The Wife:

Proving that she is totally on top of the cultural pulse, Tyra decided to do an ANTMAmerica’s Best Dance Crew crossover episode . . . four seasons too late. Granted, ANTM and ABDC churn out seasons at breakneck pace (giving us two a year), so they’re in good company on that front, but it somehow felt incredibly stale for her to teach the models how to use dance by sending them to learn moves from first season winners Jabbawockeez with the guidance of Lil Mama and Benny Ninja. Her point in using the Jabbawockeez, who wear masks during their performances and yet still create completely effective dance works, is valid, which is to say that sometimes a model can’t just rely on her face to convey an emotion. But the execution of the challenge reminded me of, well, this Sesame Street segment:

She asked the Jabbawockeez to perform happiness, sadness and anger, and then asked the models to follow suit. Exactly like Muppet Don Draper makes lackeys Muppet Pete Campbell and Muppet Paul Kinsey do in the Sesame Street Mad Men parody. The Jabawockeez and muppets did this adequately. The models failed. Even Dancer Ashley couldn’t choreograph a cohesive dance piece for her competitors that demonstrated anything worthwhile. I’m presently trying to banish said dance pieces from my mind, because they were all fucking terrible.

Marginally less terrible than the others was the team of Jennifer, Kara and Rae, who won 17K in jewelry. Then the girls were taken to Vegas for a photoshoot involving Cirque du Soleil, which I am pretty sure Mr. Jay could just join anytime he wants to. He makes a good host for a carnival of horrors, and I’m pretty sure that end is achieved through years of practice on ANTM. (Alternately, I think he’d make a great flight attendant. I mean, we all heard how nicely he promoted TSA regulations on that “You’re Going to Vegas” video, right?)

Alternate career for Brittany: playing Magenta in Rocky Horror.

Alternate career for Brittany: playing Magenta in Rocky Horror.

But as excited as I usually am by all things cirque and carnival related, this shoot with members of Mystère was sort of blah, even though photographer Mike Rosenthal had the distinction of shooting the actual Sideshow shoot back in Cycle 7. I think part of the problem here is that the girls had to work in groups, which I agree is an important skill to learn, but was also limiting here, not only to the girls, but also creatively. Making the girls pose in groups disallowed anyone to tell a story with the final image. All of the shots ended up being cloudlike women posing listlessly with masked circus acrobats. I mean, what is that even about?

  • Brittany: “I think it’s the Bride of Frankenstein’s second cousin, who is a model.” — Tyra. Because the Bride of Frankenstein herself would never book a modeling job. With that hair.
  • Rae: She did a really admirable job of pushing herself out from the background of this picture and looking mildly alive.
  • Jennifer: Her photo is lifeless and her outtakes from the shoot are even worse. Possibly the worst I’ve ever seen on ANTM.
  • Laura: She worked the pole on the fringes of this shot. It was great, but incredibly strippery. Props to her for looking alive, though.
  • Ashley: Bleh! Bleh! Bleh!
  • Kara: She looks absolutely hideous in this picture, but the judges seem to like her face for some reason I will never understand. Kara is one of those girls who looks pretty in person, but photographs like a Drag Queen from Outer Space.
  • Erin: I think she’s totally lost in this photograph, but guest judge Josie Marin really likes it.
  • Nicole: It’s a fine photograph, but she really suffered from unfortunate positioning here, wedged underneath the crotch of that acrobat, with the light shining right out of her own crotch. Dreadful, dreadful composition.

    Shes being violated by that light.

    She's being violated by that light.

  • Sundai: I have grown weary of Sundai’s single face in every photograph. She looks like she’s waterskiing in this shot.

Callouts: Tyra awarded the first three spots to the girls who had the best group shot as a whole, so that honor went to Jennifer, Rae and Brittany. She then called girls individually: Laura, Nicole, Sundai and Erin, leaving Ashley and Kara in the bottom two. To my delight, Ashley was kicked out of the competition and Kara stayed. Now it’s only a matter of time before Kara gets the axe, as well . . .

Looking less than ethereal.

Looking less than ethereal.

