Season nine gets off to a unique start during the first round of auditions in New York and Texas.
By Natasha Chandel
“So You Think You Can Dance” is back and kicking — literally. Limbs flew left, right, center and even behind the head, as season nine of the dance competition premiered Thursday night (May 24) with the first round of auditions in New York and Texas. Dancers from all over the world auditioned for a golden ticket to Sin City, showcasing a dynamic range of artists, styles and emotional stories.
Both cities delivered a plethora of highly skilled, highly entertaining and highly ridiculous talent. The highlight of the first auditions was not the usual crowd-pleasing contemporary and hip-hop styles, but rather, unique and inventive forms of dance, including animation, lyrical freestyle and … exorcism?
Chehon Wespi-Tschopp from Switzerland dazzled the judges with a stoic contemporary routine showing off his immense strength and a chiseled body that judge Mary Murphy made sure to squeeze extra hard as Wespi-Tschopp came over to graciously hug the panel for his Vegas pass. But the real standout of the night, by far, was Texan Hampton Williams, creator of his own style of dance titled “exorcist style.” The grimly angelic performance saw Williams pop and lock every single muscle in his body, like never before seen on the show. He brought not only Murphy to tears, but many members of the audience as well, and received a unanimous standing ovation through the theater. “I think you could be a genius,” judge Nigel Lythgoe told the young man before offering to pay for Williams’ Vegas ticket himself if the other judges did not put him through.
Being the soulful art form that dance is, “SYTYCD” is notorious for exposing its contestants’ gut-wrenching tales of adversity, and tonight’s premiere was full of such stories. Whether it was Jarell Rochelle’s need to succeed before his mother went blind to Sam Shefler’s battle with autism, the uniting factor was simple: a love for dance. Although Shefler did not move forward with his lyrical freestyle, he received a standing ovation for his courage and was advised never to stop dancing.
Mother of two Bree Hafen, from Texas, won the judges’ hearts and had her golden ticket delivered by her young son. The real kicker came when her daughter, also an aspiring dancer, chimed “my turn” after her mom performed a remarkably fluid contemporary routine. She immediately went into a relev