The Wife:

Another two weeks of SYTYCD auditions, and here are our notable dancers out of Boston, Atlanta and the Big Easy:

Please give this woman an Emmy. Please?

Please give this woman an Emmy. Please?

Teddy Tedhome: He wore plaid pants, and that makes him both funky and awesome. He goes straight to Vegas.

Jean Llauret: He is a good breaker, but I feel like he is stronger than he is interesting in either movement or personality. Still, we’ll see him in Vegas.

Kimara Wood: I would totally cast this long-dreaded dude in a Cajun Country Blues version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Oberon. Believe me, I’ve seen such a production of Midsummer and he is exactly what their Oberon looked like. He goes to Vegas.

Channing Cooke: She is Kherington 2.0, which means Nigel likes her because she is pretty and blonde. She makes it to the choreo round.

Super Tall Ryan Casey: He’s a good tapper, if ungainly due to his height. Though he doesn’t make it to Vegas, I suspect he is somehow related to Conan O’Brien.

Russell Ferguson: Unfortunately, his excellent krump audition was ruined by the producers inserting shots of Tyce DiOrio grooving for no fucking reason. I DO NOT CARE ABOUT TYCE!

Karen and Matthew Haver: If these two dance like this together, what must their marriage bed be like? They both go to Vegas to burn the sheets there. Once again, I had to ask myself why Cat Deeley and the producers are rewriting SYTYCD history. They claimed that Karen and Matthew were the first married couple to make it to Vegas together, but that’s not true! Artem and his wife both made it to Vegas in season one. Artem made the show, his wife didn’t.

K-Bez: His performance was good, but not great, and made me officially announce that I am over any and all Black Eyed Peas summer dance hits. Somehow, he still goes to Vegas.

Gene Burstin: He is a very sexy Russian with a very unsexy name and goes to Vegas.

Billy Bell: He reminds me of Billy Elliot, so we shall call this sprightly male ballet poof Billy Belliot for the duration of his time on the show. (It works on two levels, you see, because the actor who played Billy Elliot is called Jamie Bell.) Billy Belliot here is amazing, and he goes straight to Vegas.

Amber Jackson: I am pretty sure Nigel just threatened violence upon this girl because he liked her dancing, but didn’t think her performance was engaging. I mean, on the one hand, I agree about engaging your audience, especially at an audition, but sometimes, you’re just not dancing that kind of dance, you know?

Victor Smalley: He isn’t Hawaiian, as far as I can tell, but dances like a combination of Mark and Kupono. Good times.

Jessica Jensen: How many times have I begged my readers to get skin checks? Please do, because you do not want to have a sarcoma in your hand and end up like this girl. Although, if you do have to lose a hand, please be like this girl. Jessica here was a good dancer, but not a great one, and I’m glad that the judges didn’t get her a free pass to Vegas simply because of her missing hand. She does, however, have personality for days. I loved her joke about gnawing off her fingers with nervousness, and the shot of her walking out of the theatre with her boyfriend, where he tenderly held the nub where her hand used to be. She’s kind of my hero.

Thomas Hamilton: The world’s most graceful crackbaby gets a ticket to Vegas.

Shelby “Skip” Skipper: One of the most energetic hip-hoppers we’ve seen so far in auditions. Mary was either amazed, or on drugs, or both by the sound of her praise of his work.

Jonathan Litzler: He’s an acrobat, and you know what I don’t need? Another Neil Haskell. I can’t deny his talent (he’s better than Neil), I just think his tumbling overshadowed his dancing. Well, that and the fact that he only wears one sock or shoe while dancing. What’s up with that?

Allison Nance: Her stand-out moment was when she made a pinwheel with her legs over her torso, and yet somehow remained stationary through her core. I do not understand how one achieves such a thing.

Edward Spots: Should be cast in The Lion King. Right now.

Justin Kenny: He is probably the most lithe breakers we’ve ever seen. Some of his moves are a little awkward, but when it works, it’s stellar.

Kimalee Piadad: I have never heard of competition theatre arts dancing, but I assume that’s what you have to call competitive partner dancing that isn’t in a defined ballroom style. She and her partner were really great, achieving lifts I’ve really only seen people do on ice skates and not half so well. Kimalee goes straight to Vegas.

