So You Think You Can Dance, The Next Generation: Dance Academy, volume 1

E: At the Academy, all 100 dancers dance their solos.  Then the ten All Stars, at Nigel’s instruction, pick 5 kids to be on their “team,” with the goal of eventually becoming their partner/protege.  Each All Star must pick at least three team members in their own style, with as many as two wild cards outside their style.  The teams will be whittled down through three choreography rounds, with the first (Broadway) in tonight’s episode and the second two next week.

As usual, this is all quite painful, although since we’re dealing with kids, the producers are somewhat less salacious about showing us breakdowns and tears, focusing instead on cheer and good attitudes.  It always hurts to see talented dancers get cut, though, and as usual, the producers have spent time showing us initial auditions of kids we’ll never see again while filling up the ranks with kids we haven’t seen at all.  Mostly, seeing little kids cry? That’s a special kind of hell.

After the solos, the All Stars pick their teams as follows (and in this order, from contemporary to hip hop):

Kathryn (contemporary): Tate*, Brooklin, Brightin, Quinn, Avery (ballet)

Sasha (contemporary): Diana, Jade, Ashley, Bostyn, Jordan

Robert (contemporary): Sage, J.T., Gavin, Enoch, Josiah

Jenna (ballroom): Jake, Lev, Joshua, Parker, Dougie (Broadway)

Paul (ballroom): Ruby*, Shelly, Valeriya/Lera, Sophia (contemporary), Lennox

Jonathan (ballroom):Daniela, Pallany, Victoria, Rylee, Camila

Gaby (tap): Emma, Jazzy, Ryan, Ava, Lucas

Comfort (hip hop): Tahani, Aniyah, Fiona, Logan, Phoenix

Fik-shun (hip hop): Kida*, Jaryan, J.J., Lior, Alex

Joshua (hip hop): Merrick, Romeo, Tre, Sheaden, Kai

The names in bold indicate the kids we saw in auditions.  In Shelly’s case, she wasn’t identified by name but appeared in a montage: I’m sure there are others in the same boat that I just don’t recognize off the bat, but I wanted to give an indication of just how many kids we didn’t know going into tonight.  We get new features on Jake (who almost didn’t make it through to the Academy) and Phoenix (who danced with Cyrus on the show’s finale last season) and longer looks at Victoria, Gavin, Sheaden (wow!), Logan (also a big wow) and a couple of others.  Among those who don’t make the top fifty are Stella and Geramy the begging ballroom dancers, fleet-footed Leanna who danced with her teacher, fourth generation ballerina Tia, too-tall Ava (too tall for her dance troupe, not me), and Olivia the contemporary snake-dancer who was one of my favorite auditions.

I was somewhat surprised to see the gender breakdown – that everyone but the ballroom All Stars chose a team of their own gender, with the only exception coming from tapper Gaby to pick up the marvelous Lucas.  Also, so much for the wild card picks — did anyone other than Jenna pick outside her own genre?  I suppose we don’t know

Oh.  Are you perhaps wondering about those asterisks?  The three dancers so indicated were picked by two All Stars – Tate by Kathryn and Sasha, Ruby by Paul and Jonathan, and Kida by Joshua and Fik-shun.  Those lucky dancers were able to pick the All Stars they preferred, and chose as indicated.  With all deference to Sasha and Joshua, whom I adore, Fik-shun and Kathryn are just bigger stars on the show. I guess we’ll see if they picked rightly; I think Joshua’s right to point out that he’s a more well rounded dancer than Fik-shun, but you just never know.  Poor Jonathan tries to appeal to Ruby as a fellow Latino, to no avail; I’m not entirely sure why she went with Paul, except that Jonathan’s more street salsa than strictly ballroom?

From here, Warren Carlysle arrives to coach the kids for an hour and a half on a Broadway routine.  They looked pretty impressive moving together, but his enthusiasm for their skills seems a bit forced.   When the kids start to dance – in pairs put together from two teams – I’m frustrated because the choreography doesn’t look even slightly the same from pair to pair.  While they were dancing en mass?  Largely impressive.  But together?  I don’t see any shared steps between pairs at all.

Anyway.  As the All Stars watch, the pairs perform, and then each All Star has to kick off the least effective member of their team.  We only see 8 of the 10 eliminations, which go as follows without much fanfare: Sasha axes flexible Diana, Jenna boots the basically unknown-to-us Parker, Jonathan does the same with the fascinatingly-named Pallany,  Joshua kicks off  b boy Kai, and Paul offs out pixie Valeriya, who’s going by Lera.  The hardest cut for me comes from Gaby, who slices the dreams of a very self-possessed Ava, one of few auditioners which made me forget I was watching a kid.  After J.T. falls apart on the floor, Robert lays down the law, harshly telling him he let his team down – before kicking off Enoch instead of the pint sized dynamo.  I’m not sure that was the right call (for all his scads of charisma, J.T. just doesn’t have the technique or experience to pick up choreography quickly) but I guess time will tell.

We don’t find out who Kathryn or Comfort cut from their teams, but most of the drama from the cuts centers around hip hop artist Jaryan, who like many street performers before him breaks down under the strain of doing choreography for the first time. He just can’t remember what he’s supposed to be doing, and stops in the middle, watching his partner dance, terrified.  He’s wrecked, because he knows he was by far the worst, and had seen the $250k prize as, I’m not sure.  A way out of poverty?  A way to make money with dancing?  Fik-shun kindly talks him out of his post-performance funk before cutting him, and then drying his tears again.   In fact, what looks like the entire top fifty surround the crying boy to cheer and lift him up.  It’s very sweet.

Next week, Tabitha and Napoleon will lead a hip hop round (cut!), and then Travis the dreaded contemporary (cut!); finally, the last two team mates will find out which one of them will go with the All Star into the live shows.  Who will it be?  Jenna as good as told Jake the flirt she wanted him to be her teammate, but we’ve seen a lot more of Lev in the title sequence and commercials, and for my money, floppy haired Joshua’s a delightful dark horse.  Everyone’s been super impressed with Tate and firecracker Emma, so they have to be frontrunners to make Kathryn and Gaby’s teams; likewise for Kida with Fikshun and Ruby with Paul.  Except if Gaby picks a girl that’ll be six girls to four boys; does she have to pick Lucas to achieve gender parity, or does that not matter since the kids aren’t dancing with each other?   I’m very curious to see.


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