Months of praying and begging have paid off, and So You Think You Can Dance is back for a 10th season. Like last year, the audition process–and Vegas Week–had a lot of fantastic moments. None of the contestants has made that full-scale grab with me that Eliana Girard, Melanie Moore and Joshua Allen have in previous seasons, but I have a great many favorites I am pulling for. Tuesday night’s reveal of the top 20 contestants yielded few surprises for me, right down to executive producer Nigel Lythgoe’s pronouncement that they were “investing in dancers that [we’re] uncertain that they’ll manage to cope with the rigors of the program.” So, here we go with the Top 20 unveiling and analysis!
Fik-Shun is the very first person in the room to walk the Mile….I am not stupid, and neither is America. We knew full well y’all weren’t about to tell that boy no. Fik-Shun gets the thumbs-up from the panel followed by Emilio “Milli” Dosal, following in Phillip’s footsteps in reverse by hitting the SYTYCD dance after a successful run on America’s Best Dance Crew. Repeat auditioner Markus Shields (who I can’t say I’ve ever seen his auditions spotlighted at any length–I’ll have to do some research) was turned down again, and Mariah Spears got the final nod as the latest hip-hop girl. Extremely fitting that Twitch, who took three tries himself to get to the stage, was the one to deliver the good news.
Before the performances could even begin, however, we are hit with the first casualty of the competition: Emilio had an injury that forced him to withdraw from the competition (which we would later learn was a broken nose. I’ve heard of going hard for your craft but DAMN BOO! Get better and see you next season.) So our trio’s down to two:
Fik-Shun and Mariah
T.I. and Lil Wayne (Luther Brown hip-hop)
Reminiscent of “My Homie’s Still” from last season, Mariah is the obverse of Witney Carson where she had the hip-hop skill but is pulling some serious sexy from somewhere. Fik-Shun’s million-watt smile always captivates, but the routine as a whole seemed a little elementary, especially compared to its previously mentioned predecessor. The two seems to lose steam at the end, and the choreography may have been a large contributing factor. But they both definitely have skills.
Contemporary, part 1
I honestly had to go back and look at Makenzie’s audition, because I didn’t remember anything particularly stand-out special about her. (Of course, I multitask A LOT while I’m watching this show….). She definitely has excellent technical skill and a good TV look–all ingredients for a YES on this type of program. Which, naturally, she gets. No surprise to me, Jasmine Harper follows her with a ticket to Hollywood; the girl’s technical prowess and emotional wellspring will hopefully take her above all of the drama they’re attempting to manufacture out of her former relationship with Cyrus. Ryan Johnson, a contemporary dancer not spotlighted during the previous shows, is turned down, followed by three other young ladies I wish I knew names for…hopefully, all of them will continue their dance journeys and try again next season. (Are you listening, FOX? We said NEXT SEASON…..). Then the first pair of dancers is sent in–Tucker Knox and Nico Greetham, both out of the Memphis auditions. Tucker’s amazing ability and dramatic backstory has me giving him the edge, but again, I know these judges and producers well enough to expect the swerve, and they didn’t disappoint. Both Tucker AND Nico are given their passports to the Hollywood stage.
Makenzie, Jasmine H., Tucker and Nico
Sleeping At Last (Stacey Tookey cotemporary)
Very nice piece–there was near unison from all four of the dancers where unison was called for, and that’s not always easy to pull off. Makenzie’s technical edge over Jasmine spotlighted her more with the judges, though I think positioning made her the easiest dancer to see, at least from the views I had as a TV audience member. Speaking of Jasmine, she’s coming across as a blend of Sasha Mallory and Martha Nichols (there are going to be a lot of comparisons to former dancers as the weeks go by; unfair to the dancers as individuals but the best way I can describe them. Any new viewers or readers unfamiliar with past seasons, I apologize in advance.) The boys looked good but will really need to push to stay–the show is typically front loaded with contemporary dancers, and with this year being no exception, they’ll need to find ways to make themselves sparkle amongst bigger personalities. On a totally superficial note, I wish Tucker hadn’t cut his hair as severely as he did–the curls were part of what made me fall for him. I hope they don’t have a Samson effect on him….
Cat slips a hint and says tap is on the menu…so I KNOW at least two of the kids are coming up next. Alexis Juliano and Curtis Holland get immediate yeses, but Aaron Turner, son of well-renowned performer Earl Turner Jr., gets yet another no after constants tries and trips to Green Mile. Before I can curse at the screen, Cat reveals that Aaron was as #11 on the judges’ list of boys….which means, with Milli’s withdrawal, he can finally scream with joy that he’s on the SYTYCD stage. Much like I did in my living room–I’m extremely heartbroken that it took Milli’s injury to get him here, but he’s here and I’m over the moon.
Alexis, Curtis and Aaron
Jason Mraz (Anthony Morigerato tap routine)
Jason did my review for me….you are A-W-E-S-O-M-E! And yes…I, like Nigel, am totally biased toward tap dancers, and I’m so glad all three of them made the show. Borrowing from Adam’s critique, “with Aaron’s anchored showmanship, Alexis’s sense of play and mischief and Curtis’s unbridled joy, the three of them together make one perfect tap dancer.” All three seemed to hang in well during Vegas Week will all of the other styles, so maybe we can get some tappers back into the Top 10. Which we know would suit Aaron just fine. Works for me too, as I’d love to see more of new choreographer Anthony Morigerato.
