Jim Nowakowski From 'So You Think You Can Dance' Used Performing To Combat Years Of Bullying

It's early in this year's journey to crown "America's Favorite Dancer," but, if anything, that makes the audition episodes even more exciting than the live performance shows. Any of the performers who the judges are sending through to Vegas could be among the last dancers standing. I'm no gambler (give me the penny slots, please), but my money is on ballet dancer Jim Nowakowski to go far in this So You Think You Can Dance competition.

Nowakowski auditioned for the panel in Los Angeles, and his try-out was prefaced with a bit of emotional backstory. He told Cat Deeley and the audience at home that he was born with a cleft palate, a birth defect that happens early on in pregnancy and can cause serious difficulties in eating and speaking. When his American family adopted him from South Korea, they embarked on several years of facial reconstructive surgeries to help their son. The surgeries meant that Nowakowski's appearance changed frequently throughout his childhood, and everyone knows that kids can be cruel. "We all get bullied sometimes, we all get made fun of," he said about that experience. "But, I always felt really beautiful when I was dancing, and that's all that really mattered to me." Bless. It sounds like Nowakowski learned early on that other people's perceptions of you mean literally nothing compared to how you see yourself.

Luckily, the judges shared Nowakowski's opinion, as did everyone watching who appreciates flawless lines, effortless musicality, and awe-inspiring thigh strength.

My girl Paula Abdul is never hard to read. Throughout Nowakowski's "contemporary ballet" solo, she murmured her approval. "Major control... look at his legs... oh, my lord." And, how about that move where he slowly lowered himself into a full straddle using more leg and core strength than the entire U.S. Gymnastics team has on its side? "That's crazy," Jason Derulo marveled, because how is that even humanly possible? Nowakowski's audition brought the panel to its feet. (I may have even been standing up along with them. I get into this show, OK?)

Nigel Lythgoe compared him to Season 7 competitor Alex Wong in technique, who was well on his way to winning that competition until he tore his Achilles Tendon in rehearsal. Hopefully Nowakowski won't share Wong's bad luck. I know the series is keeping "Stage" and "Street" dancers in their own groups, but Lythgoe's comment has me dying to see Nowakowski take on some NappyTabs choreography with an All-Star like tWitch. If he can do what he already does so well and hit as hard as Alex Wong did during the legendary "Outta Your Mind," he'd have been a fierce competitor to be reckoned with in the retired format. One thing's for sure: the Houston Ballet will have to do without one of its Demi Soloists for a while. Nowakowski is off to Las Vegas to vie for a spot on Travis Wall's Stage Team, and I'm thinking that Wall will be happy with what he sees.

Images: Adam Rose/Fox; Giphy (2)