As someone who gets a full-body shudder anytime I accidentally stumble across an episode of Let’s Make a Deal, I can honestly say I didn’t realize I needed more Wayne Brady in my life. But the comic/actor surprised me in his guest-judge debut on the Memphis audition episode of So You Think You Can Dance.
Indeed, Brady proved charmingly enthusiastic and yet at the same time, was able to articulate his likes and dislikes with a flair that often trumped permanent panelists Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy. I mean, comparing contemporary dancer Caleb Brauner to a Norman Rockwell painting set to music? Genius! And getting up to hug a dancer who’d come to his audition without the support of family or friends? Downright adorable!
Here’s hoping Brady gets worked into the regular guest-judge rotation along with Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Christina Applegate and (of course) Debbie Allen. In the meantime, though, let me count down my picks for the Memphis episode’s five best auditions:
5. Novien Yarber: I’ll admit I was ever so slightly peeved when Novien started boasting about his “masculine” contemporary style, but how can I begrudge him the ability to play up a quality that’s going to play directly to Uncle Nigel? Dude definitely brought a martial arts quality to his movement — “your legs were slicing like samurai swords!” squealed Mary — and his leg extension was insane. He’s definitely one to watch in Vegas.
4. Shanshan Qiao-Rothlisberger: I love seeing something new and unexpected in an audition, and Shanshan’s Mongolian Bowl Dance was indeed a thing of tranquil beauty. Her liquidy shoulder action, though, could serve her well in hip-hop routines, too, no?
3. Caleb Brauner: I wasn’t entirely convinced about the quality of Caleb’s movement — a few of his transitions seemed a wee bit unsteady — but his Chaplin-esque expressiveness and ability to tell a story with his body won me over completely. That joyous embrace with his burly, dancing dad when he won his ticket to Vegas may have made me a season-long fan.
2. Jenna Johnson: It looks like Season 10 is going to have its fair share of ballroom powerhouses, but I can’t recall a dancer who made the genre look quite as fun as Jenna, a whirling dervish of red fringe, lightning quick footwork and legs as flexible as bendy straws.
1. Dorian ‘BluPrint’ Hector: I know we already had Cyrus representing the Dragon House crew last year, but BluPrint’s precisely contained animation filled me with equal parts fascination and giddiness. Let’s be honest, if you can make Mary Murphy drop an f-bomb, chances are you did something pretty flippin’ great.
And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of last night’s SYTYCD? Who was your favorite auditioner? Take our poll, sound off in the comments, and for all my reality TV news, interviews, and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!