Some thoughts:

  • “He asked for angry, but I think my dance ended up being way more bipolar.” — Nicole
  • Are all the best dancers really that short, Benny Ninja? I think Cyd Charisse would beg to differ.
  • “It’s not just what mama and daddy did, it’s what I did with it.” — Tyra
  • During their discussion of the photos, the judges said Jennifer was being too sexually forward in her photos. Why is this the standard critique given to every Asian model to ever appear on Top Model? These girls can’t all fall into the stereotype of the sexually exotic Asian woman, can they? Sheena, certainly, but Lazy-Eye Jennifer? Really?
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The Wife:

This episode was the stuff of my nightmares. And I’m not saying that because my perfect Top 4 was shattered with the inclusion of Evan because I do like Evan very much. I’m saying it was a nightmare because it opened with a Tyce DiOrio Broadway routine about clowns. Clowns! WHY, GOD, WHY! Two of my least favorite things in the world were synthesized into one horrible vision. And yet, despite my dislike of both of those things, the “Send in the Clowns” number was actually pretty solid. It didn’t inspire any intense Tyce hatred in me, and, frankly, sad Harlequin clowns are the kind I find most palatable. It even established a somewhat ominous tone for the show, as well. I mean, how can you not see the appropriateness of one sad clown Evan being left out of the box by the other clowns? It’s totally a metaphor for the competition, and not in a painstakingly obvious TabNap kind of way. It’s there, but it wasn’t covering your head with a moving box, if you know what I mean.

In addition to our results, we were treated to a showing of the four Emmy-nominated routines from last season: Tyce DiOrio’s “Silence” for Will and Jessica, Mia Michaels’ “Mercy” for Katee and Twitch, Dmitry Chaplin’s “A Los Amigos” for Chelsie and Joshua and Nappytab’s “Bleeding Love” for Chelsie and Mark. Since this isn’t the meat of the show, I’m not going to spend time critiquing second showings of these works, but here are some observations:

  • “Silence” is way better live because you can actually hear Will and Jessica struggling for breath. It struck me as extremely beautiful on the tour because of that, but not so much replayed on my TV.
  • Also, I still hate Jessica.
  • “Mercy” is never not awesome. I loved that Katee and Twitch kept character even through their bows.
  • I think the reason “A Los Amigos” is such a good Argentine Tango number is that it’s choreographed to be performed as part of a stage show, rather than part of a dance competition. It’s really dynamic and visually interesting in its movement and stagecraft. Sometimes, I think the problem with some ballroom on this show is that the choreographers forget they aren’t choreographing for a competition, but for a stage show.
  • “Bleeding Love” will always be one of TabNap’s best, and that’s because of the sheer ferociousness with which Chelsie and Mark dance it. If you strip that away, the choreography is kind of just a lot of bouncing and flailing, no?
  • Kupono, you are not, nor will you ever be, anywhere near as good as Mark Kanemura.


The first winners of America’s Best Dance Crew, the amazing Jabbawockeez, performed and they were totally tizzight as usual in their routine to “Freak-a-Zoid.” I could have done without the giant mask onstage, and the mask projections on the screens. They were a little distracting to the movement. Sean Paul also performed with a bunch of backup dancers who were dressed like Darryl Hannah in Blade Runner. I do not know why, and I apparently never will. Cat wore a sparkly green dress. Jeanine and Brandon were sent straight to the finale, and the remaining dancers soloed again, with no changes at all on the part of the ladies. At least Ade added in his deadly backflip and Evan, I think, pumped up his technique a bit.

Farewell, Melissa and Ade!

Farewell, Melissa and Ade!

But after all that, Evan and Kayla were allowed by America to join Jeanine and Brandon in the finale and I’m fine with that. Yes, I do love Evan, but I also think he’s outlived his usefulness here. However, I have to keep reminding myself that once we hit the Top 10, it becomes about being America’s Favorite Dancer, not America’s Best Backflipping Guy. When you compare the strengths and weaknesses of Ade and Evan, I think you can make the case that, personality aside, Evan has a better technical background. When it comes down to adorability and personality, Evan clearly wins there. But watching Ade falter in yet another ballroom routine made me wonder if maybe Evan really is the more technically skilled of the two and, for some reason, that just isn’t coming through in the works he’s been given. When I look at both men’s solos, they astound me for completely different reasons. So even though I’d have preferred Ade, I’m really fine with Evan in the Top 4. It nearly guarantees that he’ll be invited back to choreograph if he so desires, à la Travis Wall.

As for Melissa, there was no way she’d have made the Top 4. I like her bunches, and I think she did a great deal to help classical ballet become a popular style again. In my dream world where everyone spends money on art, Melissa’s very presence in a reality dance competition program means more ballet patrons and therefore more money going to sustain dance companies and dancers themselves. But when put next to Kayla and Jeanine, who are both such powerhouse performers, Melissa didn’t stand a chance.

So congrats to Jeanine, Evan, Kayla and Brandon! I’d automatically give my winning vote to Spiseagle Brandon Bryant, but I’d like to see a talented female win this year, so my votes next week are going to Kayla. Who will you guys be voting for now that we’re down to the wire? The (dance) floor, my friends, is yours.

