'America's Got Talent' 5th Judge: 70-Year-Old Ballroom Dancer Kills It, Simon Makes Puppy Promise

From a nearly-blind trapeze artist to a 70-year old ballroom dancer and a ballsy female daredevil, the talent was truly varied and wild Wednesday night.

This week, "America’s Got Talent" proved why it’s silly that so many competitions have strict age limits thanks to a 70-year-old dancer that has to be seen to be believed.

That audition was a testament to the strength of the show’s format, which can best be described as throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. It makes for an unpredictable, exciting and surprising viewing experience every time. Plus, Simon Cowell promised a kid a dog if he did well in his audition, which was totally bizarre. But did he have to go through with it?

This week, we were impressed by extremely young singers, one crazy female daredevil, a partially blind trapeze artist and an artistic act performed in total darkness. Once again — and I hate that this format has become so predictable — we wrapped the night with a "Golden Buzzer" performance from a 15-year old.

‘Who do I think I am?’ you ask. Well, I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer. From a young boy learning a shuffle-ball-change to performing with the St. Louis Ballet Company, I experienced the ups and downs of one of the most difficult physically demanding sports on the planet.

During this time, I was also a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as a gymnast, writer and cartoonist. I had a lot more energy in my younger years. And I’ve spent the last sixteen years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I’ve got this.

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe. For this stage of the competition, it’s just about getting through to the next round, so I’ll give my vote alongside the judges. And just for fun, I’m gonna rank them from worst to first to see who emerges as my favorite each night.


(performance art) Okay, this is an act that had already gone viral on the Internet and it was every bit as bizarre live on a stage. Basically, he stripped down naked and whipped off tablecloths with objects precariously placed over his genitals. I mean, that’s it. It’s pretty boring, and the shtick with the obviously fake translator at the beginning didn’t make it any more palatable or funny.

Judges Votes: Y, N, N, N

My Vote: N

Voices of Hope Children’s Choir

(singers) Miss Sarah brought 70 of her students to make up this choir and it looked like they were coming onto the stage forever! This non-profit organization unites kids from all across Orange County with music. They certainly chose a smart song with "This Is Me." The group spotlighted a few key voices, with the larger choir providing solid vocal accompaniment and, frankly, they were pretty damned good. The second soloist wasn’t quite as strong, but overall they’re a very entertaining group, and more importantly, I love that they’ve come together through the arts. Is this a million dollar act, honestly the whole program might just be.

Judges Votes: N, Y, Y, Y

My Vote: Y

Lioz Shem Tov

(comic mentalist) He claims to be telekinetic and insisted in his package that these were true mental gifts he had. It was all way too over-dramatic as he pretended to move things with his mind, but they were common household objects that were doing what they were supposed to, like a tape measure, tissue box and even balloons. The whole bit was certainly unique, but it went on way too long and was far too limited. I was more in the side of Heidi and Simon in getting bored with it as it went along. He did win me over when he argued to Simon, "This is not comedy." I still think it’s too limited, but I’d love to see how far he can push it.

Judges Votes: Y, Y, N, Y

My Vote: Y

Quin & Misha

(ballroom dancers) Micha is 35 and Quin is 70-years old and she looks better than him. Her movements were a little stiff on her own, and Misha mostly used her as a prop, but even that was impressive as she proved flexible and game in ways that were truly surprising. Judging solely on the dancing, she would be too heavy on her feet and a little stilted, but knowing her age, the whole thing was rather astonishing to watch. It’s also a testament to the adage, "Age is nothing but a number." That said, the dancing wasn’t strong enough to win, but I’d be willing to see them at least one more time to see what else they’ve got.

Judges Votes: Y, Y, Y, Y

My Vote: Y

Jeffrey Li

(singer) I didn’t love this 13-year-old kid’s pre-performance package all about loneliness, even though it led to his special deal with Simon. After telling the judges his story and his desire for a companion, Simon told him if he does well, he’ll buy him one. No pressure, kid! He reminded me a lot of a young Justin Bieber, with an impressive young voice. Puberty could be a real wild card for Jeffrey, but he has solid command and control of his instrument for now, with a beautiful high tone. That said, I would have liked to see a little more strength and confidence in that voice. At least he won’t be lonely next time we see him, as Simon vowed he was as good as his word.

Judges Votes: Y, Y, Y, Y

My Vote: Y

Duo Transcend

(trapeze artists) While some of what they did was a lot of what we’ve seen in similar acts, there were some pretty cool visual moments and other fast-moving tricks that genuinely looked dangerous. The flip where he threw her onto his lap from his feet could have been cleaner, and some of the more dramatic and death-defying drops would have been more effective had producers skipped the slo-mo, but I guess they wanted us to see how close it got at times. The act needs a lot more danger and dynamism to take Vegas, but I’d be willing to see what they bring to the next round.

Judges Votes: Y, N, Y, Y

My Vote: Y

Annaliese Nock

(daredevil) Annalise wanted to make her own mark in the world of daredevils, representing for the underrepresented women. She also just happens to be the daughter of last season’s daredevil, Bello Nok. The act shifted outside for her to work with a box and six sticks of dynamite. She survived the massive explosion, which was kind of the act. It was all about breathing at the right time, but visually this isn’t the most exciting first audition. She then challenged Simon to join her in the box for the next round, getting a quick "Yes" from Howie.

Judges Votes: Y, Y, Y, Y

My Vote: Y

UDI Dance

(performance art) For most of this performance, it felt like the concept was a little stronger than the execution, but points to the sheer creativity of this battle between the light and the red. The piece got stronger as the performers got into the storytelling, with the weakest component being the battle sequences themselves. That said, there is tremendous potential for creativity in what this group was doing. I loved the sequence with the soul and the overall vision they have.

Judges Votes: Y, Y, Y, Y

My Vote: Y

Daniel Emmet

(singer) Daniel hit the stage after a montage of Simon being incredibly hard on singers to, I guess, emphasize how much better he was? Producer manipulation gets really old, guys! He gave us an original song in a classical style, but Simon wasn’t feeling it. Still, he felt there was something there and made a deal to have Daniel learn a new song in an hour and try again. Even more challenging, the song was in Italian. To his credit, though, he came out in incredible voice and gave it his all. I’ve no idea if he got the words right, but he got the passion and the presentation right where he needed it to be. It was powerful and emotional as truly great music can be, transcending language.

Judges Votes: Y, Y, Y, Y

My Vote: Y

Amanda Mena

(singer) After years of keeping her passion for singing a secret, this young teen’s mother encouraged her to express her love of music to the whole world. Your girl tore up Aretha Franklin’s "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," but she didn’t just sing or sang it, she actually took this iconic song and made it her own. She poured her heart and soul into that interpretation, as well as her own struggles and pain. That’s a real talent, and Simon was right, she’s got natural soul.

Judges Votes: [Mel’s Golden Buzzer]

My Vote: Y

"America’s Got Talent" airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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