Has it been a month already? The Season Five live tour hasn’t even kicked off yet, and here we are, weeding through another round of auditions for So You Think You Can Dance. What will that quick turnaround mean for Season Six? Some of the commenters last season speculated that the producers were saving the hot-shot talent for the inaugural fall season, where SYTYCD will be going up more “legitimate” regular-season programming. Or, alternately, the lack of rebound time from last season could result in fatigue on the part of the viewers, the cast/creators, or both. (Certainly the full six weeks of audition/Vegas shows on the horizon signals to a bit of bloat, at the very least.)
We won’t really know until the performance shows kick off on Oct. 28, but tonight’s audition show certainly featured a few possible trends that may or may not carry over to the season proper. Let’s break ’em down:
Return of “the season of the tapper.”
Season Five’s auditions saw a surge of tap dancing, a style that until then had barely blipped on the SYTYCD radar. (Nigel’s guest performance notwithstanding.) A quick look back over last season’s write-ups shows at least four tappers featured in auditions, with at least three making it on to Vegas, prompting me to speculate then that a top 20 tapper seemed likely. Alas, my powers of prediction are laughable, and none of them went on to compete. But just a few months later, Ryan “America’s 21st-favorite dancer” Kasprzak and Bianca “I won’t be coming back next year JUST KIDDING” Revels are back in the judges’ warm embraces, along with Ryan’s former roommate and touring partner, Phillip Atmore. If I may speculate, a top 20 tapper seems likely.
Or does it? While the Ryan/Bianca tap-battle (excuse me, “trading”) was the most memorable moment of the night, and Phillip’s megawatt smile and hyper-fast feet were super-endearing, I’m a little dubious as to how successful tap can be on SYTYCD. Not that I have anything against the style—I took an entire year of tap lessons when I was 4 years old, thankyouverymuch. But it seems to me that tap is to dancing what jazz is to music: an incredibly technical style that’s exhilarating to those who understand it, and either boring or bewildering to those who don’t. Granted, if there’s any show that can make such an esoteric dance style accessible to the masses, it’s SYTYCD—hello, Trepak—but I think Nigel’s dreams of “the year of the tappers” might be a little farfetched. I think we’ll be lucky to see one in the top 20, and despite Ryan’s history with the show, I think the oh-so-camera-ready Phillip might pull out a dark-horse upset.
Contemporary dancers always outnumber other specialties by far on SYTYCD, but Los Angeles was positively swimming with cute girls in spandex throwing themselves to and fro. Mollee Gray (High School Musical principal) and Amber Williams (paralyzed mom) both got the at-home edits, so they were of course ushered right along to Vegas despite solos that seemed just okay: Mollee definitely brought the sunshine-y personality that the show (Nigel in particular) loves so much to the judges’ table, but not to her dancing; and while Amber’s feather-light feet and model-gorgeous face wowed the judges (Nigel in particular), her solo just kinda petered out. There was also yellow-diaper guy, manic pixie dance girl, and the other one. Honestly, I get that contemporary is an audience favorite, and it translates across a lot of other styles, so it’s obviously going to feature heavily in this show; but it’s starting to feel like overkill. Particularly when you take into account tonight’s third trend…
Hello? Hip-hop? Anywhere?
I bemoaned the lack of good hip-hoppers repeatedly last season, and Los Angeles auditions didn’t do much to signal a resurgence. It’s still early, so I won’t get too worked up yet, but what the hell? Was there seriously not a single decent hip-hop audition in Los Angeles? There seemed to be plenty of people breakdancing in the line to get into the theater. (Christina Santana’s salsa/popping hybrid doesn’t count: I don’t care how fabulous the judges think it was, aside from her top-notch spinning, the whole routine looked stilted and weird.) Was it really so important to show us yellow-diaper guy that the producers couldn’t squeeze in some hip-hop audition footage? I mean, hip-hop is still an audience favorite style too, right? That, combined with the over-reliance on NappyTab’s choreography last season, makes me a little wary of how hip-hop will fare this season.
But there’s still plenty of time to rebound. Next week: My SYTYCD tag-team partner Donna Bowman taps in for Arizona auditions!
• I usually try to ignore the blatant fame-whoring that goes on in audition shows as much as possible, but tonight had a couple of doozies: Half-Hair Cole and his “Shatter! Shatter! Shatter!" nonsense, and Drum Song producer Christopher, who doesn’t seem to realize that SYTYCD is not the best venue for dance that requires a “thesis” to appreciate.
• That said, Half-Hair Cole’s “Shatter!” stuff was only a few degrees removed from Ryan’s spoken-word-influenced audition, which Adam Shankman called “the best audition I’ve seen on this show.” Solid skills do a lot to negate such cringe-y moments, I suppose.
• Los Angeles: “The world capital of dance.” Really?