Stray thoughts:

  • My husband pointed out that when he rewatched Evan’s solos from the last two weeks, Evan was doing dead-on imitations of Gene Kelly’s facial expressions. If he paused the dance at certain moments, my husband would be able to tell you exactly what scene in what movie Gene Kelly makes that face.
  • For my part, Sad Clown Evan reminded me of John Leguizamo as Tolouse Latrec when he’s dressed as the Magical Sitar in Moulin Rouge and is crying because Satine is dead. This is much more of a compliment than saying, “He reminded me of Gene Kelly in the clown scene in The Pirate.” Because that dance is terrible. And it’s terrible because of Judy Garland.
  • I’m glad Ade was so happy for Brandon to make it straight through to the finale. I assume it’s because they’re both part of the Sexy Black Man Club, which I imagine has Seal as a president and Taye Diggs as VP. Denzel Washington was a charter member, but he resigned some years ago. They revoked Will Smith’s membership after Fresh Prince was cancelled. Djimon Honsou is their Cultural Attache to France. I can keep going. Really, I can.
  • When I saw a shot of Melissa’s husband in the audience standing next to a dude who looked suspiciously like him, I suddenly remembered that she and her sister were married to brothers. That’s so uncanny.
  • What do we all make of this “This dancer will be in the finale, but they didn’t necessarily pull the most votes” thing? Katee-Was-Actually-Second-Place conspiracy theorists, please weigh in.

The Wife:

We all know results shows are about 80% filler and 20% content we actually care about, but the one thing I can always look forward to in SYTYCD results shows are the group numbers. There have been some very memorable results show group numbers in seasons past – Mia Michael’s Imogen Heap piece from season two in which every dancer wore a word in masking tape on their clothing, Wade Robeson’s utterly fantastic zombie dance number to Roisin Murphy’s “Ramalama Bang Bang” from season two, Tyce DiOrio’s Lion King piece for season three (now there’s a Broadway show that really utilizes Tyce’s talents!), and many others – and last night brought us a Shane Sparks’ hip-hop routine set to the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow,” the plot of which I described in my notes like this:

“Future street thugs blow magic dust on hobo girls and make them into video hos.”

That’s pretty accurate, right?

And for those who weren’t sure it was a Shane Sparks piece, you should have known by the signature booty shake. Watch enough of America’s Best Dance Crew (btw, I think it was Boogie Bot Karla who graced us with that booty shake), and you will know that there is nothing Shane loves more than a good booty shake.

Just to remind you, in case you also couldnt remove this image from the back of your retinas: this horrible thing happened. And it was horrible.

Just to remind you, in case you also couldn't remove this image from the back of your retinas: this horrible thing happened. And it was horrible.

Cat came out in a fabulous, if severely understated, strapless coffee-colored wrap dress and introduced a little producer package about how all of our Top 20 dancers, most of whom had never partnered with another dancer in their lives, “got on” with their new dance partners. Here are some tidbits I learned from that:

  • Max thinks that the best thing about being on this show is dancing with a really hot blonde chick. He is correct that she is a very premium lady, and that dancing with very premium ladies is why one should want to be a very premium dancer.
  • Evan is so wholesome he says things like “shucks.” I could not possibly love him any more than I already do.
  • Jeanette is Cuban. She speaks Spanish. Just in case you didn’t catch that before.
  • Melissa, the naughty ballerina, enjoys burping.
  • Ashley makes chicken sounds.
  • Her partner Kupono makes monkey sounds.


After that bit of adorable time wasting, we moved swiftly into the results portion of the show. Cat lined up Kayla and Max, Randi and Evan and Phillip and Jeanine – my three favorite couples from last night! – and I immediately thought that perhaps I might be wrong about this show’s viewers and their ability to correctly assess what is and isn’t good dancing. But, slowly but surely, Cat told each of those three couples that they were safe, proving that I am a very premium judge of dances! It really would have been a travesty for any of those three to end up in the bottom, as they really were the best of the night.

Next, Cat corralled Caitlin and Jason, Melissa and Ade, Ashley and Kupono and Tony and Paris. Of those four couples, only one would end up in the bottom three, and it ended up being the correct one – Tony and Paris, once again proving that even when the costumes are so horrible I can’t even see the dancing, I am a very premium judge of dances!

