On the first episode of the new season, we’re treated to an overview of the first three seasons with the graceful Sabra winning last year, my man Benji winning the year before and … someone winning the first season. (Was anyone watching that year? I think I was too busy breaking up with my girlfriend. You too?)
Then we get an summary of the dancers to come with a montage of falling dancers, turning dancers, crying dancers, beautiful contemporary dancers, some breakers, some spinning on the head dancers … you get the idea. After the auditions in Los Angeles and five other cities, a herd of dancers lands in Las Vegas where they audition some more. There will be 20 contestants total, along with host Cat Deeley (who is always there with her glorious smile and we thank the deity of your choice for that), judges Nigel Lythgoe and the squeal-a-minute Mary Murphy. A guest judge fills the third slot, and for this first episode, it was my TV girlfriend Mia Michaels, who will also choreograph some of the pieces in later shows. Not only has she won an Emmy for her work in a previous season, but she’s also choreographed for Madonna and Cirque du Soleil, when she’s not busy spending the night at my house.
The first dancer does a great job … of standing still. Heart’s “Barracuda” is blasting away but she’s not moving a muscle. The music stops and one of the judges asks, “Wrong music?” No, dunderhead, she’s dancing in her mind. The right music – a lovely ballad – starts up and Devin Oshiro does a beautiful job with fluid movements that perfectly match the music. Micheals – I sometimes use her last name, which see likes – says that she’s sensational and if she’s this good now, she’ll be stupid in the finals. (That’s Mia-speak for amazing.) Of course, OShiro gets a ticket to Vegas.
We’re then treated to an Italian dude who charmingly informs Deeley that the difference between American men and Italian men is hair. Italians have lots of it. (Um, TMI.) Deeley doesn’t blink and notes that he must have shaved his chest so of course he puffs it out to show off his sculpted muscles and washboard abs as every gay boy in America faints from the beauty of it. I, however, am not moved. And neither are the judges, exactly. While it’s clear he’s watched Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” one million times, he’s not quite up to the American standard, as dryly noted by the judges. Michaels starts to tell him he won’t be successful in this country but slips and says “sexcessful.” (No, Michaels, that would be Cat Deeley.) Still, they want to give him a chance so he’s told he’ll be participating in the choreography. This is an additional round of auditions for those who don’t get a direct pass to Vegas.
And then Sex is back. No, I don’t mean the hot girl lust going on over on Grey’s Anatomy (admit it, I know you’ve been sneaking peaks while SYTYCD is on), but the guy named Sex, who is not sexy. He comes with his mother, noted as his biggest fan. (More like, his only fan.) He does a pelvis swiveling mess that might pass for dancing if everyone in the room was doing crack. Michaels slips and says he was really good at some point in one of his three auditions. (Quick! Hug her real close and tell her the hallucinations will stop soon!) When she collapses in laughter, we can wipe our brows because we know she’s kidding. I kind feel sorry for the guy as he goes on about the many, many, many years of extensive dance training he has. (Yes, that’s three “many’s”.)
The next contestant, Laura Garcia, is from Tucson, my perfect home town — land of great Mexican food, awesome music and gorgeous mountains. I’m leaning forward, wanting her to smash the competition but regrettably, she’s not yet at a professional level. What is cool, though, is that she’s visually impaired – even needing help to find her starting spot on the stage – and still does a beautiful job. Lythgoe comments that to allow her to the next round would only be patronizing and she nods in agreement. Micheals is sobbing as she tells Garcia how much she appreciates the passion in her work and goes on to say that a dancer close to her recently lost their sight. See, this is why Mia – I’ll use her first name here — is my TV girlfriend. This isn’t just a show where she can parade her accomplishments. These dancers mean something to her.
Twitch auditioned last year, and he’s back to show us what he’s learned since. Lord have mercy, he’s good – his pops and slides are art. Murphy tells him he’s slick and stupid. (See, she learned that from my girlfriend.) Michaels demonstrates “stank face” which is a good thing. There’s no doubt that Twitch is going to Vegas. Deeley is waiting around the corner for him, casually sitting on a stairway and asks him if he has any news for her. Now I’m dreaming that around every corner is Cat Deeley, asking me for news. How freakin’ beautiful would that be?
