E: YES! They’re back, baby! Summer is officially here. The judges are back and wearing bow ties for Jesse Tyler Ferguson. They’re back with pirouettes and headstands and flips and pot stirrers and every good thing. (And that’s part of the joy – the worst we got from 2013’s first episode of So You Think were a few dancers who were more sweet or inspiring than brilliant. Sign me up for the mockery-free dance extravaganza! My impressions of the first batch of candidates are after the jump.
First up, 18 year old Du-Shaun “Fik-shun” Stegall (who can never have enough hyphens!), who combines cheekiness with an utter guilelessness that absolutely disarms Cat and the judges and me – and is also a terrific isolation specialist who gets a standing O and a trio of waving tickets from the judges. He’s insanely crisp. Right on, L.A.!
Next we have adorable pixie Malece Miller, a blonde cu-pie doll from Salt Lake whose sweet and enthusiastic single mother cleans houses so they can afford her dance classes. Everybody likes Malece right from the start, including me; she cries with gratitude when she talks about her mom, but she’s even more charming when she jokes with Nigel about being deaf. That was an impressive deadpan; everybody believed her.
And then she starts to dance and it break my heart a little because she’s just no where near as good as I want her to be. She’s nicely athletic, she’s eminently watchable, but her extension and transitions just aren’t up to snuff. Though she gets the coveted ticket to Vegas, she strikes me as the type who gets sent home in the first solo round; it’s not to say she’d never be (she’s only 19), but she’s not ready for the top twenty now.
After a montage with a trio of terrific contemporary dancers (blonde girl, African American boy, brunette girl) we meet 21 year old Paul Karmiryan of Glendale California, by way of Armenia, who sails through to Vegas with hardly a word from the judges. It turns out he’s rather familiar with the show; he’s a winner of So You Think You Can Dance: Armenia. Paul’s quiet confidence impresses Cat (anyone else bothered by the lack of Cat in this otherwise excellent episode?) and his leaps, spins and flicks mightily impress the judges, who send him straight to Vegas. There seemed to be a false modesty to him I found a little annoying – not to mention the really aggressive smiling during the dance – but the last time I thought a contender was too cocky in his initial audition, I was totally wrong. And he won the show. So maybe that’s a good thing for Paul?
The next contender is 20 year old L.A. native Elijah Laurant, who likes to wear a black tutu around his neck like an Elizabethan ruff, and generally has a creepy cool vibe. He wants to put a spell on the audience with his evil, crafty, creepy cool vibe, and I have to say, he totally does it. There’s a little bit of a high fashion editorial feel to it, teeny shorts not withstanding – the ruff, lots of hunching. The haunting score helps a lot. Also, and this show is training me to notice these things, the dude has amazing feet. The arch on them is nuts. “I’ll never forget that piece right now,” Mary tells him (strange and dubious praise) and Nigel gushes over the feline, androgynous beauty of it; when the word “androgynous” comes out of Nigel’s mouth, Elijah bounces and squeals – sending the judges into startled fits of laughter – because that’s just what he was aiming for. He, too, is headed to Vegas.
Next up, a montage of people who get put through to choreography: a hooting, burly guy with long hair who looks to be doing Balinese or Maori folk dance, a ballroom couple, and a red-headed girl stretching in a way that Nigel calls “Japanese horror movie.” He’s on the money – she looks like she’s going to pop out an extra limb somewhere. Soon after we get a dancer from last year – I think it’s Megan Ellison, the jazz dancer who wanted to work with Sonya Tayeh, and an Asian girl. Must consult my notes from last year and update this. Both end up in Vegas (though it looks like the later got there from choreography, to judge from the footage at the end of the show).
Meet Taylor “Tiger” Ward, a 20 year old softball phenom who dropped her college scholarship to concentrate on dance instead of competitive athletics. She’s absolutely winning, weeping over the recently departed grandfather who gave her her nickname and taught her softball but ultimately blessed her change of career path. And she’s clearly a terrific dancer – but it’s hard to see, because she dislocates her knees while rehearsing out in the lobby. They’ve captured it on film, of course, and add in a really horrifying crunch, and it’s all incredibly gross. She does eventually perform, and because she’s favoring the leg and pulling punches, the judges send her to choreography – ridiculously cruel, in my opinion, to force her to dance more while injured! She knocks it out of the park, though, and gets praised for being a warrior and true professional and given a ticket to Vegas. I worry about her long term potential for the show with her “loose joints” and that bone jutting out of her knee, but I liked her a lot.
Have we found this year’s Cyrus? 28 year old Morris Isby hopes so; he’s an international b-boy champion, and he’s damn good. He does this crazy pirouette on his elbow, for heaven’s sake. Somehow, unfortunately, it’s not enough to get him straight to Vegas, and when he’s sent to choreography (run by Sasha and Marko – awesome!) he’s a disaster and they can’t overlook it. Phooey. The search for the next tWitch or Cyrus continues! He’s followed by a montage of great street dancing tricks.
And next up, we have a rapping Russian (buy his album! See his real music video with hot girls in bikinis washing a car! It’s a classic). His name is Armen “Armen Way” Avetisov, and I really want him to be awful cause he’s so sleazy, but no. He’s not. Nigel’s too busy salivating over the “J.Lo stand in” girl, Anna, who danced with him, so Mary just stands up and hands him a ticket without a single word of critique or discussion. And when it comes down to it, I’m totally cool with not talking about him. Paul is looking better every minute.
After we see a little clip of someone I’m sure is one of last year’s auditioners, Jasmine Mason, we get a slightly garbled and inspiring story to end the round of two brothers (Eric and Lorenzo Chapman) taught to hip hop dance by their dad who’ve formed a group called the Oneaters or 1-8-ers to help kids form a love of dance. There’s no way the show is taking them seriously (“you’re not built like dancers, but you can really move”) but the judges heap praise on them for being “inspirational” and offers to help their program in any way they can. I smell a Dizzy Feet grant! Nigel, you better follow through.
And that’s it. Tonight we got to Motor City – that’s Detroit to you and me. Before we do, I wanna know. Do you think we’ve seen the winner yet? Anyone who’ll make the top twenty? So You Think fans, what do you think?