Auska and Vitolio, Jeanette and Brandon and Karla and Jonathan faced Cat next, knowing that two of the three couples would be sent to the bottom three. Auska and Vitolio were told they weren’t safe and headed off to get ready for their solos while Jeanette and Brandon had to sweat it out with Jonathan and Karla, only to find out that, clearly, Jonathan and Karla were the weaker pair and were sent to the bottom three. I am very premium at choosing dance show results, for every single one of my bottom three couples landed in the bottom three!

While the six dancers about to dance for their lives got ready, Cat introduced Miriam and Leonardo, a pair of professional Argentine tangoers, who performed a very nice tango to the other half of the music that makes up the “Tango Roxanne” sequence in Moulin Rouge. Then it was solo time:

  • Paris performed a pretty bland set of leg extensions to “It Doesn’t Hurt” by Katie Thompson, a piece of music that I could only think of as inexorably tied to the car accident we learned she was in just yesterday.
  • Tony, dressed like a complete and total dickbag, performed (to “Early in the Morning” by the Gap Band) what I can’t only describe as the kind of dance that would be cool if people circled around you at a wedding or high school event, but was not anywhere near the kind of caliber necessary to grace this stage which has been dominated in years past by a number of actually talented B-boys, breakers, poppers and lockers. (Ivan, Dominic, Hok, Ryan, Gev . . . those are only a few! Tony’s name will never be among their ranks!)
  • Auska did what any ballroom dancer does when asked to solo without a partner: she basically did some mean jive steps and shook her ass at us, constantly flipping her skirt and tossing her head like she’s doing “Cell Block Tango” to a song called “Did Ya” by BoA.
  • Vitolio had one of the better solos of the night demonstrating his amazing carriage, center and extensions to “We Belong Together” by Gavin DeGraw.
  • Karla danced to “Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin. This didn’t really strike me, but she did wear a pretty sparkly dress.
  • Jonathan, meanwhile, did some great gymnastics paired with some passable attempts at dancing to Pitbull’s “Krazy” (featuring Lil John). He reminds me of both season one winner Nick and season three finalist Neil.


The judges went backstage to deliberate, and Sean Kingston came out to sing/lip-sync his new single “Fires Burning” surrounded by some video hos from 1989 and a semi-riser that looked like a stage had mated with a skateboard ramp. I know the song is technically about heating up the dancefloor, thus making it an appropriate song for SYTYCD (just as when Lady Gaga premiered “Just Dance” in a silver swimsuit and snorkeling mask/flashlight last summer on the show), but its really hard for me to accept songs with metaphors about fire as being about anything other than venereal disease. I mean, Adam Lambert’s version of “Ring of Fire” is definitely about some sort of STD, and I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what “Eternal Flame” by The Bangles is about. Thus, by extension, I don’t think “Fires Burning” is really about dancing . . . you know?

Goodbye, Paris and Tony!

Goodbye, Paris and Tony!

After that song about VD, the judges returned to their seats to deliver their final judgment. Here, my amazing prowess at reality competition dance program results prediction failed as Nigel delivered the news he should have delivered, rather than the news I thought he would deliver: he told Karla she was safe, acknowledged that it’s hard for a ballroom dancer to show everything she can do in a solo, thus saving Auska, and eliminated Former Miss Washington Paris Torres. And why did he eliminate Former Miss Washington Paris Torres? Because, in looking at the way the show was cast, he actually realized that he had one too many contemporary dancers on his roster – she being one of the six female contestants of that specialty – and that of the ones they had, Paris was the least talented. At least now it’s an even number of contemporary specialists between the sexes on this show: without Paris, there are only five female contemporary specialists, and five male. (Of those, only Ashley and Kupono and Jason and Caitlin are paired with a partner in the same style specialty.) Again, I ask: with so many contemporary dancers, wouldn’t it have been better for the show to have another Broadway dancer?

Perhaps it would have been, for even though Nigel informed the bottom three guys that none of their solos were strong enough, he allowed Vitolio and Jonathan to stay in the competition based on the fact that their work actually displayed a modicum of strength, unlike Tony’s . . . which didn’t really display anything. Let me tell you kids, I couldn’t be happier to be wrong about which guy would be going home. It is a testament to the strength of the rest of this year’s Top 20 that a dancer put in to the Top 20 based on his potential and personality alone simply could not survive amongst stronger competitors. On an earlier season, Tony probably could have gotten by a little longer, and I expect that he would, even this season, as I saw no other discernible reason why he should have made the Top 20 in the first place. But he couldn’t even dance for his life – and so he returns to the virtual obscurity whence he came.