Diana Drexler: She performed a very moving lyrical piece, and it was all the more moving to her after losing her grandfather passed away just before her audition. I’m sorry she didn’t want to be “that girl” (with the story, the package of tragedy), because the producers clearly wanted her to be.

Stray thoughts:

  • I liked watching Cat learn how to do the Stanky Legg. I know how to do that from America’s Best Dance Crew!
  • Even more than this, I enjoyed watching Cat learn the New Orleans bounce.
  • “My salsa looked more like some guacamole.” — Boogie Links, who was having way more fun hitting on girls than he was dancing.
  • Where are the mind-blowing hip-hoppers this season? I haven’t seen nearly as many as I should be seeing.
  • And I missed the girl who fell down and showed her lady bits. Why would you even go to a dance competition without underwear on in the first place? Wouldn’t we have seen all that during her piece, which I’m sure was filled with leg extensions and leaps?

The Husband:

The producers claim that it wasn’t her lady bits, but “a crease in her panties,” which is one of the best press release phrases in quite some time.

Quick hint: it wasn’t “a crease in her panties.” Panties don’t have a furry front patch. At least no panties I know.

And Thomas Hamilton reminded me that I wanted to play this clip. Not that I don’t like him, but even if he makes it into the Top 20 and then starts sucking (neither of which I can foresee, because I’m not a soothsayer), I will have probably forgotten by then that I would want to use this clip when he is kicked off. So here I preemptively give him shit and expose my bad taste, if me talking about furry panties didn’t already tip you off.

The Wife:

Hi there, SYTYCD fans! I’m sure you wondered where I was last week, but I thought I’d wait until we had two audition cities to discuss before I posted about SYTYCD, just so we’d have more to talk about. I think it actually worked out for the better this way, because now I can start by pointing out SYTYCDers I spotted during the VMAs:

Tyce DiOrio was all up in Miss Jackson’s bidnass during the MJ tribute of “Scream.”

If you looked really closely behind the bleeding carcass of Lady Gaga, you would have noticed featured dancer Mark Kanemura being totally fucking awesome.

That means employment! These people don’t just fade into obscurity like non-signed Idol cast-offs! They actually get paid to dance!

I can also announce with sadness that every SYTYCD choreographer nominated for an Emmy this year lost to the “Musicals Are Back” segment from the Oscars. It’s kind of a bummer, but at least they didn’t lose to DWTS.

God, I hope I get it!

God, I hope I get it!

As for the fall season’s auditions, things started off in L.A. At least for L.A. and Phoenix, former contestants Anya Garnis and Pasha Kovalev put the dancers through the choreography round. Adam Shankman, who will be a permanent judge for the remainder of this season, assisted on the panel in L.A., while Mia Michaels joined in Phoenix.

Dancers of note:

Mollie Grey: She was a principal dancer in HSM 1-3 and moved out to L.A. with nothing because she’d outgrown her dance opportunities in Utah. Nigel likes her because she’s young and blonde and she gets a ticket to Vegas.

Bianca Revels and Ryan Kasprzak: Both tappers cut from the Top 20 return and have a wicked awesome tap battle. For some reason, the judges and Cat keep saying things like, “We’ve never had a tapper make it to the Top 20,” but this is a lie. In the first season, which I guess technically only had a Top 16, Sandra Colton was the first to be eliminated from the competition. She was, in fact, a tapper. She danced her way off the stage to Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.” Nonetheless, Bianca and Ryan traded taps and earned themselves two tickets to Vegas. Their battle was delightful, but Ryan’s performance art solo was even more so. I love that kid. I need him in the Top 20.

Amber Williams: Her mother is paralyzed, which is terrible but creates a nice juxtaposition for the grace with which her daughter dances. She earns a ticket to Vegas.

Alexie Agdeppa and Paula Van Outen (Oopen?): Both girls made it to Vegas last year, and then make it to Vegas again.

Christina the Salsa Dancer: Her popping section was rough, but her salsa sections were stellar. She gets a ticket to Vegas.

Phillip Attmore: Another tapper, Phillip toured with Ryan Kasprzak in a production of Fosse. I now know that Ryan has a happy face tattoo on his butt. I also know that Phillip is one smoove operator on the dance floor. Seriously, he’s great. His solo included more than just tap, so we know he can do things outside of his own style. Because of that, and his amazing pirouette, he earns a ticket to Vegas. Screw Bianca, I need Ryan and Phillip in the top.