Dorian “BluPrint” Hector
Jade and BluPrint get sent in together–surely the producers are not planning yet another swerve here? OF COURSE there’s gonna be a swerve! One animator last season was so hugely popular for the show, so what other possible choice did they have but to accept two? Particularly after the Vegas battle and the earlier hint drop. But I will say this: best reaction faces EVER.
Jade and BluPrint
Kezwik featuring Mel Presson (Christopher Scott animation)
Ir needs to be said. Every time, it needs to be said. Christopher MF’ing Scott.
Now, about the boys. With what the general public knows about animation (myself including), the more harshly staccato version that BluPrint brings might well be seen as more “authentic” than Jade’s fluid style. And to me, in that particular routine, it kind of rings true. However, even with BluPrint’s efforts improving, Jade’s got the personality game on lock. The thing is they will have to bust some serious ass in competition so as not to need to rely on their specialties. They managed to get into the Top 20 despite dancing for their lives in Vegas, but that may not be enough for them to ride to the Top 10. Of course, I also said last season that the fans were not going to take Cyrus Spencer very far. I still need a LOT of practice honing my audience forecast skills. They did a great job overall with this numbers.
Two other things: 1) I really wish everyone would stop harping on Jade’s height–nobody said boo about Evan Kasprzak until they paired him with Kayla “The Amazon” Radomsky; and 2) I REALLY want to know where the wires were on those mannequins at the end. I’m STILL questioning whether or not those were really people.
Contemporary part 2
Carlos Garland, who also didn’t show up onscreen until Vegas, gets his pass into the Top 20; another young man with little screen time, David Lorenzo, got passed over. However, audition standouts Hayley Erbert and Melese Miller have their DANCE cards punched, and we have another round of contemporary dancers.
Carlos, Hayley and Melece
Rihanna featuring Mikkey Ekko (Mia Michaels contemporary)
Carlos reminded me a little of Jason, and I have to say, surprised me. Melese has a bit of a Melanie air to her without the same phenomenal level of skill, and Hayley, though self-described as having the Jordan Casanova “sex appeal problem,” seems to be the only one of these three that come in with their own persona from the start. With all of that said, this was GOOD. It almost had an air of “Turning Tables”–the kind of smugly aloof callousness Mitchell had in that dance Carlos was portraying in this one…and to TWO women, no less. How that boy did all of the moves he did IN DRESS SHOES is mind-boggling. I can see why the judges put him in. The girls are going to need to establish themselves very quickly to break out of the pack. But it’s very hard not to shine doing a Mia Michaels creation, and the three did just that.
Another visual spoiler…flash shot of Mia sitting next to my DWTS boo, Louis van Amstel. So now we get to find out which ballroom dancers made the grade.
Six ballrooms babies walk the Green Mile to find out if they get to make their star turns.
L.A. audition partners Brittany Cherry and Serge Onik are sent in together…as I know the swerve can only be successfully pulled off twice in a show AND knowing the number of spots is dwindled, I’m certain only one of this pair is going to go to Hollywood. And I’m right–Brittany is selected and Serge is sent home. Jenna Johnson, who we learn is the third in a line of sisters to make it to the end, breaks the “family curse” and is picked for the show. Which, after Paul Karmiryan’s selection, leaves us with the Bersten brothers–Alan and Gene. There’s only one spot left for the boys period at this stage, so it’s another heartbreaking duo. Younger brother Alan winds up with the berth, and Gene joins his wife and audition partner Elena at home with their new daughter. (At 25, Gene at least has a window of opportunity to try again, but as has been seen with dancers over the age of 26, getting and keeping a spot on the show is more the exception than the norm. I hope he tries again anyway.)
Brittany, Jenna, Paul and Alan
Little Mix (Louis van Amstel samba)
Of the boys, Paul has more showmanship–that SYTYCD Armenia win will give him a bit of an edge in knowing what the judges and the public want. However, Alan is holding his own. For the girls, from what I’m seeing so far, Jenna personality is gangbusters while Brittany seems a little more reserved. On the whole, the number was a bit chaotic to watch, and there was precious little unison from the four of them at the same time. The unity seemed to shift from pair to pair. They all have great skills, and I’d like to see their ballroom solos along with what they can bring to the styles outside their given genre. I will say one thing in watching this: Alan looks so damn excited to be on the stage, that energy may actually carry him up to the Top 10. We’ll see what happens….