I’m sure if I ever attend a professional sporting event in Seattle, I’ll run into Paris Torres somewhere and I wish her the best dancing short routines to entertain the masses during such events. And as much I dislike Tony Bellissimo, I think the best thing for him to do now is to join a dance crew and learn as much as he can about the actual techniques that go in to being a great popper, locker, breaker or b-boy. With these two gone, I think the competition will really get started next week.

The Wife:

We have a Top 20, everyone! And we have never seen most of the people who comprise it! I wish I could say it’s going to be fun getting to know these people, but I’m not entirely certain how well we’ll get to know them before they are systematically eliminated. Part of me feels like the producers wasted my time introducing me to so many people I liked (the Gaby Rojases and Natalie Reids of the world) only to fill me with a Top 20 comprised of folks who never got any camera time at all, folks whose names I didn’t even know until now. But the other part of me realizes that those people I got to know over the audition process were getting all that camera time as a consolation prize, and as I believe this show is about bringing dance into the public consciousness and creating the kind of dance stars that used to exist in the 30s and 40s – a new generation of Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly types – I can only see that kind of cockteasing as a good thing. I hope Gaby Rojas finds her way to a long career with Cirque du Soleil. And I hope Natalie Reid finds a great dance company to call home.

Rather than discuss the drama of seeing who got cut and who didn’t (because the only person who got cut that mattered was Ryan Kasprzak), I’m going to give you a list of our finalists and my thoughts on them/some facts to help you get to know them better. (These are facts according to Fox.com, by the way.)

Your! Top! Twenty!

Your! Top! Twenty!

Girls

Randi Evans, a 23-year-old Jazz dancer from Springville, UT. She has apparently danced during the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, 2002. All we know about her is that she really, really likes unitards.

Karla Garcia, a 23-year-old jazz/contemporary dancer from Brooklyn, NY. The most important thing I learned about this girl I’d not seen on SYTYCD until now is that she is one of the Boogie Bots, who have performed on America’s Best Dance Crew. (Boogie Bots were good, but they were no Quest Crew or Beat Freaks.) She also toured in Wicked, so I will be looking her up in my Playbill later on.

Caitlin Kinney, a 21-year-old contemporary dancer born and raised in Annapolis, MD. Has already had a hip replaced, and is “actress pretty,” according to me.

Asuka Kondoh, a 25-year-old Latin ballroom dancer originally from San Francisco, CA. She’s gotten a lot of well-deserved camera time, so I was pleased she will continue to grace my television with her very svelte swiveling hips.

Janette Manrara, a 25-year-old salsa dancer from Miami, FL and the first to be put into the Top 20, at which point she overshared and told us that this is the best good news she’s had in a while, as her boyfriend of four years dumped her and she moved back in with her mom. Why would anyone break up with a girl who can do the splits while doing a backflip?

Jeanine Mason, an 18-year-old contemporary dancer from Pinecrest, FL whom we had never seen before. All I can say about her is that she’s pretty and that she plans to attend UCLA in the fall.

Kayla Radomski, an 18-year-old contemporary and jazz dancer from Aurora, Co. Radomkulous was raised by her grandparents (mostly), which strikes a chord with me because I spent a lot of time with my grandma as a kid. We’ve seen her a lot, so her inclusion in the Top 20 was not a total surprise.

Melissa Sandvig, a 29-year-old ballerina from Los Alamitos, CA. We know absolutely nothing about her, but Fox.com tells me she has danced with the Milwaukee Ballet Company, the L.A. Opera, the Long Beach Ballet and has performed at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Paris Torres, a 19-year-old contemporary dancer and former Miss Washington from Issaquah, WA. She dances for the Seattle Storm and the Seattle Supersonics. If she doesn’t win and returns to dancing in Seattle, I’m sure I’ll see a lot of her in my future home. Also, I hate to say this, but the girl is pretty from the chin up. Her chin is awful. I’m sorry, Paris, I think you’re a lovely dancer, but you need a new chin.

Ashley Valerio, a 22-year-old contemporary dancer living in North Hollywood, CA. We know absolutely nothing about her, and neither does Fox.com

Guys

Kupono Aweau, a 23-year-old lyrical and contemporary dancer from Kailua, HI. Other than his name, I think the most amazing thing about Kupono is the tidbit that he is “an avid collector of home furnishings.” Good Lord, I can’t wait to see his vintage chair collection!

Tony Bellissimo, a 20-year-old hip hop dancer from Buffalo, NY. I think you all know by now that I do not care for Mr. Tony Bellissimo. I do not care for his inclusion in the Top 20, but I appreciate that Nigel was honest about it and said that they like Tony’s personality more than his dancing and believe he is the most improved person they’ve seen, even though he isn’t as technically strong as others. Tell you what, kids, the minute this kid fucks up you’re going to start hearing my refrain for the season, “We could have had two Kasprzak brothers in the Top 20, but instead we got this guy.”

