Watching the opening of So You Think You Can Dance Canada on Monday had me feeling patriotic. Hell yeah, we've turned out some excellent winners in the three seasons the show's been on the air: "gorgeous and powerful and unstoppable Nico" Archambault; "beautiful, passionate and spectacular Tara-Jean" Popowich; and Denys Drozdyuk, whom Leah Miller's voiceover described as "the most spectacular dancer on any So You Think You Can Dance world stage."
And now, we're told, "this season will top them all."
I'd say it's still too early to tell, but I saw lots of promise in this first audition show, filmed back in November in Toronto.
No one moved me quite the way Denys did in his first audition (in Montreal, not Toronto), but there were definitely some hot dancers on that Metro Convention Centre stage. Here's my list of favourites, in the order in which they appeared on Monday:
Jordan Clark, 18, Tottenham, Ont.: A real standout for both her dancing and her gorgeous curly red hair, Jordan was very athletic and strong but also sexy. Her dancing was rock solid technically but also wonderfully expressive. She got the first ticket to the finals on the show and a standing ovation from judges Tre Armstrong, Rex Harrison, Mary Murphy and Luther Brown. She sure looks like Top 20 material to me.
Joey Arrigo,18, Newmarket: This contemporary dancer made some beautiful shapes with his movements and was extremely graceful but also very athletic and lightning quick. Rex described him as "very strong, very masculine" and sensitive. Another well-deserved ticket straight to the finals.
Adam Lopapa, 18, Woodbridge: I've got a real thing for male dancers who are masculine and graceful at the same time, a sort of Gene Kelly vibe, and Adam fits that bill. He was a bit Fosse-esque, too, as he dipped and kicked and stretched with that fedora in his hand or on his head. It was clean, smooth and hot. Mary and Rex were chomping at the bit to put Adam on the Hot Tamale Train and the Sexy Rexy Rocket to the Stars respectively. At the very least, he got a ticket to the finals.
Jordan Davis, 22, Toronto: Best hip-hop routine of the Toronto auditions for me. Jordan had great personality and his moves looked effortless. He put a lot of humour into the audition as well, acting out a traffic jam at the top of the routine. "You had everything I think a hip-hop dancer should be having up there ... you can move, dude," said Mary before handing out Jordan's ticket.
Melissa Mitro, 23, Richmond Hill: This contemporary dancer really had to bring it since this was her fourth time trying out. She did, with strong, dynamic movements infused with passion. But Mary wouldn't hand over the ticket until Melissa explained why she didn't show up for the finals in Season 1. Sounds like Melissa's dance teacher made her choose between doing competitions and going on the show, so Melissa got her second chance.
Yara Vasconcelos, 24, Toronto: Originally from Angola, this samba dancer was hot, with beautiful legs, fast footwork and great hip movement. Jean Marc Genereux (who got to the auditions late because he'd been hosting a world ballroom competition) compared Yara to Latin dance great Julie Laird before handing over the finals ticket.
Andrew Chung, 24, Toronto: Could this be Andrew's year after making it to the finals in each of the past seasons? With three cities still to come on the audition shows, it's hard to say, but he certainly impressed with the fast-paced and inventive locking he did in this go-round. Jean Marc said Andrew looks cleaner and more confident. Back to the finals he goes.
Suzana Garcia, 22, Toronto: Suzana got to the finals via Blake McGrath's boot camp after the judges found she didn't go big enough in her hip-hop routine and wasn't precise enough with her moves. But I really liked her swagger.
A.J. Lopresti, 23, Ancaster: A.J. auditioned in Season 1 as a contemporary dancer but came back this season as a tapper. Probably a good choice since he doesn't have the lean physique of some of the other dancers, but he seems to have personality to burn and a pair of lightning fast feet. "Short and stumpy wins the race," quipped A.J., or least a ticket to the finals.
Esie Mensah, 25, Hamilton: Esie brought some diversity to the proceedings with a spirited African dance that was both fierce and graceful. She has a great pair of legs too. And she also has a ticket to the finals.
Jordon Bartley, 18, Woodbridge: This self-taught hip-hop dancer had no trouble with Blake's boot camp (which he took voluntarily since he already had a ticket to the finals), but how will he handle ballroom choreography? I guess we'll find out, but his audition was, to borrow Tre's words, pretty "hot" and "sick."
Aleksandra Jurevich, 25, Maple: This contemporary dancer took more classes before coming back to try again this season and it paid off with a ticket straight to finals. Her routine was gorgeous with great extensions, great transitions, and plenty of strength and confidence.
Some other dancers sent to finals who were good but didn't knock my socks off included voguer Matthew Cuff; Brenner Smith of Glen Morris, Ont., the brother of Season 2 finalist Everett Smith; and Jennifer Abbey of Toronto. Her hip hop had swag, but she could have hit it harder. I couldn't help but wonder if she would have been sent to choreography instead had she not told the judges about how she was homeless the last time she auditioned and dance saved her life.
I was surprised that Kirstie Keenan, 18, of Bolton, didn't make it to finals after getting there last season. Sure, her facial expressions were over the top during her audition, but I liked her movement and her style.
That's it until next Monday at 8 p.m. on CTV when it's Vancouver's turn in the spotlight. I'll have the recap here. And don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/realityeo.
(A note to Bachelorette fans: two two-hour shows and recaps in one night was too much, so I'll have to catch up later this week.)