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.

Advertisements

The Wife:

While we watched Chris Hardwick on Web Soup to kill 30 minutes prior to the glorious, glittery dance fest that is SYTYCD, I sat squirming on the couch, making the kinds of noises the Marlowe cat makes when he meets another cat he doesn’t like (or, more recently, makes at our other cat, Calliope, when she doesn’t have her collar on because, apparently, he can’t recognize who she is without it). Marlowe makes this lengthened, low, whining growl, which I’ve interpreted as his sign of extreme anxiety – I thought it was appropriate to make a similar sound in anticipation of So You Think You Can Dance. And all that pre-show tension (momentarily alleviated when Hardwick showed a “palate cleanser” segment which featured furry rodents nomming noms to an adorably, annoyingly catchy nomming song that I will now sing ALL THE TIME) was totally worthwhile because this first competition episode of the season already shone with moments of true brilliance. The wonderful things were truly wonderful, and even the bad things weren’t atrocious. Overall, it was a great way to start the season.

Before I talk about the dancing, though, I’d like to note that I think Mary was on something last night that might throw my scream count out of whack. I counted a total of 6 scream-like entities, but four of them were more like extended woos, so I’m not sure if I should include them in the Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for the season. I mean, the woman admitted to Botoxing the hell out of her forehead on national television last night – which on the one hand I applaud in terms of her honesty, but on the other hand I think might be the best indicator that her new happy pills are working a little too well. (Not the Botox, but the admission of its use.) I’ll not where the screams/woos occurred in my discussion of each performance – let me know in the comments if you think I should count the woos in the Official Mary Murphy Scream Count, but for now, I’m only going to count full-fledged, ouch-my-ears-are-hurting screams. (Husband Note: As you should. A woo is not a scream. Thousands of TRL teenagers could tell you that.)

I also feel the need to express my love for “occasional swing dancer” Adam Shankman, and not just because he gave us an update on the fate of Step Up 3D, but because he and I had apparently participated in a Vulcan mind meld at some point as my comments about the dances were more often than not the exact same as his. I’d say I had them first because I said them out loud while the dances were happening, but I know that honor technically belongs to him because the performances were filmed hours before the episode was even shown. Either way, Shankers and I shared some headspace last night, and it was pretty uncanny.

As far as the dancing is concerned, rather than list them in order, I’m going to separate the performances into various categories of greatness: Brilliant, Good to Very Good, Mediocre, Problematic and, just for tonight, a special category for a special dance. I will include pieces under those subheads in my order of preference.

The Brilliant

Kayla and Max (Samba)
Choreography by Louis Van Amstrel
Music: “Jum Bah Day” by House of Gypsies

It is absolutely unbelievable that Kayla “Radomkulous” Radomsky has never danced ballroom before because she was fantastic. This couple closed the show, and it was pretty clear to me by the strength of the Official Mary Murphy Scream they received that they were the pinnacle of the evening. Barely three seconds into the dance, I wrote, “If this doesn’t get on the Hot Tamale Train, I don’t know what will.” It was hot, spicy, passionate and danced beautifully by both partners. Max’s footwork and carriage were very, very impressive and he partnered Kayla effortlessly. She was a joy to watch in that pink fringed dress, which easily trumped Randi’s blue dress for my Outfit of the Night prize. And for the record, can we all agree that the best part of the choreography in this number was when Kayla freakin’ mounted Max and grinded down on his sexy Russian junk? I’m pretty damn sure that was the best thing I’ve ever seen. My other notes for this piece, before universal judges’ praise and Mary screaming her head off basically go like this: “YEAHHHHHHHHH! HAWTT SHIZZ! SHE FUCKING RODE HIS NADS, YO! RADOMKULOUS!” It’s appropriate that Kayla and Max closed the show with this hot samba, because it was a motherfucking SHOWSTOPPER.

SHOWSTOPPAZ!

SHOWSTOPPAZ!

