“I love cutting. Because I enjoy seeing people who aren’t good at what they do go home.”
Oh Mia Michaels, you wonderful bitch. I’m glad you like cutting, because from where I’m sitting, Vegas is brutal, for both the dancers and us watching at home. While it’s easy for us to write sub-par dancers off in auditions—and for them to wave it off as a lark, or not the right time, or however they justify it—that ticket to Vegas makes the possibility of the top 20 seem so much more real, and so every tiny victory and minute error seems loaded with consequence.
Of course, with 172 dancers being whittled down to 20, judging is obviously going to be a lot harsher, and some of the standouts from the city auditions definitely felt the fallout of that. Early favorite Gabby fell apart in choreography again and again, and though the judges let her through after dancing for her life, Tyce Diorio’s Broadway routine was her downfall. Two of the tappers, Silky and Bianca, similarly struggled and were sent on their way. And poor Natalie, who practically drove Sonya to orgasm in her first audition—and whom the choreographer highlighted during practice—was unceremoniously cut after the jazz routine with no explanation to us audience members as to why. (Though she did seem mighty sluggish up there.)
It’s disorienting to hear the judges exclaiming things like, “How could she be so bad?” and, “Oh, it’s horrible” to the same dancers they were fawning over just last week. It feels almost manipulative until you take a step back and view it all through the lens of heightened expectations. After all, it’s a lot easier to impress when you’re surrounded by the Sexes and Mutations of the open audition ghetto.
Caitlin Kinney nearly fell victim to those heightened expectations tonight, but squeaked by by the grace of Mary Murphy. I called Caitlin out as a probable top 20 contender in the auditions, so it was disheartening to see her totally falling apart during Mia’s contemporary routine, which Nigel pointed out might have been too modern for her old-fashioned style of dancing—not a good sign. In what I believe is a new twist this year (forgive me if I’m mistaken, I don’t usually follow auditions and Vegas as closely), the judges made her dance for her life immediately following their dressing down of her. The fact that she could pull it out, however borderline it was, seconds after sobbing onstage was mighty impressive. She might be too shaky to make it to the top 20, but Caitlin and her ever-supportive sister Megan—who was eventually cut after sailing past her sister in several rounds of choreography—provided quite the emotional roller coaster tonight. (Yes, it’s mostly manufactured emotion, but what do you expect from this kind of show? Just ride it.)
Another pair of siblings, Ryan and Evan, provided a much-needed lighthearted counterpart to Caitlin and Megan. Seriously, how adorable are these guys? Either they’re extraordinarily talented or this Vegas audition process was tailor-made for them: Of course Ryan was going to shine during the group self-choreography challenge, after the routines he created for his brother and himself in auditions; and how fortuitous that the final round of choreography was Broadway, something both of the self-proclaimed “Broadway Brothers” were obviously excited about. Of course, neither of them could have gotten to the final round without kicking ass in the other choreography challenges. I think we’re looking at a pair of really well-rounded dancers here; the fact that they’re quite funny—“Baked beans plus contemporary equals disaster”—only adds to the appeal. (I’m getting distinct Benji vibes off of Ryan in particular.)
Tony Bellissimo’s sense of humor helped him out a lot tonight—his Nigel-fied props for his routine to “Somebody’s Watching Me” were quite clever—but he’s nowhere near a sure thing. Even he thought he had screwed up after the judges made him dance the contemporary a second time—how’s that for a confidence-shaker?—but he made it on to the top 16. I’ll admit I’m rooting for him despite the fact that he doesn’t seem like the strongest dancer overall, but it might just be because, like Cat, I love it when grown men cry. (The fact that he looks like just about every boy I had a crush on in high school doesn’t hurt either.)
Brandon is similarly fence-y, but for the exact opposite reason. Though the judges gave him guff for not living up to expectations, he’s obviously incredibly technically skilled—but he’s so soft-spoken and gosh-darn polite that he comes off as kind of meek when he’s not dancing. And as we know, as SYTYCD rolls on, the personality’s gotta pop. Then again, I remember Joshua seeming pretty soft-spoken in the early stages of last season, so maybe the kid’s got a chance.
We’ll find out tomorrow.
• What happened to Alex Wong? He blew everyone away with the first solo of the night, then was never heard from again. I think I saw him in the top 16 guys, but I’m not positive. It seems odd for the producers to let a dancer drop off the radar like that.
• “You’re not as good as we thought you were.” Great pep talk, Nigel.
• Is anyone surprised that Sonya’s routine seemed to result in the highest number of injuries?
• That whole self-choreography challenge seemed like a lot to ask of the dancers—since when is being able to choreograph a routine a requirement to be on the show (though it obviously helps)? But to pull an all-nighter with a group of dancers who may not share your style/personality—that’s just a crunchy anxiety shell on top of what’s already a big, gooey ball of stress. And that first group—Silky’s—showed it, with a routine that looked like a middle-school talent show.
• Speaking of stress on top of stress: Having them perform a West Side Story routine for Debbie Allen, who gave a Tony-nominated performance as Anita in the 1980 revival, was delightfully devious.