I hate it when TV shows mess with a good thing. Rather than blaming SYTYCD's low ratings last season on the obvious cause — SYTYCD burnout as Season Six followed Season Seven with hardly a break — the producers have decided it has something to do with the partnering and genre-choice processes. And so we have the All-Stars, contestants from previous seasons who form a pool of partners from which the top 10 Season Seven contestants will pick week to week. That choice will also determine the genre.
When I first read about the format change, I was under the impression that contestants would get to stick to their own dance styles; I'm glad that's not the case. Yet the effect of being partnered with different folks week to week and having to endure comparisons to their expertise in their native style is hard to predict. It seems likely that nearly every instance is going to be "you kept up with your partner really well!" or "you were out of your league compared to your partner." What other possibilities are there, when the partner is by definition at home in the style of dance, and the contestant is the fish out of water. In the old format, both partners could be equally at sea; not so here. The other unknown is whether we'll miss the development of chemistry among paired contestants — chemistry, it must be said, that we were bound to lose as the end approached and partnerships got broken up. One possible improvement in this no-permanent-partnership scenario (if only they could do it without the all-stars, which I loathe as a concept) is that a strong dancer will not be able to pull a weak dancer farther into the competition than he merits on his own simply on the basis of the fact that they dance as a pair week after week.
Enough of my carping; time to get on to the auditions, which mercifully have been kept to a minimum in Season 7. I've got to admit that it's good to see that old-school ST:TOS font again in the opening, although for some reason my HD Fox affiliate chose to show it in normal def. New York never looked so … square. What kind of dancers will the Big Apple give us?
- Contemporary Glut, Season Seven edition: Sarah Brinson starts us off on a positive note, aiming to overcome her stigma as a big-bodied dancer by blushing prettily when Nigel makes a stupid joke about her mom "playing" with Tiger Woods. Teddy Tedholm, who looked like that dude from the free government information ads last year, comes as a Man in Black and tears his heart out in a violent routine that brings Shankman to tears. Will he be able to get past Vegas this year, or will the choreography defeat him again? Anthony Burrell looks like the kind of strong male dancer that could go far on the show. Megan Davis, um, has a lot of hair and threw it around a lot. And bracketing the big-bodied theme, Megan Carter strikes a blow for the Junoesque to end the New York auditions.
- I'm Too Sexy: Giselle Peacock is a Latin dancer (a veteran of the Burn The Floor show) whose top appeared to be barely sticking to her decolletage; she certainly attacked the stage, then tucked a ticket to Vegas into her ample bosom. Daniel Baker and his waxed chest only get 30 seconds of screen time, but put him in front of the straight women and gay men of America and watch the phones light up.
- Novelty Acts: Lazer (Mike Perlman) from 1-2-3 Party! ("Ice and Ultra got held up") certainly has a lot of fun with his retro-eighties dance troupe, but the judges can hardly bear to look at him as he ascends the stage in all his regalia, obviously to waste their time as professionals but to provide good TV for the Fox executives. Troma director and Carmen Miranda draga impersonator Jamie Greco self-promotes by tossing vegetables at the judges ("Thank you for being you," accidentally condescends Mia).
- Street Cred: Chris "Isolock" Dixon definitely gave locking a new sense of whimsy, although the strange breaks into full movement detracted from his strengths for me; Adam felt like they indicated he might be able to more than street, so he passed him through to choreography, where he promptly drops his partner. Parkour specialist Wadi Jones did his best Legacy impression in-between his repertoire demonstration, but appeared to have a nifty fluidity between levels in his movement.
- SYTYCD Classic: Former competitor Edward Spots offered the most serene balletic lines of the night, and then — somewhat surprisingly to Edward, it seems — goes to choreography.
Then there's an abbreviated stop in Miami, where things bring down this way (with Jason Gilkison and Sonya Tayeh on the judging panel):
- Dirty Dancing: Czech ballroom dancer Michael Petr has that patented ballroom lower body action going on, a bit too much pout for my taste, but at least he danced with his partner rather than doing a virtual solo. Candace Craig ("I'm sort of a sexy lion" in the Velvet Angels) has no idea what parts to dance with other than enhanced-tits and ass, but seems to have bigger ambitions.
- Breaking the Mold: Tyrell Rolle should be a hip-hopper with his background, but he's going for contemporary (and has his father's support, movingly). I would have sent him to choreography, though, because I couldn't tell how much training he'd had. Daria Kopylova creeped everybody out by getting in her dad's package, and was mercifully stopped before she could get to the vampy part. And it was Jose Ruiz's turn to channel Legacy in Miami, one-upping him with a really incredible head spin.
- Contemporary Glut, blah blah blah: Henry Rivera couldn't get a word out past his nervousness in the pre-interviews, but was all business on stage. He's going to need a little more maturity when not dancing to win America's heart, though. Ami Aguilar-Riley was cutely supported by her six-year-old ("Mom taught me how to do the robot"), then nailed the choreography round (I cheered!).
- Amateur Hour: Rose Neptune somehow induced a man to do the pushing and pulling it takes to partner with her in her particular form of club dancing. And let us not speak of the CSI: Miami montage.
What I'm wondering about the new format is whether it will allow the contestants to go on that "journey" that the judges kept talking to Jose about. We shall see, shan't we?
- Genevieve and I will be alternating this season, as we did last time. Once the competition begins, we'll be switching back and forth covering both the performance and audition shows.
- Cat holding her head after Scott Vogel, the biohazard remediation technician, explains his job — so cute! Also, has anyone else ever auditioned for the show wearing a camo cap? Also, isn't his other job — the "Coldstone Creamery, but with cereal" — actually more interesting?
- As Nigel tells the dancers to "be unique," the camera pans across a hot pink fruit headdress. I think we all knew what was coming at that point.
- Thank goodness Nigel brings the whole "how inspirational you are, how many stereotypes you break" discussion back to the reality that a dancer's body is her instrument, and the shape and tone of that instrument do matter when it comes to making a living. It's not just about being special snowflakes, people.
- I can't think of seven ways to wear my bra. Is there a beginner's version?
- Candace promises Cat, and all of us, that she will wear a sports bra in choreography. Why not wear it to the audition, sweetheart?
- Because I was highly entertained when my husband paused the show and read this righteous screed against Sex and the City 2 aloud to me, I hereby link it for you. You're welcome!
- "I couldn't give it my all. I had to go offstage and throw up."