Brandon Bryant, a 19-year-old contemporary dancer currently living in Salt Lake City, UT. In addition to being completely amazing yet somehow contested by the judges, Brandon has apparently performed for Madonna at Lourdes’ birthday party. That’s almost as good of a fact as Kupono’s furniture collections! I have loved Brandon since we saw him last year, and I simply do not understand why Mia and Lil C aren’t fans. Apparently, Mia thinks he’s cocky, finding the smile he puts on when he’s dancing disingenuous. Frankly, I don’t get the cockiness at all. Nor do I see his smile being problematic because he only busts it out during showier numbers. I do not recall him smiling through his solos, or during “Cool.” I do recall him smiling during “My Life Would Suck Without You,” because that number didn’t require seriousness. I believe Brandon will prove Mia wrong and she’ll come to love him. At least, I hope that’s what happens.

Phillip Chbeeb, a 20-year-old popper living in Los Angeles, CA. Other than what we know about his awesomeness, I can tell you that my husband will be throwing votes his way this season because Chbeeb is an engineering physics major at my husband’s alma mater, Loyola Marymount University. Go Lions! (Husband Note: Noooo! You gave away my schooooooool! I was trying to be mysterrrrrrrrrious!)

Jason Glover, a 21-year-old lyrical and contemporary dancer we’ve never seen before from Fresno, CA. We have never seen him before.

Vitolio Jeune, a 26-year-old contemporary dancer originally from Haiti who now resides in Miami, FL. I love his name and his accent, and wonder why I didn’t get to see/hear either of those things until recently. He likes motorcycles and Desmond Richardson, which means I think I’m going to fall in love with him pretty quickly.

Maksim Kapitannikov, a 26-year-old Latin ballroom dancer originally from the motherland of Moscow, now residing in Brooklyn, NY. He has decided to shorten his name to “Max” for the show. We’ve seen a fair amount of him so far, and I can tell you how much Mary Murphy and I love a hot Russian. Maksim is so Russian, in fact, that both of his parents dance and his mother is a ballet teacher. (If you have never studied Eastern Europe, that’s pretty fucking Rus, yo.)

Evan Kasprzak, a 21-year-old Broadway hoofer from West Bloomfield, MI with whom I am already unabashedly in love with. Prepare for 10 weeks of me unapologetically gushing over Evan Kasprzak.

Ade Obayomi, a 20-year-old contemporary dancer living in Orange County, CA. He has a great African name (I think), but we’ve never seen him before. Fox.com tells me he’s danced at Radio City Music Hall.

Jonathan Platero, a 21-year-old salsa dancer currently living in New York City. We’ve never seen him before, but all you need to know is that he danced for Kenny Ortega in High School Musical alongside former SYTYCD dancer Allison Hooker (season 2). (And s3 winner Sabra.)

Aside from the tragedy of splitting up the Brothers Kasprzak, the other notable absence from the Top 20 would be that of Miami ballet dancer Alex Wong, whose contract with the Miami City Ballet was fully-binding and could not be broken to include him in the Top 20. I hope he returns when his contract is up, because he was incredible and SYTYCD could use a strong male ballet dancer at some point.

I wish all of these dancers the best of luck, and hope to get to know those we hadn’t yet met a whole lot better. The Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for the season stands at 2. I can’t wait for the competition to begin so I can keep that number running higher and higher as we board the season 5 Hot Tamale Train.

The Wife:

I adore So You Think You Can Dance. It may have a cumbersome and silly name, usually reduced to SYTYCD, which is even more cumbersome, or, in my home, Dancey Dance, but I’ve yet to find a televised dancing show that better shows us the experience of dancing professionally in a variety of different ways. It shows us all of the beauty and meaning that can be created with the human body with a leap, a twist, a leg extension or the artful flex of a foot. It shows us what it’s like for a dancer to go from audition, to casting, to rehearsal and to review, and what it’s like to see choreography through from concept to rehearsal to staging. (I should note that I find many of these qualities in MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, but not the full spectrum.) Over four seasons of SYTYCD, I have been moved to tears by the artistry in the collaborative efforts of these young dancers and veteran choreographers in ways I never expected. It doesn’t mater if it was the never-to-be-topped Paso Doble by season one’s Artem (who remains my favorite Russian ever to grace the show), Ivan and Allison’s breathtaking contemporary routine set to Annie Lenox’s “Why” from season two, Jesus and Sara’s Wade Robeson-choreographed pop jazz to “Cabaret Hoover” from Les Triplettes de Belleville that stunned me to silence with its inventiveness, or any of my favorites from season four, all of which except Sonya’s brilliant jazz piece to “The Garden” for Mark and Courtney made it into the title sequence for this year: Nikhul’s Bollywood number for the entire group, Tabatha and Napolean Duomo’s breathtaking piece set to “No Air” for Katee and Joshua, their moving, heart-stopping piece for Chelsie and Mark to Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” and Mia Michaels’ visceral piece set to Duffy’s “Mercy” for Katee and Twitch. There are so many other memorable routines from this show that I can’t possibly list them all, but I hope those examples speak to what you’re missing if you do not watch SYTYCD. There is real, glorious inventive theatre happening on your television two nights a week, a collaboration between visionary artists who move my heart with the ways they move the human body and the skillful dancers that inhabit those roles. And you should be experiencing it.

