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

Kids are the best: They say the darndest things. They’re a source of seemingly unlimited energy. They’re not at all embarrassed to laugh at fart jokes. The thing is, though, I don’t really care to see them participate in reality-competition series.

I mean, if a child succeeds in this cutthroat genre, I’m left thinking, “What will fame and fortune do to his tiny ambitions? Will he stop focusing on his studies, his brain atrophying like a Kardashian in a no-paparazzi zone, his taste for the spotlight growing two sizes too strong?” And if a child falls flat on her face on the small screen, I wonder if she’ll be able to overcome the trauma of her failure getting broadcast, hashtagged and YouTubed like tattoos across her psyche.

I’m reminded of these worries every time So You Think You Can Dance bends its 18-and-over age requirement and allows a wee one to take the stage during its audition-tour episodes. (There’s at least one in every city, no?) Tonight, humorless 9-year-old “J-4” — I just caaahhhhn’t with that name! — seemed all too aware that his clipped answers and pint-sized swagger would get him his first five minutes of fame. Of course, the judges told him from the get-go there was no chance he’d be headed to the Los Angeles callbacks, but then rewarded him by letting him share the stage with Season 10 champ Fik-Shun and Season 9 runner-up Cyrus.

Call me crazy (or more accurately, grouchy), but I wish the show had used the kid’s segment to instead show us some of the L.A. ballroom types or Philadelphia fellas (especially the bearded guy in the white Henley) who got crammed into dreaded montage segments. I mean, what exactly is the point of those montages when we don’t get contestants’ names or see more than fleeting seconds of what they can do, anyhow?

OK, before anybody shakes a fist at me and asks “What about the children?!”, let me get to the business of naming my Top 5 auditions from the Los Angeles-Philly audition telecast:

Honorable Mention: James “Banks” Davis (the “slow krumper” who looked like he was getting out his feelings through an invisible molasses seas) and Alla Kochenga and Serge Onik (fast, furious and flexible ballroom duo who could easily trade places with my No. 1 pair tonight).

5. Johnny Waacks | The shocking precision of his movements — capped off by his “conducting” a chorus of a cappella Whitney Houstons in a “How Will I Know” remix — was riveting. This is how you serve arms, face and attitude — even if it means you need to prove yourself in choreography before advancing to callbacks. (Insert side-eye here.)

4. Stanley Glover | Self-described “creature” put the “unique” in “technique” — contorting his body into insect-like shapes and serving up expressions that ranged from goofy to menacing in the process. It’ll be interesting to see if his one-of-a-kind energy works in a pairs setting, but the kid is definitely a riveting presence.

3. Jourdan Epstein | Ballerina whose brother overcame addiction showcased jaw-dropping physical strength along with the ability to paint vivid pictures with every pose she struck, every movement she articulated. As Christina Applegate noted, even “the stuff in between the other stuff” was mesmerizing.

2. Amir Sanders | I’m not a keen-eyed student of dance, so I’m not entirely sure why the “funky ballerina” was forced to prove herself in choreography before advancing to Los Angeles, but whatever the case, I loved the way her grace and crispness juxtaposed with her quirky facial expressions and occasionally jarring sidebars. Uncle Nigel wouldn’t have given the chick her own hashtag if he wasn’t planning to make her a member of the Top 20, right?

1. Armen Way and Marlene Ostergaard | Armen, who seemed to get unfairly brutalized by the judges for dropping his partner in Vegas last season, roared back with one of the most expressive pieces of ballroom work I’ve seen in SYTYCD’s audition rounds. The sexual tension between Armen and Marlene was so palpable, it reached right through the TV and took a sip of my sauv blanc to cool itself off. The grown-and-sexy quality of this 28- and 25-year-old duo was a nice contrast to the teen-tastic energy to which the show’s judges seem partial, no?

What did you think of tonight’s SYTYCD Philadelphia 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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  1. @samsjag says:

    I wonder if a kid like that was some sort of ‘Make A Wish’ recipient?

    In general, very excited about this season. Feels like we’ve seen some great dancers with interesting personalities.

    PS. Did you notice Melanie Moore dancing Peter Pan behind Jennifer Hudson’s singing during the Tony Awards?

    • wordsmith says:

      And unlike JHud, Melanie is actually going to be in that show when it hits Broadway! (Because, really, who were they going to find that’s better suited for that role?)

