'So You Think You Can Dance': A new season that promises to be different delivers a familiar debut
After six seasons it's a little hard to find new and exciting things to say about the audition episodes of "So You Think You Can Dance," but that doesn't mean I'm not happy to see one of my favorite talent competitions back on the air. With new tweaks including a top 10 instead of top 20 and partnerships with former contestants, I'm hoping to see some excitement this season, especially after the rather humdrum seasons of "Project Runway" and "American Idol," which both could benefit from a face-lift.
The first round of auditions took place in New York with Nigel Lythgoe, Adam Shankman and Mia Michaels serving as judges. We saw a lot of promising talent, including Sarah Brinson, the allegedly "big dancer" who wouldn't have seemed big to me if she hadn't announced it. I thought it was interesting that her parents are both professional golfers, although I groaned at Nigel's lame Tiger Woods joke. Giselle and Henry from Burn the Floor indeed delivered a spicy and fast ballroom routine that excited the judges. I might be wrong, but it seemed like there were more cameras used for the auditions than in previous seasons, which delivered more shots of the tryouts that led to better footage.
Of course, there were the not-so-greats. I actually found crime-scene cleanup man and cereal restaurateur Scott Vogel charming -- I loved that he uses dance as an escape because boy does he deserve one. He seemed just really happy to be dancing, and he had a couple moves in his line-dance routine: not many, but a few. I found Mike Perlman from 123 Party! obnoxious, however, like a very poor man's Adam Sandler or Ben Stiller: He struck me as being way too amused with his '80s style bad dancing. I loved Adam's line to one of the lesser dancers: "I think you love dancing more than dancing loves you." Later on in the episode, too, Nigel told one contestant, "I think dancing should be a social time for you."
I also was glad to see Teddy Tedholme (he of the harlequin patterned pants from last season) back. I love that he can bring grace to an awkward character on stage, which was one of the things I loved about Ellenore Scott from last season. Teddy brought the judges to tears with his talent. And though they didn't focus on him very much, I certainly enjoyed the eye candy of Daniel Baker, a muscular golden boy who made Mia say, "There you are, look at you, in all your glory."
Closing out New York City, I got a legitimate laugh out of Jamie Greco, the horror film impresario who did a drag version of Carmen Miranda, pretended to smoke a carrot like a cigarette, wore a bra made of broccoli and did a bit of humor with an orange. It was so silly and yet he also secretly seemed to not be a horrible dancer. The judges got a huge kick out of it and it was nice that Jamie exited gracefully after his performance.
Finally, Megan Carpenter performed, a dance major who has a bigger physique than most dancers. The judges loved that she broke the stereotype of the average dancer but what I love about the show is that she didn't make it through choreography. That may sound mean but I just like that a first audition and an inspiring story can only get you so far--if you can't make the cut at choreography, then that's that. The show is objectively diplomatic like that. Maybe she'll be back next season, like Edward Spots, who got through after auditioning in Season 6.
Then the auditions moved to Miami, where everyone seemed to be having a great time dancing in line. Nigel this time judged with Jason Gilkison and Sonya Tayeh. I thought Michael Petr was a strong ballroom dancer, but I couldn't help but want to know more about his glittering female partner. The show got a little heavy-handed with Tyrell Rolle's "dancing to get out of my rough neighborhood" story, not because I don't think it's legitimate but the shots of him walking through the deserted streets went on a little long. However, it was great seeing his father be so supportive of him.
I thought Henry Rivera was very sweet, sort of like a dancing version of David Archuleta -- it was one of those auditions where I wished I knew more of what I was looking at because I think I have the hardest time judging good contemporary dance. I also was intrigued by "older" mom Ami Aguiar-Riley because, as the judges noticed, she was rather tough and ungirly in her audition. I was glad to see she made it through choreography.
There weren't as many "bad" dancers in Miami as in New York, but it was funny to see that of all the oddballs who passed across the stage, the judges were most put off by Daria Kopylova, who danced (I originally typed "partnered" but that seemed wrong) with her dad.
The final two auditioners of the night were Candace Craig, who seemed to want to be the Nicole Scherzinger/Sabrina Bryan of the competition (i.e., coming from a sexy girl group) but her boobs and her hair were just a little bit bigger than her talent. By the way she seemed put out by her rejection, I got the impression that she was a little too cocky and unserious for the auditions. Also cocky was Jose Ruiz, a b-boy who declared himself better than last season's Legacy Perez. Ruiz turned in a good audition and made it through to Vegas but I recall Legacy being a little more humble, a bit more of a surprise last season, so we'll see if Ruiz's big talk can live up to Legacy's, well, you know.
--Claire Zulkey (follow me on Twitter: @Zulkey)
Photo: Contestants show off their moves
at the New York City auditions.
Credit: Jeff Neira / Fox