Randi and Evan (Jazz)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Music: “I Only Have Eyes for You” by Jaime Cullum

You all know I am a Tyce complainer, but I only complain about his lesser works because pieces like this show me how absolutely great he can be. Believe me, I will get angry later about his Broadway routine, which was a total fucking disappointment, but this jazz number, like many of his past Jazz numbers (an African one for Pasha and Jessie that was so vivacious, and “Why” for Ivan and Allison in season 2 stick out) was utterly breathtaking and beautiful. I actually got a little misty about how well I could believe the passion between lovers Randi and Evan (and enjoyed the rehearsal package in which Evan said he was worried Randi’s husband might kill him if he got too into character with the married lover of unitards). And how fucking cute was Cat riffing on the prospect of Randi’s man coming from the audience to maim Evan, as well as pretending like she wasn’t a bajillion feet taller than the show’s most “vertically challenged” couple? She’s the best fucking host on television, as none of the corny stuff she pulls ever comes off as anything less than authentic, bubbly and cute as all get out. Randi’s blue dress in this piece was easily my second favorite of the night, and I apparently share part of my brain with Nigel because he also noted how much more beautiful she is when her “Pob” (that’s the Posh Spice bob, for those who have not worn it, as I did for about a year) is curly. I would never be angry with Tyce if he always choreographed this spectacularly for dancers who can dance this beautifully. I think Nigel is totally correct in his assertion that this piece will make Randi and Evan a memorable couple for whom people will pick up the phone. I know I will. (This got an extended woo from Mary, which should have been a full on scream.)

Jeanine and Phillip (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by Tabitha and Napoleon Duomo
Music: “Mad” by Ne-Yo

This was the first piece of the night and, just like last season, TabNap started us off with soulful, slow hip-hop that was a brilliant piece of storytelling. While I miss Shane Sparks a great deal and his particular, hard-hitting brand of hip-hop, I love anything Tabitha and Napoleon choreograph that is, in some small way, inspired by their marriage. Last year, they graced us with two genius pieces, “No Air” for Katee and Josh and “Bleeding Love” for Chelsie and Mark, that will forever flicker in my mind. The Duomos best work comes from their hearts and enacted in the bodies of these dancers, and “Mad” was no exception. They interpreted the lyric in their short piece about why couples shouldn’t go to bed angry, and Jeanine and Phillip executed the rise and fall of this dance very, very well. It was pretty clear to me that Phillip was much better at this than Jeanine, but she did keep up, and for that I commend her. It’s hard to dance with a man whose bones are rubber. This piece was universally loved by the “jidges,” and I think I teared up a little bit at the end of the piece where, after the couple has their fight, they lay back down in bed and Phillip spoons Jeanine with his arm draped over her. Cat Deeley referred to that as “schnoogeying,” which just made it all the more adorable. (Another extended woo from Mary Murphy that should have been a scream.)

The Bizarrely Brilliant Wade Robeson Piece

100% Wade Robeson. 100% Bananas.

100% Wade Robeson. 100% Bananas.

Ashley and Kupono (Jazz)
Choreography by the Bizarrely Brilliant Wade Robeson
Song: “Felt Mountain” by Goldfrapp

I am never unamazed when I see Wade’s choreography. He is always such a unique and strange storyteller, and those are probably the best two words I could use to describe this piece. He created a non-jazz-handed jazz number about two crash test dummies, exploring the idea of “living life like you’ve never been hurt.” Kupono played a broken and used crash test dummy, while Ashley played one that was younger and newer. She described keeping her fingers closed as dancing with “jazz blades,” which was pretty awesome – almost as awesome as the piece itself. The movements were simultaneously jerky and cold, but so fluid that they couldn’t be considered robotic at all. Kupono had a moment during this piece where he held his arms together in an acute angle and then proceeded to perform a very fluid shimmy from his head to his tailbone, like he was both breaking down and coming to life again, which struck me as a movement similar to those Matthew Bourne used to create his Edward Scissorhands ballet. Prior to that movement, though, he reminded me a bit of what Sheldon Cooper would be like were he a crash test dummy. This piece was fucking bananas, but I loved it. Like, I would pay to see a whole show with those characters, that’s how good it was. Freaky. Scary. Awesome. Totally Wade Robeson. My only critique is that I wish Ashley hadn’t smiled quite so much – I understand that her character needed to smile, but it was the manner in which she did it rather than the act itself.

