'So You Think You Can Dance 2013' (Detroit)
America's favorite summer series, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE?, has kept viewers amazed and inspired as talented dancers skilled in everything from Hip Hop, Krumping and Popping to Salsa, Quickstep and Jive compete to be named America's Favorite Dancer.
And late last year Fox announced that SYTYCD? is coming back for a 10th season.
"This show is truly one of the most compelling series on television and I can’t wait to bring it back for Season 10,” Fox’s President of Alternative Entertainment Mike Darnell said in a statement. Created by Simon Fuller and Nigel Lythgoe, SYTYCD? is produced by 19 Entertainment and the series is executive produced by Fuller, Lythgoe and Allen Shapiro.
Fox also announced that the Emmy-winning SYTYCD? would begin auditions for Season 10 in Austin (this past January), moved into Detroit a few days ago, and will move on to Boston on February 21, Memphis on March 14 and LA’s downtown Orpheum Theatre on March 22.
SYTYCD? Detroit Auditions - Day One:
It's 7.30am on a freezing cold Monday morning in downtown Detroit when I arrive at St. Andrews Hall for the first round of auditions for SYTYCD? Season 10. But for some first in line, well, they've been here since 4.00am, and yet are so excited, so pumped they are just not feeling the cold.
Marcus, 19 (otherwise known as M-80) from Detroit (and with a passion for Pop-Locking) was at the head of the line. "I'm here because I love to dance and I'm planning to make it big on SYTYCD. I originally got here at midnight, but they sent me away and so I got back here at 4am!"
Cameron, 21 from Kalamazoo (Hip-Hop and Lyrical) tells it like it is: "I believe that I'm America's next top dancer!" Joey Dauod, 28 from Auburn Hills (Hip-Hop) believes he can win "... because I never took any classes and I'm self taught. And so I believe I can just kill it with everything that gets brought to me."
Stephanie, 22 from Belleville (Tap Dancing) says she’s "... got a lot of heart," whereas Tiffany, 22 also from Belleville (Lyrical Contemporary) simply believes she has what it takes to win the entire show. Jenna Bain, 19, Lanesville, IN (Palm, a hybrid of cheerleading and dance) left her hometown at 4.00pm the day before to be here at the front of the line. And, oozing honesty she adds, "My goals not to win. I just want to do my best. If I get on the show I can represent a lot of dancers that haven't gotten to be represented. Because Palm is allotted for High School dance teams and collegiate dance teams. So, if I can get on the show I'd be representing them."
Zachary Pfeil, 22 from Sandusky, OH (Modern) was in middle school and was peer-pressured to quit dancing and so he took an eight year hiatus. "I then came back in college and I'm just here to prove to people that it's never too late to go after your dreams." Francisco Thurston, 23 from Los Angeles, CA (Jazz Funk) says that he has " ... trained for a really long time and I have personality. It's not really about a dance competition the entire way. So, I think that I can appeal to America and that combined with dancing is the key."
Keondre Bymum, 18 from Detroit doesn't even have a set dance style: "I'm a free-spirited dancer. I've never had a formal class ever. I'm here to prove that I can be something, but I also need the training. So, I'm gonna rock it, have fun, enjoy myself and get on the show. I'm here for the experience, the critiques and to be the next America's top talent."
Hannah Rose, 20 from Kalamazoo (Contemporary Ballet) says she can move on through the show because, "... it's just the drive and the passion I have for it. When it comes down to it people want to see people who love what they're doing. They want to connect with people and I love what I do and I'm really excited. I want to give ballet a good name. Eliana (Girard, Season 9 Winner) did a good job of that last season and so I want to keep that going and show that ballerina's can do more than just ballet. That it's about the love of dance and movement."
Zavier Reid, 18 from Detroit says his chosen individual freestyle was his own personality: "I make everything fun," he laughs. "It's a little bit of everything, but mostly Hip-Hop. I bring a lot of energy so I have to show them I can be on this show. I'm really easy to work with," he smiles broadly.
Still outside in the bitter Detroit cold early morning, I next chat with Jeff Thacker, Co-Executive Producer of SYTYCD?, and first ask him what he's looking for here at the Detroit auditions? "We always look for stars here. People that stand out and people who are memorable. Otherwise you'll blend into the background. You could walk around here now and say 'How many girls are there with long blonde hair that are contemporary dancers?' And there's tons of them. So they really have to stand out no matter what style of dance they do."
So why was Detroit chosen as one of the five cities to hold the auditions? "Because we'd never been here before. It's something new." So, do you expect to find 'something new' here? "We hope. We never know what we're going to get. We never know who's gonna come through the door. There's never any real preconceived ideas. It's literally an open house. And I'm sure you get people coming in from Chicago and such, but already there's a load of new faces that I've never seen before. Because we always get a lot of returns. So, yeah, interesting so far, I think."
