SYTYCD, Season 9, Episode 6

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

America…Meet your Top 20!

Courtesy of

The Ladies:

Alexa Anderson

Amber Jackson

Amelia Lowe

Audrey Case

Eliana Girard

Janaya French

Janelle Issis

Lindsay Arnold

Tiffany Maher

Witney Carson

The Gentlemen:

Brandon Mitchell

Chehon Wespi-Tschopp

Cole Horibe

Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer

Daniel Baker

Dareian Kujawa

George Lawrence II

Matthew Kazmierczak

Nick Bloxsom-Carter

Will Thomas

Let the competition begin.

Who are you rooting for this season and why? Let us know in the comments below!

SYTYCD Season 9, Episode 4

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

This week the “So You Think You Can Dance” auditions took off in Salt Lake City.

Host Cat Deely and judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy were joined this time by Adam Shankman.

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The rules?

No booty-shaking.

No self-worship.

No reaching.

Shankman demonstrated.

Salt Lake City auditions have always been fantastic, and this round did not disappoint.

Up first was Witney Carson, 18. Utah may be cold; Carson brought the heat and the talent with her cha-cha and tango.

“When it comes to dancing, I like being a woman,” she said of her sensual and confidant dancing.

That confidence paid off. Carson received the first standing o of the night, a comparison to Anya Garnis, the first ticket on the hot tamale train this season, and a ticket to Vegas.

Next on the stage was another underground dance style: alien space dance. This type of dance was inspired to Lynn, 33, from Pleiades and her spirit guides. She used to be an aerospace engineer but wanted to find herself, and encouraged the audience to learn that they can always start over no matter their age.

Then Deanna took over the stage with absolute grace.

“I just loved every single second of that,” Murphy said. Deanna’s performance was absolutely stunning on stage: beautiful lines, expression, transitions and “wisdom” according to Shankman. She was on her way to Vegas.

Body paint? Life cycle of the male praying mantis? Just one of the outrageous auditions of the day. Gene Lonardo, 22, showed everyone in the audience what it was like to live and die as this insect. Weird? Yes. Talented? Yes. Perfect from choreographer Sonya Tayeh? Yes. Ticket? Yes.

Lindsay Arnold, 18 was up next with her jazz, contemporary and ballroom training to impress the judges.

“I thought you were absolutely fabulous,” said Lythgoe, acknowledging both her performance and technical skills. Murphy said Arnold reminds her of Julianne Hough.

After an endless amount of ballroom came krumping from a little blonde girl.  Mariah Spears, 18, rocked the house with her powerful moves.

“F****** krumping!” Shamkman exclaimed. “So, so that was from all of your rough time on the streets I’m assuming…it says you like to ride horses,” he said, glancing at her form. “ I don’t know how you do what you just did. You blew my mind.” Spears was sent to the choreography round and later, Vegas.

Last up on day one was Murphy Yang, 22, who gave up everything for dance. His parents did not support his dance career and disowned him. But he had his girlfriend. He refused to give up and wants to prove that dance was the right choice by being on the show.

“Murphy Yang, you are an entertainer,” Lythgoe said. The judges were not sure about his technique and sent him to wait for the choreography round where he was cut.

Dareian was feeling confident and excited about his audition. He had a rough childhood and says dance lifted him out of his experience. He definitely lifted the judges spirits on day two.

“You’re just joy out there,” Murphy said, though she agreed with Lythgoe that he needs to work on his feet. He’ll have to work on those feet in Vegas.

Next on stage were playboy/dancer Johnny and his partner Whitney. The pair have been dancing together for just eight months. Even with all of Johnny’s relationship courses, the two lacked chemistry. They were sent to the choreography round. It was a no to both.

Several dancers at the audition weren’t strangers: they had auditioned for the show before and been cut in Vegas. Several of them got return tickets. Would season seven and now season nine auditioner Adrian Lee, 22, be so lucky? Well, he’s on his way back to Vegas; but will he make it past the grueling week and into the top 20?

Dancer Rachel Applehans was hoping to make Lythgoe uncomfortable. Dressed in a lingerie top and rolling around like a stripper…that wouldn’t be hard to do.

“I think that if some things were a little different in my life I’ve move to Salt Lake City,” joked Shankman.

“A little too much burlesque for me and not enough jazz,” said Lythgoe. Applehans was sent to choreography and later to Vegas.

Last for the auditions: Leroy Martinez. Slightly reminiscent of Allan “Big Poppa” Frias.

“You’re f***** awesome!” Shankman swore.

