“It’s about degrees of winning,” Nigel said tonight, right before he told Diana that she had not, in fact, won a spot in the top 20. It’s a nice sentiment, and certainly true to an extent—no one could get this far in the audition and not claim it as some sort of success—but the fact of the matter is, at this point, it’s all or nothing, win or lose, stay or go home.
And nowhere was that fact clearer or more brutal than in the heartbreaking climax (that we all saw coming) with the brothers Kasprzak. (I hope I’m spelling that right.) I can’t have been the only one wheedling with Nigel in my mind, “Come on, Lord Featherhead, you can make it 21 this year! Just this once!” But, as is so often the case on SYTYCD, the judges were right: There’s probably not room for two old-fashioned, “burlesque-style” dancers in the competition. Although I suspect that there was a little more to the decision to pick Evan over the seemingly more talented (at least in terms of choreography) Ryan than was let on: His fears of being “too short, too fat, too bald” aside, I think what may have sunk the older brother is that he looked a little, well, old. Which fucking sucks, because they’re both adorable and talented and incredibly supportive of each other. But at least we can be assured that if Evan goes far enough in the competition, we’ll be seeing Ryan cheering him on from the audience, because he is with him every step—sniff—that he—sob—dances…. (*Genevieve runs crying from the room*)
Damn you SYTYCD and your uncanny ability to manipulate my emotions. You sure do know how to milk reality-competition conventions for all they’re worth.
Sniff. Okay. Moving on. Let’s introduce our top 20, bullet-style, shall we?
• Jeanette: Last seen nearly kicking her partner in the face in Miami with that insane flip-kick-split thing. She fell off our radar in Las Vegas, but clearly not the judges’.
• Vitolio: Not sure why the producers were keeping this guy from us this whole time. Not only does he apparently have a lot of “personality” and “character”—meaning he yelled and mugged for the cameras a lot during auditions—but he lived in an orphanage in Haiti you guys! Haitian orphanage trumps dad with MS always. It's science. The judges say they haven’t seen much of his alleged personality—and outside of his weird “diarrhea moment” comment, neither have we—but hopefully he gets time to shine. His reaction to getting into the top 20 seemed really genuine and likable. Also, he seems to be one of those elusive “masculine dancers” Nigel likes so much.
• Kayla: Remember her sweet grandparents who made me cry? They must be so proud! And Mia said she liked her even though she was a girl.
• Kopono: Minus the weird hair and about seven syllables of his name. This kid clearly understands the “competition” aspect of this show: He refashioned and renamed himself to become more accessible, and even came up with a “bit” (it sounds cynical to call it that, but that’s what it was, you guys!) with a to-do list that ended with “Make the top 20.” Which he did. He apparently still hasn’t breathed yet, though.
• Brandon: Poor guy’s acceptance into the top 20 was tarnished by three of the judges basically saying, “We don’t think you should be here.” I thought Mia’s comments that he “annoys the shit out of me” and that he has a “fake smile” were interesting—sure, it seems incredibly mean from our end, but those comments speak to the sort of unquantifiable nuances that really only come out a) in person and b) over time. And even though she was a giant bitch about it—would we have it any other way from Emmy Award-Winning Mia Michaels?—I’m tempted to give her the benefit of the doubt on this one. Mia seems much more concerned with what’s just under the surface of people than, say, Mary, who was still all aflutter over Brandon and clearly appalled by Mia and Lil’ C’s critiques. Frankly, I’m shocked someone who seems so bland onscreen can be so divisive among the judges—though he handled the bludgeoning well, basically telling Mia and Lil’ C to bring it, bitches. We’ll see if he can back that up. If anything, I hope he stays around long enough for a showdown with Mia.
• Tony Bellissimo: He was all strut and cockiness once he found out he was in—his “Hey Baby” to Cat was equal parts charm and smarm—but you could tell he thought he was getting the boot. Nigel says he’s the “furthest we’re going out on a limb with someone we want to see grow,” meaning “you best get to working on your technique.” It’s choices like this that really highlight that this is a competition for favorite dancer, not best dancer, which eases the sting of seeing preternaturally skilled dancers like Natalie from last night booted unceremoniously. The producers are looking for a well-rounded group that can provides stories and drama, not 20 Alex Wongs. (Who really should have looked into that contract thing before auditioning, no? Just ask Hok from Season 2: You gotta get your papers straight, man.) I don’t begrudge them this sort of cherry-picking, because it does make the show more interesting. Plus, from what I can tell, he’s the only hip-hopper besides Phillip (who, yes, I know, is a popper, but it falls under the same umbrella).
Caitlyn: After all that drama yesterday, her acceptance into the top 20 gets just a passing mention. Maybe because she’s boring when she’s not sobbing and struggling?
Randi: Inspires the quote of the night, from EAWMM: “If you could commit to your artistry like you do to your unitards, you will go very far.” The rest of Mia’s speech to her sounded almost like a proposal—“We want to ask you to be with us for the top 20 this year”—but they just want her to “step into her glory.” Man, Mia, you are the only person who can get away with talking like that.
Phillip: The popper makes it! He may think it’s silly, but I’m happy for him. The judges see a real love of dance in him—let’s hope it translates across all styles.
Asuka: The showdown between her and Deanna for the final girls spot was apparently supposed to be tense, but did anyone not see this one coming? An obvious decision. Unlike…
Evan: Sigh. I’m going to start crying again.
And the rest: Ade, Ashley, Jason, Jeanine, Jonathan, Karla, Max, Melissa, and Paris. These guys were all relegated to montage-land. Let’s see if they stick around long enough for us to get to know them.
Next week the games begin for real. There’s no major standout for me at this point, though Phillip, Evan, and Tony seem like they could all become fan favorites. We’re heavy on the contemporary/ballet dancers, as usual: by my count there are three ballroom dancers (Jeanette, Asuka, and Max), two hip-hoppers (Tony and Phillip), and one jazz/Broadway guy (Evan). The rest are all a twirling, leaping, face-clutching, emoting blur at this point, and I can’t wait to see them all thrown out of their comfort zones next week. Here we go!
• Lil’ C has the most perfect nails I’ve ever seen on a man.
• I feel like having Cat Deeley waiting for me at the end of that walk would make the rejection seem a teensy bit easier. She seems like a good hugger. She seems like a good everything.
• Were you rooting for Ryan or Evan? I really liked them both, but Ryan had an underdog factor that really got to me, even though I’m not crazy about tap.
• Remember, starting next week I’ll be posting about both nights on Thursday nights, probably fairly late. If you’re dying to discuss before then, may I suggest starting a new thread at the end of the previous week’s entry, a sort of unofficial temporary forum. I promise I won’t look or butt in until after I’ve posted my own write-up.
• Gah, I apologize for that photo up there… Fox needs to update its SYTYCD promotional photos ASAP.