Step right up, ya'll!

Step right up, ya'll!

I’ll be writing about every audition episode, doing my best to keep you abreast of the names and faces you may get to know very well after Vegas Week. Let’s begin in Brooklyn, NY, where Tabatha and Napolean Duomo (who helped cast ABDC two seasons ago) sat in with Nigel and Mary Murphy for auditions:

Gaby Rojas: Not five minutes into this season of Dancey Dance, and they grant my heart’s dearest wish by giving me an honest-to-God carney. One of my deepest desires is to be like this girl and learn circus arts, so I was prepared to be amazed by her flexibility and muscle control – which turned out to be all the more stellar because she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis (which is sad). She was, in a word, astounding. Her isolations were so perfectly befitting a seasoned popper, and yet she could also dance with the grace of a ballerina, the power of a contemporary dancer and the carriage of a ballroom dancer. The judges were equally impressed and gave her a ticket straight to Vegas. If she doesn’t make the Top 20, I will eat my hat. (Which will be hard, as I do not routinely wear hats.)

Hobgoblin and Shadowman-P: These guys are Brooklyn Bonecrushers who don’t really know that the kind of dancing they do is referred to in the street crew community as “bonecrushing.” They do a mix of contortions (bonecrushing) and illusions in their act that would make them right at home on America’s Best Dance Crew. They also sometimes paint their faces “schmean,” a putrid shade of green and act like zombies, going so far as to advance upon the judges table during their audition act. I love that Cat Deeley let them paint her face schmean, and that the judges let them take a turn at that day’s choreography round.

Peter Sabasino: Tappers don’t do well on this show, but this guy is the best we’ve ever seen. He’s got the old school flair of an MGM hoofer from the 30s, combined with some sweet foot action like an 80s Michael Jackson. He also has great arms, and I want to see him beautifully lift girls in ballroom numbers. He goes straight to Vegas.

Tiffany Geigel: She only has three out of seven vertebrae, making her torso very squished together. It is clear that she will not be allowed to advance simply by looking at her, but for someone with her disorder, she actually dances quite well. There’s a real grace in her arms and legs, even though she has trouble extending them fully. Nigel et al give her criticism befitting her body and skill level (that she needs to work on extending her knees and arms fully), and praise her for having the courage to audition and show that she can, in fact, dance despite her appearance. It’s a no, but she still gets a standing O and that’s very nice. I’m sure there’s a dance troupe for the disabled that would love to have her with them. She’s just so spirited that you can’t help but wish her well.

Maksim Kapitanikov: He auditions with the help of former SYTYCD contestant Faina doing a samba. The judges think he partners exceptionally well, although it was hard to take their eyes off Faina. I think he has great footwork. He goes on to the choreography round.

Nobuya Nagahana: He’s apparently so Japanese that the producers feel the need to capture with supertitles all of the dance styles he talks about in his interview package. He’s very cute and very energetic in his audition, but I really don’t think he’s quite right for the show. The judges, however, see something I don’t and send him to choreography. Maybe I’d have liked him more if he were dancing with a crew?

Arielle Taylor: She auditioned in season three and got cut during Vegas week. I don’t remember her, but her audition this time is graceful and lovely. She gets a ticket straight to Vegas.

Thomas Martin and Amanda Clark: They claim they’re doing the Bolero, a dance we’ve not seen on SYTYCD before, but it is beyond clumsy and awkward and probably not what a Bolero should look like at all. They get a no.

Igor Zabrodin and Nina Estrina: I saw Nina’s yellow skirt flair in an amazing knee-spin during the previews, and I immediately wanted her to go straight to Vegas. It turns out that what I thought was a knee-spin is actually performed on the ball of her foot and she spots amazingly during this 30-second potstirrer. I love them. The judges send them through to choreography.

