So You Think You Can Dance: Season 7, episode 1

E: My favorite summer treat is back!

I’m largely a creature of habit.  I didn’t like when they dropped this show into the fall (and them bopped it back and forth from night to night) and I don’t at all know how I feel about them downsizing the top twenty into a top ten.  To get so invested in the auditions, and have such a small number through?  That’s rough. Or adding in the former contestants (much as I love them) and doing away with the long term partnerships, which have been such a pleasure.  And what have you done with Mary Murphy?  I missed the guest judges last season, but to have no Mary, and Mia judging rather than choreographing?  Not happy about it.  No, not sold on the idea at all.

And yet, nervous though I might be, this was still pretty delightful.

Of course, seeing the joyous face of Cat Deeley, the best host on tv, has something to do with it.  Oh, Tom Bergeron is clever, and Teresa Strasser is criminally underemployed, but Cat glows.  She’s warm and clever and funny and beaming with good will and affection.  Of all the difficult parts of a host’s job, projecting genuine concern and interest might just be the hardest, and she is unparalleled.

Another thing I like about this show – as opposed to American Idol – is the attention they pay to good auditions.  The ratio of good to bad is pretty impressive.  We chiefly had a few amusingly awful auditions (the 123 Party guy and the guy with the broccoli bikini were stand outs) and a few montages of folks slipping, and that was just about it.  Which left us all the more time to spend on some really stupendous dancing.  Here’s the breakdown, by the two cities where these first few auditions were held.

New York City

With Nigel Lithgow, Mia Michaels and Adam Shankman helming the judging panel, the New York auditions start out with statuesque Charlize Theron look alike Sarah Brinson, who was often picked on as the “big dancer.”  Ridiculous, that, but there you are.  I wasn’t as stunned as the judges, and I can’t imagine her being one of the five best girls, but I definitely liked her anyway.

The we have the stars of Broadway show Burn the Floor Gisele Peacock and Henry Byalikov.  Latin ballroom has rarely looked so good; they definitely burned up the floor.  I don’t know if they’re true contenders, either, but they deserved their tickets to Vegas. (Which, in case you were wondering, is like going to Hollywood on American Idol; they take the best dancers from all the audition cities, bring them together in Vegas and put them through a rigorous hell week where they have to perform in a variety of styles, under a variety of choreographers, to pull out the best and hopefully stylistically diverse cast for the show.)

Teddy Tedholm is back!  I totally heart Teddy Tedholm.  Instead of quirky clothes, this year Teddy let his inner vulnerablity shine through with quirky but wrenching choreography, and along with his ticket to Vegas, he also got tears from Adam and Mia.  Good on you, sir!  If he doesn’t disappoint in Vegas (as with last season) he just might make the performance shows.

A quick montage featured leaping Daniel Baker and his abs of steel, and Carrie Bradshaw lookalike Briana De Falco, both through to Vegas.

On the second day of auditions, the judges gave to us two really appealing dancers who made it to the choreography round (which, for newbies, is the place where they put people they’re not sure could dance with a partner or dance outside their particular style), free runner/hip hop/b-boy Wadi Jones and the “thick girl”, contemporary dancer Megan Carter.  Neither makes it past choreography, but we do get more weeping from Mia, especially, who we found out is a choreographer because she’s got the wrong body type to ever get dancing jobs.   I mean, if Sarah Brinson thinks she’s a fat dancer, the industry is clearly not accepting of much beyond the Balanchine body type. (We’d also seen an interesting locker – Chris “Isolock” Dixon – and his mentor, the legendary Shockalock; Nigel and Adam suggested that street queen Toni Basil would have be clapping like a rabid seal.  Unfortunately he dropped his partner during the choreography round, so he was out, too.)

Taking a direct train to Vegas were Anthony Burrell (who, wow) and Megan Davis.  Sadly, all I can tell you about the latter (what with the brief clips) is that she’s a contemporary dancer who writhed on the floor to a Kate Nash song.  Love Kate Nash.

And finally, there’s ballet dancer Edward Spots, whose relationship with his disapproving father was transformed the last time he auditioned for this show.  This kid could be great – his elevation is astounding, not to mention his flexibility – but his transitions were terrible.  He makes it to Vegas through choreography.

There’s also a girl, unnamed, who yells into her cellphone “I freakin’ made it to Vegas.”  I’m sorry we didn’t get to see you dance, girl, but you certainly entertained while you were onscreen!  And that’s it for New York.

Miami

Sonya Tayeh and Jason Gilkison combine with Nigel to make up the panel for this city, which is fun, even though I still really miss kooky, emotional, knowledgeable Mary.

First we meet Czech ballroom dancer Michael Petr, who flew in from Germany for the audition and got a ticket to Vegas for his trouble.  Oh, and he also got to profess his love for Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. Nigel may think that Michael doesn’t make ballroom faces, but I did.

Then there was Tyrell Rolle, a contemporary dancer from the bad side of town. I thought he held his hands oddly, but other than that, he blew me away.  The judges loved him and sent him straight through. Another contemporary dancer, Henry Rivera, looked like he was vomiting from nerves when first we saw him.  The judges declared him the best in Miami, and sent him straight through. I could see either of them making the show (although this ten dancer limit is killing me).

Day one finishes with Amy Aguiar-Riley, an insanely fit mom with an adorable 6 year old moppet and a cool, jerky style of contemporary dance.  The choreography seemed a bit like an exercise class to the judges, but they liked her (Sonya was particularly appreciative of her non-girly-ness) and they sent her to Vegas by way of choreography.

Day 2 started with a band outside the theater where the auditions were held.  Sonya sported enormous disk earrings, painted black with a red silhouette of the African continent.  Why am I talking about her earrings?  Because not much happened on day 2 in Miami.  We spend an inordinate amount of time with a girl whose talent is derailed by her Burlesque, Pussycat Dolls sensuality.  The only dancer we see go through is one Jose Ruiz, known as Full Deck, a corn rowed young b-boy inspired by last season’s standout, Legacy. He does these completely awesome “bellymills” – the breakdance move windmill, only done on his belly instead of his back, which were tremendously cool and original and bendy.  The kid’s a bit cocky, but he makes it through choreography, and that’s a happy thing.

And there we are!  Two audition cities, 14 featured dancers already, and it’s all good.  I’m looking forward to next week already!

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