“Do you really think I would have come all this way to say 'no'?”
Well, no Nigel, maybe you wouldn’t. You’d relegate your rejections to phone calls from your office before jetting out in your canary-yellow Chrysler to get hugs from the hot cheerleader and adorable farm boy you’re letting on your show. But apparently you’ll send the rest of your judges out to deliver the bad news in person without batting an eyelash, even though it is the worst idea ever.
I spent the second half of tonight’s episode trying to figure out what in the hell could have inspired the absolutely terrible decision to visit the top 24 Vegas contenders in person to let them know if they made the show… and if they didn’t make the show. Eventually, the answer came to me: Auditions/Vegas were held in the winter, and this was clearly filmed in the spring because the producers didn’t want to have a long span of time in between dancers finding out and the show beginning taping. Fear of leaks, I suppose. (Because everyone is just clamoring to know which 10 unknown dancers are going to make the show, I’m sure.) But Jesus, couldn’t you fly them all out to Vegas a few months later and pretend it’s right after they auditioned, like you did last year? It would be no less contrived, but at least I’d be spared the awkwardness and endless padding (Tyce dancing at the airport!) that composed the back half of this episode.
Sure, these are trained dancers who’ve presumably had a lot of experience with rejection, and they should be able to accept the news that they haven’t been chosen with grace and humility, even if it is being given to them in their own homes in front of their loved ones. That doesn’t mean I want to watch it. When the judges give a “no” from behind the table, in a controlled audition situation, it feels professional and impersonal. There’s something so much more soul-crushing about watching these dancers—who undoubtedly were thinking, “why would this famous choreographer come all this way just to tell me ‘no’?”—being told, “Sorry, not good enough!” in their “real lives.” It was intrusive and manipulative and not at all entertaining, and I hated it. Never do this again, Nigel. Consider that speeding ticket a sign from God that it’s a bad idea.
But enough of that. We have our top 10, everyone! Oh wait, I’m sorry, top 11, because SYTYCD figures, “Hey we’re screwing with all the rules this season anyway, why not make things nice and unsymmetrical while we’re at it?” Of course, I was absolutely shocked when it seemed that they weren’t taking Billy Bell after he already made it on the show last season, but that doesn’t make the whole thing any less of a cop-out. At the very least, give us another girl and make it an even 12.
That said, there are enough interesting candidates on this shortened list to make me excited for tomorrow’s performance show, despite tonight’s dreadful lead-in. Let’s review:
Cristina: Our only ballroom dancer this season. She didn’t make much of an impression, but the fact that she went out and trained more after not making it last season and came back with some solid contemporary skills earns her points. I’m a sucker for self-improvement.
Lauren: The sexy cheerleader who gave both me and Donna the squicks was apparently more than a stripper in training. The judges seem to absolutely adore her, and while her final solo to “At Last” was a less bump-and-grindy than her first, it still smacked of that generic, homogenized sexiness that our society as a whole seems enthralled with. She’s going to need to get a lot weirder for me to find her compelling this season.
Ashley: We barely saw any of her in auditions or Vegas, so the only thing I can really say about her is she maintained her composure very well in the presence of Lil’ C’s freakishly long fingernails.
Jose: Jose fills the requisite “hip-hopper with no formal training” slot this season, though I think it’s likely that, like Russell and Twitch before him, he’s definitely taken some classes. I don’t think anyone could take that naturaly to contemporary without at least some training. That said, I’m willing to buy into the kid’s story because he seems likable.
Melinda: Despite last season’s tap-astrophe (ca-tap-strophe?), another tapper makes it into the competition. Like many of you, I’m still dubious that tap can translate to this show, but I like Melinda herself (even if her ballroom and contemporary were “a little crunchy”). The fact that she chose to get her results in the presence of her octogenarian mentor Harold Cromer and his sailor hat tickled me, and she seems to fill this season’s quirk quota. Plus, I can’t wait to hear Cat call her “Melinder.”
Alex: Of course Alex Wong was going to make it after having to give up his place last season due to his contract with Miami City Ballet. While I certainly admire his chutzpah in giving up his featured soloist position to audition for the show, I still can’t get a read on Alex’s personality. Obvious, he is incredibly technically skilled. But his cool, reserved demeanor—which I’m sure is at least partially the result of years of ballet training—combined with the fact that he’s already had a lot of success at a young age makes him hard to root for. Hopefully he’ll open up a bit.
Adechike: Proof that one amazing solo can save you on this show. He danced for his life in Vegas and never looked back. I’m looking forward to seeing more from him, and I bet he’s glad to get out of the daycare he lives in for a few weeks. His reveal from Mia was one of the few genuinely touching moments in the home-visit debacle—his family’s joy was just so palpable, it even got Mia crying. (Though Mia has become quite the softie lately.)
Alexie: After four tries she finally makes it on the show, seemingly with flying colors. She beat out the other girl in the “all-yeses” club, Ryan Ramirez, for the final girls’ slot.
Kent: With the endless lead-up to Nigel’s reveal to Kent Boyd, was there any doubt he was getting a yes? But even without that, the kid was a shoe-in, displaying more personality than the rest of the top 10 combined. Everything he does is just so aw-shucks adorable, from his waiting at the window like a golden retriever for Nigel to his genuine-seeming awe at being onstage with Alex freaking Wong and Anthony, who could smash the crap out of him. Oh, and he seems like a pretty good dancer. Hopefully he won’t fall into the same adorable-but-one-note trap that got Evan two seasons ago.
Robert and Billy: I’m putting them together because I have very little to say about Robert other than that he’s cute, but apparently botched his own style in Vegas. And as I said earlier, there was no way Billy could not be on the show after already being on the show, even though he apparently phoned it in a bit in Vegas. But between these two guys, Kent, Alex, and Adichike, we have some seriously high-flying, massive-thighed male talent this season. Poor Jose is gonna have to bring his A-game outside of his own genre.
With only 10 (sorry, ugh, 11) finalists, there were obviously going to be some disappointments. After watching Anthony Burrell struggle through his injury (in a ridiculous red-satin onesie, no less), it was pretty heartbreaking to watch Mia give him the “no,” especially considering he was the only person given the news alone, in his Queens garden apartment. And I liked Adrian, especially his fun Broadway performance in Vegas (skirt flick!). However, I’ll admit that I can’t really see him dancing hip-hop. He’s just so… vertical.
We may have limped and stumbled our way here, but we’ve finally reached the finish line… which is, ironically, the beginning of the show proper. Looks like we’re getting another one-hour demonstration episode tomorrow, where everyone dances in their own style. I’m sure we’ll have a better read on some of the less-notable finalists from tonight, and more importantly, we won’t have segment upon segment of Nigel cruising around in his big yellow phallus pretending he still can’t pronounce “Wapakaneta.”
• I still don’t know how I feel about the self-choreography round. It’s entertaining, sure, but this isn’t So You Think You Can Choreograph. And I think the fact that everyone in the two worst groups made it through to the next round shows that it might not be that important to the judges either. But hey, they gotta mix these things up somehow, and a surprise seminar from Grover Dale isn’t really enough.
• So Toni is taking over for Mia as the resident “bitch” on SYTYCD, yes? “I’ve been talked into keeping you.”
• “Corn could not survive here in this kind of weather.” Oh Kent. Get this kid his own spin-off! (No, really, don’t.)
• Mary wins the fakeout award for her crocodile tears before telling Alexie she made it. That said, NO MORE FAKE-OUTS! Let’s call a moratorium on this little construct, okay?