I watch "American Idol" closely, and in previous seasons felt exhausted heading right from the finale into a new season of "So You Think You Can Dance." On Thursday night, however, I was ready. After a season of "Idol" in which the contestants were rarely asked to go outside their comfort zones, that's all that happens on "SYTYCD." And not to dis our new idol, but when you've seen one Scotty McCreery performance, you've seen most of them. On "SYTYCD" you need to watch closely, though, because if you look away, you might miss the best part. I also find myself rooting for the dancers hot on the heels of "Idol." The dancers perform anonymously behind the guest singers on "Idol," so I'm happy to see them get their own chance in the spotlight. Plus, it's nearly summer, and I find all those muscular bodies motivating.
To kick off Season 8, Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy (she's baaaack) and Lil C judged auditions in Atlanta, and then Nigel, Tyce Diorio and Toni Redpath oversaw tryouts in San Francisco. We saw a lot of promising dancers. I'm always a sucker for a quirky female dancer, and I'm in love with several of them already. Melanie Moore, who resembles Ginnifer Goodwin, was at once vulnerable and sexy with her audition (I loved the details in her feet and her ripped-off bloody Band-Aid). Her proud mother in the audience might have also put a lump in my throat. I agreed with Nigel, who asked her to make sure to learn how to dance other genres by the time she gets to Las Vegas so as not to let him down.
I also enjoyed Kimalee Piedad, whose dancing reminded me of what a circus would look like if Mia Michaels choreographed it. And then there was Amber Williams, who seems like the dancing version of comedian Maria Bamford: a sweet blonde face disguising a sensual, dangerous sense of humor. Plus, when she's happy, she dances like a monkey.
Meanwhile, we saw some serious hip-hop from the guys. Kyre Batiste benefited from bringing his sassy grandma to the audition, who actually whipped Lil C with her belt for critiquing her grandson. Timothy Joseph brought death-defying stuntman moves to his breaking. Alas, neither of these guys made it and neither did floaty turf dancer Levi Allen. Jeffery "Machine" McCann did earn a ticket to Vegas though: something about his onstage personality reminded me of all-star Twitch, so I'm looking forward to seeing him again.
My only critique of the episode was whether too many dancers made it to Vegas. Is that possible? ... Nah. That just means there will be a bigger pool of talent from which to choose in the next round. Plus, I'd rather watch good dancers than the bizarre performance art of sobbing D'on-que Addison (although Tyce's barely-concealed disgust at his audition was enjoyable). And although I appreciated the booty-shaking of former (?) stripper Leshia Moss, something about her made me sad, despite her sunny personality.
But never mind all that! Season 8 is here! And I'm excited!
-- Claire Zulkey
Photo: "So You Think You Can Dance" contestants.
Credit: Adam Rose / Fox