And so the So You Think You Can Dance auditions heads south, to Miami and Memphis… and so, unfortunately, does the overall quality of the dancers auditioning. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there were still a handful of really solid competitors, and even a couple of genuinely exciting talents—and they could all dance circles around me, so maybe I should just shut the hell up—but overall didn’t these auditions lack a certain, I dunno, zest? Although I’m guessing that Miami and Memphis don’t attract the same level of dancers overall as New York and L.A., being the default dancer destinations they are, so maybe the few standouts there were are being held onto for Vegas.
That said, a couple of themes emerged tonight, the most obvious being: dancin’ siblings! By my count we saw four sets of siblings auditioning tonight, two of them twins and three of them not a joke. The Guarex twins were written off before they even hit the stage, getting the jokey edit: flubbed speaking-in-unison attempts, the assertion that they learned ballet from books (before forgetting it), and some of the weirdest pants of the evening. Combined with their “hey, let’s make up a dance routine in the backyard”-caliber performance, they were quickly relegated to the Miami reject pile, along with the khaki-pantsed, easily winded Tony (of “Tony Style”) and Wislande and her strip-club-influenced prancing, boob shirt, and blank stare of despair.
Over in Memphis, another pair of twins were good enough to make it on to choreography and eventually Vegas—but I think they have about as good a chance of getting into the top 20 as I do of becoming a world-class krumper. Lauren and Lydia made the questionable decision to audition together, doing the same routine in unison. It all worked out for them in the end, but seeing them side-by-side only highlighted their weaknesses in comparison to their partner: One lacked strength/technique, one lacked performance. In my opinion, they both also lacked any sort of personality (both in their dancing and demeanor), but apparently they each pulled it out well enough in choreography to move on.
One of the only standouts of the night for me was Caitlin, who auditioned in Memphis hoping to follow her sister (who got a ticket in Miami) on to Vegas. Considering she’s only been dancing five years (plus a gymnastics background) and recently had some scary-sounding hip replacement surgery, I’m more than happy to allow Mary’s hyperbolic statement that dancing is “her destiny.” She turned in one of the few beautiful, effortless performances of the night—not to mention she’s gorgeous. A strong top 20 contender, methinks.
Then we have the retro-boy-wonders, Ryan and Evan, dancing tap (with whoopee-cushion accompaniment) and jazz, respectively. Evan was a shoe-in for Vegas from the get-go (he made it to the top 40 last year), though I find the judges’ comments about his height/build not being well-suited for partnering a little foreboding. He’s also a little more gee-shucks-y looking than most SYTYCD finalists, but his routine was energetic and fun to watch… I think he’d be an entertaining finalist, but I don’t know how realistic that is. Older brother Ryan (who gets extra points for choreographing his brother’s “beautifully constructed” routine, according to Nigel) had me worried for a minute with his whoopee-cushion gag—the judges looked a little put off at first. But he built up to a really stellar, old-school tap routine, and though Nigel waffled, suggesting choreography, he wound up joining his brother in Vegas (but not before a staged trolley ride befitting the boys’ fedoras-and-suspenders getups—nice job, SYTYCD editors!).
Which brings me to another emerging theme: tap dancing. We saw two very different tappers tonight, along with another tap-dancer last week. Hip-hop-tapper “Silky,” a.k.a. Eric, said he wanted to “bring tap back,” but apparently it’s already been broughten. Which is fine by me, though I find it interesting that the judges put all three of the tappers straight through to Vegas. I understand it’s a challenging form, and you don’t get to be skilled in it without a fair amount of training, but I don’t see the jump from tap to say, lyrical, being that intuitive. (Similarly, I am SHOCKED that the admittedly adorable Mariko made it straight to Vegas based on his Memphis juking—can such a specialized style really signal skill in other forms?) Silky obviously had a good amount of hip-hop and breaking skills, though, and Ryan must be well-versed in other forms if he can choreograph that well, so maybe I should just pipe down. Either way, odds are looking good for a tapper in the top 20.
Something I’m not looking forward to in the top 20: Sha-wham! Joseph was a good, entertaining hip-hopper, and I think the way he put his goofy stamp on the choreography merited his ticket to Vegas. But if him making the top 20 means I have to hear “sha-wham” and “sha-wizz-am” and who knows how many variations of it for the next 10 weeks, I hope he gets lost on the way to the airport. He would be fun to watch in a Broadway routine though.
Speaking of Broadway (that’s a segue, people!), Tyce Diorio sat in the guest judge spot in Miami. I love love LOVE Tyce’s Broadway routines, and he’s never really bothered me on the show before, but lord did he need to give it a rest with the snappy one-liners. Even Nigel told him he not to be so mean with the dancers. I think Tyce was being necessarily critical for the most part—he was the only one who showed some doubt for Miss Washington’s music-box-ballerina-meets-stripper routine, which I found incredibly ho-hum—but sometimes he did seem more concerned with getting in a good quip than a good critique. Lil’ C, on the other hand, was an excellent guest judge in Memphis, the perfect laid-back, thoughtful, kind foil to the occasionally shrill/callous Mary-Nigel duo. I especially loved when he gave karate-choppin’ Daniel Dorough (second cousin to the most weaselfaced of all the Backstreet Boys, Howie Dorough) some actually helpful advice rather than giggling away his admittedly giggle-worthy routine: look into “tricking,” which combines karate and hip-hop.
Even Lil’ C couldn’t find anything helpful to say (or rather, didn’t get the chance) to red-dreaded Chris’ “Electric” style. As awkward as it was, I’m glad Nigel went off on this guy the way he did. For every deluded dancer who thinks that her awesome dance skillz at the club will translate to SYTYCD, there seems to be three douches like this guy, who come to audition solely to “prove to themselves they can do it,” i.e. get on TV and waste everyone’s time. I know that’s just become part of the package with SYTYCD and American Idol at this point, but, as with “Mutation” last week, if you don’t even have the good sense to pretend like you actually want to get on the show, get the hell off my TV screen. I came to see dancing, not clowning! But wait, who’s that on the preview for tomorrow’s final audition show? Oh good, it’s Sexx, a.k.a. the dude who shows up for every single reality show with open auditions, and who SYTYCD always feels the need to give screen time to for some reason. Maybe he really means it this time!
• If I’m being a little harsh in the grading, it’s just because I really don’t enjoy the audition shows. I fully expect the show to get exponentially better once we move into the big spotlit dome.
• Pricilla from Miami was another standout tonight, if only for the leaps she was performing in the sand. She pulls a lot of faces, but her strength and control were exceptional and her celebration dance was adorable. As Mary said, she was “over-the-top wonderful.”
• Janette and Romulo turned in the first stellar ballroom routine of the season; that split-backflip-kick thing actually elicited an out-loud “holy shit!” from me. I could have done without their awkward beatboxing/breakdancing celebration though.
• And here I thought juking was a Chicago thing. I know it’s big on the city’s South Side, but I’m not familiar enough with it to know if it’s different from the Memphis style we saw tonight. Any juking scholars out there care to enlighten me?
• Was anyone else a little annoyed with the obvious pussyfooting around the big pink elephant in the room during the package with Travis and his football-coaching father? There was one point where his dad talked about him coming home crying because the other kids were teasing him for being different… because of his dancing, just his dancing. Unless I’m wildly misreading some signals, which I’m sure I’m not, that is an out gay teenager from
Texas Texaco, New Mexico with a football-lovin’ father who supports the hell out of him—shouldn’t that be highlighted and celebrated? Nigel, I’m looking at you.