Stars of Stage and Street: SYTYCD Season 12 Auditions–Los Angeles


L.A. brings its best!

This week’s auditions bring us to Los Angeles, home of the greatest number of show champions and a huge pool of elite talent. Here’s how things shook out:

Asaf Goren, 23, Burbank, CA, Team Street
Originally from Tel Aviv, Israel, he’s dubbed himself the “Hebrew Breaker” This ought to be interesting. *2 minutes later* Alright, I didn’t quite see that coming. I don’t know where the culture part came in, but he had definite b-boy skills. Even Cyrus and Fik-Shun were in the audience like, “WOW…OK, he DID that.” I had the same thought as Jason about his demeanor possibly being off-putting but his ability and swagger back it all up. Having been compared to both Rock Hudson and Alladin, he won’t be needing a magic carpet to fly into Vegas.

Avo Karapetyan, 29, Boston, MA, Team Stage
A ballet dancer originally from Armenia, he breaks out this contemporary ballet routine to Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” that combines these insanely technical jumps and precise pirouettes with some very expressive modern dance transitions. I can’t say he was as electrically riveting to watch as, say, Chehon….but I was drawn in and absorbed with his performance. And as the judges were visibly moved–Jason gave him TWO standing ovations–a future in Vegas is a foregone conclusion.

Jana “JaJa” Vankova, 22, Van Nuys, CA, Team Street
SO glad to see JaJa back in the house! Fellow IaMmE dance mates Phillip Chbeeb and Emilio Dosal have made their way to the SYTYCD stage, and I’m pleased that JaJa didn’t give up after one try. What pleased me more than her getting her inevitable ticket to Vegas was that her IaMmE crew members, with the exception of Chachi Gonzales and Brandon Harrell, were there to cheer her on and celebrate.

Allen Genkin, 24, Philadelphia, PA, Team Stage
Ballroom dancer (looks like his specialty is West Coast swing), his mom died in his teens AND he survived testicular cancer. I can see definite joy when he dances, but I feel the judges–particularly Nigel–may have something to say about his lack of connection with his partner. Although, he was the only one of the two actually auditioning, so we’ll see…. Floored judges and a Benji comparison. Yeah, that’s the ticket to Vegas.

A Team Street streak leads to the audition of two Swiss breaking brothers, Bolin and Illias Suzufi. Ages 29 and 30….they are just making the age limit, but they look like they may have the goods. I tell you, if the head pirouettes–because the positions they get into transcend them from mere head spins–don’t get them at least to Vegas, something is wrong with those judges. The judges don’t disappoint, and more international flavor joins Team Street.

Mary Kate Levoir, 21, Minneapolis, MN, Team Stage
A jazz dancer, she does a series of strength moves but the transitions are uninspired. Not many turns and very few jumps. She clearly has talent and technique, but the audition performance is slightly one-dimensional. Another dance dad display….at least this one’s humble. Nigel didn’t have to drag Paula into this, too, with the “old” dig. Dad was cool with it though…I’d hang at the club with him. Mary got in a couple of digs at her dad along with the judges before they gave her the Vegas go-ahead. And if Dad on the spot wasn’t enough to prove his heart, him emotional after she got her ticket was more than proof. Way to go, Dad.

Before they came back from break with the history of krump, I thought I had seen Tight Eyez in the promo. I was not wrong. And I appreciate them taking the history back through to clowning, which does not get quite as much publicity. (Props for the mention of Rize, which, pun intended, gave rise to the public’s notice of Tight Eyez, Tommy the Clown, and an up and coming dancer known as Lil C.)

Nigel, I’m ashamed of you. You’ve made yourself familiar with so many other forms of street dance and so many other street dancers, yet you’ve never heard of Tight Eyez? Back to school for you.

James “B-Dash” Derrick, 26, Compton, CA, Team Street
Rize saved him from the gangs and put him into krump, been an underground battle dancer for years and now trying to move to the next level. And if this audition is any indication, he’s well on his way. It’s like someone went into the lab with Russell and Cyrus’s DNA and came out with B-Dash.

Are there ANY duds in Los Angeles this year? One hour in and not one rejection yet… Never mind, here’s the montage of bad dancers. Although the Polynesian guy and the long haired guy that was a girl weren’t  horrible–they just needed more oomph.

