E: Welcome to NYC! It’s the Big Apple. It’s the home of Broadway. It’s the city that never sleeps. It’s the city where we first saw Lex Ishimoto. And it’s where we’ll spend the rest of our audition time before heading to the Academy. (And, sorry – I’ve been having connectivity issues that prevented publication.)
This week’s first dancer is one Emily Carr, an 18 year old from Springfield New Jersey, who has been dancing in the footsteps of her older sister Ashley for 16 years. (Have you noticed that practically every state has a Springfield? That’s one of the things that makes the Simpsons so universal.) It’s impossible to miss what an amazing smile Emily has, wide and hopeful; she’s gorgeous, but in this totally endearing way. The other thing that’s impossible to miss is her elevation, really the only are where male dancers routinely outshine their female counterparts. She is of course flexible and musical and has great feet and great performance quality, but it’s the fact that she springs like the proverbial gazelle that really knocks me back. Well, that and the way she goes from giggling girl as she talks to the judges to an intense, formidable force of nature when she dances to Beyonce’s Motown throwback “I’d Rather Go Blind.” “Now, Emily, that’s what I call setting a standard,” Nigel declares approvingly. Vanessa takes Nigel’s assessment (“magnificent!”) and adds passion, control, and skill to a growing list of compliments. After noting that her gaze is as powerful as her body, tWitch adds that it looks like Emily “traded in the bottom set of your ribs for another set of abs.” Yep. Who does bend like that?
Mary praises her high wattage smile and charming giggle, and brings up sister Ashley, who’s supporting Emily in the audience. “She’s a better dancer than me,” Emily declares, making big sis cry. Then why didn’t she try out? Because she’s shy, Emily guesses. Nigel is upset by this; he calls the beautiful Ashley to the stage, asks her to audition next year, and after they’ve given Emily her ticket, he hugs Ashley and repeats his plea. Meanwhile all I can think is that I’ll be gutted if Emily doesn’t make the live shows.
Next up we get a typical New York story – Gabriel Alvarez, 28, b boy from the Dominican Republic. Dancing there kept him out of gangs, and when he came to NYC, working as a dancer helped him become a citizen and bring his mom over. Aw! Would that his dancing lived up to the story in the judges eyes. He does this amazing sort of street performance in this huge metal hoop/wheel. (Have we seen this on the show before? It seems familiar, although I don’t think they’ve devoted a full segment to it before.) Vanessa says it just as I’m saying it aloud on my couch; it’s awesome entertainment, but there’s no dancing. They allow him to throw down some b boy moves and I think they’re quite good, but it’s not new or unique enough for the judges. It just wasn’t a good audition. tWitch, responding in part to Gabriel’s incredible charisma and stage presence, gives him his only yes.
That was the point where my daughter got really mad the show did away with the choreography round.
Failure clearly is not going to be the fate of Connecticut’s Evan DeBenedetto, 19, who made it to the Green Mile on Gabi’s team last season. If you read my recaps then you know that I was rooting for him over Lex – I did and still do think Gabi and Evan had better chemistry, even though I feel like I got taken in by producers creating suspense where none really existed. Evan’s dancing is spectacular – his taps are so clean, so clear, and fit so beautifully with his music. He’s got sharp edges and huge spins and he just oozes joy. Was there anyone in that theater who didn’t want to hug him? You came here knowing you belong, tWitch observes. Yes. I think it’s going to be your year, Mary grins. YES! You were tremendous, Nigel tells him, reminding him that it’s no shame to have lost out to Lex’s prodigious, season-winning talent. Vanessa praises the choreography (did he do it? I wish they’d said) and tWitch tells him to come up and get the ticket he must already know he’s earned.
“He’s so good,” Vanessa stage whispers as he walks out. “It’s his moment.”
God, I hope so. Add his name to my short list for the live shows!
After Evan we’re treated to a montage of good dancers giving auditions that don’t quite measure up, breaking their own hearts, not making it. tWitch feels inclined to stand up and give a pep talk. Invite us with you on this journey, he begs; this is not the time to second guess yourself. Unless you’ve come with a metal wheel, anyway…
And boy, is there a journey with 80’s baby Rachel Blanchard. Not literally – she is only 18, after all, but either it’s still the 80’s in Albany or she just loves the throwback style – high waisted black bottoms and a teal top with bright 80’s make up, her hair in 80’s ringlets. She dances to Susan Tedeschi’s 90’s jam “Hurt So Bad” which I just adore, and she has this really unusual rag doll quality. She’s strong, but she flails a lot, her thin arms flapping. It’s a puzzle. “Everyone calls me Baby,” she confesses after Vanessa calls on the flirty 80’s dance moves, referring to Baby Houseman, the Jennifer Gray character in 80’s smash Dirty Dancing, and the judges all howl their agreement. “Go stand in a corner,” Nigel quips with such authority that she actually goes. “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!” Vanessa cries, bringing her back. I didn’t even get it, she giggles.
