Reality Rocks (New)

Cue Music! ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Returns

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

"So You Think You Can Dance" returned for a ninth season this Thursday--although, sadly, this will be the last time we'll be seeing "SYTYCD" on Thursday for a while. You see, next week, the show will settle into its regular Wednesday night timeslot...and it'll only be on ONE night a week, instead of its usual two. So remember all those awesome "SYTYCD" Thursday night results shows, the ones featuring amazing wheelchair dancers and amazing Wade Robson group numbers and amazing career-launching performances by Lady Gaga and Christina Perri? Yeah, well, those days are over. Apparently the Fox network would rather have "SYTYCD's" Emmy-nominated Cat Deeley host some cockamamie spinning-chair dating show called "The Choice," instead of having, say, prestigious Alvin Ailey company dancers perform on Thursday nights. Really??? Boo, Fox, boo!

However, "SYTYCD" made the most of its sole two-hour spot this week, premiering with a slew of typically brilliant auditions in New York and Dallas. And with both a female winner and a male winner planned for the Season 9 finale in September, even more talent has the potential to be rewarded this year. Yay, Fox, yay!

Below are my favorite auditions from this week's "SYTYCD" premiere. Please, Fox, do NOT cancel this show!

Ameilia Lowe

A modern-day flapper girl with a Louise Brooks bob and Betty Grable legs, this "proper little character" (Nigel Lythgoe's words) thoroughly charmed with her episode-opening contemporary piece. I think this 18-year-old may be a bit too similar to the most recent "SYTYCD" winner, the equally adorable Melanie Moore (whose Atlanta audition kicked off last year's Season 8), but other than that, this gamine girl seems to have "everything" going for her, as judge Mary Murphy said.

Toshihiko Nakazawa

This 26-year-old Japanese import with the Raggedy-Andy red hair and ragdoll limbs gave such an awesome audition (the way he moved, I sometimes actually thought the tape was playing in reverse), Nigel even compared him to the almighty Twitch Boss. "There's been very few people who have entertained me with that style," said Nigel. Toshihiko was a total star, but for some reason, the judges only put him through to the choreography round, instead of handing him a golden ticket to Vegas. Toshihiko then floundered and, sadly, decided to quit. What a shame--I wish he'd stuck it out, because he had true potential. Maybe he can try out next season (if, gawd willing, there is a next season), or maybe he can get some awesome friends together and audition for "America's Best Dance Crew." I want more Toshihiko on my TV!

Shafeek Westbrook

Shafeek is a "chair dancer," of sorts, but in the most legit and most awesome way. (Sorry for my even-more-repetitive-than-usual use of the adjective "awesome" tonight; there was just, well, a lot of awesomeness going on.) The Philly breakdancer's routine, inspired by a friend who died in 9/11 and whose "soul was climbing out of the Twin Towers," was so powerful, so moving--and yes, so awesome. "With what you're doing, you extend this entire program," Nigel told him. I can't wait to see how this guy extends himself in Vegas.

Leo Reyes

I've become jaded and hardened to most reality-TV sob stories by now, but Leo's tale of woe really got to me. He once discovered his mom after she'd deliberately overdosed on pills, and now that she has survived her suicide attempt, all Leo wants to do is make her proud and her give her, basically, a reason to live. That's a lot of pressure to put on himself, but his audition was definitely life-affirming. I'm so delighted that his mother survived to see this day. I'm rooting for her, and even more importantly, for her son.

Chehon Wespi-Tschopp

This trained ballet dancer from Switzerland is exactly the type of contestant that Nigel (who unfortunately has a bit of a complex about "effeminate" male dancers) adores: a long, strong, absolute racehorse of a man. Guest judge Tyce Diorio approved of this manly audition as well: "Ridiculous and sick and amazing," he declared. So it was straight from Switzerland to New York to Vegas for Chehon. I suspect that female voters will love him as much as the male judges did, and I predict he will go far.

Bree Hafen

This 29-year-old mother of two little ones proved that dance is THE best post-pregnancy workout ever, as she flaunted her incredibly fit mom-bod during her lovely routine. But the most entertaining parts of her cute-overload segment came courtesy of her kids, when her son was dispatched to personally hand her her Vegas ticket, and when her toddler daughter got to "audition" as well. I hope "SYTYCD" stays on the air for many, many years, so that this little girl can one day try out for real, for Season 25. This kid has a future!

Stepheon "The Zombie" Stewart

Stepheon's also-very-Twitchy routine was like something out of a circa-2012 "Thriller" remix. So scary! So good! So scary-good! "I love my job!" exclaimed guest judge Lil' C. I love my job, too, when I get to write about awesome stuff like this.

Hampton Williams

This "Exorcist-Style" audition was my favorite of the night, and quite possibly one of my favorite "SYTYCD" auditions ever. "I can take your pain and fear and interpret it, and you won't have it no more," Hampton said--and I think that is exactly what dance, and really almost any form of art, should aim to do. This routine was as creepy as Stepheon's audition, but it was also really, really exquisite and gorgeous. Mary was sobbing by the end, and a stunned Nigel raved, "You are an artist. I think you could be a genius. You really have created something real unusual there." Is it too soon for me to declare Hampton the male winner of Season 9? I have been completely and utterly exorcised.

Daniel Baker

An Australian-bred thoroughbred, this brawny ballet dancer (no, he's not a "belly dancer," that's just his Aussie accent) wowed with his Beckhamian torso and super-intense power moves. Daniel hit the stage like he'd been blasted out of a cannon, and he never let up. This guy is a total wonder from Down Under. He's almost awesome as that other Daniel Baker, from "America's Got Talent"!

Jarell Rochelle

This was the other sob story of the night, also about a contestant's hard-luck mom. Jarell's mother suffers from a serious eye disease (doctors told her she would go blind by age 40, but she has bucked the odds so far). And all Jarell wants is for his mom to see him dance, while she still can. Nigel moved her up to the front row so she could get a better look at Jarell's audition, and by the end of the performance, her eyes were brimming with tears. So were mine.

So next Wednesday, the "SYTYCD" auditions move on to Los Angeles, the city of dancing angels. I'm bummed that it will be the only episode of the week, but hey, at least I only have to wait six days to see it.

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