So You Think You Can Dance Recap: 5 Best Auditions from Chicago & L.A.

Justine Lutz  SYTYCD Audition

In an era of 24-7 Twitter cynicism and Facebook navel-gazing, sincerity is a dish that’s gone out of fashion. Try to serve it on the cold, metal platter of reality television, and it can be downright hard to swallow.

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Which makes it all the more incredible that tonight’s installment of So You Think You Can Dance — focusing on auditions from Chicago and Los Angeles — found guest judge Christina Applegate with tears streaming down her cheeks, reassuring a teenage girl whose audition routine told the emotional story of overcoming an eating disorder that “it’s OK to be broken” and that she was “healing a lot of girls” through dance.

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I know, I know, if you didn’t watch the episode, it probably all sounds a little too Iyanla Fix My Life. But in the spirit of embarrassing honesty, the routine in question moved me, too. Yes, it’s true: A contorted arm or an extended leg is worth 1,000 words.

Better still, tonight’s audition episode was so jam-packed with talent that even the presence of petulant millionaire Justin Bieber and his gesture-throwing choreographer couldn’t spoil my groove. (Side note: Why are those dance-crew battles so heavily edited?) The only problem I found was that the high ratio of great dancing made it next to impossible for me to narrow down my list to the episode’s five best auditions. But hey, that’s what I’ve promised in my headline, so here goes…

Dani Platz SYTYCD5. Dani Platz | Aforementioned teenager painted a picture of the psychological battle against her inner demons in a way that veered from haunting to uncomfortable to triumphant. I agreed with Christina — they should’ve sent her straight through to callbacks rather than asking for a round of choreography. Nevertheless, Dani cleared that added hurdle with no trouble, so here’s hoping she keeps getting stronger as the degree of difficulty rises.

4. Jana “Jaja” Vankova | I saw a lot more animation than krump in the Czech native’s routine, but her contained, mechanical moves left me pretty mesmerized despite not getting everything she’d promised.

Franchesca Bass SYTYCD3. Franchesca Bass | Teenager suffering from alopecia translated her startling look into a chilling routine about an isolated alien. As guest judge Fabrice Calmels noted, Franchesca’s movements were incredibly fast, but wickedly controlled at the same time. Anyone who can go from zero to a back arch in the blink of an eye bears watching at the Los Angeles callbacks.

Deise Mendonca SYTYCD2. Deise Mendonca (with partner Mauricio Vera) | Chilean ballerina proved an absolutely dominating presence from her first step right to her last. Deise’s technical excellence, combined with the kind of expressive face that’s made for high-def closeups, overshadowed her boyfriend/partner like Godzilla standing next to a common house ant.

1. Justine Lutz (pictured, above) | I spent maybe 10 uncomfortable seconds wondering if Justine’s Band-Aid was actually a flap of skin hanging from her knee — thank heavens it wasn’t! — but after that potential horror was dismissed, I found myself utterly moved by the contemporary dancer’s strong, atypical movement. There were a few seconds where I got “girl crawling out of the TV in Ringu” — but even then, I couldn’t look away. If I had to pick one dancer tonight who seems destined for the Top 10, it’s Justine.

What did you think of tonight’s SYTYCD Chicago and Los Angeles tryouts? Who were your favorite auditioners? Sound off in the comments, and for all my summer 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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48 Comments
  1. Sara says:

    The only good thing about Dani having to go to choreography was that she got to dance with Robert. She should have been sent straight through, but at least she got to have that experience.

  2. Percysowner says:

    I once read that sending them straight on to (what used to be Vegas) isn’t quite what it sounds. Before they do that the show has some indication of whether or not the dancer can adapt to choreography, either by having taken classes in multiple styles, trying out and doing choreography in a previous year, a dance resume where they have learned choreography. My guess is the 2 year gap in training is why Dani went to choreography. They probably wanted to make sure her skills were there for more than a routine she had practiced.

    • Matt says:

      The number of times they’ve sent through Bboys and animators/poppers/lockers/or the like that have been pretty terrible at choreo and partner work say differently. Or at least that they have a double standard.

      • AngieD says:

        I think they do let the really strong hip hop dancers through because they want dancers of that style on the show. Some hip hop dancers do dance with a crew which does have some partner/choreo involved and they might allow them through vs someone (i.e. Kyle) who has never danced with another person. Also, some of the hip hop stylists are really special and deserve some additional exposure.

  3. Ashley says:

    So happy to see Jaja on SYTYCD! I hope she makes top 20. She’s so insanely talented.

    And as over I am seeing Justin Bieber already, I really enjoy seeing these crews. Especially Academy of Villains. They’re incredible. I wish the packages were edited better to show more of the dancing though. Also, the screentime for this seems to save us from having to suffer through so much secondhand embarrassment with the bad ones.

  4. skipper2425 says:

    Michael, any chance we get to go back to the old format of elimination night? The new format has really compromised the quality of the show and has robbed us the ability to get to know the contestants more.. Plus it has denied us the opportunity to see new and varied dance styles and performers on results show. Just don’t want singer or singers acts on elimination night….just all dance! Any way to find out?

  5. tstephen51 says:

    Really happy and surprised to see Jaja. I wonder what the rest of the I Am Me crew is up to these days

    • PIMB says:

      I loved Jaja. And how is there no mention of that gloriously elegant French lady. She was the star of the show for me. Her and Fikshun were so fun.

      • Thea says:

        Agreed! Marie “Poppins” was the highlight of last night. I love how she made popping so feminine. It was almost Samba-like. So beautiful!