The Good to Very Good

Caitlin and Jason (Bollywood)
Choreography by Nikhul, whose last name I will apparently never learn
Song: “Jai Ho” by A.R. Rachman from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack

For me, Jason was spot on in this piece. He danced powerfully and gracefully with hard-hitting execution. There were sections of this where Caitlin was off a little bit, but she always managed to find her footing again rather quickly. (And I’m glad Shankers noticed she was off and commented on it, because I thought I was the only one who saw it. It’s that shared brain we have, apparently.) However, her gymnastics training came in handy during a 15-second handstand, in which she still had to dance with her feet in the air. That was probably her greatest moment in this piece, and its enough to make me forget about her weaker points. This one also got an extended woo from Mary, but not really a full-on scream. Nonetheless, it was very, very good – and I’m so happy to have Bollywood dance on this show! I look forward to the inclusion of more ethnic dancing down the line! (Truly! Let’s go global, SYTYCD!)

Truly, this is one of the most dynamic shots I've ever seen.

Truly, this is one of the most dynamic shots I've ever seen.

Melissa and Ade (Contemporary)
Choreography by Mandy Moore
Song: “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx

I’ve always liked Mandy Moore’s choreography, and the piece that stands out the most to me is the piece she created for Sabra and Dominic in season three, which I always remember as being like A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This piece she created for ballerina Melissa and her very, very strong partner Ade was pure loveliness. Both dancers’ lines were beautiful, they looked beautiful together and were so effortless in their performance. For me, Melissa was the standout of the pair, especially because she has amazingly strong legs. She wrapped herself around Ade like a sexy little lemur, and was most amazing when she leapt up behind him and held there for about 20 seconds, only to have him raise her up in the splits over his head and catch her in his arms again in front of his face. This piece got a real, true Mary Murphy scream – not quite of the same caliber as the one received by Kayla and Max, but a real, true scream nonetheless.


Jeanette and Brandon (Foxtrot)
Choreography by Louis Van Amstrel
Song: “Come Fly with Me” by Michael Buble

While the Foxtrot is nowhere near as horrible as the Quickstep, it’s probably one of the least well-received dances on SYTYCD. Couple after couple has fallen due to a disliked Foxtrot, but I doubt such a thing will occur to Jeanette and Brandon. They were graceful, lovely and well-paired. Jeanette’s pink dress for this number was another of my favorites for the night – it just made every single leg extension she did look more compelling and fluid. Brandon was a stellar partner for her, but I was worried about his facial expressions during the dance. I surely thought Nigel was going to call him out on pulling faces, but Nigel actually thought it showed he was dancing with character and personality rather than his usual stoicism/disingenuous smile.


The Mediocre

Karla and Jonathan (Cha Cha)
Choreography by Tony Meredith, who got a new redheaded assistant this year – where’s Melanie?
Song: “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga

Despite my excitement for “Poker Face,” which is probably my summer anthem, there was a point where this piece started sliding a little bit downhill. Karla, former Boogie Bot, just couldn’t get her back into it correctly, and there were definite moments where I knew she wasn’t doing something right. For instance, there was one point where she leaned forward to go into a lift with Jonathan, but she bent herself in entirely the wrong shape, causing a weird lull, after which the dance picked up again when Jonathan slid between her legs, only to fall into another lull because of Karla’s lack of carriage. Shankers saw it, too, which meant I wasn’t alone. He also commented on the fact that Jonathan needs just a skotch more roll to his hips to carry of a Cha Cha properly. No one else seemed to notice, though, that the dead drop in this piece was kind of lame, probably because of Karla’s weak back. It was an okay effort by both dancers, and definitely didn’t live up to the awesomeness of the music. How many more Lady Gaga tracks do you think will hear this season, btw? I fully expect a Maria Torres disco number to “Love Game,” if only because I want to see someone actually take a ride on her partner’s “disco stick.”