“You are an absolute joy. You’re the kind of person…we want to root for you,” said Murphy. She and Nythgoe agreed that he would not be a contender on the show, but they sent him to choreography anyways – not to Vegas.


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This was the last round of auditions before the ticketed dancers fly to Sin City for the fearsome Vegas week, where they will be competing for one of the coveted top 20 spots.

Breaking Pointe, Season 1, Episode 1

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

Dance shows are HOT this summer: “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Bunheads,” (premiering June 11 on ABC Family) and now a new series from the CW: “Breaking Pointe.”

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The station that has brought us dramas such as “Gossip Girl” and “The Vampire Diaries” promises that there’s more – in the world of ballet:

“Viewers will also see the dark side of this seemingly perfect world; the jealousy, competition and intensity that exist behind the scenes at a professional ballet company. For under the tights and tutus lie warriors, who battle in a gritty world of extreme athleticism, focus and dedication, while hunting for the unattainable…perfection,” according to the CW’s website.

And what professional ballet company is this you ask? The Salt Lake City Ballet Company, Ballet West. Appearing will be Artistic Director Adam Sklute, and his dancers: Principal Artist Christiana Bennett, Soloist Ronnie Underwood, Demi-Soloist Allison DeBona, Demi-Soloist Rex Tilton, Beckanne Sisk, Kathleen (Katie) Martin and Ronald Tilton. For six weeks viewers will get to know them all.

Beckanne, 19, is a frist year dancer who has already had prinicpal parts. Rex, 24, is in love with Allison, 28, who is ok with choosing ballet over love. Ronnie, 30, is a hotrod gear head. Christiana, 32, has worked since age 19, and strives for perfection. Katie, 23, rounded out the cast with Ronald, her boyfriend.

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But this is no glamour shot. This is an epic cinematic view that brings you right into the dancers’ rehearsals and lives, giving the audience a glimpse of what it is like to be a modern-day competitive ballerina.

“No one sees the sacrifice and discipline it takes to look perfect for the audience. Nobody knows that in order to advance and get the best roles, dancers have to navigate the complicated social politics inside the company. And, no one sees, when the curtain goes down, the drama that bleeds into the dancers’ private lives…until now” said the CW.

Training, injuries, competition, rivalry, relationships and passion were just a few of the topics highlighted in the premiere episode on June 31 at 8/7c. Contract time had come to the company, and with only 40, it was up to Adam to decide who would stay and who would go, leaving everyone on their toes.

“The nature of my work…is to make difficult decisions about the company, and I often have to make decisions the dancers don’t like,” said Adam. “It’s hard on them.”

Christiana wasn’t worried: she would get two years notice if her contract were in peril.

The other dancers said they admire Christiana. Her dedication to perfection is “a lot to live up to” she said.

The other girls seemed to like Katie.

“Good friends like Katie are very hard to find in a company,” noted one of the girls, with another adding she wouldn’t know what to do if Katie had to go.

New artist, corps de ballet, demi-soloist, soloist, principal dancer is the way the ballet company hierarchy runs, viewers were told, and when contracts rolled in, many dancers expected promotions.

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Christiana’s was, of course, renewed.

Allison was promoted to demi-soloist.

First-year apprentice was given to Ronald, demi-soloist to Rex.

Ronnie wanted to be a principal, but got first-soloist and a pay raise instead. He did not make a decision.

Beckanne had a meeting. Adam praised her beautiful feet, but said he didn’t want to push her too far. However, he decided to move her up to demi-soloist, which he warned would require her to become a role model, at 19.

Katie also had a meeting, and hers did not result in a happy ending but tears. Her contract was not renewed.

That left Ronald with a choice: his love, or his brother. He decided to stay with his brother and to make it work with Katie.

The dancers went to a dance club to blow off some steam, where viewers learned more about Allison and Rex’s relationship, which is rocky, or “tumultuous” said Christiana.

Rex told Allison, “I love you.” Allison basically called him crazy.

With three performances coming up, it was time to push, but Rex was noticeably distracted during his rehearsal. Katie was feeling the pressure as well. While her contract was not renewed, she still had two months to finish with the company, all while looking for other jobs.

“I hate packing,” Katie said, packing for an audition trip to Idaho.

“You’re going to do great,” Ronald said, adding, “I’m going to make it work with Katie, no matter what.”

But will he? Find out next week.

“Breaking Pointe” airs Thursdays 8/7c on the CW.

SYTYCD, Season 9, Episode 2

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

“So You Think You Can Dance” took viewers to the paradise of Los Angeles in last night’s audition episode.

Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murhpy were joined by “Modern Family” star Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Murphy laid down the law, which included “no booty shaking.”

First to audition was Alexa Anderson, 19, who made it to Vegas last year but was cut in the top 20. This year she was back again, and hoping her time to explore dance and learn to relax would earn her a place in this season. She channeled a unique energy in to her powerful moves. That got her a ticket to Vegas, with no comments at all from the judges. But will it earn her a place in the top 20?

Jontel Johnny “Waacks” Gibson, 20, a waacker was up next, with an outfit as bubbly as his personality. Gibson had been waacking for almost one year, inspired to take up this odd dance form by watching videos on YouTube, and also told the judges he had experience with contemporary and hip hop. He managed to do it without looking crazy, one of his goals, to a disco song – maybe he’ll be one of the first to do well with disco should he make it onto the show – and impressed Lythgoe with his musicality. He was sent to the choreography round.

Next up was Eliana Girard, a contemporary dancer who attending the Joffrey Ballet School, and also danced and did aerial pole with Cirque du Soleil. She blew Lythgoe away immediately with her long legs. She certainly used them effectively, stretching through in her leaps. She received thunderous applause from the audience.

“I felt as though you felt your music, and it was just beautiful to watch…one of the best girls this year,” Lythgoe pronounced, with Murphy adding that Girard is definitely top 20 material.

“We’re like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie… [except] we’re broke” – The Ninja Twins “with attitude” were about to take the stage. Nick and James Aragon dedicated their contemporary performance to their first dance teacher who passed away this week. The two were like synchronized swimmers on the stage, taking on Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” with coordination and flair. There were chants of “Vegas,” but since the twins were over 30, they were sent home, chilling the crowd.

“We aren’t dead, dang!” said one, ever optimistic.

“Everything is going to end up good in the end” was the story of the next dancer’s audition. Six months ago when Sam Lenarz, 18, came home from dance, she found her mother had kicked her out. It dealt her a blow, but best friend’s mom, Mary, brought her in.

“You can always believe in yourself,” Lenarz said, with Mary cheering her on in the audience.

The judges agreed she was a beautiful dancer, but needed to find freedom in her movement, and placed her in choreography.

“This is your destiny, to be a beautiful brilliant dancer…I am so sorry…your family wasn’t here,” said Ferguson to a teary Lenarz.

Surfer/tap dancer Caley Carr, 25, was up next. Tap was the perfect medium for his ADHD as a child, he said, especially when he realized no one was telling him to stop making noise. The judges certainly weren’t about to tell him to stop, with a brilliantly witty audition to “Somebody That I Used to Know,” immediately sending him to the choreography round.

“You have a mustache, you surf, and you tap…I’m bored,” yawned Ferguson jokingly.

Next was Megan Branch’s audition. Murphy said she cared about Branch from the get-go and Ferguson commented on her likeability.

“You’re a fire cracker aren’t you?” Lythgoe said. “I felt your joy.” Branch was sent to Vegas.

Martial artist and dancer Cole Horibe was ready to bring his shaman to the stage, with powerful moves and music, eliciting a “wow” from the judges.

“That was absolutely stunning to watch,” said Lythgoe.

“You have major presence,” added Ferguson.

“You know what, you know how to dance,” said Murphy, noting that she was skeptical when Horibe began. Horibe was on his way to Vegas.

Hoops and fire? Just another day in the life of David Matz, 27. Matz provided the most unique audition of the season, dancing in his hoop, demonstrating his strength and balance.

“I have never seen that before,” Murphy commented to Ferguson during the audition.

“It’s amazing what you can do with one of Cat Deely’s old earrings,” Ferguson said when Matz was done.

“I don’t know what else you can do dance-wise,” Lythgoe said, and sent Matz off to wait for the choreography round.

Stephen Jacobsen was up to show the judges what not classical ballet looked like. They did not like what they saw. Lythgoe was especially upset: Jacobsen had danced for 17 years and worked with the Cincinnati Ballet. Lythgoe offered him a redo, and, after, a ticket to Vegas.

“I used to be, I guess, like, cocky,” said Jonathan Anzalone, 25, who first auditioned for SYTYCD four years ago.

“You just have to keep going,” he said. “Life is beautiful.” He was ready to show the judges the real him.

Murphy said Vegas. Lythgoe said choreography. It was up to Ferguson to break the tie. He agreed with Lythgoe.

