'So You Think You Can Dance' judge Adam Shankman
It’s time for the “SYTYCD” auditions to move on to Dallas and Nashville, and given how things have been going thus far, I’m bracing myself for a tough two hours. The truth is, as much as I love “SYTYCD,” these audition episodes tend to focus on what I find to be the weakest part of the whole show.
On the one hand, there’s a behind-the-scenes, “A Chorus Line” vibe to these shows that I love. We see the hopeful faces in line, the agony of learning choreography in just a few hours and, yes, the disappointed also-rans shuffling back onto the street outside. On the other hand, this is when the producers set up their most maudlin and manipulative reality TV tropes. First, there are the sob stories, then the feel good stories, and finally, the pathetic losers. While “SYTYCD” is, to its credit, less in love with nightmare auditions than, say, “American Idol,” it also drives home the fact that, when all is said and done, this show, like almost every other reality competition out there, is essentially a popularity contest.
Yeah, I know. This is a contest to find America’s favorite dancer, not the best. But I’d feel better about it if the producers weren’t constantly whacking me over the head with video segments about how Dancer A grew up in a cardboard box and Dancer B broke both legs in a horrible kickball accident, especially when we never see these dancers again. I mean, sometimes it’s interesting and sometimes you feel like you’re being forced to huff Hallmark cards. Why can’t we just pick, oh, I don’t know, the best dancer? Instead of watching these lame “This Is Your Life” segments, we could watch more dancers who are making it to through to Vegas and we have half a shot of seeing again. Because let’s face it, when these guys go to Broadway, no director is going to say, “Yo, Dancer B, you completely blew that grand jete when you landed in the orchestra pit and we’re out a trombonist now, but props for being able to move the lower half of your body, all things considered!”
But hey, Fox has to fill two hours and heartwarming segments are marginally better than commercials, so there you go. So let’s head to Texas!
The judges take the stage, ready for whatever Dallas is dishing out. And today, we have a treat! In addition to Nigel, we get ballroom expert Toni Redpath and Toasty Oreo! Toasty Oreo rocks. He not only gets excited about the auditions, he gives helpful comments. Watch and learn, Hi Hat.
And then my connection dies. Oh, yay, it’s back. Apparently some girl got sent to choreography, and she gave “stank face.” That’s all I know. Oh, and I also know that Slingbox doesn’t seem to crap out during the commercials. Just an observation.
Uh-oh. It’s time for wacky. Connor, aka Scooter Rocket is going to audition. In a helmet. On roller skates. Scooter Rocket is not a name, he informs us, it’s a way to see the world. Personally, I don’t think I see the world in scooter rocket mode, but no one gets out of their cars in Los Angeles so maybe that’s the difference. Scooter plays the guitar. Actually, he has a nice voice, so he’s only off his nut in one category. Scooter starts roller skating, and the judges start laughing. I’m thinking this would look just as bad without the skates, but we’ll never know. Tyce, I mean Toasty, says he needs the next level, and Scooter suggests maybe Toasty wants too much. Don’t you love it when the crazy ones fight back? And then he starts talking about the economy. Let it go, Scooter. And then Nigel says he looks like Clay Aiken’s younger brother. You know, Scooter should just audition for “American Idol,” because the Clay Aiken thing might work for him there.
After Scooter, the rest of the dancers apparently suck, although not enough for us to make fun of them. I wanted to see the mime! They should have sent him to Vegas because if he didn’t make it any further, he could still get a gig as one of those guys who poses in head-to-toe gold or white or silver make-up at Caesar’s.
Nicole Knudson wears her voluminous hair in a topknot, and given how tiny she is, she might topple over. It’s time to get a good hairdresser and ask to be thinned out, because otherwise Nicole is cute as button. A very, very skinny button. Nigel calls her Marge Simpson. Great start! Good Lord, this girl has the longest legs ever. She’s friggin’ good. Toasty says she’s everything and a bag of chips, which is so two years ago, but I think he was just floored. Toni loves her, Nigel loves her, she’s going to Vegas. Maybe she’ll splurge on a blow out, because that topknot isn’t doing a thing for her.
Haley is the girl who had stank face and was dancing for her dead father, and she was in choreography. And I guess it’s no big deal I missed her segment, because she’s not going to Vegas.
Thirteen dancers made it to Vegas, but we only see one?
Hmm, I was wrong about Slingbox. It does quit during commercials, too. But it saved me from watching the rest of the “Marmaduke” promo, so that’s really okay.
It’s day two, and first up is Derrocius Harris is going to aerobicize to Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Is that a name or a diagnosis? To say this is not the most masculine of performances, well, let’s just point out that Toni says “You, go, girl” and Nigel says he could be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. Toasty says it was difficult to watch, and he wanted to imagine him as a man who could dance with a woman. Basically, Derrocius is getting the boot because he’s clearly gay. And his dancing isn’t great, but yeah, that seems to be the least of the judges’ concerns.