The Problematic

Paris and Tony (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by Tabitha and Napoleon Duomo
Song: “Let the Beat Rock (Remix)” by Black Eyed Peas

This piece is how I knew Adam Shankman and I shared a brain: the minute I saw these two take the stage, I took one look at what they were wearing and couldn’t concentrate on their dancing. As such, I can’t really comment on it because I, like Shankers, found the costumes too distracting. The judges were hardly about this piece, though, complimenting Paris on the fact that she danced it well (and dance is really important to her because she crushed her leg in a car accident and thought she might never dance again), and warning Tony that it’s clear he needs serious improvement – even in his own style. Oh my god, you guys, I feel it . . . I feel it coming on . . . here it is: “We could have had two Kasprzak brothers, but instead we got this guy.” If Tony can’t even compete adequately in HIS OWN STYLE, I certainly think we’d have been better off with two Broadway Babies in the Top 20. (By the way, is anyone else with me in the fact that “Broadway” shouldn’t be a dance style, in the same way that animation is not a film genre, because anything can be animated, just like many kinds of dancing appear on Broadway? Maybe that’s an argument for another day, but after five years, and tons of bad Tyce routines, it’s starting to irk me . . . kind of like . . .)

Auska and Vitolio (Broadway)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Song: The worst version of the “Hot Honey Rag” from Chicago that I have ever heard.

Oh, fuck me gently with a chainsaw. This is quite possibly my least favorite Tyce routine ever. Remember how earlier I praised his Jazz piece for its beauty and grace? Neither of those words could be used to describe this fucking debacle. In theory, I liked the concept – a sort of pastiche of Busby Berkeley and Charlie Chaplin, what with the bowlers and the minstrel show gloves and Vitolio’s unfortunate Chaplin-stache that just doesn’t look right at all on a black man from Haiti. But in execution, Tyce did nothing to make this piece anywhere near good. He squandered every opportunity he had to create something fun and interesting, something that would utilize the old-school conventions of popular Broadway dance in the 1920s and 1930s and SUBVERT them, MODERNIZE them and SAY SOMETHING through them. Furthermore, Auska and Vitolio danced it without any life or joy, although did so with great technicality, so the piece felt completely and totally inauthentic and flat. I believe Shankers also used similar words, completing our mind meld. I hated every moment of this, so much so that I wanted to punch Tyce square in the face.

Even they can't stand this number.

Even they can't stand this number.

I definitely think that Karla and Jonathan, Paris and Tony and Auska and Vitolio will be in the bottom three couples tonight, and that the judges will send both Karla and Jonathan home. They should send home Tony, but Nigel seems to have a great deal of faith in him, so he won’t go quite yet until he commits some totally irredeemable offense that can’t partially be blamed on the wardrobe department. So, in advance of tonight’s results show, sorry, Karla, reality dance competition programs just aren’t for you to win. Go back to the Boogie Bots and your national tours of Broadway shows – you may think that isn’t the world for you, but it is. And Jonathan, I’m sure Kenny Ortega will hire you back to work on another installment of High School Musical. I wish you both well.

Other stray thoughts:


  • I thought the majority of the intro solos were kind of lame, except for Phillip Chbeeb’s and Evan Kasprzak, although I might be biased because they’re already my favorite two dancers.
  • I cannot hear “You Found Me” by the Fray without thinking of the Lost promo commercials for season 5, and it makes me really sad that there won’t be more Lost until Jan. 2010.
  • Cat was wearing a dress made out of glittery Greco-Roman spiderwebs and jewels. Someone should wear that to my upcoming Greco-Roman murder mystery. I’d do it myself, but I already am debuting a dress I’m very proud to have purchased one of the last of. Also, I’m not quite a bajillion feet tall like Cat Deeley, so I’m not sure I could pull that white shift off.
  • Good to know that Kupono’s name technically should be pronounced with a long u, if the bar above it is any indication.
  • I like that Mary gave the RoboPuppy in Wade’s piece a ride on the Hot Tamale Train, thus bringing Hot Tamale Train Tickets to 1.25 for this episode.
  • The Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for the episode stands at 2, with 4 enthusiastic woos for backup.
  • Jazz blades!