Jim Nowakowsi, 25, Rochester, NY, Team Stage
South Korea born, American adopted as a baby; he was born with open cleft lipped palate and had several surgeries to correct…but he says dance always made him feel beautiful. Awww…. Performing contemporary ballet….I hesitated to compare him to Alex Wong simply because he’s of Asian descent, and then his music started and it was all I could do not to conjure up Cole Horibe. A martial arts themed ballet piece that combines all the best elements of each of those forms. As shoulders of giants to stand on, Jim couldn’t do any better. My first Top 20 call. Nigel made the inevitable comparison to Alex, but highlighted their similarities in technique and professional background, hailing him as stunning and the best audition ever on SYTYCD. I can agree to that. Paula used the word exceptional, and Jason also threw out stunning as well as unbelievable. (Thank you, Nigel, for not carrying that bad math joke any further.) Of course he’s going to Vegas!

Cody Carlson, 19, Sacramento, CA, Team Street
Now I know full well this is a gimme addition, but damned if Cody doesn’t actually have some skills. There should be a special edition–no pun intended–of the show for differently-abled dancers. This is what I love about the show–they now allow dancers to audition that have the heart to dance, whether they have the professional staying power or not. And those that stand out because of that heart often get featured. And I’ll bet dancing in front of his Idol Jason Derulo didn’t hurt, either. The best part of this is Nigel mentioning dance becoming a part of the Special Olympics before explaining the rigors of this competition to Cody. I do so love when he encourages dreams like that. No, scratch that…the best part is Jason offering his own dime to get Cody to Vegas. Good on you, boy!

Jacy Jordan, 18, Manvel, TX, Team Stage
I typically get chills when I hear these near-death car accident stories, but when this child said “I could feel the cars rolling over my hair,” I had to stop the playback for a while. My dad was in an accident where the car rolled over, and he wasn’t even ejected from the car…and on the converse, a seatbelt saved ME from flying through a windshield. So I KNOW what a miracle it is for her to be alive. I just don’t have any words for this child’s resilience….none. I somehow knew Nigel was going to be tough on her technically, because in all fairness she did favor her stronger right leg in all of her strength to moves. But, as I also suspected, Jason and Paula overruled him, so we’ll see her in Vegas.

Jessica Rabone, 29, North Hollywood, CA, Team Street
Japanese descent, older sister shadow syndrome, as her sister is a popular TV host in Japan (I can relate, sister….I can SO relate.) Performing a combination of waacking and house…and has a connection to Comfort. (One of these days the term waacking will NOT elicit a laugh when Nigel says it.) Ahem… idiot producer that told this girl “the world doesn’t need another Becky…we already have one [in your sister]”, you’re right, because she’s JESSICA. Dumbass. Girlie was cool and funky and sexy with it all at the same time. Nigel compared her to Toni Basil, who Jessica reveals gave her some of her training. Though both Nigel and Paula remarked on her expanding her dance vocabulary, they along with Jason agree that she deserves a shot in Vegas.

Jessica is followed by a montage of other Street girls, with what looks like Mary Poppins amongst them. All of them are kicking ass and taking names…and naturally, going to Vegas.

This next montage of auditioning dancers gives the first male liturgical dancer I’ve ever seen, breakers, Bollywood dancers, and whatever the hell “Epic” is. But this next fellow……

Kareem “Anointed” Ali, 22, Newark, NJ, Team Street
“All style, spiritual, vibrational dance.” OK, you have my attention. I’m going in with a fully open mind on this one, because the last time I gave something like this a side eye, Hampton “The Exorcist” Williams shut down the stage. Alright, he does a quirky blend of freestyle hip-hop with lots of other elements thrown in that you wouldn’t think would work in a hip hop routine…but they do. Kareem to me is a photo negative image of Shafeek, who auditioned in two previous seasons. I’d love to see what this ticket to Vegas does for him…after all, the last street performer that audition for this show ended up winning season 10.

Brandon Armstrong, 20, Lehigh, UT, Team Stage
Brandon auditioned with Lindsay Arnold in 2012. At the time, he did not meet the age requirement, but he so impressed the judges that they hand wrote him a ticket to Vegas for the next year. Two ironies here: Brandon is now officially auditioning and has an underage partner, and in his interview he is backed by a picture of Witney Carson. Gotta love it. (Sorry….THREE ironies. He’s partnered with Jensen Arnold…Lindsey’s little sister. I’m sure we’ll see HER next season.) Passed on that shoo-in ticket for a mission trip….dude. That’s dedication.  Ballroom to Uptown Funk….alrighty. But it worked…..the audition piece was awesome, Jensen got a promise ticket (do I see an Arnold family comeback for Season 13?) and Brandon finally cashes in his.

The numbers are dead even for Team Stage and Team Street as we head into New York for the last round of auditions…and then the hard work begins!


Who ya with? #StagevsStreet


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