Marcella Rineri’s dad was in the mob. And she models lingerie for her mom, which is less disturbing once we find out she’s 24. And no one wanted to date her in high school because her dad was so damn scary. Fortunately for the judges, she’s very good and, let’s face it, smoking hot. But Nigel doesn’t think she has any heart or soul. And then, when he learns her dad was a mobster, he pushes her through to choreography in a ha-ha funny way, but really, she was legitimately good. Toni thought everything looked like a set-up. Toasty felt she phoned it in. So, girlfriend just needs to growl a little. Big whoop. That’s easier than learning how to dance.
Oh no, did Cat just say “fuggedaboudit” in a Joisey accent? Oh, no no no. I feel sick.
Jordan Johnson is up next with his Mohawk. And he has a biological father. And he struggled with addiction. And he met his dad when he was 21. And then he gets choked up while Cat plays therapist. And his dad told him to buzz off this year, ouch. And Jordan is letting it fire him up instead of crush him (cue heartwarming music, producers). Could we stop trying to make dancers cry? You can tell he’s been through rehab, because he’s clearly told his story before, probably in group.
The good news is that Jordan is really, really good. And kinda funny, which we hardly ever see in a dance routine. Nigel really, really likes him, then checks his drug status. Luckily, Jordan’s five years clean, which is good news, as I think Nigel may want a pee test. Toni thinks he’s ugly-sexy and she’s hyperventilating a little. Toasty likes him, too. He’s going to Vegas.
Choreography time! Marcella is probably smiling too much, I think. But she’s going to Vegas. She’ll have plenty of time to work on grimacing on the plane.
Six more dancers that we didn’t see are going to Vegas. Oh, and Cat’s hinting that Nashville is not so hot.
You’d think Nashville, being an entertainment capital, would have some good dancers. But Nashville is also famous for fried food and ribs, so maybe everyone’s too full to move around a lot. Joey Dowling, Nigel and Adam will be the judges for today.
First up, 18-year-old Faith Looney, who has braces and is wearing a ridiculous leotard/flamenco outfit. We already know this will not end well. Faith is going to treat us to some bad girl-girl flamenco dancing with her best friend, Kelsey. Kelsey has a bad boyfriend, and, like, Faith didn’t talk to her for two hours. Oh, this is not good. I’m not really sure Faith is 18, because her demeanor screams awkward 14-year-old, as do her teeth. And, big surprise, the dance is awful. Nigel says it isn’t flamenco and that she makes dead people seem like party animals. Adam says oy vey instead of ole. Joey thought she was making fun of the flamenco. All the judges say she’s very sweet, and honestly, she is, because after being compared to a dead person, she walks out inspired to try harder. I think Faith should try something else harder, something that doesn’t involve performing but maybe studying or reading, but at least she’s optimistic.
Next, a bad dancing montage. Hey, I think I just saw some Hick-Hop!
Oh, the craptastic dances continue with Shanya Vaughn. First off, what’s with the pants that aren’t shorts and aren’t capris? And the standing in one place and flapping her arms? Adam says it looked like she was grooving to a song by herself in a corner. Joey gives her kudos for showing up. Nigel thinks she’s too stationary. Searching for some other arena in which to encourage poor Shanya, Nigel asks if she wanted to do anything else when she grew up. Uh, Shanya wanted to be a model. Oh, girl, that isn’t happening, either. Shanya, enjoy your minute and a half of fame.
Day two! But alas, more sucking. The judges are depressed. But then Brian Gaynor comes back! Has it really been three years since his first audition? He has scoliosis and crippling pain, but he does a killer robot. The judges want to put him in their pockets and take him home, because he’s just that cute. He dances, and Joey cries. Nigel tells him he’s magical, but doesn’t think he can do the partner work. Adam wants to be Brian when he grows up. Joey says he glows and then she cries some more. Everyone sniffles. Nigel asks Bran what he’s been up to lately, and he reveals he’s in a dance group called Remote Control. Brian is not a dummy, because he’s smart enough to know he just got his dance troupe huge national exposure by auditioning again. Smart, Brian, very smart. Nigel isn’t sending him on to Vegas, but he’ll put the crew of the show. Brian not only got free advertising, but he’s going to Hollywood. Good for Brian.
Then the judges, dejected by the utter lack of talent in Nashville, get up and dance to make themselves feel better. Okay.
Only seven people made it to Vegas. So I guess Cat wasn’t kidding, Nashville did suck.
Over 100 people total are coming to Vegas? Really? I’m thinking there are some people going to Vegas we didn’t hear about before, or they picked up a lot more people in New York than I realized.
Off to Vegas! Lil’ C, Mary Murphy, Toasty Oreo, Adam, Toni Redpath and Nigel are the judges for Vegas. Nigel warns everyone it’s going to be intense. Well, duh.
Season six’s Billy Bell is back and so is Season five’s Alex Wong. Alex dropped out because his ballet company wouldn’t let him out of his stupid contract, while Billy got sick. So, they get free passes to Vegas. I think both of them will get through, honestly, because they were friggin’ good.