The Wife:

Yet more auditions! Yet more amazing people! Yet more totally disillusioned people! This time, auditions were held in Miami and Memphis, with Tyce Diorio and Lil C joining the panel respectively. I will straight up tell you guys that I am not a Tyce Diorio fan. He and I have completely different ideas about what dancing on Broadway should be, and I liked the Broadway routines from last season that were created by In the Heights‘ Tony-winner Andy Blankenbeuhler far more than any Tyce piece. To me, while Tyce inherently understands movement, I think he fails a little bit to interpret Broadway pieces in a way that makes sense with the music, lyrics and the story of the show as a whole. In short, he can be very antiquated. And he can be very literal. And he likes Fosse way too much. Unless you’re Bob Fosse, you just can’t Bob Fosse every single thing. That said, I love when Tyce choreographs Jazz pieces and contemporary pieces. That piece with season two’s Ivan and Allison set to Annie Lennox’s “Why?” That was Tyce at his best. (And to give credit where credit is due, the group number he did to “Money” from Cabaret was his best fusion of story and Fosse ever, and I liked it quite a bit.) And apparently, I also love that Tyce is a catty bitch, because he was a total catty bitch during Miami auditions. Like so catty, I thought he had been fucking Mario Cantone in the off-season. It was delightful. But, amidst all the hissing, he did offer up one golden piece of advice that I think we should all take to the grave: “If you’re gonna do drag, drag it up on the stage and do it right.” Word.

Wheeeeeeeee!

Wheeeeeeeee!

On to auditioners!

Tony Reindeau: Miami started off with disillusionment. This guy dances in a style he calls Tony Style, and it’s horrible. He even overdoes it so much that he nearly passes out after his audition. Bad times. Clearly, a no.

Priscilla Marrero: First of all, I’m so impressed with Cat Deeley for trilling the r’s in Priscilla’s last name! Second of all, this girl is amazing. She punctuates the music with her body in such a cheeky, unique way that he actually makes Tyce gasp. I bet Wade Robeson would love to choreograph her, because I immediately thought of his work when I watched her dance. She goes straight to Vegas.

Jeanette Maurara and Romolo Villaverde: This couple auditioned last year, with Jeanette going to Vegas, but Romolo staying behind. This year, they come strong and hard with some of the most amazing tricks I’ve ever seen, including one where Romolo lifted Jeanette upside down and she extended her leg up in such a way that I’m amazed she didn’t drive her stiletto right up his nose. I was worried their footwork wouldn’t live up to their lifts and tricks, but it did. The Official Mary Murphy Scream Count stands at 1, and Jeanette and Romolo both go straight to Vegas this year.

Jennifer and Jessica Guadix: The first set of dancing twins of the evening seem like they might be normal, but turn out to be batshit insane. I have no idea what’s going on, why they aren’t dancing in unison, why they’re wearing those pants or what those pants are. Clearly, a no.

Joseph Smith [of the non-Mormon variety]: He does a hip hop routine with a lot of humor and some funky, funky isolations. He reminds me a little bit of Twitch, but less impressive. He stays for choreography and, afterward, gets his ticket to Vegas.

Wislande Leting: Day two of Miami also started off with disillusionment. There was a whole lot of crazy going on with this girl. She wore a shirt that only covered the top half of her breasts, to which my husband immediately said, “Goddamnit! Put your boobs away!” That was topped off by a really bad red weave and some choreography that looked like it was straight from beginning ballet . . . except for the part where she very ungracefully opened her crotch to everyone. I’d say there was a lot this girl needed to put away, especially because, as Mary noted, she and Tyce were clearly not the people for whom that dance was intended. A no.