    • PIMB says:

      My wish is that crap like that disappears. Melanie was vert Melanie :)

  2. Ashley says:

    I thought Casey Askew was beautiful. Like if Nick Lazzarini and Travis Wall had a baby. Such control on his turns. Beautiful audition.

  3. i can live with a kid dancer easier that a dad dancer. they serve to prove WHY sytycd needs to be a part of our culture, forever. imho. there are kids now working there asses off to be on this show in 7, 8 or 9 years, who are willing to devote their lives to dance. the ever increasing talent of those that show up to audition speaks to how intent those kids were, and how thrilling they are now.

  4. ad says:

    I would definitely include kid as honourable mention.

  5. tstephen51 says:

    I could live without the Bieber segments. I’m sorry ABDC was cancelled but find a new show. Surely the time they waste could be better spent on showing more auditions out of those dreaded montages.

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  9. PIMB says:

    In addition to being sick of the segments with people who aren’t contestants (kids, family, that Beiber chick) PLEASE STOP THE SOB STORIES. Jourdan Tyced us by curing her brothers addiction. She may have been good but I ff’wd her because her story was just too much to take and she flung her lady parts at the screen a few too many times. On the other hand I loved Stanley who wisely chose to mark Kanamura (sp) us! I see a Twitch type story line developing with Shafeeq. Loved loved Armen but his partner tried the sexy a little too hard. I think even Mary was rolling her eyes at Christina’s monologue. Please NO MORE TWERKING!!! Serge was Pasha-rific!!!!

  10. snailagain says:

    I have a hard time remembering any of the names during the audition episodes – and, in all honesty, don’t really care, because almost all of these kids will fall out during Hollywood week and never be heard from again. But I’ve been really impressed by, and happy with, the fact that while they’re not showing us enough of the good dancers, they’re also pretty much staying away from the joke ones.

    I could do without the sob stories too, and I don’t give a $&#*(& about Beiber or the dance crews, but I can usually handle the kid dancers. The one last year who danced with her parents – the Exorcist and his wife – was cute, and this one absolutely won me over. Not so much with his dance, although it was good, but afterwards when he was so totally thrilled about meeting tWitch.

    And I love that so many ballet dancers are trying out, and doing well. I also appreciate that they’re not automatically sending through the “unique” but totally untrained kids, like the slow krumper, simply because they do something different well. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Cyrus!

    • Cynx says:

      snail, I had to laugh at your Cyrus remark, and I agree with you about the sob stories. We miss so many good auditions with the time they take up, but don’t miss the joke auditions at all, so I’m really pleased that they’ve done away with most of them.

    • izzybella says:

      Definitely do not miss the “joke” auditions! That’s part of what soured me on Idol back in the early days.

    • The Dog Whisperer says:

      Hey snail – yes yes yes regarding Cyrus. You got me going right back into my never ending tirade about Cyrus again. The season he was on was the most painful for me to watch – was just infuriated that we didn’t get to see what Eliana would have done with amazing choreography because it was all so dumbed down during the time (most of the season) that she was paired with Cyrus. His dancing in every genre but his own was more juvenile and uncoordinated than my 5 year old beginning ballet students. Understand that the show wants to put on dancers that aren’t all cookie cutter – but I would rather watch trained dancers because then the choreographers can do such amazing routines for us to watch when the dancers are capable. In fact, as much as I love Twitch as a person and a performer, I thought that Alex out danced him in their hip hop number – and so did Sasha in Misty Blue. And I guess I’m as grumpy as Michael Sleazak – I thought the time devoted to the 9 year old was wasted (and I didn’t find him as charming as a lot of the other commenters) – show me more awesome auditions.

      P.S. – In case you haven’t guessed – I’m Corie – did something wrong signing in I guess and can’t figure out how to change it. Great to see so many familiar names posting here. Michael’s recap is so much better than the one is now where we used to post.

      • snailagain says:

        Of course I know who you are, silly! And you know I agree with the comments about Eliana, although I was never as passionate about Cyrus as you are, and I disagree about tWitch – he has done a lot in other areas by now and he has amazing ability and musicality. Since I picked Eliana as the final winner during her initial audition, though, I was very disappointed to see her paired with a partner who couldn’t possibly keep up – her later routines, such as the Bang Bang bit with AFW, were incredible.

  11. Cynx says:

    There were some really good and entertaining auditions last night. My favorites were Serge and Allo!!, Jourdan Epstein, Armen and Malene!!, Bridget Whitman, Amir Sanders, and Stanley Glover!!. Landon Anderson was good, too, but rather immature compared to Serge and Armen. It seems as though there are a lot of really strong ballroom dancers this season which is a nice switch from all of the contemporary we usually see. I hope more of them get through this time.

