So You Think You Can Dance: “Auditions: Salt Lake City”
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So You Think You Can Dance: “Auditions: Salt Lake City”

Salt Lake City is the last stop on this year’s audition tour, and after last week’s non-stop showcase of spectacular dance, tonight’s installment is a letdown. So You Think You Can Dance falls back into bad habits this episode, suffering from the same issue that plagued the Los Angeles auditions two weeks ago: too much time spent on dancers that don’t move on to Vegas. There’s so much great dance out there, why waste our time by subjecting us to the bad stuff?

Adam Shankman joins Mary and Nigel on panel, offering a thesaurus full of superlatives for the best dancers and patronizing backhanded compliments for those he doesn’t much care for. With no Miami auditions this year, the responsibility fell on Salt Lake City to provide this season’s ballroom talent, and it does not disappoint. Does anyone know why Salt Lake City is such a big ballroom dancing city? Do Mormons love ballroom? If you know, please let me know in comments. The ballroom blonde is definitely one of this show’s big archetypes, and this episode gives us Whitney and Lindsay, two adorable Latin ballroom dancers who are the exact type of girl Nigel loves to send to Vegas. They’re also the first people to get on Mary’s hot tamale train this season, and they deserve the recognition. They have stunning footwork and charisma on stage, and it’s refreshing to get that aggressive Latin spice after so much contemporary and introspective hip-hop this season.

This episode is heavy on the blondes, but each of the girls sticks out in her own way. Contemporary dancer Dee is the only girl in a stereotypical big Italian family, and she gives an intimate performance that lands her on a plane to Vegas. Jazz burlesque dancer Rachel was a wallflower before she discovered dance, and her choreography is more about showing off her body than showing off technique. That said, Nigel totally gets enthralled when she dances, so she gets to go to choreography and, inevitably, Vegas. Salt Lake City’s breakout blonde is krumper Mariah, who wows the judges with her hard-hitting moves and finely tuned stankface. She’s an early favorite of mine, and her dancing has a real sense that she’s breaking through something that is trying to hold her back. She shows that she can pick up choreography with no problem, and gets a ticket to Vegas, which I’m guessing will lead to a spot in the top 10 girls.

Alien space dancer Lynn is the only spotlighted dancer that doesn’t make it to Vegas or choreography, and the episode spends way too much time on her story, which sounds a lot like the product of a wild night of shrooming. Her dance style comes from energy from the constellation Pleiades and Lynn’s three spirit guides: Devil Da Flame, Divine Da Flame, and Rainbow Lite Bright. When Cat asks her, “Were any hallucinatory drugs involved?” Lynn laughs, but she doesn’t say no. Lynn is 33 years old and therefore too old to even compete, but she still gets an entire 10-minute bloc of programming devoted to her. When it comes to dancing, Lynn prances on stage for a bit, but there’s no technique. She’s having a great time on stage, but there’s nothing for the audience to take away from her dance.

This episode’s other wacky dancer is Gene, but he has the talent to back up the quirk. Gene’s routine is Sonya-bait, tracing the life cycle of a praying mantis through edgy, fluid jazz movement. It’s an amazing audition piece, showing off his technique in a completely unique context while also telling a story, and Gene has the dorky personality that the SYTYCD voters tend to rally behind.

Using dance as an escape from a troubled home life has been a theme among this season’s contestants. Hip-hop dancer Murphy is the second person this year to be mysteriously disowned by his family and left homeless, receiving comfort from his girlfriend to help him get through hard times. His movement could be sharper and putting “Vegas” on his abs come across as a little too desperate; he’s sent to choreography and doesn’t make it any further. Contemporary dancer Dareian’s present situation is much less bleak that Murphy’s, and his routine is much stronger, highlighting his incredible athleticism and musicality. Nigel has problems with his feet, but not enough to keep Dareian from getting on a place to Vegas, and I’m expecting to see much more of him in the coming competition.

I regret calling Tim a sexual predator last week, because he’s nothing compared to ballroom dancer Johnny, who is such a threat to Nigel’s reign of perviness that he’s prevented from going to Vegas. Or he doesn’t make it to Vegas because he’s more interested in himself than connecting with another person. Like Lynn, way too much time is spent on Johnny and Whitney, who don’t have a captivating enough backstory to justify the attention. Whitney generally seems repulsed by her partner, who isn’t learning very much from his Double Your Dating education.

The final dancer of this season’s audition cycle is 29-year-old Leroy, a plus-sized hip-hopper who shows remarkable control over his very large body during one of the episode’s best solos. It must take an incredible amount of strength to pull off acrobatic b-boy moves at his size, but Leroy’s fluid movement and overwhelming charisma enchant the judges. They're all impressed by what he’s able to do and know that he’ll have difficulty picking up choreography, but send him to learn the moves anyway. He doesn’t make it through to Vegas, but the auditions end on a high note by spotlighting a dancer that deserves recognition, even if he won’t be competing.

Stray observations:

  • The judges patronizing alien space dancer Lynn: “I don’t know if there’s a place for you on this show, but there’s a special place for you in this world.” “You’re going to be challenged all your life.”
  • Blondies Lindsay and Rachel are dead ringers for Julianne Hough and Alicia Silverstone. It’s kind of eerie.
  • I’m enjoying the judges calling out self worship in dances, which is something that they haven’t really talked about in the past.
  • Did Nigel just say some of this year’s hip-hop routines were “weak and white”?
  • “Some of the things you do are just ugly.”
  • “You can’t be called a dancer if you give up.”
  • “I know what to ask for for my birthday. And it’s not the outfit.”
  • “You could poke someone’s eye out with those nipples.”
  • “Do you know how many people’s sweat I’m covered in by the end of the day?” Cat means any day of the week, not just when filming So You Think You Dance.
  • Next week: lots of people go to the hospital in Vegas. The fun begins!

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