Erik “Silky” Moore: Tapping + Michael Jackson + Break Dance Moves = Pretty damn cool. I don’t think he’s as impressive a tapper as Peter Sabatino from NYC, but he does have a lot going for him. And I admire that he’s the kind of guy who knows it’s smart to get into dancing to get babes. He gets a ticket straight to Vegas.

Paris Torres: A former Miss Washington, Paris does a contemporary dance to the fucking coolest-sounding version of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” I’ve ever heard. (Turns out it’s Yael Naim’s version, cementing the fact that I should buy her album.) She moves with a mix of syncopation and fluidity that reminds me very much of Dmitry and Ashlee’s Brian Freedman routine to Fall Out Boy’s “Dance Dance” in which he played a ringmaster and she was his doll brought to life. (You can watch it below). She is totally mesmerizing, and wins a ticket straight to Vegas.

We’re then treated to a montage of three folks who win tickets to Vegas: Henry Rivero, Megan Kinney and Alex Wong.

Geo Smith: Geo performs an African dance in a feathered mask, and here’s where I feel it’s appropriate for me to tell you that I know how to do the Funga. He was very powerful and freaking leapt offstage toward the judges table, prompting Nigel to make a naughty joke about Mary’s fear of French ticklers. They send him to choreography, after which he receives a ticket to Vegas.

Talia Rikards: While I’ve had my fill of widows/widowers thanks to Danny Gokey, I’m very sympathetic towards the fact that Talia lost her husband so suddenly in a motorcycle accident. I also can’t take my eyes off her abs, which is probably why I didn’t notice her routine wasn’t much more than rhythmic hip shaking/ab shimmying. Still, the judges see something in her and send her to choreography, after which she gets a ticket to Vegas, bringing the Miami total of Vegas-bound dancers to 32.

Mary and Nigel were joined by Lil C in Memphis, where the first dancer of the day taught me about a dance style I have never, ever heard of, which is one of the reasons I love this show. I’m learning!

Marico Flake: He’s a Memphis peace officer and he has opened my eyes to the world of Memphis Jukin’, an underground dance style that combines, I think, hip hop and the moves of Elvis Presley. He was entertaining enough to earn both praise from Lil C for doing some straight, true Memphis Jukin’, as well as a ticket to Vegas.

Dustin Dorough: Second cousin to the Backstreet Boys’ Howie Dorough, Dustin learned all of the dances from BSB videos. I am beyond thrilled that he knows the dance to “Everybody” and unabashedly performs it in the lobby before his audition. His audition, however, is way too goofy and weird to be good, but I think he actually has some potential deep down within him. He gets a no, but Lil C advises that he combine his love of martial arts with his dancing and learn a style called Tricking.

Chris Carrozza: I have no idea what I’m looking at, but if I were rolling at a rave at 4 in the morning, this dude would totally be my new ginger boyfriend. From an aesthetic perspective, he’s got to lose either the beard or the dreads. And from an attitude perspective, he needs to stop being so defensive through the veil of kindness. His whole interaction with Nigel about being critiqued was just plain bizarre. Obviously, a no. After his audition, Cat provided us with a montage of How to Give a Good Audition, which featured many other people being douchebags to the judges and/or falling on their asses.

Caitlin Kinney: Her sister Megan was one of the people in Tickets-to-Vegas montage in Miami, and she hopes to also have her sister’s luck. She dances a fantastic, technically adept and artistic contemporary routine to one of my favorite songs, “Winter Song” by Sarah Barielles and Ingrid Michaelson. Like season three winner Sabra, she’s only been dancing for 5 years, which is totally bananas, but she’s also had significant experience as a gymnast prior to that. Furthermore, she’s already had hip reconstruction, which is even more bananas to hear that she can move the way she does after a surgery like that. Rightfully, Caitlin earns a ticket to Vegas.

