So You Think You Can Dance‘s second round of auditioners chose some spellbinding genres, including Broadway jazz, krumping, and a West Coast, disco-fied cousin of voguing called “waacking” that left me speechless. And nearly decapitated! (Watch those spinning arms, girl!)
Picking the five best auditions from SLC and NYC is no easy task, especially considering that SYTYCD never fails to deliver showmanship. That said, I suppose I’ll have to go with the quintet that I’ve already watched twice:
5. Chyna Smith: How rare is it that a reality-competition auditioner who openly admits an obsession with the show turns out to be a stellar performer? And not a joke? Chyna Smith gushed about SYTYCD‘s past contestants and Cat Deeley’s “fierce” outfits, but her modesty acted as a prelude to a gorgeously self-possessed audition. The smiley blonde wasn’t the most eye-popping dancer of the evening, but she burst with originality using rigid posturing, a powerful prowl, and a subtle maturity that worked in her favor during the judges’ feedback.
4. Brian Henry, a.k.a. Hollow Dreams: But sometimes “subtle maturity” is dull, and unbridled egotism is better! Take the case of krumper Brian Henry, who dissed the styles of choreographer Lil’ C and season six winner Russell Ferguson before unleashing a booming, convulsing krump. So electric! Almost delirious! And so aggressively masculine that his t-shirt flew off his body, revealing a rack of near-metallic abdominals. It was nice knowing you, shirt.
3. Jess Le Protto: Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy must have watched something we didn’t when processing Broadway jazz dynamo Jess Le Protto, whose punchy finesse, bodily flings, and suspender-snapping chutzpah made for a devilishly fun audition. The two judges questioned his connection to the audience, but all I saw was masterful movement and technique — and the confidence of a real Top 20 contender. Check him out here:
2. Virgil “Lil O” Gadson: Lil O’s audition was a tableau of vibrant styles: hip-hop, gymnastics, breaking, and enough shimmying and backward skipping to qualify as “scandalous.” Even with all his undeniable talent, my favorite part was still his post-critique victory dance, when he broke into an Irish jig and — unless the editing deceived us — referenced the previous auditioner, the riverdancing Mary Kate Sheehan. Sorry, Mary Kate, but Lil O might be the lord of several dances, including yours.
1. Samara “Princess Lockeroo” Cohen: I always root for stylistic over staid. Give me Naima Adedapo over Lauren Alaina any day, you know? I’d rather watch a misfired, reggae-infested rendition of “I’m Still Standing” over a sedate line-reading of “Candle in the Wind,” and frankly, so would Elton John. There’s no reason to choose a career in the arts if you insist on artless copycatting, and that’s why Samara Cohen, a.k.a. Princess Lockeroo, tops my ranks. She presented a full-fledged persona to the judges — a catsuited bandit who dishes diva flair while brandishing a briefcase. Adding substance to style, she employed the aforementioned “waack” dance type, which combines the hand motions of voguing (See: this) with the driving rhythms of disco. Fabulous already. But when Cohen took the stage and started propelling her arms like frenzied, unstoppable gyro-swings, she illustrated the music’s bumblebee panic with an almost lyrical fervor. Her arms became nunchaku, which is no surprise considering Cohen’s martial arts influences. It was fun, ferocious sorcery coupled with what looks like the most bombastic air-traffic controlling of all time. In other (and fewer) words, it must be seen to be believed.
What did you think of last night’s auditions? Could you handle Nigel’s insensitive jokes at the expense of amnesia-stricken auditioner Samantha Hiller? What about Brittany Morgan Starr’s claims about her father, “the real Ringo Starr”? Do you think the mighty talented Brandon Jones should’ve made the ranks this week? Leave it in the comments, follow me on Twitter at @louisvirtel, and read me regularly at Movieline.com! (Your regular SYTYCD recapper Michael Slezak had the night off.)