Alex Wong may not have bones, or joints, or something, because he can move his body in ways that, really, he shouldn’t be able to. I’m glad he’s back. He could win this thing.
Billy also lacks ligaments. Talk about extension. He’s going to the top ten, easy.
And, because this is a show about dancing, we get to spend time focusing on the casualties. Anthony Burrell, who auditioned in New York, pulled his hamstring. But he’s going to tough it out. Anthony Burrell is either very motivated or has a crazy high pain threshold or both.
The auditions look strong so far. Too bad we’re in montage hell and can’t actually watch any.
Back to Injured Anthony, who’s doing his solo. I’m thinking he is not going to be able to dance for very long with a pulled hamstring. But, amazingly, he does. Man, that’s gotta be painful. Even so, his leaps look clean and he pulls out what must be an agonizing extension.
The judges make the first cuts. Not a lot of crying, but dancers look rightfully bummed to be sent home the first day. Uh-oh, Anthony and Billy and Alex are being called to the stage. They’ve gotta go through, right?
And crap, a commercial break! Aaagh!
They’re safe. Phew.
Sarah, the “big girl” dancer, has a bad back. Another New Yorker in pain. I think this may have everything to do with sitting on a plane from JFK to Vegas. Knowing JFK, they probably left them on the tarmac for a few hours, too.
Rachel, the gymnast, is having a rough time in choreography. Jose, the street dancer, is also having a hard time. With a hip hop routine? I think that’s just Cat making stuff up. But Rachel, yeah, she’s suffering, but come on! She’s stinking up the joint, and yes, she’s new to dance, but you’d think the gymnastic training would make a difference. C’mon, Rachel!
Rachel gets no votes across the board. Sorry, Rachel. Jose gets the three yeses he needs to continue on.
Melinda Sullivan, the tapper, is a yes. Lauren Froderman is a yes. Alexi is a yes, and so is her partner, whose name I can’t even begin to understand. But he seems excited.
Teddy, the guy who captured a sort of mournful sensibility in his first audition, is a no. Aw, man. I liked him. He had a kind of Stan Laurel thing going on.
Anthony and Sarah, the injured duo, are up on stage. Anthony is a yes! Sarah is a no, except Toasty gives her a yes. And then she starts crying, because she felt like she disappointed the judges. And Toasty tells her she’s a stunning dancer and he’s so nice to her, which she’ll appreciate when she stops crying. Did I mention Toasty rocks? I think he might have wanted to give her a no, but as the last judge he gave her a mercy yes, which was really just sweet of him.
Day two of Vegas, and 69 dancers remain… for ballroom. Which should eliminate a bunch of people. Toni is going to yell at everyone. A lot. Billy Bell calls her a Nazi Barbie. And she is surprisingly mean. Glad she didn’t bring that to the judges’ table, because we would have already had reports of our first “SYTYCD” suicide.
Time to focus on Nicole and her hair. Tyce tells Nicole she has to wear her hair down. Adam thinks she’ll dance differently with her hair down. It does look a lot better down. She’s getting a second chance.
Jose survives ballroom. Go figure. Giselle Peacock, the Broadway vet, nails ballroom, of course.
Another New York dancer, Adechike Torbert, gets cut. Or does he? Nigel asks him to dance for his life. Hmm, dramatic tension! Apparently Adechike did a great solo in New York and then ticked off the judges by doing a lame tap routine in Vegas. I know tappers did well last season, but really, we need to just stop it with the noisemakers already.
There’s one last group to see, which includes Jordan. Jordan looks a little awkward. Okay, a lot awkward. Jordan does not seem to realize this. Ballroom is not Jordan’s thing.
Nigel tells Jordan he was one of the worst of the day. He’s a no. Toni tells him he needs to go get the technique, and then he’ll nail it. Bye, Jordan. Jordan says being an addict is a struggle every day, and then he cries. I hope Nigel’s happy he pretty much threw Jordan off the wagon. Way to go, Nigel.
There are now 58 dancers. And, oh yeah, Adechike and Nicole have to dance for their lives. Nicole is freaking out and crying. And at first she falls apart a little in her routine, then she comes back. Toasty is so clearly rooting for her I think he convinces Mary to give her the benefit of the doubt. Nigel points out that she was clearly nervous, but gives her a yes. Mary does, too. Toasty gives her a yes. Lil ‘C is a no, but it’s no whoop because she’s on to the next round. Hang in there, Nicole. She probably needs a snack.
Adechike Torbert nails it in his solo. Nigel makes him suffer by calling him silly for tapdancing. Everyone gives him a big yes. And makes him cry. He’s going to Broadway.
Oh, please. Next week, the judges will go to dancers’ homes to tell them whether or not they made it into the top ten. Seriously? I just do not need to see a bunch of families blubbering and yearbook pictures and all the other crap the producers like to whip out. Leave that crap for “Intervention,” people.
Do you think Nicole and Adechike deserved to make it through? Do you think Alex and Billy will make the top ten? Who are you rooting for?