Recap: 'So You Think You Can Dance' Season 9 Premiere - Dallas and New York Auditions
Cat Deeley, Nigel Lytho and company are back for another season
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This is how I celebrate my first "American Idol"-free Thursday of the spring?
Thursday (May 24) night is the two-hour season premiere of FOX's "So You Think You Can Dance" and, in honor of the season-starter, I'm gonna live-blog this sucker. I don't know if this will be a regular thing. In fact, I have my doubts for a few reasons:
1) I already know I probably won't be able to do next week, so I'm not going to get a Lou Gehrig-style streak going.
2) I actually like "So You Think You Can Dance," but as a viewer. I'm not sure I feel the same way as a recapper.
3) I don't know a darned thing about how to critique dancing, so I fear that my commentary will be full of empty words like "bendy" and "ab-tastic."
4) I don't know if anybody cares enough to read.
But for the purposes of the premiere? Let's get some live-blogging action going. And if you want more, read and comment and stuff...
8:00 p.m. ET. Let's be honest, though. I'm doing this for Cat Deeley. I'm like the nanny in "The Omen." All for you, Cat! It's all for you!!!
8:01 p.m. I like the "Thank God this isn't another singing competition" intro.
8:03 p,m. We're starting in New York City.
8:04 p.m. Cat Deeley looks so chilly! But her cheeks have a rosy glow. Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy are being joined by Toasty Oreos for the NYC auditions. I hate Toasty Oreos. This is not a good sign to start the season. Where is Petite C? Where Is Adam Shankman?
8:05 p.m. We start with contemporary dancer Amelia Lowe, who's kinda like if Zooey Deschanel and Diablo Cody had an affected flapper baby. She'd be cute if she weren't wildly overplaying the theatricality of being a 1920s screen siren. She's dancing to Edith Piaf, which only adds to her gimmickry. But guess what? She wouldn't be starting the telecast if she weren't good. I don't know what the performance has to do with dying of consumption in Paris, but I'm sure it's there somewhere. She ends with a flourish and the judges stand for her. Amelia's never been to Paris. Nigel points out that there's a Paris hotel in Las Vegas. Toasty Oreos whips out a plane ticket and Amelia bats her eyelashes coquettishly.
8:14 p.m. Oh Cat. So chilly.
8:14 p.m. People came from all over. That includes Japan. Sporting some funky orange-red hair and and a matching red track-suit, we meet Toshihiko Nakazawa. He isn't fluent in English idiom, but his mixture of hip-hop, popping, ballet and bouncing-around-on-the-floor is artistic and humorous both. In terms of individual moves, there's nothing we haven't seen before and I'm not a huge fan of pretzeling-as-dancing, but it's extremely likable, performatively. Nigel compares him to Twitch, which is just plain silly. Mary loved every single second. Nobody cares what Toasty Oreos says. He's invited to stick around for the choreography or "See you later," as Toshihiko understands it.
8:20 p.m. Time for our first freak of the night. He's 21-year-old Austin Freeman, who has created his own dance. He calls it Mr. Wiggle and he says that people sometimes laugh, sometimes make fun of him and sometimes videotape him. With their phones. Austin's dream is to become a celebrity and to give people The Freeman Fever. I really have no interest in the "So You Think You Can Dance" freaks. There are so many talented people on this show and so many people who do variations on Mr. Wiggle, but also throw in hip-hop moves so that they're actually dancing. I have no objection to "Feigning a seizure" as a dance style, but this is an uninspiring seizure indeed. "Whoever shouted 'Vegas,' kick them out now," Nigel says after cutting the performance off. "There's very few men I'd even like to see wiggle and you're not one of them," Mary says. Austin made Toast Oreos sad. Well, that's something in Austin Freeman's favor.
8:27 p.m. Ew. "Dance Moms" ad during "SYTYCD." I get there's audience overlap, but come on...
8:29 p.m. Time for a showcase of talented dancers we won't be truly introduced to. I wish I could trade back those five minutes with Austin to learn some names.