  6. forwarddad says:

    Great night of dancing. Michael, no mention of Fikshun or Cyrus? Fikshun and Marie were great.

    • Velocisexual says:

      You mean the obviously scripted and choreographed moments of “spontaneity” on the show? I’m glad Slezak didn’t waste any words on that bs.

    • AngieD says:

      I agree with you. It was fun watching Cyrus, Fik Shun and Legacy on the show. It’s fun seeing SYTYCD alumni.

      I’m sure it wasn’t as spontaneous as it appeared on the edit, but it was still good entertainment.

      • Tjj50 says:

        Agreed! I thought that was fun!. And Fikshun dancing with Marie Poppins. He’s a street dancer from Vegas, and so is she, so they probably knew each other.

  7. Lore says:

    Ok, im in love with Fabrice

  8. Aeol says:

    Francesca was my favorite until I saw Justine. Not sure if I could pick a favorite from the two, as they are both so unique, but with similar styles. So happy for this show!

  9. Velocisexual says:

    Wow, for once I completely agree with Slezak’s pick for best of the night. Justine Lutz was just amazing, couldn’t keep my eyes off of her the entire time. If she doesn’t make the top 20 something is wrong with this world.

  10. Heimlich Manure says:

    Ugg. I hated the eating disorder story. I bet a large number of those dancers have or had eating disorders. I guess that passed as the sob story of the night.

    • waterbug says:

      When they have these type of back stories, they never make it through to top 20. She is the early melodrama of the show. Only uplifting stories make it through, like Fikshun last year and (his perfect connections with one of the judges)

      • kate'shomesick says:

        How is it not an uplifting story if you overcome an eating disorder? Sometimes life isn’t pretty but if you can make it through something like that…

  11. PIMB says:

    My 50Cent. I wish the girl with the marketing degree would market a “no camel toe” product. I loved the French Mary Poppins. So elegant. I hate that they waste our time with family members dancing and glad I am good with the ffw’d. I would rather have seen “Febreeze” dance. I thought Justine did a lot of posing and really don’t care to see her again. I was praying last week that Justine Beiber may not return. Darn!. The eating disorder girl judged herself too harshly but now in her recovery she wants the world to judge her???? mmmm Ok! Loved the zebra ballerina. Why is Christina crying? HAs she never seen ballet?? I am soo over her. I love this show but the auditions are tired. Too much time on too few people. Too many asides. I liked puppetman/Waldo. Loved Jenna, but my husband thinks Febreeze may be doing her :(

    • JJ says:

      Justine did do a lot of posing, but I think that reflects a certain abstract style of contemporary choreography that I’ve seen taught before. Given her versatility, especially in the varying character of her movement, and how good she was at all she did, I bet she can do everything the judges would throw at her. Apparently she made it to the Green Mile stage last year. I personally couldn’t stop re-watching her piece and can’t wait to see her again. But I would understand if people don’t connect with her choreography. I’m not sure how much emotion she can show with her face either – not her thing; she’s more of a technical dancer and an athlete. The dancers in the audience seemed more impressed with her than happy for her. The judges will probably be getting after her all season to emote and connect with the audience more.

      Jessica (with the hat) seemed to have no problem emoting, and seemed charismatic, but seemed to be smiling a lot when the song didn’t call for it, such as during her floor reveals. I hope she can be more than a hot tamale.

    • Palindromic Anagram says:

      Hi PIMB. I’m guaranteed a good laugh each time I read your comments. But the best thing is that they are very insightful too. I love it, I love it, I love it!!!!

  12. Cyn Mackley says:

    No Marie Poppins with an assist from Fikshun? That was fantastic.

  13. justjack says:

    Yes you missed Mary Poppins and there was also a blond girl who was quite good… as she was leaving Mary remarked “she could win the whole show”.

  14. breaksk8, the fantastic roller bboys who had a good run on abdc were filmed virtually in the dark, and this is a shame, because they are good.

    also, in ballet, the man is often a fork lift for the ballerina, and despite his diminutive stature, mauricio delivered in that department and had a quiet elegance that i hope gets to shine when he dances solo or with another partner.

    you didn’t mention jessica, who imho, is a shoe in for the top 20 and i would expect to see her in the final four.

  15. Steve F. says:

    Quick question: were Breaksk8 and Academy of Villains on ABDC or America’s Got Talent? I know I’ve seen them both somewhere…

    Personal favorites of the night were Marie Poppins, Jaja, and Jessica. Too bad about the guy from Wichita dropping out, but that battle between him, Cyrus, Fik-Shun, and Legacy was fun to see (even if it may have been choreographed).

  16. Jan says:

    There were so many terrific dancers last night that it’s hard to narrow it down. Loved both guest judges, but especially Fabrice. Looking forward to a very entertaining season.

  17. aggeloi says:

    I loved Marie Poppins – her smooth, classy style with the popping, and then when Fik’Shun joined her on stage, I just about died.

  18. kate'shomesick says:

    Jenna and Jessica were clearly the best dancers…the ballet couple was good but I’ve seen better in a lot of companies so…

    • Palindromic Anagram says:

      Yeah, ITA. And the ballet girl was much stronger than her partner. You know, whenever I see a ballet dancer audition on SYTYCD, it’s very tempting for me to assume that if he/she was really any good, he/she would already be in a company. But then there are dancers like Melissa, Chehon and Eliana that prove me wrong. So fingers crossed we’ll get at least one good ballet dancer this year;-)

  19. Marie Poppins and Fikshon!!!

  20. Linda @ Fit Fed and Happy says:

    Unfortunately Justine didn’t make it past the top 20 :( She was an outstanding dancer though.

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