Down to the final two picks of the Top 20 and it’s six jazz-dancing girls. Amy Yakama, with the jazz-dancing dad and the Amelia Lowe-worthy audition, gets one of them, and with five girls left we know that only one of them will be crying tears of joy. Three young ladies (Marisa, Tessa and Gabby–forgive me for not knowing your whole names. I promise to learn them when you come back next season) get their dreams dashed before repeat performers Megan Branch and Jasmine Mason are sent in together to learn which of them takes the long walk home again. Megan gets the boot again as Jasmine gets the bittersweet news that she’s taking her friend’s shot away. (THIS year, Megan–only THIS year. I expect you to keep trying.) As the final contestant announced, Jasmine gets the opportunity to make a name for herself outside of being Marshea’s “Kidd” sister. (Come on–the pun was RIGHT THERE people….)
Amy and Jasmine Mason
Björk (Sonya Tayeh jazz)
OK, I was all set to make my Joey Potter references on Amy, and compare this to the would-be trio from last season’s opener (Tiffany Maher, Audrey Case and should’ve been Janelle Issis) and Season 8’s “Game On” with Melanie and Sasha. I still want to, but I really can’t. This was the best of the genre numbers in the whole show–and I REALLY liked Mia’s contemporary trio. The girls were simultaneously a unit and individuals–which may have prompted Nigel’s comment to Jasmine about strengthening her technique. And true, some of her transitions against Amy’s look like they require more effort…but I think they added to the piece. Both girls were in beast mode here. Amy might look like she’s carrying around the Potter quirk and angst combo, but on the dance floor she’s all business, and getting straight down to it with a fierceness. The judges’ standing ovation–and Mary’s statement to that effect–just cements my assessment.
Top 10 guys
Nathan Lanier featuring Karen Whipple (Christopher Scott masterpiece)
One more for the record: CHRISTOPHER. M. F’ING. SCOTT. That is all.
As mesmerizing and fantastic as this dance was, I was totally preoccupied by that sand getting into someone’s eye and prompting another injury withdrawal. I’ve had to watch again and again to really pick out any stars, and while the guys did do a phenomenal job of making this a unified performance, I did pick up on a couple of things: first, as good as Carlos is, Tucker and Nico are matched skill for skill, and that spotlights Carlos in the wrong way. There were some beautiful photo moments in the contemporary boys’ section, and what should have been a matched triptych had it looking like the Sesame Street game “One of these kids just doesn’t belong here.” Charm and sweet-talk isn’t going to help you here, sweetie. Second, I did see some struggle from Fik-Shun on keeping up with the group. It was slight, and he hung on nicely, but I did see it. His lack of formal training make knock him down in the partner rounds. Lastly, and this was most evident, Aaron Turner is hungry, y’all. That boy was in the front for the majority of the dance, which means in rehearsals he was clearly working his AND his daddy’s asses off to stay in. He looked just as at ease doing the contemporary and hip-hop sections as he did doing his tap-inspired solo. That boy is focused like the Terminator–if he’s not in the Top 10, it most certainly WILL NOT be for lack of trying.
Top 10 girls
Fanny Pak and District 78 (Ray Leeper jazz)
These dresses are UGLY. U. G. L. Y. You ain’t got no alibi UGLY. That aside, those girls were KICKING it! Or, should I say, KIKI-ing it. Ray Leeper in the pre-package said, “What’s great about these ten girls is that they look great together.” And they really do, considering ballroom, contemporary, jazz, tap and krump are their individual specialties. A nice blend of 60s mods and modern-day moves…and did I see some attitude from Miss Mariah? I see you, gurllllll…….
Top 20 group
Steed Lord (Sonya Tayeh contemporary)
I don’t know what’s going on with these costumes–Matrix meets Star Wars council of judges or something. It’s hard to pick folks out in all of that smoke…but Mariah and Aaron are putting out very strong Fatal Attraction “I will not be ignored” vibes. Sonya definitely staged this battle well.
For the second year in a row, the field is pretty balanced–no real standouts but definitely a deserving field.
I again apologize in advance to anyone tired of the race game (but it’s hard in this business on a brown-skinned girl who’s not doing hip-hop)–I saw at least five brown girls get Vegas nods and the Jasmines are the two who made it. Both have major work to do with their technique so while I do entertain hopes of a win for either of them, they’re going to have to take it and sink in claws. Repeaters always grab my heart, so Aaron and Mariah are definitely on my radar, as well as dance underdogs Jade, BluPrint, Fik-Shun and Curtis. That Amy is something else, though…the right duo picks could send her to the top.
I’m going to assume we’re going with the same structure as last year, although “America’s Favorite DANCER” is back to being said singularly….hmmmm……
THANK YOU for going back to core judges for the opening show! I still have to check Hannah Simone’s resume from the Vegas show but as she seems to know her stuff (AND it was just the Vegas show and not this one), I’ll give her a pass for now.
A LOT of viewers are complaining about the camera shots. A LOT. From the frenetic cuts from dance to judges/audience to those 360 Steadicam shots to just not being able to see the dancers due to overbright lighting and heavier than necessary smoke, even the dance newbies are calling for a more complete and cohesive picture of the choreography as a whole.
As with last year, I’ll try to get the handicapping done for next Tuesday right before the show. Depending on how I can make it work, I may try to finish the audition and Vegas blog drafts and pull out a piece I started last season on Cyrus–I was going to scrap it, but I think it might be important to finish after all. Buckle up for a fascinating season!