When you walk the line can you spot someone who you believe could bring a good performance with them on that stage? "No, not from just standing in line. But I can look and see the way people are dressed or the way people are behaving in line whether they've got some kind of personality and character. So, that's why I always walk the line first thing. Just to see if anybody stands out."
So, you yourself watch every single audition? "Yes, every single dancer." Does it quickly get to the point where you're seeing repetitiveness with regard the dance styles? "Yup, you do. But that's what makes those ones stand out. They may do the same thing, but slightly differently. And especially for those that haven't had any real training or they've not got any discipline in dance, they bring something fresh, something new to it."
How does the judging of them work over the next two days? "What happens is they'll come in and improv today. All they really have to do today is decide on which style they're gonna audition as. And they will improv to my music. And then, if they get through me they'll go through to tomorrow's line where they will then do another bit of improvisation. And if they get through that they get to do their own solo. So it's a layered system of levels. And they have to reach the solo round in order to get straight through to Vegas."
Do you ever speak with the dancers afterwards? "Sometimes. If I think they need some advice and some constructive words, I do. But because this is the biggest day of auditions, which is a shame, you don't get the opportunity to tell everybody. But I talk to them en masse and give them all a big chat beforehand. So it's not like they don't know what to do. They all get the same briefing."
Finally, if everyone in line asked you what it was they had to do to win the chance to go to Vegas, what would you tell them? "Be memorable, be yourself, and just show us what you can do not what you can't."
Having moved inside the foyer of St. Andrews Hall, I next chat with the lovely (and England's national treasure), SYTYCD? host Cat Deeley. I first asked her, after nine years as the host on the shows tenth season, had she ever imagined it would have these kind of legs? "Yeah, it's kind of insane. Never in my wildest dreams did I envision we'd be going for this long. It's really strange. It's one of those shows that if you watch it you love. You know what I mean. You either do watch it and you love it or you don't watch it at all. And it just seems that people are really, really passionate about it."
"It's the funniest thing. When I'm just out and about they'll be people who are completely addicted to it and they'll be some people that haven't got a clue. And it's always surprising those people that you don't expect to like it. The other day I took my car into the garage to the mechanic to get fixed. He was this giant, giant New York dude with like this pit bull that he'd rescued sitting inside. And he was like, 'Man, I love your show!' And he really did. He knew all the past dancers and everything. And so it's always these really surprising people that turn around and go 'Oh my God, I love it.' So I think that's the secret to its success. I think that the people that love it really do LOVE it."
Aside from the live show TV, do you still get butterflies in the audition stages "Yeah, but there's always a little bit of trepidation as well. Because you know the show's only as good as the kids you have on. And what if we can't find anybody. Because it's such a unique thing we're after. They've got to have this amazing talent, but not just in one particular style. They've got to be able to do all different ones and they've also got to have enough personality and star quality to make people get off the couch and vote for them. So it's very, very unique what we're looking for. And it doesn't just fall out of the sky. It's something you have to go in search for and find it."
So why has Detroit now been give its first chance to show you want it has? "We like to mix it up all the time and there's certain places we always tend to go to. Like New York and L.A. And then we tend to try and mix up all the other cities. But, I have to say I didn't know what to expect coming here to Detroit. I just didn't. I've never been here before myself. I just wasn't sure. And sometimes you hear things. And sometimes it gets a bad rap, Detroit. And I'm lucky as I've got security guys here with me. But never once did I feel threatened out there walking the line and talking to people at all. In actual fact, quite the opposite. It was very, very positive and incredibly enthusiastic. Everybody just seemed delighted to see us. There was no apathy at all. And that's what I love."
So what interesting things did you discover outside walking the line, talking to people? "It's been a real mix. But they've shown me The Jit, as well. There's a dance that comes from Detroit that's called The Jit, apparently. There's all kinds of different dances that come from all different areas which is always really interesting. And The Jit is some really fast and fancy footwork. So that was really interesting. You always see bits and pieces. And always to me, I love it when you see somebody who's trained in their garage and hasn't had a dance lesson. And yet they kinda blow you away. That to me is always great."
"I mean, a beautifully-trained dancer is always gorgeous and always looks beautiful and they can use that training to interpret choreography to an entirely new level. But what I love, more than anything, is seeing somebody who's just worked at it themselves and they are kind of incredible."
Do you stay and watch all the auditions and then do you speak to them after, perhaps? "What happens is I interview them before they go on to audition and then I normally see them afterwards too. So yeah, we do full-on interviews. When we first started doing this show, during the first season that I didn't do, the host didn't go in the road with everybody. And that was one of my things that I told them that I wanted to go. I want to be there. When they're lined up at 7.30am in the morning I want to be there too. Because that means by the time you get to the studio and you bring the Top 20 in you have an affinity with them. They don't just turn around and go, 'Hold on, who's this English chick who's trying to be our friend?' And you see their growth as well, which is an incredible thing to witness."
