Meredith Hoffa
June 14, 2012 AT 09:38 AM EDT

Tonight’s Salt Lake City audition episode — replete with plenty of blond girls and plenty of adorably uncontrollable cursing from guest judge Adam Shankman — was full of talent and heart and picturesque shots of snowy mountain bluffs. Nigel (possibly sporting a subtly different new hairstyle?) was leering and lovable as ever, and the hot tamale train finally made its very first appearance of season 9. After four episodes’ worth of auditions, this season is already feeling gloriously overstuffed with phenomenal dancers, so personally I feel a certain relief that SLC is the last audition city. I don’t know how the judges are ever going to winnow the pool down from 181 to 20 dancers; the prospect of it causes me a certain kind of second-hand stress on their behalf.

Before the auditions got underway, Mary, as she is wont to do, stated the house rules: no booty shakes or self worship or The Reach allowed! Of course her words matter not one bit because these cats have already choreographed their routines and these moves will be included. But I love Mary and it’s especially dear when she and Adam tag-team: she lays down the laws while he demonstrates, and it’s fun times. Do you like Adam’s new specs? I do. I thought they added a touch of erudite to his already always-thoughtful feedback.

Let’s discuss who we met. No time to waste.

The first of the series of blond girls was Witney Carson, a Latin Ballroom dancer who did a Cha-cha/Tango routine that got a standing O from judges and a ticket not just to Vegas, baby, but also aboard first hot tamale train of the season! Full steam ahead! And the hoopla was deserved. For one thing, it was so nice to finally see some kickass ballroom dancing, which has been somewhat scarce on the show up until tonight. But I also loved the way Witney took to the stage with such confidence, ferocity and precision, and transformed instantaneously from soft-talking little girl to woman, just as Mary noted.”You. Are… Everything this show is all about,” Adam said, making me think, at first, that he was just going to say You are everything, a phrase which used to be Mia Michaels’ top compliment to dancers and a phrase which I have always have loved even though I am not a lover of Mia Michaels herself. But he didn’t say that. Still, this girl *was* everything. Did she remind anyone else of Chelsie?

Next up was beglittered Lynn Gravatt, a 33-year-old former aerospace engineer who first began dancing when a force entered her and danced her around her living room. It was clear from her video package and her age that she was probably going to be more of a story contestant than a serious dancer contestant, but I found her rather lovely to watch, both in her audition and her interview. “When I dance, I feel at home,” she said, and I really got that from her. Nigel seemed a little freaked by her I’m-in-a-human-body-but-my-soul-hails-from-elsewhere thing, but at the same time, he seemed to feel that the aerospace engineer background afforded her some credibility so he let her do this thing. Lynn didn’t go on to choreography, and while this seemed like the likely conclusion from the outset, I’m glad we got to meet her  — and her earrings, as well, which I now realize from stalking her website that she probably crafted herself!

NEXT: An insect takes flight

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