The Judges have a similar confusion about what to do with her. Vanessa loves her adorable 80s Flashdance moves, but tWitch rightly calls her on her terrible transitions. (what I’ve identified as flailing). Mary says she’s like cotton candy (sweet, colorful, no substance?) but she likes her anyway. She’s got potential. tWitch votes no, but the women go with yes and Nigel has the last word, putting her through. Well, it’s sink or swim at the Academy, tWitch shrugs, clearly thinking the others are nuts. They’re inconsistent for sure; she would have been a prime candidate for choreography.
It turns out tapper Evan isn’t the only veteran of last year’s Green Mile we’re going to see tonight – there’s Connecticut’s Kyle Bennett, Jr, now 22. Unlike Evan, Kyle was probably defeated by his own gender; none of the All Stars last year chose a same-sex partner to work with, and so Kyle was predictably cut. He was awesome, though, and he’s even more awesome an animator and tutter this year. (Are you a tutter if you practice tutting? I guess? Somebody tell me if that’s wrong.) His audition is incredibly cool -so quirky, original, musical and fun I just want to watch it over and over – and he’s rewarded with a well earned standing ovation from the judges. “Now that’s an audition,” tWitch enthuses. His angles are crazy, his confidence is clear, and Nigel thinks he could be a real star this season. I agree. Vanessa says his routine made her heart race. Do I even need to say he’s through?
18 year old Victoria Neukom grew up in an orange grove in Dade City, Florida – that is, until it was killed by a blight 4 years ago. Through the trouble of her family losing the livelihood they all loved, dance has been her rock. Tall, slender Victoria dances in a short gray skirt and a white crop top with lemon branches on it (cute and appropriate), swinging her shiny long ponytail. She’s very bendy, and she’s got ridiculous feet; she may be skinny, but her core is super strong.
You used the length of your body really well, tWitch says. Choreographers will love you, Mary coos, and Vanessa just calls her incredible. Nigel, rather to my surprise, takes her to task for including more gymnastics than dance in her routine. Sometimes I have this problem (note the season’s first audition, which was all contortion), but not with hers; I wouldn’t have expected him to be so severe. It doesn’t stop her from going through, though. She didn’t need his yes, even though she does get it.
I don’t really want to belabor the whole segment of twerking twins Gratsiela and Desislava Saldeva, formerly of Bulgaria and currently known as Gracie and Daisy. I will only say they’re adorable, the judges desperately wanted them to be good, and they weren’t. They’re not bad – their routine is kinda fun – but they’re definitely not professional level. Instead of going on as the show did with clips through the whole episode, I’ll give you the girls reaction to being on the audition stage: “I’m dreaming, I’m sleeping, someone needs to wake me up but I don’t want to.”
Finally there’s another set of siblings, Elan (23) and Jordan (18) Lurie of Coral Springs Florida. They’re salsa dancers – and to no one’s surprise, their mom is a salsa dancer. People who’re into ballroom just seem more likely to throw their kids into it. I wonder if it’s because you can do or teach ballroom at a more advanced age than some of the other disciplines, so the parents keep dancing or owning studios even as their kids become adults? Anyway. They’ve been partnered for 6 years, although the first time they tried dancing together was for Elan’s bar mitzvah. And no, Elan tells us, it’s not creepy for siblings to ballroom dance together because salsa is always fast and doesn’t have to be sexy. Because we haven’t done it yet this season, Nigel invites Mom up to judge her kiddos.
Jordan wears a red dress with some sparkles, and Elan sports a black cut velvet turtleneck so God-awful I can’t stop staring at his sleeves. It’s an atrocity that bears no relation to his partner’s very normal, even modest dress. Thankfully they are wonderful dancers, so I stop seeing the shirt after a while. The partnering is excellent, there are crazy tricks (it is salsa after all) and flips and twists and an excellent pot stirrer, though Elan is not able to pull off the dead lift at the end. Bummer! Mary calls him on botching it, but praises everything else. Well. Sort of. She says that Jordan has perfect feet and ankles but Elan doesn’t. This is why we need Mary, because would anyone else know that to look for in a dancer’s ankles? The show harps about feet often enough that even I understand that one (at least as it refers to jazz and contemporary dancing) but ankles? I’m stumped.
You’re the family of fire, tWitch says, making them smile. “I’ve seen better,” Mom shrugs before smiling and saying she’s kidding. Is it rude if I say I’m sure she HAS seen them do better? I bet he normally rocks that lift. Anyway, they’re through. One more week and we’re all going to the Academy!
Among the luminaries we’ll see next week: insane bone breaking boys, a goth girl, and very familiar looking ballroom dancer. Looking forward to it!