Sasha Mallory: I really loved her audition piece because it was an entire performance with a through-line. She cries a lot, and the judges give her a ticket to Vegas.

Allison Becker: Allison is deaf from a bought of spinal meningitis when she was 16 months old. I don’t like her audition all that much, but its clear she has a lot of strength and muscle control, so the judges praise her for overcoming her deafness, dancing well and send her to choreo. She proves her mettle and winds up going to Vegas. I’d also like to note that, as far as a personality is concerned, I love that she’s cheeky and immediately said, “I’d be great,” when the judges asked how she’d be at choreography. And, as a linguist, I am very impressed at her speech abilities, having gone deaf so young. (I’m sure the hearing aid she wears helps.)

Same Sex Ballroom returns with national Same Sex Latin Ballroom champions Willem Des Vries and Jacob Jason. These guys are great, and the piece they choreographed is very strong and unmistakably masculine. Most importantly, by not compromising the masculinity of either dancer, they accurately displayed the passion between two male lovers the way traditional Latin dance displays the passion between opposite sex lovers. They get sent to choreo, and then go straight to Vegas.

Jonathan “Legacy” Perez: This breaker got mad skills, and, from the look of some of his moves, I bet he also does parkour. Nigel notes that he assisted Lauren Gottleib (who was part of Vocal Adrenaline on last night’s Glee) in the choreography rounds of last year’s auditions. They hem and haw for a bit, but ultimately realize he’s awesome and send him to Vegas.

Other people and stray thoughts:

  • Cole Clemmens’ totally terrible performance art audition actually made my night. In another context, I still think it would have been bad, but it was nonetheless enjoyable.
  • What’s with the reuse of the season 1 credits sequence? Where are my season 5 performance clips, damnit?
  • I love that Cat is the kind of woman who is incredible beautiful, but has no problem acting like a fool. The fact that she put on a tutu and danced with a ballerina in line was totally awesome.
  • It was very generous of the judges to let Biggie and Shortie go through to choreo in Phoenix. And by “very generous,” I mean they should have just thanked them for being entertaining and told them they weren’t right for the show before forcing them to do something they obviously couldn’t do.
  • Highly energetic Jarvis Johnson needs to become a go-go dancer at a gay club so he can just dance dance dance dance dance all night. He overdoes it in the choreo round, though, and collapses in an asthma attack. The good news is that he improves quickly, but he has to leave the competition, and that’s probably for the best.
  • Why doesn’t Cat have an Emmy for best host? When Jarvis collapsed, she rushed to his side and helped the paramedics. I know Phil Koeghan would do that, but I doubt that Jeff Probst would!
  • I was much more interested in Kelsey White’s jazz shoes than in her dancing. It is probably for the best that she didn’t make it to Vegas.

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 am so glad auditions are over because the Vegas callbacks on So You Think You Can Dance are where the real magic begins. 172 dancers were brought to Vegas, and by the end of this episode, only 32 remain in the competition. Tonight, six boys and six girls will be cut, leaving us with our Top 20. This episode was rather surprising and rather brutal as I watched a few of my early favorites falter and get cut, a couple of whom were so loved by the judges that I just can’t believe they got cut at all. But that’s the difference between SYTYCD and American Idol: here, the producers’ intentions for packaging and selling a contestant mean fuck nothing if they don’t impress Mia Michaels during Vegas week. I love the bitch, but she was fucking ruthless in Vegas. To wit:

“You know me. I’m a cutter. And I will cut you.”

That coupled with her comment to the “beautiful, disastrous weirdo” last week make her my favorite person on reality television at this very moment. But great Mia Michaels moments aside, I can’t tell you how much it hurts to see great dancers get cut on this show. The Vegas callbacks are, in some ways, very much like watching a real life version of A Chorus Line, only here there are no weird songs about dancing with Indian chiefs and the entire cast of 172 that begins the show won’t be around to dance the final production number. We get to know these dancers through their movements and the producer packages, we latch on to their hopes and dreams and when those dreams are dashed? Well, that hurts quite a bit.