Jasmine Mason and Marshea Kidd were ready to dance again, after recovering from a car accident that happened six weeks ago. Kidd was pronounced dead on arrival and in a coma for two days. Both would give beautiful auditions. But would both get tickets to Vegas? Yes.

Robert Roldan and Courtney Galiano, former SYTYCD contestants, were ready to take the remaining dancers through the choreography round. Many of the dancers sent there, including Matz and Anzalone, decided it was just too much. But Lenarz got her ticket.

Roldan and Galiano/Courtesy of

Next week SYTYCD hits the South.

“Can Nigel handle the heat?” Deely mused.

SYTYCD, Season 9, Episode 1

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

“Isn’t it about time for a little dance?”

Courtesy of

Dancers across America certainly thought so when “So You Think You Can Dance” premiered its ninth season on Thursday, May 24 on Fox.

Cat Deely will host the show that is on the search to find American’s Favorite Dancer. Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and Tyce Diorio returned as judges as the auditions kicked off in New York City, with Christopher “Lil’ C” Toler joining Lythgoe and Murphy in Dallas, TX.

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“Wherever you are from today, you are representing New York!” Lythgoe, also an executive producer of the show, told the cheering dancers in the auditorium.

Dancers had their time on the stage and then were either invited to Vegas, asked to stay for the choreography round to see if they had more to give, or just sent home.

First to take the stage was contemporary dancer Amelia Lowe, 18, from New Jersey. Lowe started dancing at age three, and loves the 1920s, an era that inspires her to bring action to her dance. Her audition was theatrical, and showed beautiful lines and definite stage presence, earning her a standing ovation from Lythgoe, Murphy and Diorio. When asked if she had ever been to Paris and seen the Eiffel Tower, Lowe said no. Lythgoe acknowledged that there is a smaller one in Vegas, and sent her on her way with a plane ticket.

Watch Lowe’s audtion here.

Up next was red haired (we’re talking clown red) hip-hopper, locker, popper, ballerina Toshihiko Nakazawa, from Japan. He gave one of the most entertaining auditions of the evening.

“There’s been very few people who entertained me like that,” said Lythgoe, placing Nakazawa in season one’s Twitch’s category.

“Your body’s like a musical instrument, like a puppet…you have gift!” Diorio said in Nakazawa’s broken English.

Nakazawa was sent to the choreography round along with 35 dancers and Courtney Galiano from season four.

“I cannot lift so I cannot stay,” said Nakazawa as he left the theatre. No Vegas.

Watch Nakazawa’s audition here.

New York dance legend? America was about to find out when Austin Freeman, 21, from New Jersey hit the stage with his new dance style: the wiggle, saying the judged were about to “find out if you have the Freeman Fever.”

Lythgoe looked scared the entire time before he finally waved the music off and Murhpy said, “Oh no, oh mercy.  When someone shouted “Vegas” for Freeman, Lythgoe’s reply was, “whoever shouted Vegas kick them out now!” Legend? Maybe. America’s Favorite Dancer? No.

“It doesn’t sit comfortably” Lythgoe added.

Watch Freeman’s audition here.

Shafeek Westbrook from Pennsylvania brought the talent flipping back – literally.

“I trained like a lab rat,” he said, practicing flipping over three chairs in the beginning and working his way up. He also worked hard on his showmanship, which he says is so important for street dancers, or else you’re just, “somebody on the corner dancing for no reason” he said. He certainly caught the eyes of the judges.

“With what you’re doing, you extend this entire program. It’s a pleasure to watch you do what you’re doing” Lythgoe said, with Diorio adding, “You move like silk, completely effortless, and that is so loud. I really appreciate your artistry.” Westbrook explained the story of his dance: his friend passed away during 9/11, and in his dance he was his friend’s soul.

“Well that soul can fly up here,” Lygthoe said, “because that soul is flying to Vegas.”

Watch Westbrook’s audition here.

And just like that, day one was done.

Day two started on an emotional note, with Leo Reyes, a 21-year-old from Brooklyn, whose mother recently attempted suicide.

“It’s going to give her a reminder for a reason of why she should be here.” he said. “Mom, this is for you…te amo.”

His solo was a beautiful picture, filled with talent, technique, artistry, beautiful lines and a powerful story. Reyes received a standing ovation from the dancers in the audience.

“Thank goodness that on this show…we are not manipulated on by the audience,” Lythgoe said. “So, you’re going to Vegas!”

Watch Reyes’ audtion here.

But not everyone was as impressive as Reyes and the dancers from day one.

Said Diorio of one audition, “I did not enjoy that at all. Sorry.”