    Enjoyed the kid dancing with Cyrus and Fik-Shun and meeting tWitch.

  12. Joey says:

    I really NEED to know what song James “Banks” Davis krumped to. Anyone know???

  13. Jared says:

    Michael, I’ve always believed that the majority of the montages are because the show couldn’t clear the songs that were used, so they just shove all those dancers into one generic track for which they do have clearance. Of course, when a “story” comes along, I’m sure they do whatever they can to get the song cleared…(btw, keep up the amazing recaps!)

  14. izzybella says:

    I sort of feel a little guilty saying this because I know it’s going to make me sound awful, but I’m so very tired of the sad, sad sob stories. The truth is that we ALL have something and we all keep going because for most of us, that’s all we can do. The sadness of the story – to me – has little bearing on whether or not a person can dance. In fact, I find it frustrating in one sense, because I’m being told how I should interpret a contestant’s audition piece and what specific emotion I should feel instead of being able to invest fully in the moment and letting the emotion come to play naturally. Of course, the dancer’s past informs their dance, but I feel like they’re completely removing the mystery. I like a little mystery. Don’t tell me what I should feel, show me. It’s a small complaint. I love this show and it’s the only reality-competition type show I watch. I just wish there wasn’t such a focus on the back-story because it distracts from the dance.

    • Emma says:

      I agree with you, it really turns me off contestants when they use their relatives addiction, sickness, or even death to promote themselves on a reality TV show. It just seems so distasteful. And its so annoying that they are forever labelled as so-and-so whose brother overcame addition, or whatever it may be. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth and takes away from the dance for sure.

  15. Jan says:

    I agree, Michael … couldn’t understand why “funky ballerina” was sent to choreography. [I yelled “WHAT?” at my TV.] So many great performers already this season. Must admit I really don’t mind the “sob stories” for the most part, though I do feel they should cut down on “extras” so we could see more auditions. [Just to segue over to AI, I fell for Kellie Pickler’s “sob story” when she auditioned and have loved her ever since. Not the greatest singer ever, but her personality jumps off the screen.]

  16. elr says:

    I’m hoping that a lot of ballroom dancers make it into the top 20, so that the line up is not so heavy on contemporary dancers. And then maybe we will get more and great ballroom routines.

  17. Lana says:

    This is by far my most favorite show ever!! I am fed up with the kids dancing, however I’m not one to go aww and goo goo over kids so that may have something to do with my not enjoying the dancing kids. I too, wish that they had showed us more of the ballroom dancers vs the montage but if any of them do great in Hollywood(or is that Vegas, I can’t remember) we will be seeing them again. Love seeing great dancers one after the other and could handle more hours. I don’t remember names til we hit the top 20 but I remember some awesome dancing. The sob story about brother made no sense since I’m pretty sure her dancing did not help him overcome his addiction, but Nigel needed something and I guess that was the best he could do. Well that and the 4 year old who lost his mom and only her friend took him in. This was a better story. I for one don’t mind the dance crews, very interesting and don’t care that Bieber is introducing them. He doesn’t bother me tho I could think of others who could do this but that’s Fox, all they care about is name and not whether it really works for that segment.

  18. Andy D says:

    I agree that sometimes it seems too much time is spent on the “sob stories”, yet I find that one of SYTYCD’s appeal is seeing these young people overcome adversity by channeling their emotions into such dynamic and creative energy. Since the first time I saw it in the early part of season 3, I’ve been an ardent fan of SYTYCD, easily the best series on TV, and the quality of the dancers so far this year is absolutely amazing – overall better than ever. Unlike some commenters, I did enjoy J-4 with Fikshun and Cyrus: their performance was entertaining and spontaneous, and I thought J-4 clearly had individual skills while also blending quickly and quite well with the two older dancers. The show can do without Justin Bieber.

  19. Pavanne says:

    Jenna and Mark flashback—-SQUEEEE!!!

  20. nolivier2014 says:

    I don’t know what the producers are doing with the irritating Bieber inserts, and as has been noted, the weird editing of some of the better auditions. The basic show is a great format but it is beginning to get a faked over produced feel, with back stories inserted into it, and the usual tissue box tales of overcoming awful hurdles. I think most people watch it for the dance talent – lets keep it focused there.

  21. Charlene says:

    Cmon…the kid was awesome..loved it! Love this show!

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