So You Think You Can Dance Canada: Talent from coast to coast
Let's hear it for the boys, Canada.
Yes, there were some very good female dancers on So You Think You Can Dance Canada's second episode of Season 4, but for me, the males were the ones leaving it all on the dance floor and then some.
Monday's show combined auditions from Vancouver, B.C., Edmonton, Alta., and St. John, N.B.
As usual, there were plenty of returning dancers, including Vancouver personality Spandy Andy, but also some very impressive newcomers.
First off, here are the dancers that really turned my head in all three cities (all of whom got tickets straight to the finals):
Mackenzie Carlson, 18, Calgary: This contemporary dancer, who said she was terrible at it when she began a decade ago, packed a ton of feeling into her routine as well as a nice mix of movement, from gentle and subtle gestures to wow ones, like turning on her knees, lifting up and back down again. “What strike me about you is you're 18 years old and you dance like somebody who have full life behind you,” judge Jean Marc Genereux told her.
Carlos Chang, 29, Vancouver: I loved the way this ballroom dancer's movement flowed and the fact that he served up his excellent technique with a wink and a smile. After living in Hawaii for five years, Carlos was a veteran of SYTYCD U.S. auditions but was trying out in Canada for the first time. “How many times have I seen you audition?” said guest judge Mia Michaels, a former U.S. judge. “This is the fourth, and every time I love you and I really hope that this is the one. You are gonna be top 20.”
Carlena Britch, 20, Vancouver: Hip-hop dancer Carlena took some stick from the judges for her exaggerated facial expressions before they handed over her ticket, but she moved like butter and had a distinctive look that I liked. "You're adorable, so don't look like a troll when you're dancing because you have funk, you have sass, you have spice," Mia told her.
Handy “Monsta Pop” Yacinthe, 25, Montreal: Not that I'm an expert in the style, but I can see why this guy is a champion popper. He had amazing mastery of his body and some great mimicry. But don't take my word for it: “I keep talking about real poppers coming on this show ... you're like a breath of fresh air,” judge and star hip-hop choreographer Luther Brown told him.
Yuliya Zavadska, 29, and Sharon Levit, 27, Toronto: I'll be honest, I'm more interested in Yuliya than Sharon. He's good, but she's a knockout. The pair are Canadian champions in international Latin, American rhythm and American smooth ballroom dancing and almost made the top 22 last season. They're both sharp and clean, but Yuliya has extra oomph in her movement. “That's the best ballroom audition I've ever seen,” guest judge Stacey Tookey told them.
Katie Baines, 19, Calgary: A strong contemporary dancer with some lovely moves, Katie got the moniker “Baby Girl Katie” in Season 3 but this year aimed to be “Sexy Katie.” Not sure she accomplished that, but she impressed the judges. “Before, you danced; now, your body talks,” Jean Marc told her. “I'm sure you're not going to only reach us, you're gonna reach people all the way down the theatre and probably everywhere in Canada.”
Moses Layco, 25, Winnipeg: This contemporary dancer, who is also a diver, is cute as a button, obviously very strong but extraordinarily graceful. “You just flew, you didn't touch the stage,” Jean Marc told him. “You're so fresh my friend. You are joy.” Stacey's already predicting top 10 for Moses.
Rufino Rodriguez, 24, Calgary: Here's another ballroom dancer with squeaky clean moves and a really engaging personality to boot. Rufino, who started dancing “really late,” when he was 14, made it to the finals last season, too. “You have a natural charisma that is undeniable. You lit up the stage,” Stacey told him.
Matthew Marr, 19, St. John, N.B.: I think my favourite dancers of the night came from the St. John auditions, including this contemporary dancer. Matthew wowed the judges (and me) with his emphatic movements and emotional resonance. He spun like a whirling dervish and showed off his strength with a one-handed flip. “You attacked that. There were some technical things that needed cleaning up, but I couldn't care right now. That's a dancer. That's what I came all the way to Saint John to see,” said guest judge Sean Cheesman.
Nicholas Eichenberger, 19, Amherstberg, Ont.: It's hard to believe this contemporary dancer has been training only three years and that this was his first audition, so impressive was his technique, but there was also feeling behind the beautiful lines and shapes. “You moved me because you are everything this show is about and should be about,” said tearful guest judge Melissa Williams. “And I think that you definitely dance from the inside out and we could all learn something from you.”
Alvin Collantes, 21, Mississauga: Another contemporary guy, Alvin, who has auditioned before, was very clean and intense. Jean Marc didn't even critique him; he just held up a ticket to the finals.
Mario Fugnitto, 18, Whitby, Ont.: There was one move in particular that elevated contemporary dancer Mario for me: a leap straight up in the air that looked effortless. “That was passion on that stage,” Sean told him. “That's why I'm a choreographer today, because I was a dancer like you.”
Haley McPherson, 20, Brooklin, Ont.: One of my favourite females so far, this contemporary dancer was wonderfully expressive and very individual. I loved how strongly her personality came through in her movement. “Haley, that was all you. There was nothing fake about that,” Melissa told her. Luther dubbed her “a little badass.”
But that's not all. Plenty of other very good dancers made it through to the finals including contemporary dancer Niki Hutchison, 19, of Hinton, Alta.; tapper Mike Cameron, 18, of Heidelberg, Ont.; hip-hop dancer Derick Robinson, 29, of Keswick, Ont.; ballroom dancer Mathew Michalski, 18, of Calgary; contemporary dancer Jamie Pragnell, 18, of Calgary and contemporary dancer (and construction worker) Justin Lopes, 19, of Simcoe, Ont.
A word about Spandy Andy Rimer before I go. Mia's right: Andy could be a good dancer if he took it seriously. He made it through to the choreography round once again but wiggled his butt and did other Spandy Andy moves during the performance instead of Blake McGrath's choreography, explaining that he wasn't up to the calibre of the other dancers. Jean Marc asked him to "please come back next year and try to do what we ask you to do." I have my doubts that will happen because I think Andy is just too invested in being Spandy to give it up for a shot on the show. But you know, he practises his comedy for good, not for evil. Guess we'll see what next season brings.
As for Season 4, I'm a believer. We're off to a fabulous start and we've still got the Montreal auditions to come. Tune in Tuesday at 8 p.m. on CTV and look for the recap here.