Despite my best efforts I ended up wearing something I would wear to church. I didn’t have the patience to dry my hair so I just put it up in a bun. At 10:30 am my roommate and I began our trip to the Capitol Theater to watch the “So You Think You Can Dance?” Season 9 auditions. We had four tickets to the 1:30 pm taping. Our first stop was to pick up Liesl. Once we got to the city we found a prime parking spot and had breakfast at Bruges Waffles and Frites. The weather was definitely not as nice as it had been the week prior for Stella’s wedding. Although it wasn’t snowing it wasn’t nearly nice enough to go on an extended stroll downtown. We left Bruges and decided to park across the street from the Capitol Theater in order to minimize walking. Even though it was only 12:30 the events staff was kind enough to let us in. (I got nervous just seeing dancers parked on the curb outside!)
The lady in charge of the door allowed us to stay in the atrium just outside of the lobby. We were the first people to arrive for the 1:30 taping which sort of surprised us but most of all we were relieved we could stay inside. Two more couples arrived right after us and got the low-down from the events staff. We exchanged pleasantries as we watched all of the commotion in the lobby. We could see contestants exiting the auditorium (including one guy who had to exit the auditorium yelling “I’m going to Vegas!” four different times), contestants being interviewed with their parents and spouses (we were totally in the shot) and the occasional film crew capturing the arrival or departure of a contestant. The observations were fascinating. By far the highlight was spotting occasional glimpses of Cat Deeley interviewing contestants on the balcony of the lobby.
As the excitement built other audience members began pouring into the atrium. We were warned multiple times that we were making too much noise and the boom mics in the lobby were picking us up. Finally the place got too crowded and our friend in charge of the door called our group over. She marked our ticket voucher with a series of letters and told us to come back at 1:30. She did the same for the four people who had arrived right after us. Everyone was dismissed and the seven of us felt very lucky to have the next best thing to a golden ticket.
With 45 minutes to kill and a brutal wind to avoid we set out for a bookstore a few blocks north. After a lot of hooting and hollering (aka me whining loudly) we made it to the bookstore. Liesl’s sister met us there and we told her all about what we had seen thus far at the theater. When it was finally time to return to the theater it seemed a bit warmer outside but that could have just been my improved mood affecting my perception of the temperature. Upon our return to the theater we saw a massive line of people outside. I handed the signed ticket voucher to my roommate and the four of us walked right up to the front door, dirty looks be darned! We recognized the door lady from before and she put us in front of our four friends (whom we were glad to see) and behind a group of girls who were there to see their dance teacher audition. Everyone else looked quite bewildered.
When the door opened and it was time for us to go through the security screening I got some serious jitters! There were camera people on either side of the lobby filming contestant as they warmed up and there was a camera person right in the middle of the lobby filming the audience members. Scary! Still, it was fascinating. We entered the auditorium and we seated two rows behind the contestants’ reserved seats. After getting a few more instructions from a producer the judges came in. We didn’t know which three judges we got but in my opinion we had the best combination: Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and Adam Shankman. Liesl and I had the distinct feeling we had walked right through our television screen and it was weird! I loved the fact that I could look around at whatever was going on. The only problem I had was not being able to hear a lot of the conversation between the judges and the contestants on stage.
We tried to guess how long the auditions would be. Based on the number of contestants sitting in front of us I figured it would take about… “OH MY GOSH THAT’S ROBERT!!!” Robert Roldan was one of my favorite dancers from Season 7. We weren’t quite sure what he was doing there but it turned out he was there to teach the contestants during the choreography round. Every time he walked up or down the aisle near us I either missed him completely or just chickened out of addressing him. As the next four hours unfolded we saw contestants of many skill levels. Only four people received tickets to Vegas (the next official round of competition). Everyone else was told to go home or stay for choreography (a little something I like to call “Sudden Death”). I definitely gained a level of respect for the judges. They spent a lot of time with contestants and they were never out to humiliate anyone. Even if the audience was bored to tears at times I felt like the judges were doing their best to make sure the contestants left with useful critiques.
By 6 pm the solo auditions wrapped up and Robert and Courtney hopped on stage to teach a routine to the remaining dancers. It was very difficult. While I really wanted to stay and see how it all played out, I was genuinely drained and on the verge of starvation. We had spotted a German delicatessen on our way back to the theater and we all agreed it would be the perfect place since Liesl was born in Germany and she’d be returning for Study Abroad this summer. Liesl and her sister help us navigate the menu and I opted for “Goulash with Spaetzle.” It was truly the best thing ever. We marveled at everything we had seen. We wondered if we’d be able to spot ourselves during the audition episode which will air this summer. We speculated if anyone we had seen would make it into the top group this year. More than anything we felt heartily cultured and wildly famous – at least for one day.