E: Unsurprisingly, New York has more than its fair share of fantastic auditions. Granted, not all of those auditioning hale from the Big Apple, but we see hip hop, ballroom and contemporary hit new heights. There’s also a good number of sassy kids, including one who suggests that Nigel looks like Donald Trump. (Nigel has no comment for the cameras.) And just like that, the auditions are over. But before we see the 100 kids get to the Dance Academy, we need to meet a few key players.
And we start with R.J., 11, and Jake, 12, who wear black jackets with loose ties, and do a hip routine with a Magic Mike theme. Oh my God, really? What is wrong with parents? Seriously, what? These boys are talented and the routine (composed of popular dance moves fused together quickly) is fun, even if the fact that they strip off their jackets during it is more than a little creepy. The judges point out that Jake has an awesome stank face, and R.J. great rhythm. They’re through.
Then we meet Ruby, a 12 year old ballroom dancer from Miami whose parents own a dance studio. I’m struck by her extremely positive attitude (she doesn’t mind taking corrections from her dad because it will just make her a better a dancer; amusingly, she notes her mom is not so thrilled to receive dad’s critiques). Modestly, she admits to Nigel that she’s the U.S. junior champion in Latin Ballroom, and she’s just as fantastic as that implies. Weirdly, Nigel is thrown to see her perform without a partner, and makes Dad get up on stage with her since he’s been doing the moves on the family couch anyway. Just like that, Dad Manny pops into Ruby’s “Moves Like Jagger” routine, and they bust out an amazing lift (she hooks her legs around his shoulders and switches sides) which clearly was not a part of her solo choreography. Nice improvising, guys. Obviously she’s through.
12 year old Tate lives in Canada with her dance teacher mom, lawyer dad and hockey playing brother. She dances for us next to a lake in what are probably the Rocky Mountains (spectacular for the scenery), and then on stage in New York (spectacular for the girl). We find out that she goes to a ballet school, where the days include academics, ballet, jazz and contemporary, with instruction starting at 8am and ending at 9pm. YIKES! That seems — I was going to say brutally intense and structured for a 12 year old, but really, that’s a long long hard day for anyone. All that work pays off, however, because Tate is easily the best we’ve seen in all the auditions; her dancing is emotional, her extension is extraordinary, and she carries her movement through better than lots of adult dancers we’ve seen. And it’s really dancing, not just posing to music, which I appreciate. Paula practically dissolves into tears watching her, and when all three judges stand to applaud, it feels entirely warranted. You were like ripples on water, she says. The All Stars will fight over you, Nigel predicts.
We get a little montage of good contestants – a ballroom pair (the girl in sparkly leopard print), a plaid clad hip hop girl who cries when she gets her ticket, and a contemporary boy.
Then we meet Alex, 11, and Valeriya, 10, who’ve been a ballroom pair for 4 years, wear black turtlenecks with some pleather accents, ballroom-edgy but still age appropriate. They’re quite terrific – great follow through, great hip action, great footwork — though Alex makes dreadful faces which could hurt him in later rounds. (Valeriya, with her sassy winks, gives just the right amount of emotion.) Nigel calls him on it, but they fly through anyway.
13 year old Lucas would like to be a professional sleeper (gee, that doesn’t sound like a 13 year old boy at all), but for now, he’s busy wowing us all with his tap prowess. It’s a great routine with a lot of storytelling, lots of dynamics and little bit of a Broadway/classic movie musical feel. He dances to James Brown wearing a skinny black tuxedo and black and white tap shoes, and Nigel announces he’s one of the best tappers to ever appear on the show. Before he gets too confident though, the judges inform him he needs to put emotion into his face. Maybe Alex can spare some?
12 year old Joshua auditions with his partner, 9 year old Liza. We saw interview clips from them earlier in the episode, where Liza tells us she’s terrible at hip hop and wants Fik-shun to teach her. Yeah, my kids would like that too; they’re always lovin’ on Fik-shun. The best and worst thing about Liza, Joshua tells Cat, is that she’s always happy. That boy has a spectacular head of hair, am I right? Anyway, the two have a great opening, and are pretty impressive, but it’s clear that the 3 years between them have made a difference; Liza fails to carry the same level of personality and commitment all the way through, and the judges start comparing her unfavorably against other ballroom girls. Joshua goes through, but they tell poor sweet Liza she needs more time. I’m so grateful they cut off the segment before Liza’s huge brown eyes tear up, because you can see it coming, and it would hurt.
I’m quite excited to see the next dancer, our first b-boy of the season, 12 year old Kai. He dances with a small crew of adults, the Dynamic Rockers, and they’ve got a really fun style together. I love his black pants with those bright red zippers above the knees! He’s acrobatic, he’s got high energy, and his windmills and air flairs are huge. Dynamic Rockers, you’ve clearly supported and taught him well!
This leads into a hip hop montage, which starts with a boy in black and red who reminds me of last year’s stand out Megz, a smirking, swaggering boy in shorts, and a girl in a baseball shirt dancing to a Jason Derullo tune. Her popping is terrific. And then this leads, weirdly enough, to a kid proclaiming his skill as a wrestler, who wrestles Cat all over the interview couch and floor. That girl, she’s game for anything.
We learn a lot about 11 year old Douglas (“Dougie”), who was in Kinky Boots on Broadway and a nation-wide tour of a Motown show and has arrived for the audition in a full on Michael Jackson-like military costume, black with blue sparkly stripes. He recounts getting a school aid fired because she told him, back in first grade, that ballet was only for girls. Maybe all of this has set expectations too high; I’m taken in with his fast, acrobatic, personality-filled routine, and love his level of commitment, but the judges don’t seem to think the piece is technically difficult enough, going so far as too call it just good club dancing. Wow! I’m surprised; while he did include some club-like moves there was also a decent amount of ballet and contemporary there in the spins and leaps. They actually debate whether to put him through or not (are they kidding? are they setting him up as an underdog?) but he does make it to the Academy.
For our last audition of the season (and gosh, it feels way too soon to be saying that), we meet 12 year old Olivia, a beautiful girl with braces who’s dancing a contemporary piece in which she’s a snake. She’s sick flexible and has mad core strength and control, and her serpentine choreography is some of the best we’ve seen this season. I’ll admit, the way she’s sticking her leg over her head? An adult could never do that. And she got real height on that side split leap, something that a lot of adult female dancers struggle with. Her parents and two sisters shriek when she gets her ticket.
The next episode will start at the Dance Academy. 100 dancers arrive, and of them, each of the 10 All Stars must pick 5 favorites to join their “team,” which will eventually be pared down to one person. Bah. I hate competing against your own team members; this is why I don’t watch The Voice. Ugh. We even see Paul and Jonathan fighting to get Ruby on their teams, in a total nod to The Voice. The slaughter begins Monday the 20th.