Vegas Week began with the contestants performing solos before the panel of Nigel, Mary Murphy, Mia Michaels, Lil C, Adam Shankman and the legendary Debbie Allen. We got to see two solos from people we hadn’t yet seen in earlier episodes: a beautiful ballet piece from Miami ballet dancer Alex Wong and a comedic hip-hop routine from the ill-named Tony Bellissimo. I adored Alex Wong and immediately was angry that we’re only getting to know him now, but Tony Bellissimo? I don’t get it. Sure, his performance was funny and cute (he put pictures of Nigel inside his props and danced to “Somebody’s Watching Me”), but I just didn’t see much dancing or technique in it. I thought: really? This late in the game you’re going to do something clever that isn’t backed by hardcore technique? Even Ryan Kasprzak knew better than that, tapping his ass off and accentuating the sounds with that whoopee cushion like Gene Kelly did with a newspaper and a squeaky floorboard in Summer Stock.

Nigel then announced after a solos montage (in which we briefly saw Megan Kinney one again) that some people would be cut after their solos, pointing out that while they were strong in their audition cities, they were not quite so when culled together with 172 of the best dancers in the country. Among the 45 cut were Chimezie Nwosa, Travis Prokop (he of the football coach father) and widow Talia Rikards, which pleased me only because I now never have to hear Cat Deeley say the phrase “widow Talia Rikards” again and I feel justified in noting that Chimezie didn’t land either of his flips properly in his audition.

TabNap in yo face.

TabNap in yo' face.

After those cuts, the dancers were asked to perform a hip hop routine with Tabitha and Napolean Duomo and here I witnessed my first major disappointment of the night: my beloved carney Gaby Rojas has absolutely no sense of musicality. She got woefully lost during this performance and couldn’t hit a single step on time. Fortunately for me, the judges gave her a free pass on the strength of the solo she’d performed earlier and she was allowed to continue on. 37 dancers were cut after the hip hop round, and I have to admit I found it very strange that the montage of cut dancers from this round included only African-American dancers. Was FOX trying to make a point? If so, what?

The 97 dancers who made it through the hip hop round where then asked to try their hand at ballroom, dancing a waltz with Jean-Marc Généreux and his wife, France. I got another bit of vindication during this round when a limber-limbed Phillip Chbeeb was sent through, but his far less talented partner Arielle got cut. Some featured dancers who got through this round include samba dancer Maksim Kapitanikov, Auska, Ricky Sun, Kayla Radomkulous and Priscilla Marrero. Nobuya Nagahana gets sent through, too, although I do not understand why. Maybe my issue with him is that his height makes his center look wrong, but Mary seemed to go gaga over his arm extensions, so what do I know. Maybe they were distracting enough to take away from the fact that he didn’t create good lines anywhere else. 16 dancers (including Arielle Coker) were cut from the ballroom round.

Next up, the remaining dancers were put through jazz with Sonya, and many of them injured or maimed themselves or others during the rehearsals for this piece. One fellow kicked himself in the face, noting to camera whilst holding an icepack to his temple, “This is what happens when you get kicked in the head by yourself.” Noted, sir. Noted. Because of the number of dancers that struggled with her piece, Sonya asked Natalie Reid and Brandon Bryant to perform it one last time so that everyone in the class could see what it should look like. “Hooray!,” I thought. “Brandon and Natalie are doing so well! ” But then Natalie performed, and she wasn’t as good as she was in rehearsal and a terrible, terrible thing occurred: the girl who should have had Katee’s spot last year, the girl who made Sonya cry in Denver . . . got cut. I don’t understand exactly why or how this happened, especially when people like Tony Bellissimo and Nobuya Nagahana get through. Sure, Natalie didn’t kill that piece like she killed it in rehearsal, but if they gave Gaby Rojas a chance, why not Natalie? I was shocked and deeply saddened, and so was Brandon Bryant, who lost his best friend in the competition when Natalie got cut. I told you kids this shit was brutal.

In fact, Natalie’s departure only got more brutal when Gaby Rojas again completely failed to follow the music in any way, shape or form during her turn at Sonya’s piece. The judges asked her to dance for her life, and she whipped out an amazing solo (set to a great song about the blackness of her skin and the strength of her back, etc. etc.), earning six yeses and the chance to continue on. Natalie didn’t mess up nearly as badly as Gaby did, so for Gaby to get two chances and Natalie to get none seems slightly unfair. What I gleaned from seeing the respective failures of both of these dancers is this: Natalie might lack a little stamina, but at least she can actually learn choreography quickly. Gaby had no issues following the music during her solos, which proved to me that her issue wasn’t so much musicality as it was with muscle memory. She simply can’t learn routines in a single day. It doesn’t make her a bad dancer, it just makes her totally wrong for a show in which you basically have 2-3 days to perfect a routine. If you can’t pick up choreography quickly, you can’t be on SYTYCD. I love Gaby deeply because I desire to do what she does in the realm of circus arts, but after watching her fail, I’d rather Natalie have been given her chances.