But he was about to enjoy what came next.

Ballet dancer Chehon Wespi-Tschopp from Sweden really wanted his ticket.

“I hope the judges see my will to dance is really strong,” he said. Powerful, artistic, big, he flew through his dance effortlessly.

“Well, I suppose if you like that sort of thing it was ok,” Lythgoe said.

“That was ridiculous, sick and amazing,” said Diorio. “I think he needs to do to Vegas.”

“Oh, alright then,” Lythgoe eventually sighed.

Watch Wespi-Tschopp’s audition here.

Then it was goodbye New York, (although 38 dancers from the Big Apple were about to greet Vegas) and hello Texas! Dallas, to be specific.

On day one, first up was Bree Hafen, 29, a mother of two and a loving wife. She brought her kids, Luke, 5, and Stella 2, and husband with her to the audition. Lythgoe had the kids come to the judges table to watch.

“She’s good, huh,” Lythgoe said to Luke as Hafen performed.

And she never got to finish. Luke brought her a ticket to Vegas during her solo.

“You are a very, very good dancer,” said Lythgoe, and asked her why she had never auditioned before. Hafen said her confidence hadn’t been at the right level before, but being a wife and mother built it up.

“My turn,” little Stella said, and Lythgoe let her take the stage.

“This is the best show ever” Lil’ C said.

Watch Hafen’s audition here.

Next up where an interesting duo: Hampton “The Exorcist” Williams and Stepheon “The Zombie” Stewart.

First on stage was Stewart, whose audition ended in cheers of “Vegas!”

“You have been extraordinary…I loved every second of it” Murphy said. Stewart was on his way to Vegas.

Watch Stewart’s audition here.

Then it was Williams’s turn. He received a standing ovation from the room.

“You are an artist. I think you could be a genius. You really have created something quite unusual” Lythgoe said.

“I want to kick you in your face right now….excuse me but that s*** was BUCK!” Lil’ C said. “Man, hats off to you. I enjoyed every millisecond of that performance, I loved it.”

“I feel really honored to have seen that,” Lythgoe agreed. Williams got a ticket.

Watch Williams’s audition here.

Handsome Australian Daniel Baker, 23, auditioned next, to cat-calls from the females in the room. Baker moved from Down Under to San Fransisco, inspired by a book about America his father gave to him as a boy. Baker became a ballet dancer in order to obtain a sponsored Visa to come to the States. He worked with the San Francisco Ballet, and thinks that the show will be a “great opportunity to learn what I haven’t learned in the ballet world” he said.

“Ok, um, Daniel, I’m not gonna let any of that cheering affect me in any way. Yeah. It was alright,” Lythgoe said after his audition.

“Guess it was like semi-buck. If you want to come to Vegas I supposed you can,” Lil’ C added. The girls were not disappointed.

Watch Baker’s audition here.

Next came a touching performance from Sam Shreffler, a young man who is on the autism spectrum and studies at the Burkhart Transition Academy.  

“It makes me feel like that I am free to express myself and just to let myself go to,” he told the judges.

“Whatever you do, do not stop dancing,” Lythgoe said, although Shreffler would not be joining them in Vegas.

“You are one of the buckest individuals I have seen all day,” said Lil’ C. Shreffler received a standing ovation from the entire room.

“It was a great day,” Shreffler said as he left.

Watch Shreffler’s audition here.

And then it was day two.

A very negative young man was the first to audition, Von “Legend” Kipper, 22. He said he did not agree with the way the show was run. Unfortunately, he did not have enough talent to make the judges look past his bad attitude.

“You’ve got a bad attitude young man, and you’ve just got to listen,” said Lythgoe. “You are the worst person and attitude we’ve had on this show.” No ticket for a bad attitude.

“If anyone else feels like that, leave with him please,” Lythgoe added.

The last audition of this episode was the most touching.

“Jarell Rochelle. It rhymes,” Rochelle said to introduce himself. He had brought his family along to the audition. His mother was what brought him to the audition. She has an eye disease slowly degenerating her sight, and will eventually go blind. Lythgoe had her come to the judges table so she could see her son perform.

“Every millisecond of the performance just touched me,” said Lil C’ when Rochelle was finished. “…what I love more than talent is when talent meets skills, it leaves me spellbound, I am a fan.”

“That was complete entertainment from beginning to end” Muphy said.

His mother gave him a ticket to Vegas.

Watch Rochelle’s audition here.

Next week, the So You Think You Can Dance auditions hit LA – are you ready?