Next, we headed "home" to Hollywood for the Los Angeles auditions at the Orpheum Theatre, where expectations are always high because this city is full of performers and dancers from all over the country, let alone the world. Christina Applegate returned as guest judge, and they wouldn't have to wait long before a real potential winner entered the floor.
Jessica Richens, 18: Finally, we have a contender. No doubt there have been great dancers featured so far, but young Jessica Richens is really the first so far this season who could actually win this competition. Don't believe me? Well, Mary and Christina thought the same thing: They simply wanted to be the blond teenager. Besides her good looks, being sexy comes natural for Jessica on stage -- but she promises only when she's on stage. This is a girl who once performed with the Rockettes at Radio City. Jessica took Christina's advice by really interpreting the lyrics of her song "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" into her dance, starting out wearing a hat and doing moves that emphasized her muscles. Jessica completely won me over with her personality from the beginning and then blew me away with her skills and humility, especially that last turn that transitioned into strong ending poses. The judges didn't really need to say anything after she was done. Next stop: Hollywood
Valerie Rockey, 20: I was very tappy when I saw Valerie walk on stage with some nice red tap shoes, and she referenced some of my personal tap heroes, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Full disclosure: Tap was the first style of dance I was formally taught, and though I took a break from it, I picked it back up in high school and college. (Let me tell you: It's very difficult to find tap shoes in a men's size 14.) Though I thought Valerie was very good, I didn't think she was great. Most of her choreography was good, but as Nigel noted, there were also some juvenile elements thrown into the mix that confused me and slowed down the momentum of the piece. Her personality was just as strong as the sounds her taps were making, though, and it kept her in the competition for now. Next stop: Choreography
Jana "Jaja" Vankora, 20: Jaja wouldn't be in this country without SYTYCD -- literally. The red-headed dancer from the Czech Republic met Phillip Chbeeb from season 5, and he took her under his wing and helped her develop her unique style of animation and crump and brought her to California. Once she got to the audition, Jaja did not disappoint. Girl clearly has some moves and defies any gender boundaries that may be created in the highly masculine style of movement. The judges didn't have anything to say and all gave it a standing ovation. Next stop: Hollywood
Kyle Taylor, 28: Like the puppet in the beginning, Kyle is not what you would describe physically as a dancer, but he certainly has the passion for it. Being from Wichita, Kansas, there aren't many other dancers Kyle could talk to, so he was just as excited to be with other dancers as he was to actually audition. Kyle has developed his style of popping in his living room because his work (and I assume lack of opportunities in Kansas) have prevented him from being able to perform in front of any crowds. A couple million people seem to be the best option then for one's debut, right? Kyle showed he definitely knew what he was doing and had passion for the art (especially in his hips), but he didn't blow away any of the judges right away. So Nigel had the brilliant (i.e. good for television) idea for some of the alums in the room to battle it out together on stage with Kyle to see if he could step up to the challenge. In comes Legacy, Cyrus, and last year's winner Fik-Shun to have a little fun with the soft-spoken guy, but he definitely had the last laugh when he was able to change Nigel's mind about sending him home right away. Next stop: Choreography
NEXT PAGE: Ballet equals (really passionate and slightly nauseating) love