So You Think You Can Dance Recap: California Dreamy

You can accuse So You Think You Can Dance‘s Nigel Lythgoe of a lot of crimes — aggressively leering at pretty young things; overtly or inadvertently ensuring that gay contestants never mention their sexual orientation on air* — but love him or hate him, the man is responsible for a pretty righteous Twitter feed. (*Correct me if I’m wrong on that, but I don’t recall one out-and-proud moment over 12 seasons… insert side-eye emoji here.)

Needless to say, then, I perked up over the weekend when the judge/exec producer dropped this bombshell on social media: “I truly believe Monday’s #SYTYCD has the best auditions I have seen in 10 years. An incredible Day One. All styles were great. #TheVeryBest.”

Oh, sure, hyperbole is as essential to the reality-competition genre as mozzarella is to pizza. But still, Nigel’s tweet set my expectations at Ricky Ubeda/Melanie Moore levels.

And while I’m not 100 percent sure SYTYCD‘s California tryouts lived up to the hype — Hour 1 was stellar, Hour 2 lagged like Jason Derulo trying to come up with a fresh adjective — they certainly got me more excited about the show’s “Stage Vs. Street” reboot than either of Season 12’s previous two episodes.

Without further ado, let’s get to my countdown of the five most promising Vegas-bound dancers from Los Angeles — or Los Angeleeese, as Cat Deeley would say.

5. James B-Dash Derrick | Krumper who came up under the inventors of the genre seemed to actually get stronger as his routine continued — making better use of the stage and throwing even more energy into his arm swings after the midway marker. Very much looking forward to his contributions to “Team Street.”

4. Avo Karapetyan | The night’s initial ballet dancer left Paula chanting “Oh my God!” over and over again — and for once, I kinda agreed with the loopiest panelist.

3. Jana “Jaja” Vankova | Season 11 returnee hits damn hard with her krump — and you can practically see all her gears in motion when she’s animating. Yet somehow, there’s a whimsy and joy to her moves that flies in the face of her aggressive movement — a juxtaposition that’s downright delightful.

2. Asaf Goren | Not sure if he really needed the “Hebrew Breaking” gimmick — the shofar and the prayer cloth didn’t really add much to the mood of his performance — but when he threw water down on the stage and took flight with a series of insane backspins, my fandom was sealed. (OK, I’ll admit, his abs won’t be hard to look at all season, either.)

1. Jim Nowakowski | Korean-American ballet combined Gumby-like flexibility with Hulk-like strength — along with an otherworldly grace neither of those green-hued pop-culture icons have ever exhibited. Raise your hand if you’d pay good money to see him headline for any major ballet company right this second.

OK, your turn. Who were your favorite hopefuls from the L.A. auditions? Sound off in the comments with your thoughts!

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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50 Comments
  1. Tessa says:

    I disagree about Asaf Goren. I couldn’t stand him from the moment he came on the screen and I thought there were numerous better street dancers.

    • Marlene Newell says:

      I hated it. It was disrespectful. The talit is a prayer shawl and he used it as a prop and even wiped his face an threw it on the floor. the use of the Shofar as a prop was hurtful. These are religious objects and should be revered and respected.

      • GGDub says:

        Even as a non-religious person I thought Asaf was disrespectful and that SYTYCD showed bad judgement in airing it.

  2. LADY_in_MD says:

    I agree this episode is the first one that got me excited for the new format the street girls were amazing and both ballet guys were so strong
    It’s not because you are both Asian…. Really Nigel?

    • Connie Nowakowski says:

      Being “both Asian” was Nigel comparing Jim Nowakowski to Alex Wong from a previous season. There was nothing bad about that comment at all. Alex was/is amazing & I am proud to have my son compared to him.

      • Your son was beautiful. I could not take my eyes off of him (and I agree, being compared to Alex Freaking Wong is a huge compliment).

        • cleftcutie says:

          Couldn’t agree more.

        • Mindee says:

          Absolutely agree!! Soooooo amazing. He is my favorite of this season so far and I am so excited to see someone with the same talent capability as Alex, as he was my favorite the season he was competing. I am so excited to get to watch Jim!

      • Mona Cattanach says:

        I agree with you, I think Nigel was only trying to stress that it was your son’s talent and performance that he was comparing to Alex Wong, I also agree with Nigel, your son is as amazing and beautiful as Alex, I so hope Jim Nowakowski makes the top 20 as I can’t wait to see him perform again and again.

        • LADY_in_MD says:

          But why bring in the Asian comment couldn’t he have just said you remind me of Alex
          Don’t get me wrong I thought your son was amazing the best of the night
          When I said both ballet guys I meant your son and the other guy who was at the beginning

          • Mona Cattanach says:

            Why does Nigel phrase so many things the way he does? Maybe it’s an age or cultural thing. I doubt we’ll ever know for sure. While I do think he is a bit too fixated on cute young blond girls, I don’t ascribe as many evil and ulterior motives to him as some do and I usually find him to be honest more than mean as many often do. Why ever he is less than tactful at times, I think he really does want the best or these young dancers and for dance in general.

      • GGDub says:

        Jim is AMAZING! Best of luck to him this season.

      • YHolecz says:

        Your son was brilliant and I would watch him dance in anything. I hope he makes it to the live shows because he is definitely going to get my vote every time!

      • SL says:

        Your son was phenomenal!!! I can’t wait to see him as he moves on in the competition. One of the best ever. I think he will do great this season. Go Jim!!! I thought Avo was terrific too. Amazing ballet dancers!!!! You must be a super proud mom and you should be. :)

      • Marie says:

        Your son is absolutely amazing! Can’t wait to see the outcome but my vote will always go to him I am pretty sure!

