m a little worried that he won’t fair as well with a partner, but his audition routine floored me.

  8. jen says:

    bummed that you left the praying mantis dancer Gene Lonardo off this list. To me, he was amazing and I had totally prepared myself for him to be horrible. He has a different dance style that just worked and amazing body control. He was a little weird, but an excellent dancer. He was my #2 from last night & should definitely be top 20

    • Sha says:

      I expected him to be a joke but he was awesome! Not sure how well he’ll be able to dance with females though…

    • No offense to him because he is an amazing dancer but I really don’t want him to be on the show. This happens over and over again where a male dancer who has perfect technique but is scrawny and androgynous gets on the show and no one votes for him because the routines are male/female oriented and these guys are more feminine than the girls. It’s the same reason Billy Bell kept being in the bottom in his season. They can’t lift, they don’t have any sexual chemistry with their partners and are usually a joke when it comes to the most masculine dances (ie rumbas, hip hop, paso doble….etc) Not saying anything about them as dancers because clearly they are fantastic dancers but in the end this show is about a certain kind of partner dancing and if you can’t pull off a masculine presence then the dance looks ridiculous and they’ll get voted off anyway. Waste of time.

  9. Ann VerWiebe says:

    I loved the look exchanged between Nigel and Adam when Dareian started dancing, like “Yes, this is the shizz.”

  10. Debra says:

    Leroy Martinez was a great way to end the show, such an incredibly good person and his routine fun to watch.

  11. Dave in Alamitos Beach says:

    Does anyone know why they were going on and on about Dareian’s “bad feet?” I couldn’t figure it out. I thought he was terrific all the way through.

    • pink frog says:

      He kept them clenched an awful lot and wasn’t extending them. Technical thing, obviously didn’t hold him back.

    • Aeol says:

      He had no flexibility or extension in his feet. When a dancer “points” his feet, you’re looking for strong arch and elongation. He basically looked like he wasn’t pointing his feet. I noticed it during his (otherwise insanely amazing) routine and was glad the judges brought it up because while he is technically amazing in every other way, it is a glaring weakness for him professionally.

  12. actually excited for the season troll says:

    Dareian was easily my fave of the SLC tryouts. Probably in my early top three but we’ll see who is revealed in Vegas that we didn’t get as good a look at in auditions.

  13. Sha says:

    Dareian was so good! He kinda reminded me of Danny.
    Whitney was awesome and Deanna had a powerful routine as well and she and her family seem like they could have a reality show about them.

  14. Claire says:

    I really enjoyed Mariah the crumper. From what I saw of her choreography she did a contempory/ballet dance with major crumper attitude, I hope she brings it in Vegas!

  15. Dancefan says:

    Actually, I think the ratings have dropped in recent seasons because as a show watched by many families with young girls aspiring to become dancers, the increased outward display of sexualality & sexist comments are a big turn off. That’s not the kind of role modeling I’d want for my daughter. Feedback is more often ” that’s sooooo sexy” instead of commenting on the dancing

  16. Brian says:

    I liked Dareian Kujawa very much. However, his “story” reminded me of the storyline manipulation of reality shows, even one that I like to think is above it – SYTYCD. Touching story, and I’m not questioning the authenticity of it, but it was perhaps half of the story. One doesn’t become a dancer of his capability with the life story that was expressed. To become that skilled, it takes training and money. And a fair bit of both. Plus a smile that white didn’t emerge from the slums. I’m totally rooting for him, but I’m not buying the story.

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