Back to the Big Apple: SYTYCD Season 12 Auditions–New York City

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Big Apple...Big Talent!

We’re wrapping up the last of the auditions with the hopefuls in New York City. It’s been a while since they’ve been held there, and as noted at the top of the show a number of memorable contestants, including Season 3 champion Sabra Johnson and Season 10 co-champion Chehon Wespi-Tchopp, have been discovered here.

Virgil Gadson, 27, Philadelphia, PA, Team Street
Before he opened his mouth I thought two things: that he looked familiar and that he looked like he could be related to Fik-Shun. I was right about the first thing–he auditioned way back in Season 8 and got all the way to Green Mile before being cut. He figured he needed a little more training before trying again, so he went ahead and booked a Broadway show…..yes, in a reverse move Virgil joined the ensemble of the musical After Midnight, which tightened up his stage skills and expanded his dance palate. Going back to his street roots for this audition, he infused huge amounts of humor and some ridiculous skills. The judges were clearly impressed with his versatility and didn’t hesitate to give him a berth to Vegas.

Alexia Meyer, 19, Orem, UT, Team Stage
Wants to show her edgy and sassy sides along with her technique; she has Melanie Moore-like strength and Sonya Tayeh-worthy quirk. Paula praised her showmanship while pointing out her wavering connection with the audience  (which elicited boos from the crowd before she was even finished with her explanation), and Jason and Nigel were equally drawn in. A definite yes to move forward.

Korey Cleveland, 24, St. Louis, MO, Team Street
A rough childhood and troubled life, from drug addiction to incarceration….and dance is saving his life. His style combines elements of animation, house and krump. Channeling Michael Jackson in some of his moves and Shabba Doo in some of his hair (both really good things). Dude’s passion fuels him and touched the judges, who give him a shot at Vegas.

Korey’s breakout audition is followed by a montage of street dancers–b-boy, vogue and freestyle. The last dancer looks a lot like Shafeek Westbrook (who most recently auditioned last season)….we’ll find out for sure in the callback shows.

Justin Ballasy, 18, Allentown, PA, Team Street
White boy in tap shoes aiming for Team Street. Yeah, you read that right. Knows his history and everything. Judges impressed with his footwork but were confused by his choice of music and the difficulty of determining his rhythm signature…and called him on it. Still loved his proficiency though, and sent him through.

Mr. Hollywood?!? L.A. was last week, sweetie…..
Thomas Condello, 20, Staten Island, NY, Team Street
At least he’s marginally better than “Sex.” (Go back to Seasons 2 and 3 to know who I’m talking about.) But um…..NO. They loved his heart, though.

The female Les Twins–Cookie and Angyil–are auditioning for Team Street.
Angely “Cookie” Deaza, 22, Washington Heights, NY, and Angela “Angyil” McNeal, 22, Kansas City, MO, Team Street
I have never seen a female bonebreaker before, and Cookie does it well. She and Angyil work together very well with the blend of animation and hip-hop, and Angyil even added a little stage flavor to her freestyle. Both Paula and Nigel think Cookie needs to raise her style from the perceived monotone that they dubbed her performance. I don’t know what it is that the judges weren’t seeing, but I enjoyed both girls’ performance. The panel splits up the team–Angyil goes to Vegas, and Cookie is sent home to work on her skills for the next season. (Two things that lit up my night–those bodacious Afros and the mention of Washington Heights. If you follow my whole blog, you’ll understand why that second one is special.)

Allison Wilcox, 18, Las Vegas, NV, Team Stage
Currently working in Las Vegas on the Strip in a medieval show, she’s a contemporary dancer with very good technique. Paula thinks she’s better than the choreography she was dancing, and I agree. Jason loved the whole package, and apparently Nigel did too, because she got a ticket to callbacks.

Three young men in this Team Stage montage, and if I didn’t know better I’d swear they’d given Stanley Glover another chance at the show.

Alain “Hurrikane” Lauture, 28, New York, NY, Team Street
A Haitian immigrant specializing in locking. I have to go back and see who the captions listed as the artist for this song, but what I do know is they did not write Bobby McFerrin, whose voice this is. That aside, ol’ boy is locking his ass off. OK, never mind…clearly whoever this is did a master mix with Bobby’s vocals. The judges are extremely impressed with his smile and his spirit, as well as his dancing, so off to Vegas he goes.