Have you ever walked the lines through the seasons and come across someone who you just knew was going to win it - and they did?! "There have definitely been people that we've picked up along the way in the lines. Not to me going 'The Winner.' Because at this stage we don't know anything about them at all. However, there is undoubtedly people that have 100% made the Top 20 who I spoke to, yeah. Because there was something about them where their faces kinda swim out of the crowd at you. And it sounds so weird, but it's not about being the most handsome, the most beautiful, or the tallest, or the shortest, there's just something where they kind of sparkle a bit at you. And their face comes into focus out of the crowd. And it's a really, really strange thing, but undoubtedly, yeah."
Finally, if everyone in line asked you what it was they had to do to win the chance to go to Vegas, what would you tell them? "It would be to absolutely be to not leave anything out. To give it 100% your all. Don't hold back anything at all. I think it's also to be honest and real. Bring your personalities, bring your stories, bring your sense of humor. Don't be over the top. Just be really real and be honest but be open. And think that's the best thing you can possibly do. Because that's what we need. We need the personality as well. It's not enough to just bring talent alone. You've got to kinda be prepared to put it out there."
SYTYCD? Detroit Auditions - Day Two:
On Day 2 of the Detroit Auditions we had moved to the larger, more palatial environment called The Fillmore. Still located in the heart of downtown, at least today we were inside chatting with the judges and getting a feel for how the audition process actually played out.
The first of the judges I spoke with was Creator, Co-Producer and lead Judge, Nigel Lythgoe. I first asked him, having been with the show since day one a decade ago, what the main evolution had been within the show? "The kids themselves. The dancers. The dancing has so improved since we started. It's almost like they've realized what they need to do now in order to be successful in the show. The kids that have just sort of come into dancing and who have never had a dance lesson in their lives have now started to go to dance lessons. So the Hip-Hop kids come and you ask them if they've done any Ballroom and now they are starting to say, 'Yes, I have.' And they then go and prove that they have too! So, they've learnt that it's not just being passionate about dance and working in your bedroom. You've got to actually take a few classes."
So you can instantly tell when someone is self-taught or has had lessons? "Oh yeah, for sure. But the thing about it, and it's quite amazing, the self-taught are usually more creative then the kids who've had dance classes from the age of three. Because if you’ve had dance classes you've had steps thrust at you and engraved in your brain. If you're self-taught you're just making it up to the music."
With Detroit being the first time that you've actually come here for auditions ... "With Dance," he politely interrupts, "I've been here with Idol."
... what took you so long to give us a chance?! "I'd been here before," he jokingly mocks. "We came here for the second season of American Idol and what was incredible to see was the amount of kids that were just desperate to get out of Detroit. It was going through the real doldrums economically and obviously it got even worse. But it's starting to come out of it now, I think. But America is so big, so you don’t think 'Oh, we haven't been back to Detroit' or 'We haven't been to Detroit.' We're still going round and picking up cities that we've never been to at all. No real reason though."
"In fact, I'm going to try and bring Idol back here next season because the history of the place. I mean, Motown is what I grew up with back in England."
From what you've seen so far, could there be some magic found up on that audition stage here in Detroit? "I think we've sent one girl though. Yesterday at the big cull audition the energy level was incredible. It was freezing cold out there and they were all in line jumping around and everything else from the footage I've seen. Today, pulling them out individually from that pack they're losing a little bit of that quality. And nerves are kicking in. So we don't get that energy or that performance level. I'm hoping that this afternoon we start drawing a bit more personality out of them. We're certainly putting them through on technique but I'm still waiting to see a really good Jit! Which is obviously Detroit's version of the Jitterbug and footwork. Which is incredible as the Jitterbug actually came out of the Charleston. So, Detroit has upped the Charleston," he laughs.
Finally, if you had to sum up in two words what Detroit is going to give SYTYCD this season, what would they be? "Hunger and Passion."
Next up I chat one-on-one with the vivacious Mary Murphy and first asked her, being that this was the first time SYTYCD? had auditioned here, what were her thoughts on what she had seen so far? "I think, and for the first time, we haven't had too many contestants that have come from Detroit. So, it's been great this morning. And we're only just getting started and we've already sent one person straight through to Las Vegas. And we've had quite a few that we're sending into chorography which is also going to mean very late day if we keep on the pace that we're going," she laughs. "We've had a lot of talent show up here which I was a little bit surprised about. I know I was envisioning a nice early night around nine o’clock, maybe go out to a nice dinner, go to bed, get up at the crack of dawn again and start all over. But that is not going to be the case in Detroit," she laughs again. "And that's a good thing, because the dancers really did show up."