  3. JAO says:

    I really enjoyed the show. It seems that the dancers keep getting better. Awesome techniques and moves.

  4. Pam paez says:

    Can’t believe you got rid of Mary loved her you people seem to be going in the same direction dancing with the stars did by getting rid of Brooke Burke loved her not so much of the girl they have now she is very irritating I’m 60 years young and getting very disappointed

  5. Watching Jim Nowakowski dance made me think of Baryshnikov’s Jazz routine. It was absolutely brilliant!!!! The strength, flexibility and control were mesmerizing!

    I completely disagree with your assessment of Asaf Goren. I felt that he was not in touch with the pace and tempo of his music and don’t feel that he has anything to bring to the competition.

  6. DarkDefender says:

    If Avo was the Armenian dancer from Boston.. Then yes. Wow. He was lighter than air. Crazy mad talent.

    • Mona Cattanach says:

      Could not agree more, Avo’s flying leaps across the stage, I’m sure there is a ballet term for them, were stunning and reminded me of Cheon’s grace and power. Avo’ also seemed a bit more relatable then Cheon did early in the season. Don’t get me wrong I am an absolute fan of Cheon, but as I recall it took a bit for his personality to begin to come through. Avo’s shone through from the moment he took the stage. Hope this combination carriers Avo right into the top 20!

  7. Paula says:

    What was the name of the girl with the black and white pants, big smile, Japanese, dancing in the shadows of her famous sister? Name of song?

    • sheba says:

      Her name is Jessica Rabone. She was another one of my faves from the episode. Paula compared her to Toni Basil. I looked up one of Basil’s videos from the early 80s and I can totally see the origins of wacking in Basil’s dance style:

    • Marina says:

      Jessica RayVaughan

  8. Justin says:

    I’ve been entertained by the talent in every city so far. I like your top five, especially Jamed B-dash Derrick and Jim Nowakowski.

  9. RUCookie says:

    So your guy – Jim Nowakowski – is a demi soloist with the Houston Ballet.

  10. Shirl says:

    Best episode so far. The two male ballet dancers took my breath away! I appreciate the pure skill and beauty of classical training. I enjoy seeing a variety of dance styles but the emphasis on street feels too much like a marketing strategy and gets tedious. Schtick and hard-luck stories get tiresome and feels patronizing. Jason Derullo???

  11. Cindy says:

    I’m curious as to how this is going to work once they get to the live shows. Will the stage dancers have to be able to do all styles of stage – ballet, ballroom, jazz, Broadway, contemporary, etc.? Will the street dancers have to learn all styles of street? I hope they have thought this through carefully.

  12. Maxsmom says:

    I tried the first ep this season and lasted one hour. Jason Derulo was the worst guest judge in the first 11 seasons of the show. He dances, he does not choreograph and he seems to know absolutely nothing about the art of dance. SYTYCD has been a favorite since season 2, I miss it but I can not watch.

    Am I the only viewer who didn’t like Ricky.?

  13. Jim nowakowski was awesome. Alex Wong was the only other dancer to merit that adjective.

    • Marion Hillborn says:

      Alex was the only other one? I’m guessing you missed Season 3 and the high bar set by Danny Tidwell.

  14. JR says:

    This episode confirmed my dislike of the “new format”. I’m already over Nigel pretending to be confused if a ballet dancer is “stage”. They aren’t even pretending they are voting on who goes through, he’s just deciding on his own.

    I couldn’t make it past the first hour.

    • JR says:

      Also, why did I keep hearing “Jim Ignatowski”?

    • Mona Cattanach says:

      I think the new format is misnamed, at least as I understand it. Of course I could be way off since they have given precious few details about how the new format will work. As I understand it the teams aren’t actually in competition with each other. If one from each team will go home every week then aren’t you really in competition with your own teammates?
      If my understanding is right, then it just seems wrong to me that one team could have the bottom 10 vote getters and still some one from the other team has to go.

      • James says:

        I think it takes so much of the entertainment out of the show when they don’t have to expand themselves into the styles that are alien to them.

        Also, I think they have grossly underestimated the number of people who want to watch krimping and other “street” styles rather than ballroom and other stage styles.

  15. Thea says:

    I am beyond excited to have Yaya and MARIE FREAKIN POPPINS back. Those ladies really left an impression on me last season and I can’t wait to see what they bring to Team Street!!!

    • Mona Cattanach says:

      Thank you!, I thought that was Mary Poppins and found it a bit odd that they didn’t mention her from last year. I love Yaya too, I love that even though she is a krumper, a hard hitting street style, her personality and love of what she is doing shines through. She seems like such a positive and upbeat person. I think that is what so many of the street dancers lack for me. I get that a lot of the street styles are meant to be hard hitting, tough or even angry. However if the dancers never show any other side of their personality I find it hard to relate to them or root for them.

  16. Lynn says:

    I think Avo Karapetyan was mesmerizing. I watched him 6 times last night and then watched him another 2 tonight when I was watching with a friend. Everything about him was top notch, it all seemed so effortless. As soon as he started walking I knew we were in for a treat and that is exactly what we got.

  17. beniboy1 says:

    What is the name of the song Asaf Goren was dancing too?

  18. stewnwt says:

    Jaja and B-Dash actually had a remarkably similar style – can’t wait to see them perform together.

  19. Grace J says:

    Jim Nowakowski was by far the best! His technique was clean and he was well balanced. Not to mention that those extensions are near impossible. A guy like that doesn’t just pop out of mid air. “So You Think You Can Dance” has found their winner already. I mean, who can compete with him?