Welcome back to So You Think You Can Dance! These first few weeks are always a haze of Cat Deeley love, second-hand embarrassment, and general anxiety (mostly re: Nigel’s commentary), but buried in those frantic two minute life stories are the auditions that stop everything. SYTYCD is the artsiest of the reality TV competitions, and these are the performances that set the tone. I’ve pulled together ten of my favorites as a reminder of why we sit through all of those segments about how bored the judges are (because watching people do what they love all day is hard).
Alex Wong, season 7
To be clear, this solo is an honorable mention only because it wasn’t performed during audition rounds. After a torn Achilles tendon forced Alex out of the competition, our injured superhero was given a season seven pass to Vegas, where he danced for his life in front of the judges. The best part of this routine is that it takes two seconds for Tyce to turn into Billy Eichner.
10. Witney Carson, season 9
That lift puts Dirty Dancing to shame, and she still has braces. It isn’t fair. So much of this show is unfair.
9. Twitch, season 4
It’s important to note that Mia’s stank face is a compliment. Twitch really is a magician, and I love that he and Cat slip right into their buddy cop rapport. I wouldn’t hate it if they made a movie together.
8. Joshua Allen, season 4
Does Adam Shankman call Joshua a little kitten? He can’t believe “the little kitten” has got a port de bras? This is very important. Maybe I just want him to be saying “kitten,” because it’s so accurate. Joshua is a cuddly little rascal. You can tell that he’s America’s future Favorite Dancer by the way he moves his hips. Also, the height on that Russian. Get out.
7. Amy Yakima, season 10
The essence of Amy can be summed up in the fact that her dad does dad jazz. She and her family are adorable, but as soon as the music starts, she’s all elegance and red lipstick and a lovers’ quarrel in the rain outside a French movie theater that only plays black and white films.
6. Brandon Bryant, season 5
Brandon auditioned in season four but was later cut, so he came back the next year ready to fight. This solo is all power and athleticism, to the extent that it’s a a little bit terrifying. At one point, he holds himself perfectly still on the ball of his foot for just a second longer than you expect, like he’s forcing you to recognize how much strength goes into every move.
5. Lauren Froderman, season 7
Only Lauren Froderman can do these things. She rolls up from the floor on her bare toes like it’s NOTHING and I just rewound it ten times. She makes it look like she’s not even dancing. The YouTube commenters are all mad at her for not dancing. That’s how good she is.
4. Fik-Shun, season 10
Amy’s future partner in crime was possibly never better than he was in this charismatic audition. Is he hiding little wheels in his shoes? Does he even have neck bones? I have so many questions, but what matters here is that Fik-Shun is cool, like Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s bow tie.
3. George Lawrence, season 9
I just want to give him a hug and thank him for knowing who he is. George is a dancer, and it’s so great to see that affirmed here by none other than Debbie Allen, who whispers into our souls, “This child is fierce.” Look at him with his attitude turns and his handstand thing and his leg extension. George is all passion, and I love him for it.
2. Eliana Girard, season 9
Eliana has pole dancing experience with Cirque du Soleil and the absolute biggest mouth, size-wise. She relies on neither of these fun facts when she’s onstage. She just performs. Everything Eliana does is art. She radiates joy and sincerity both while she’s dancing and while the judges are speaking, because Eliana seems like she’s the same person all the time, with everyone. I’d watch her stand onstage and talk to people for an hour. Also, her développés never stop.
1. Melanie Moore, season 8
Melanie is the cutest little lamb, until she’s Audrey Hepburn. She’s accessible and mysterious, sultry and vulnerable, classical and completely modern. Melanie has the most insane control over every move she makes. I don’t understand how she does so much with the top of her feet. There is so much detail in this routine and so much story behind it, and I’m still not tired of trying to figure out what that story is.
What are some of your favorite auditions? What are you hoping to see this year? And have you ever considered auditioning just to hang out with Cat? Get ready, SYTYCD fans. The hottest season of the year is officially here again.