What can you say about Thursday night's season premiere of "So You Think You Can Dance" other than, "wow?"
The Atlanta auditions exploded right out of the gate with Bianka Hinklerian's ballroom routine, which could best be described as watching a human firecracker. It was a little odd that she only got sent through to choreography, but thankfully she made it through to the Las Vegas callbacks.
That wasn't true, however, of so many dancers who showed their stuff in Atlanta. For one after another (after another), judge Nigel Lythgoe had a ticket to Vegas waiting for them.
There were so many highlights from Atlanta - where more "SYTYCD" hopefuls made it to the next round than ever before in the show's history - but I'll just say that contemporary dancer Melanie Moore, dynamic duo Deon Lewsa Jr. and Damon Bellmon, shooting survivor Marko Germar, and the ultra-flexible Kimalee Piedad better prove they have what it takes in Vegas, or it's going to be trouble.
Then there was the discovery of Mandy Walker, grandmother to Kyre' Batiste, who is my pick for a third permanent judge slot since Adam Shankman is off making "Rock of Ages." It was heartbreaking, though, to see Kyre' not making it through to the next round,but I have a feeling we'll be seeing him again.
On to California's Bay Area, which started off just as spectacularly as Atlanta, with my favorite audition so far coming from Amber Williams. Quirky doesn't even begin to describe this quite peculiar individual. When she hits the stage, though, it was one of the most exciting contemporary routines I've ever seen. As Nigel said after she reacted to winning her Vegas ticket by mimicking a monkey, "I'm not sure what we just let out of the cage."
Then came two of the best B-boy auditions I've ever seen: Timothy Joseph, whose feet barely touched the ground throughout his entire routine, and Jeffery “Machine” McCann. Sadly Timothy's injury during the choreography rounds kept him out of the competition, but maybe we'll see him next year. In the meantime, the "Machine" is one of my favorites going into Vegas.
The Bay Area also saw a quartet of amazing contemporary dancers who have a great shot at the top 20, chief among them Ashley Rich. I can't wait to see what she's capable of doing. Danielle Ihle - who deserved a trip straight to Vegas instead of choreography, I thought - and Lilly Nguyen, who had one of the most original routines yet, will also be ones to watch.
Then there's Ryan Ramirez, one of my favorites who didn't make it through last year but has since grown by leaps and bounds. Barring an injury, I think she's well on her way.
Finally, all I can say to Levi "I Dummy" Allen is "thank you" for introducing turfing to "SYTYCD." I really hope we'll see more of it in the future (perhaps one of the results shows?), and hopefully a turfer will make it through to Vegas another year.
This episode also had its share of dancers who, shall we say, didn't make it through for obvious reasons (among them, former stripper Ieshia Moss and D'on-qe Addison, who had a complete breakdown on stage), but there were so many extraordinary talents that we very easily could have gone without seeing them altogether. They seem only to exist for the highlight reel shown prior to the "SYTYCD" tour.
Were you as blown away as I was by the premiere? This was the first episode of "SYTYCD" that iReporter Kathi Cordsen watched, and she came away impressed. Who are your picks for this year's top 20 so far? And were you happy to see the return of Mary Murphy? Post your iReport, as Kathi Cordsen did, or comment below.