Even Brandon Bryant got beat up on during this round. For some reason, Mia Michaels just doesn’t see how amazing he is and makes a point to tell him that she’s disappointed that he isn’t living up to his reputation. But, despite Mia’s protestations, he continues on, which is good, because I don’t know if I could have handled losing Brandon Bryant again. Eight dancers, including popper Sammy Ramirez, were cut during this round, leaving 73 contestants to fight on through the next day . . . but first . . .

Just when they’d hoped the day was over and they’d get to rest, Cat Deeley corralled all the dancers on stage and told them that they’d be put into groups and asked to choreograph a piece to a randomly drawn CD. Their dance would be performed for the judges the next morning, meaning they’d have to work through the night to get it right. While I definitely see the value in asking dancers to try their hand at choreography, I’m not entirely sure I see the value in forcing them to stay up all night to do it (same regarding the “group vocal arrangements done overnight” during Hollywood Week on Idol), other than that sleep deprivation makes good television. I just can’t imagine a situation in which staying up all night to work on something you’re going to have to do the next day actually produces good work. But that said, I like watching people attempt to choreograph for two reasons: it shows you how well the dancers work with other dancers, which indicates how well they partner and collaborate, and it also demonstrates how well a dancer can recognize the strengths and weaknesses of those he or she is working with, as well as their own, and incorporate those into a performance.

But not everyone is good at choreography, or working with others, as the first group to perform on Day 2 proved. Tapper Eric “Silky” Moore’s group just didn’t get along, with Silky himself doing the majority of the refusal to listen and collaborate, and they decided to call it a night and sleep rather than working through to make their dance not suck. I really don’t know if a few extra hours would have been much of an improvement, but, man, their piece really, really sucked. From a visual standpoint, it just didn’t make any sense. There were no formations, no repetitions and no one ever danced in unison. After being panned by the judges, cute shorthaired mystery girl Paula Van Houten cried and said she should have stepped up and been a good leader and forced her group to keep working rather than going to bed, and the judges let her continue on based on the strength of her dancing during that shitacular routine, as did some mysterious ballroom dancer we’ve never seen before but showed up in virtually every shot in this episode. Androgynous Megan something-or-other got cut, as did some other poor girl, while Silky himself was told to stick around and dance for his life at the end of the day where he would, mercifully for me, get cut.

The morning continued on with a montage of groups that failed the choreography challenge, until Branden Bryant’s group came along and produced an Alvin Ailey-esque routine to “My Life Would Suck Without You” in which the dancers started to move as a connected circle, broke apart, came back together and ultimately ended up as two pairs (Branden and some chick, and two chicks together), rejecting the other male dancer in the group. I was so refreshed that someone actually managed to tell a story and choreograph well, and so were all of the judges except Mia, who delivered the line I quoted above about cutting in Branden’s direction. Everyone in Branden’s group goes through, and the remainder of the performances we’re shown are well-choreographed and good, especially Ryan Kasprzak’s group, who dress up as nerds and call themselves Nerdography, which Ryan describes as the precise moment in which a nerd both gets up the nerve to talk to a hot chick and hears a great song. Could I be any more in love with the Brothers Kasprzak? I think not. His routine was funny, cute and brilliantly choreographed – a mix of Dan Karaty and Shane Sparks at his silliest. (See Travis and Benji’s final two routine from season two. Tranji comin’ atcha below!)

The dancers who passed the choreography challenge were then put through one of the most brutal tests a dancer can endure: a contemporary routine by Mia Michaels. The dancers had no problem telling us how difficult Mia’s work is, as though fans of the show were not already aware. That Tony Bellissimo fellow I’m not fond of was asked to perform Mia’s choreography again, as he was not quite in time with the music, but probably hit the moves better than many others in his group did, which was pretty surprising. Amanda Kirby Whose Dad Has MS got cut, as did Nobuya Nagahana. Megan Kinney got through, but her sister Caitlin had a lot of trouble with Mia’s choreography and was asked to dance for her life, after which she received enough votes to go through. Former Miss Washington Paris Torres, the token Latino kid whose name I don’t know, Phillip Chbeeb and that Tony Bellissimo fellow also got through.