Another dancer cut last season, Phillip Chbeeb, does some popping and locking that doesn’t look real. I swear he dislocates his shoulders more than once. His bag of tricks elicits many “Wows” and “Oh my gods” from the judges and rightly so. Dude is so going to Vegas.
There’s another montage, this one focused on clothing. We see a dancer in striped socks and baggy red pants, a guy in a tie, a dude in a big feather scarf and a sequin bedecked bellydancer. Bellydancer?! Girl howdy, that’s MY specialty. They show her for one and a half seconds. Although she’s doing some sexy hip accents and has a lovely smile, that’s all we see of her. No fair — they did this in an earlier season: We get a brief shot of a bellydancer, then they zoom off to some head spinning hip hopper. Bellydancers aren’t just one trick ponies, people. (Okay, I’ll get off the soap box. Maybe my TV girlfriend will console me.)
We get a glimpse of the choreography round. Arrogant Italian guy doesn’t make it but Wingfield and Chbeeb do (yay!)
Day two of the LA auditions brings us more of the same. Erika Gee is a pretty blond who calls herself a starving professional dancer. Honey, most professional dancers are starving, unless they’re Madonna. (Um, not that it’s right, I’m just sayin’.) It’s her third try and apparently, the third time’s a charm: Michaels calls her lovely and she’s put through to Vegas.
Contestant Randy Lewis dances like a drunk guy at a late night wedding reception, eliciting an “Ew!” from one of the judges. I concur. His hiney wiggle is cute though.
Next we’re treated to some amazing hip-hop from Victor Kim. His head slides are so good, I’m convinced his spine has detached. He spends a whole lot of time spinning on his hands and – get this – on his freakin’ elbow. We know he’s ending when he walks down the stage steps on his hands and plops down in a chair in the audience. Wow.
Then, there’s the Gold Inferno. Please tell me this is a frat initiation and not a man who’s seriously auditioning. His “jump style” is just that – a lot of twitching and jumping, on one foot, then the other, then both, then … oh, I don’t care. I’m happy he’s wearing a gold mask with a black mesh front so I don’t have to see his eyes. I’ll bet they’re evil in a Chucky kind of way.
Another ballroom couple is next, dancing to a Latin number. You’re know they’re doing well when the camera cuts to Murphy who’s grinning like she’s eaten a box of very good imported chocolate. Ballroom is her specialty so when Murhpy’s happy, we’re happy. It’s even more amazing when you know that Asuka Kondoh, the woman of the pair (her partner is Ricky Sun) has been sick for a few days. Where she gets the energy to dance like that, I don’t know. They must be making some powerful decongestant these days. The couple is sent directly to Vegas, as they should be.
My hopes rise when I realize the next dancer is a soccer player. I may not be a sports fan but babes, I love me some jocks. There are clips of her chasing around a soccer ball and talking about how’s she’s a tomboy. The yum factor rises. I start humming Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby.” Then she talks about wanting to be all girlie. (Okay, okay, I can do this.) Her contemporary dance is quite nice. Murphy screams, “I think she needs to go to Vegas!” We get it, Murphy. Dial it back, Lythgoe needs his hearing. So do the engineers in the control room. So do we.
It’s getting later in the day but still the waiting dancers are going like there’s no end to their batteries. (Where can I buy some of those batteries? I’m tired of recharging my MP3 player.) We see a pastiche of rejected dancers including one long haired beauty who whines that the judges “didn’t like her pants” and that they’re “racist against tall people.” Whatever.
Robert Muraine does some really scary – that’s scary good – twists and contortions that any circus would be happy to have. He must also dislocate his shoulders but his head? How did he do that? He uses his whole body including great facial expressions and HE WRAPS HIS FOOT AROUND HIS SHOULDERS AND UNDER HIS CHIN. It’s all crazy good. He runs up to Lythgoe to get his ticket to Vegas and in the last few feet goes into slow-mo. So does Lythgoe. It’s poetry, man. Who knew an older guy like Lythgoe could move like that? Send him to Vegas! (Oh yeah, he’s a judge so he’s already going.)
Lastly, we get another brief glimpse of the choreography round with Vegas bound people doing their happy dance afterwards. Sadly, Victor Kim doesn’t make it but Ricky Sun and Asuka Kondoh do.
For the next episode they’re going to Salt Lake City and Dallas. Bring it on — as long as Cat Deeley is waiting around the corner with her bullhorn, I’m there.