Kellen Stancil: When he appeared onstage with that umbrella, I thought the worst, but Kellen actually managed to turn in an artful, meaningful audition that was chilling and incredibly well-executed. Dancing with props is hard, and he sold me when he opened the umbrella at the end of the piece without a hitch. After telling a story about how that dance was for his recently deceased aunt, he gets a ticket straight to Vegas.

Chimezie Nwosa: He performed a dope hip hop routine, but didn’t successfully land either of his flips. The judges send him through to choreography.

At the end of the choreography round for day one, Hobgoblin and Shadowman-P quit (I know a crew you guys can join! They’re called Ringmasters and they’re in Brooklyn!), and Maksim and Nobuya earn tickets to Vegas. For day two, Igor got a ticket to Vegas, but not Nina, which I think is a fucking outrage. How do you not send someone who spots like that to Vegas? They also send Chimezie to Vegas, although I have no idea why as he completely overdid the choreography that was given to him. At the end of the New York auditions, I caught that 14 people earned tickets to Vegas on day two. I have no idea how many got Vegas tickets on day one. I have failed you all. I can tell you, however, that the Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for NYC auditions was 1, for Gaby Rojas. (Igor and Nina got an unofficial one, so I’m not counting it.)

Next up, Denver auditions in the Colorado Convention Center, which has ugly theatre seats, but a breathtaking stage. Choreographer Sonya (wearing a cute Betsey Johnson sweater) joins Nigel and Mary for judging.

Kayla Radomski: My husband immediately decided that her nickname should be “Radonkulous,” so if she makes the Top 20, that’s what we shall call her. And she might just! Her dance was brilliant, she moved between sharp isolations and unconventional hand movements that made me think she was a velociraptor to stunning extensions, leaps and lines. She is a sexy, sexy velociraptor. And I love her. She gets a ticket straight to Vegas, and her father cries because he’s so proud of her. Now I love her even more.

Misha Belfer and Mitchel K . . . something: A big deal was made about these two dudes dancing the samba together in very homoerotic costumes, rightfully summed up by Nigel as reminding him of Blades of Glory. Both were good dancers, and Sonya and I appreciated that they both integrated the traditional male and female roles into the roles for each partner because it creates an interesting take on gender identity in the dance world. However, not having someone dance the male role and the female role confused the hell out of Mary, who probably knows more gay men than I do, and yet somehow is so traditional. They go through to the choreography round, perhaps because they fell during the routine and semi-successfully played it off like they meant it to happen.

Allison Moist: She dressed like a lion and danced with lightsabers. I usually wouldn’t spend time on the disillusioned here, but there was something kind of brilliant in her inability to discern that she wasn’t very good and subsequent inability to express why she chose to perform that audition in that costume with those props. I like that Nigel tried to steer her toward being a makeup artist, though. That’s called corrective cuddling, the human equivalent of squeezing a cat that’s done something bad so hard that they’re slightly uncomfortable and mew. She got a no, and was followed by a sequence of bad auditions, the most notable of which featured a girl who could have been a dead ringer for Jennifer Love Hewitt dancing with a ventriloquist dummy.

Elias Holloway: He auditioned with the help of his 16-year-old brother, Enoch. They are the youngest of 14 children who are either dancers or swimmers. With that many children, I would have expected to hear that they all run a farm or something. Anyway, Elias is into popping and locking, and he and his brother perform a routine to some Daft Punk-ish techno that’s pretty good. It earns him a chance at choreography.

Natalie Reid: This was the girl who almost made it to the Top 20 last year instead of her roommate, Katee. I’m so happy Natalie came back because she is even better this year than I remember her. She is so good she brings Sonya to tears and earns a ticket straight to Vegas! I sincerely hope she makes the Top 20 this year because she’s brilliant. Surely they won’t deny her the chance this time.

Brandon Bryant: This guy was another favorite of mine last year, who moves in ways I didn’t think humanly possible. He was beat out for a spot in the Top 20 by Gev. I remembered him when I saw the ankh tattooed on his thigh, and every reason I loved him last year came flooding back in his audition. It was primal and graceful, muscular and liquid all at once. He moves Mary to tears and earns his ticket straight to Vegas. I would love to see him in the Top 20 this year.

After the choreography rounds, Mitch and Mischa are given nos, along with Elias. All in all, 19 people are Vegas-bound from Denver. The season is promising so far! Looking forward to Miami and Memphis auditions next week!