Kenya Welch, 18, Franklin, NH, and Connor Birmingham, 18, Windham, NH, Team Stage
A contemporary duet, auditioning together and will be considered as one act, and so far from what I can see they’re quite good. out of sync on the turns but the emotional connection is strong in their technique is good. Judges were impressed with the skill (Paula mentioned strength, technique, flexibility and emotion, all of which I saw as well), and especially impressed and surprised by Connor.  Nigel tried to swerve, but couldn’t split those kids up with a straight face.

Day 2 brings on the blizzard in New York City.

Ryan Rafflouer, 18, Brooklyn, NY, Team Stage
This has got to be the first child I seen put into a ballroom class to get away from the streets. And his mother is taking no prisoners–good job mom! He’s doing ballroom solo, but the magnetism that he has when he begins reminds me straight off of season 2’s Dmitry Chaplin (Although his extremely defined collarbone freaked me out a little at first….). And clearly it reminded Nigel as well, because as soon as I paused to take my notes a clip of Dmitry shows up on my screen.  Nigel mentioned it was a little over the top, but appropriate to enhance his solo. Nigel mentioned it was a little over the top, but appropriate to enhance the solo. Paula pulls out je ne sais quoi, Jason calls a grand presence that feels “expensive.” It’s enough to impress for Vegas.

Bobby “Anime” Major, 21, Brooklyn, NY, Team Street
He has Cyrus’s animation skills and tWitch’s humor. Can’t wait to see what the team captain does with him when they send him to Vegas. And I’m quite certain they’re about to send him to Vegas. I knew before the standing ovation.

This season’s history lessons would be sorely lacking–particularly with this being the New York auditions–without a mention of breaking. Ken Swift, one of the dance’s pioneers, gives a very good background and breakdown. Hard to believe it’s been 40 years….

Eliazer Chapman, 18, Bronx, NY, Team Street
This young man lived in a homeless shelter with his dad for 10 years; street performing fueled his passion and earned enough money to get them out. “Bronx style” b-boying (original, creative and raw, by his description)….he has some insane freezes and huge potential. He’s moved when he gets yet another opportunity to get ahead when the judges award him a spot in Vegas.

Eliazer is followed by a run of solid and unique street dancers also on their way to Team Street. And then there’s this dude….

Ian Williams, 30, South Floral Park, NY, Team Street
Breaker ballet….you’d better have the skills to back up all this talk. Aaaaand, nope. He barely had the ballet part down. Where was the popping, waacking, locking and tutting promised in the package? PLUS he had the nerve to be out of condition for it? If you’re seriously going to develop this bit of fusion you’re going to need to do some research and better physical preparation. That the judges even entertained him coming back knowing full well he was at the age threshold is just all kinds of uncalled for. Over seven years of dancing, though? Chile, BYE. You are throwed. The fact that you ran out into the snow with your street clothes in your hand is evidence of that.

This paved the way for some other tragic mashups–street salsa, kung-fu ballet  (Jim Nowakowsi already did that already, and flawlessly), and something that I can only describe as Valley Girl kitchen sink–hyper and bubbly with a little bit of everything. Trouble indeed, J-Hud…trouble, indeed.

Darius Drooh, 22, New York, NY, Team Stage
HUGE Paula Abdul fan. As in inspired to start dancing huge. Armography was a bit one-note and all over the place but the technique and control are evident. Jason and Nigel made similar observations and Paula also noticed his strength, power and style. At this point, before the poor baby passes out from Paula’s praise, Nigel asks if he remembers any of her choreography….which leads to a lovely dream come true moment for Darius and a friend of his who also worships at her altar, and they perform a few bars of her “Coldhearted” video choreography, to Paula’s everlasting delight. (I think I stole some of those moves back when I was teaching….gotta relearn that for shiggles.) If he hadn’t already impressed with his solo, that would’ve definitely cinched his Vegas ticket. Y’all know that bad boy is getting framed and put on a wall, right?

Alyssa Guerrerri, 19, Pittsburgh, PA, Team Stage
Contemporary; inspired by her grandmother, a former dancer. Nigel is flirting already…. I would have liked to have seen a larger display of skills from her, but her flexibility is insane. The judges are impressed though, and she gets the last ticket to Vegas of the audition show. And Nigel gets a dance with, as Cat put it, an age appropriate partner.

So the callbacks are set–114 Team Stage vs. 105 Team Street dancers. Who of these 219 hopefuls will survive this rigorous week and punch their ticket for Hollywood? See you in Vegas!

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