Anna Dunn: She’s first up on Memphis Day 2 and performs a way-too-intense-for-the-music contemporary routine to “Winter Song.” Her choreography was definitely too much for the music, but, man, did she hit it well. After hearing she lost her father a year ago, Lil C reminds her that the best place to put her pain is into her art. The judges send her to choreography, after which she earns a ticket to Vegas.

Travis Prokop: Travis is the son of a football coach, but prefers dancing to sports. He has great leg extensions, but his dancing itself is a little clumsy. Nigel and Mary tell him to strengthen up, especially because he’s so, so tall. They see a lot of potential in him, though, and send him through to choreography, where he improves enough over the course of a day to earn a ticket to Vegas.

Evan Kasprzak: I was so heartbroken when Evan, a modern-day Gene Kelly, didn’t make it into the Top 20 last year. And I’m so glad he’s back. He dances with such incredible technical ability, strength and athleticism that it’s hard not to fall in love with him. This year, showing up in a hat and suspenders and defying gravity with his leaps, he blew me away yet again. Seriously, ya’ll, I think I teared up a little bit, that’s how much I love him. Once again, he earns a ticket straight to Vegas, and straight to my heart. He has to make the Top 20 this year. He just has to.

Lauren and Lydia Guerra: This second set of dancing twins is much better than the first. Much, much better. But although Lauren and Lydia are dancing together, it’s clear that they both have different strengths. One girl is more technical, the other more performance-based. The judges want to see how those strengths manifest in the choreography round, where each sister proves she deserves her own ticket to Vegas.

Ryan Kasprzak: Evan’s older brother who taught him everything he knows also decides to audition this year with an a cappella tap routine and a whoopie cushion. As much as Evan blows me away, Ryan totally entertains me. He’s a great tapper, has a wonderful Vaudevillian sensibility about his performance and dresses like a newsie. I mean, punctuating that routine with the whoopie cushion was a stroke of genius. If neither of the Kasprzak Brothers end up making the Top 20, I want them to immediately revive Vaudeville and go on the road with their own show. (In fact, Kasprzaks, call me in a year and I’ll join you as a burlesque act. It’ll be amazing. Seriously.) Like his brother, Ryan earns a ticket to Vegas.

No idea what the count was for tickets to Vegas from Memphis, but I know there were 6 awarded the first day, so I guess we can safely assume at least 12 were awarded. Two more auditions to go before Vegas fun begins and we start building our Top 20!

The Husband:

As with any television blog writing about SYTYCD, I feel I have to address the uproar over Nigel’s comments last week regarding Misha and Mitchel, comments that could be taken as homophobic. While Nigel’s attempt at humor didn’t go over very well, I’m pretty damned sure the comments were only intended to be constructive. While it’s questionable that he should have brought up what “America might think” as well as his Brokeback Mountain comment on his Twitter, he’s right that this show has a certain format, and that format, so far, hasn’t had two men doing close ballroom, and that they hadn’t proven themselves adept at anything other than a mild play on gender roles. He’s damn right about that last part, because they failed enough in choreography to even get by to Vegas, which only tells me that their act was more of a gimmick than a display of technical abilities. And hey, don’t blame the choice of music, either. It was, technically, rainin’ men.

It’s difficult to be homophobic in the world of dance and theatre, and there’s no way that Nigel would have lasted this long in the industry if he had any semblance of that. He just has a certain (somewhat valid) understanding of certain traditional measures in the dance world itself. Because first you have to prove yourself as a dancer and that you understand the tricks of the trade, and only then can you become something unique and greater.

Homophobic? Please. I’m as P.C. and sympathetic to the cause of LGBT as they come, but I’m also not a reactionary idiot.

And really, would a homophobic man choreograph the following?

Or this?

Or this?

I don’t think so.

(Okay, you got me. I just wrote this section of the post as an excuse to post clips from 1980’s The Apple. You can’t blame me. NO, YOU CAN’T!)

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!