SYTYCD, Season 9, Episode 7

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

Kenny Ortega/Courtesy of

Tonight it was time for the Top 20 to take the stage and compete for the viewers’ votes!

The opening number was a phenomenal piece – office workers and bosses using mug and desk props, among other things. An intense number for the beginning of the show, keeping the dancers in a small space – but their movements, even in that small space, expressed the high stress of the piece perfectly.

Then it was time to welcome the Top 20 as individuals – so great to see Detriot’s Will Thomas strut his stuff!

Mary Murphy, Nigel Lythgoe and Kenny Ortega were all on deck to judge this evening – Happy Birthday Mr. Lythgoe!

We’re voting for individuals this week, not couples.

What’s coming for next week? Two boys and two girls will be cut. The judges are making these decisions at the beginning stages.

First up were Witney and Chehon. Each couple had nine seconds to talk about themselves. What we learned: Witney is afraid of crickets. Chehon is bilingual and a dual citizen. They took on the Samba to “Jump.” Witney look like a Latin pop princess in her sparkly pink outfit. The couple’s movements were sharp.

“You are a star,” said Lythgoe to Witney, though he thought Chehon was a bit out of his style, and apparently, his feet.

During the commercial break we saw a preview for “Step Up: Revolution.” Join the Mob here and you could be in a music video!

Then we had Tiffany who has baby hands, and George and he hates the outside, together for a Sonya routine. The lines and the movements were beautiful, expressing great emotions for people so young.

“You both surrendered to this choreography,” said Murphy. “You were living it.”

We then met Janaya, who wants to meet Shamoo and is afraid of Chucky, and Brandon, who is from Kansas City and very allergic to animals. They would work together to build an emotional hip hop routine by Tabitha and Napoleon. AND OMG TABITHA IS PREGGERS!

Janaya and Brandon’s routine required a lot of partner work and you could sense the level of trust that existed between the two contestants.

Alexa was up next. She loves red lipstick. Daniel, her partner, is Australian. VERY Australian. They had a jazz routine. And speaking of partnering and props…and tight red suits…looked like Alexa’s diet of sprinkles can’t be that unhealthy. Looked tricky but the couple pulled it off. Lythoe wanted more passion.

Next: Amber. She loves bunnies and used to run track. Nick. He just took 23 credits and said it was crazy “don’t do it.” They were set up with the Viennese Waltz. Did they get it together in time?

Murphy thought it was dreamy – and Amber pulled it off in heels.

“So lovely,” said Ortega.

However, the Viennese Waltz, like the Disco, rarely does well with fans of the show.

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Remember Amelia from the auditions? Her dad is a tattoo artist. Partner Will (YAY) loves orange…but apparently not short interviews. Character Pop was the style assigned to these colorful dancers and the audience loved it.

Janelle can cook anything. Dareian can imitate Donald Duck. They had to tackle African Jazz. Very fast, totally in sync, and, as Tyra Banks would say, “Fierce!”

“It was like a jungle dance-off!” Murphy said. She was proud of Janelle for tackling the new styles (Janelle is a belly dancer).

A special reminder: National Dance Day is July 28. Please visit for more info!

                Meet Eliana: she hates raisins. And Cyrus: he has gauges. Together: Broadway. “Run and tell that!”

“She just gets down!” said Murphy of Eliana. Ortega felt as though he were at a Broadway show.

“You gave it your heart and soul, and you kicked it to the back wall,” he said. Lythgoe believes she has set the bar for the other girls.

We met Audrey – she loves Taylor Lautner – and Matthew – he loves hiking. And then what we love – a Titanic routine by Travis Wall to “Enchanted Melody.”

Last of the night were Lindsay, who hates tomatoes (me too), and “karate kid” Cole who is a cliché, with a fiery Paso Double to “Unstoppable.” Very passionate and highly dramatic – would be a perfect ten on “Dancing with the Stars.” It was Lythgoe’s favorite Paso Double, from Cole out of the guys on the show – ever.

Time to vote!

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.

Courtesy of

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.


Courtesy of

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.

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.