With all the emphasis on the Kasprzak brothers and the Kinney sisters, as well as the other sets of siblings during auditions, it became pretty clear to me that SYTYCD was going to have a set of siblings competing against one another in the Top 20. The Brothers Kasprzak seem to be aware of this, too, and the producers put together an adorable little package of them discussing the epic battle that could be between them, laid over a sweet ska track (because I guess Ryan’s sweater vest and driver’s cap equal ska? Whatever, he is having a good time). Both Brothers Kasprzak did Mia’s choreography beautifully, and I shared no more a joyous and exciting moment all night when Mia asked Evan to move on in the competition by doing a round of flea hops across and off the stage. Flea hop! Flea hop! Flea hop! HE IS SO GODDAMNED ADORABLE!

By the end of the Mia Michaels round, there were 54 dancers remaining, and they returned the next morning to perform a Tyce Diorio Broadway routine. For the first time, the dancers were split into groups by gender to perform two separate pieces from West Side Story. The ladies, clearly, performed “America,” while the gentlemen were asked to perform “Cool.” I can’t fault Tyce for his work on these, because he was basically doing justice to the original Robbins choreography (and, really, that’s just kind of how you do West Side Story – it’s wrong to do it any other way). I also have to give Tyce props for asserting that something is very wrong with you if you’re a dancer and you don’t know West Side Story and Jerome Robbins. That’s like being a model and not knowing who Twiggy is. (Looking at you, Salome!) We saw a number of girls get cut during the West Side Story number, including Bianca Revels the “best female tapper,” who needs to realize that when she was told she was the “best female tapper,” it meant that the male tappers were much better than she was. Also cut were Megan Kinney, Priscilla Morerro and, not-so-sadly, carney Gaby Rojas. I had pretty high expectations for professional/semi-professional dancers to be able to accurately do the Jerome Robbins choreography for West Side Story because I know for a fact that the current Anita on Broadway, In the Heights‘ Karen Olivo, is not a dancer, and she worked her fucking culo off to be able to do that choreography and do it well enough to be nominated for a fucking Tony award. (You go, Karen! I’m rooting for you this Sunday, even though you’ll probably lose to Haydn Gwynne for Billy Elliot.) If Karen Olivo can do that choreography (and you can check her out below), a professional dancer should be able to.

After the boys did their performance of “Cool” in which Branden Bryant and the Kasprzak brothers totally shined, 16 boys and 16 girls remained to take the long walk onto that stage tomorrow night. All I can say is that I better have Branden Bryant and both Kasprzaks in the Top 20, and I will power vote my little heart out for the three of them as long as they remain in the competition.

The Husband:

I hate to say this, but Natalie was cut because she wasn’t as hot as many of the other female dancers. Nigel really likes to fill the show with female dancers who are both great performers and are ridiculously hot. (Who you define as hot in previous seasons is, of course, entirely subjective, but I know that each of you male viewers has a good half-dozen in your head right now, contestants who, if you saw them on the street, you’d drop your Frappucino and run to them just to get a better look and maybe, just maybe, ask them out for yoga followed by a light lunch.) Nigel’s insistence as the show’s creator and executive producer is, of course, pretty much just the way Hollywood is, and sometimes we lose an even better dancer just because she’s not model hot. And, as Nigel declared before this season started that the Top 10 “girls” this season were the most beautiful the show has had, I unfortunately knew that Natalie was a goner. (Don’t worry – the principle is the same for male dancers, but far less so.)

And as a major fan of West Side Story, I can tell you (if I hadn’t already) that in my first post-high-school-graduate summer, I was in CCCT’s production of West Side Story, and those 16 performances over the July and August weekends before moving onto college was probably the most exhilarating experience of my life. But no, we didn’t really stick to Robbins’ choreography (it was, after all, a community theatre production), but I am also glad that our version of “Cool” wasn’t even close to as difficult as what Tyce prepared. Rough stuff, I tells ya.