8:31 p.m. Representing Philly is "street entertainer" Shafeek Westbrook. "I like to flip," he says, accurately. He says that his style is "a combination of everything" and that showmanship is 50 percent of his act. First off, this guy has dramatically undersold his training. There's a grace and athleticism to what he's doing that is definitely honed in the street, but he knows other stuff as well. There's some modern dance in there for sure and I don't have a clue what "modern dance" is. "With what you're doing, you extend this entire program," Nigel says. Mary makes a joke about how he needs to work on getting in shape. See... Shafeek is in really good shape. Shafeek pauses the the compliments to explain that his performance related to a friend who died on 9/11. Hmmm... Well, good for him.
8:35 p.m. Time for our first choreography session. Since we only saw one contestant who went through to choreography, there isn't much to watch here. Toshihiko can't lift, so he's gone. But other people we don't know go to Vegas. I wish we could have spent more time watching Courtney Galiano training people. BOO.
8:41 p.m. Time for Day Two in New York. Our first contestant is Leo Reyes. I miss his story, but we already know he's going to be good. His song choice is a bit strange, but you clearly get the story he's telling in his fluid movements. To me, it seems like there's more storytelling going on here than dancing, but that's because... I DON'T GET MODERN DANCE. And it's not that I didn't like Leo. The audience loves Leo and he's sent through through to Vegas.
8:48 p.m. Nobody wants to chat. I blame me.
8:50 p.m. Ah good. A showcase of people who stink. The only thing I care about less than dancers who Toasty Oreos likes is dancers who he dislikes.
8:51 p.m. Time for Swiss ballet dancer Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, whose name I'm fairly sure I'm spelling wrong. He only does ballet, but he wants to do much much more. In addition to his hard-to-spell name, Chehon is extremely tall and he has impressive grace for his long-limbedness. He thinks he can dance and I'm pretty sure he can as well. But only "pretty sure." I can't be sure of anything. Toasty wants him to go straight to Vegas. Everybody agrees.
8:54 p.m. Bye, New York solos. Now? Choreography. Except that we literally haven't met a single person from this choreography session and that means even LESS time with Courtney Galiano. How is that possible? Off to Texas next... Best of all? No More Toasty Oreo!
8:59 p.m. Dallas time. Cat Deeley looks warmer. I'm relieved on her behalf.
9:00 p.m. Lil' C will be joining Mary and Nigel. We start with mom-of-two Bree Hafen, who admits that she's often felt guilt about having her own dreams. Awww. Her kids, Luke and Stella, are in the crowd and they're adorable. Stella's in a pink princess dress and Luke proudly announces that he shuffles. I think that 29-year-old Bree is probably fairly decent, though I think her gifts are amplified by the cuteness of her approving children. Awwww... Mid-performance, Lil' Luke comes out on stage and hands his mom a ticket to Vegas. That's INSANELY sweet. Nigel calls her "a very, very good dancer."
9:04 p.m. Awww. Stella's turn to dance. Lil' C thinks she's buck. Stella receives a standing ovation.
9:10 p.m. More dancing kids!
9:10 p.m. Time for some profoundly weird performing from Hampton "The Exorcist" Williams and Stepheon "The Zombie" Stewart. We've got Stepheon up first. His style is, indeed, "Walking Dead" meets "Step Up." It includes backwards walking, eye-rolling, slouching and basically making Mary Murphy sound like the happiest scared seal in captivity. Hush now, Mary. The judges are overjoyed. Lil' C keeps repeating that he loves his job. He's off to Vegas. We have to wait to see The Exorcism.
