[symple_heading style=”” title=”By Ken Stone” type=”h1″ font_size=”” text_align=”left” margin_top=”20″ margin_bottom=”20″ color=”undefined” icon_left=”” icon_right=””]

Young robotic Merrick Hanna and tap dancer Ava Brooks, both of Southern California, were featured on Monday’s debut of “So You Think You Can Dance,” the reality show with a $250,000 top prize.

Show host Cat Deeley talks to Merrick Hanna at Los Angeles auditions. Photo by Adam Rose via Fox

Merrick, who turned 11 in March, was the first of the 8- to 13-year-old dancers shown performing at Feb. 27 auditions in the Fox show’s 13th season opener, subtitled “The Next Generation.”

The Encinitas youth was introduced with a clip showing the Cardiff Kook statue, hinting he may be one of the show’s eventual finalists. All three judges — show creator Nigel Lythgoe, Paula Abdul and Jason Derulo — gave him a standing ovation.

“All of a sudden you started hitting really hard,” Lythgoe said. “That was ridiculous!”

Said Abdul: “You’re incredible. Just the fluidity of your movement and how you hit so hard… It’s awesome.”

And Derulo: “What a great way to start. It really just shocks everybody.”

A son of Shawn and Aletha Hanna, who attended Cardiff Elementary School, Merrick was handed a ticket to “The Academy,” an unspecified next stage that in the past has been Las Vegas. Merrick’s younger brother was shown hugging him.

On Tuesday, Merrick showed off his skills on the Ellen DeGeneres show. Ava once performed on “Ellen” with her dance troupe.

Ava, who was 11 when she auditioned at the historic Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, is a student at San Diego’s Danceology Performing Arts Campus in 4S Ranch. She’s the daughter of Cheryl and Gordon Brooks (shown on TV wearing the shirt “Tap Dad”) of San Diego.

A tap dancer for five years, Ava was a top 10 “mini female best dancer” at The Dance Awards last August in New York City.

Merrick has been called “America’s best kid popper,” a reference to his freestyle animation dance talents. He has performed outdoor solos at several San Diego venues, including train stations and the beach.

He was hailed for a “Home Alone” 25th anniversary tribute video, posted in December, that’s been viewed 45,000 times on YouTube.

In August 2014, Merrick performed in the Intrepid Shakespeare Co. production in Encinitas of “Much Ado About Nothing,” where Union-Tribune theater critic James Hebert lauded “a winning professional stage debut as part of Dogberry’s guard.” Merrick also has performed with Lamb’s Players and with Culture Shock Dance Center near the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

Merrick was profiled a month ago in a Florida high school’s student newspaper.

“As for balancing school and dance, Hanna tries not to miss too much school,” wrote Valeria Munoz. “At the moment, he is filming a commercial. However, there is always a teacher on set to keep him up to date with his schoolwork. Even though he couldn’t go into further detail, Hanna announced that he will have two TV shows airing in May.”

Merrick shares his dances via a YouTube channel and also is featured on Instagram. He has his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Social media reviews of the show they call #SYTYCD have been positive about Merrick.

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