Are you seeing anything repetitive so far that you wish you could change? "I don't think we've had anything repetitive yet, because we've only just got started in truth. We've only just seen a few solos right now. We did get to see all 120 dancers dance today for about thirty seconds, but that's not long enough. Because they're not even dancing to their own song. We're just seeing if we like you enough to even do the solo in front of us. So we haven't seen any patterns yet. But we have seen The Jit - which is Jitterbug and Hip-Hop, which we have never seen before in any other city. So, me and Nigel, we always find that fun when we see something that we've never seen."
You had to take some medical leave from the show for a season or two due to your throat, but you seem to have come back stronger and just as loud! "Well," she roars with laughter, "I can honestly say, and I'm sure anybody around me will tell you that I'm certainly not as loud as I used to be. It actually just feels like it takes more air just to talk and things and like that. So I still struggle just a little bit, but I can still let one go every now and then. But I save it for very special occasions now," she roars with laughter again. "Which I'm sure will make some people very happy, especially Nigel," she again laughs.
"They have measured it, you know. Entertainment Weekly came in and they measured before the surgery and I was officially louder than a lawn mower, a rock band, and a single jet engine! That's my claim to fame. But that's also the old days. They'd have to come back in and measure it again. I don't even know if I want to try and get it as loud as it was back then," she rip roars with laughter, once again, "It would blow your hair back!"
If you see someone audition and who after its obvious they could do with a comforting chat, do you personally ever go and have that chat with them? "A lot of times we don't have enough times to talk, because as we're sitting there the contestant has been told to go leave the stage, they're off being interviewed by Cat, and then they're off home. So we don't usually get any time to talk to them, no. I mean, if we have something to say we will tell them from the table though. This one kid we really felt for today. He had a lot of potential, but he doesn't have enough vocabulary substance to let him continue. But such a good guy from Cleveland, OH. And he also just doesn't have the time or any financial means."
"But I told him if he lived in San Diego I would take him in. If he turned up to one of my ballroom dance studios and said he would teach my staff Hip-Hop if you teach me Ballroom I'd hire him. There are people out there and all they have to do, the ones that don't have financial means and if they're talented, people will take them in for free and sponsor them."
Finally, if you could sum up in three words what you've already seen today at these Detroit auditions, what would they be? "Lots of potential," she quickly answers, bursting into laughter, one last time.
The last judge I chat with is Stephen "tWitch" Boss, a Vegas Round entry in Season 3, and a Runner-Up in Season 4. Being a first-time judge, I asked him what the Producers had asked him to look out for in these auditons? "I've been a contestant on the show before and also an All-Star. So, I've actually been in those seats waiting to audition two years in a row. So, what I'm looking for is that confidence and that vulnerability to grow. Because this show puts you in those positions where you will be doing something that you've never done before."
If you see someone do a move, and perhaps fail, does your brain kick in and say you would have done it differently? "Yeah, absolutely. Especially as somebody who has auditioned. That's constantly what's going on in my mind. I feel like I'm waiting to audition, actually," he laughs. "I don't know if Mary and Nigel are feeling that, but I feel like at any moment they could call my number and I would go up and do a solo. But yeah, I'm breaking down the auditions and even if it's not necessarily my style I'm looking at the performance technique. The performance value. And saying maybe I would have looked up there or maybe I wouldn't have a smile stuck on my face."
And do you get a chance to chat with the contestants afterwards and suggest things, perhaps? "We do actually, yeah. After they do their solo they come up to the mic and each one of us gives a little bit of a critique to help them along the way. Which actually, taken the right way man, it really helps you out. It helped me out a lot when I came back. They actually told me exactly what I needed to do so when I came back the next year I was that much stronger. But it's kind of tough, because you're in such a vulnerable position that a couple of people have taken it really to heart and just not gotten the constructive criticism and just kinda got the criticism."
Have you personally been to Detroit before? "I have. I've been here to teach classes, but I've never spent more than a weekend in Detroit, actually."
Have you had a chance to take the city in since you arrived yesterday? "I have not seen anything of the city. But I have seen that it's very cold outside," he laughs.
Come the end of today, do you think you'll have witnessed some magic up here on the stage? "I would certainly hope that magic would happen here, for sure. That's what we're all hoping for. So, within that hope I'm thinking it will happen."
Having been in some successful Hollywood movies, after SYTYCD what's next for you personally? "I'm getting ready for the summer, man. This is going to be launching back out and they are doing the All-Stars again. My fiance Allison Holker and I, we're starting a dance magazine, named The Dance Insider. And right now in LA. it's in the middle of pilot season. So there's a lot of shows being written. And I'm going in for a lot of different shows and auditioning. So, I'm really making those big strides into transitioning into an actor."
Article and Interviews by: Russell A. Trunk
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