9:19 p.m. Let's see Hampton's Exorcist Style. He swears that his dancing can cleanse people of their pain and their fear. Mary's already laughing nervously. See Austin Freeman? Hampton's got a weird stroboscopic twitching to his dancing, but he's also DANCING. Perhaps the exorcism imagery is a smidge too literal here, but that doesn't mean it isn't spooky and awesome.The judges seem unwilling to cut Hampton off, because there's a full story and they don't want to miss a beat. I don't remember the last time we saw that long a performance, but the judges are on their feet and at least one person in the audience (and one Mary Murphy) is crying. That was pretty darned unique, not that I have all that much knowledge/experience. "I think you could be a genius," Nigel says. He admits that he doesn't know how Hampton will do as he has to do more dancing, but he doesn't care. He vows to send Hampton to Vegas himself. "I want to kick you in your face right now," Lil' C says. He means that as a complimentary kick-in-the-face.
9:26 p.m. Other people in Dallas could also dance. They just don't have names. And there were also people in choreography who don't have names.
9:27 p.m. We haven't had NEARLY enough Cat Deeley in this episode.
9:32 p.m. Day Two in Dallas.
9:33 p.m. Australia-born Daniel Baker is the day's first dancer. He desperately wanted to move to America and somehow, the only way he could think of to come to America was to become a ballet dancer. He arrives on-stage shirtless and the ladies love him. REALLY love him. Daniel's in the San Francisco Ballet, so the fact that he's instantly, immediately and obviously tremendous isn't surprising. Once again: If I can tell that you're doing ballet well, you're probably doing ballet decently at the very least. Ladies love him and they chant for him to receive a pass to Vegas. The judges all have to pretend to be reserved in their appreciation. "If you want to come to Vegas, I suppose you can," Nigel says.
9:37 p.m. We haven't had enough Cat tonight and we haven't had enough female eye-candy tonight. I'm not liking either of those trends.
9:38 p.m. Really? It's another Austin Freeman, only he's calling himself "Sam" now. Are we really pretending that Sam isn't Austin Freeman in disguise? Oh. OK. He's autistic. So now it's not possible (or desirable) to make fun of him. And he instantly becomes likable and really sympathetic. Weird how that works. Suddenly the part where he says he's never trained in dance -- "Remarkably, I have not" -- isn't funny, even if it was played as a punchline earlier in the episode. His dancing may not be good, but his commitment to his dancing is very good. "What swarm of wasps were you fighting off?" Nigel asks. "It makes me feel that I am free to express myself," Sam says of his dancing. "Whatever you do, don't stop dancing," Nigel tells him. Lil' C calls Sam one of the buckest individuals of the day. Manipulative? Yes. Wildly. But good for Sam.
9:47 p.m. "So You Think You Can Dance" inspires people.
9:48 p.m. But then there are less inspired people. B-boy Von "Legend" Kipper is against auditioning for the show. He thinks this is a show that crushes dreams and he doesn't care for the show. And to prove his point, he shows up in a hamster costume. He doesn't want to sacrifice himself for mainstream success, but he wouldn't mind the exposure, apparently. Cat is not a fan. And if Cat hates somebody, I hate them. Sigh. Ugh. Sam doesn't just hate the show, but he has hostile things to say about Sam. Don't insult Sam, Von. The audience boos Von and he goads them on. He was a much more interesting dancer in his hamster costume. And before he poisoned the room. This routine actually kinda sucks. Lil' C asks about Von's lost focus and Von responses that he didn't expect to be questioned about his opinions. "You can't talk a good game and not bring a good game," Nigel tells Von, who keeps sighing deeply. The crowd cheers as Nigel tells Von that he has a bad attitude. He's sent packing.
9:54 p.m. But let's end on a high note. Jarrell Rochelle is determined to give it his all. His mother has an eye disease and she's going blind and he's determined to make something in dance while she can still see. The judges make sure that his mother is brought up close enough to the stage so that she can see. Nigel gives her his seat. Sniffle. And, indeed, Jarrell is the most suspenderstatic dancer of the day. He's good. His mom is proud. It's a good way to end the show. He's off to Vegas.
Did you enjoy Thursday's premiere? Any reason for me to keep doing this [Next week excluded]?
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