During So You Think You Can Dance audition episodes, we all expect Ballroom, Contemporary, Hip Hop, and maybe even some Tap in recent seasons. In the premiere episode of this season, however, viewers were introduced to TURFin’ through the audition of “I Dummy”, who unfortunately didn’t make the cut to move on in the show. Episode 2 took us to Salt Lake City and Brooklyn, NY, where producers continued to spotlight some unique styles, both good and bad.
Step is certainly not a new style of dance, but it has not been highlighted on So You Think You Can Dance in the past (at least not that this reviewer can recall). These particular ‘steppers’ were strong – they brought personality to their performance, engaged the audience, and showed skill and musicality. It was a good representation a powerful style to an wide viewing audience.
Irish Dancing hit the mainstream back with RiverDance, but tonight SYTYCD highlighted an adorable Irish dancer who made it through to Vegas after a testing in the choreography round. Like with Step, Irish is a genre that’s relatively untapped on this show, so her progress will be new territory and fun to watch.
A lesser known style fans saw tonight was “Whacking”. The description of Whacking was intriguing: it seeks to accent the smaller details of music that may not be noticed at first listen. The contestant sharing this style was definitely interesting to watch – she truly did move in tandem with the music, and her movements had incredible speed and precision. Her performance had a story and character, much more similar to what viewers can expect in dances down the road when the choreographers start working with contestants, which added to the interest of her audition piece. However, her piece didn’t show a lot of range – her performance was primarily arm movements, with very little going on with her legs. A ticket straight through to Vegas was a surprising move from the judges, as it seems seeing her do some choreography in other styles may have been helpful.
The decision to move some contestants on to Las Vegas while others must learn a choreographed piece for further judging is a perplexing one on So You Think You Can Dance. It seems that dancers who perform an outstanding contemporary audition piece rarely find the need to prove themselves in a choreography round, and yet amazing performances from other genres frequently receive the standard “We’d like to see what else you’re able to do” from the judging table. In one sense it makes some sense – contemporary dance utilizes skills from a number of different genres, and requires following choreography and moving both the dancer’s upper and lower body, whereas some styles are more freestyle in nature or focus primarily on movements of one part of the body. As the competition moves more towards solely choreographed numbers and a variety of dance styles, these dancers may find themselves in over their heads if they don’t have the necessary skills, regardless of their expertise in their own style. However I have to imagine that a relatively high number of strong contemporary dancers would be completely lost in the realm of hip hop as well, and yet that is not addressed by the judges in this round of auditions. Viewers see the results of this oversight once the live shows begin – how many times have we seen a Top 20 dancer butcher a hip hop number after making it through round after round because they dance contemporary and so it is assumed they can learn any style? Clearly contemporary is the favored dance of the SYTYCD process. (Personally, it’s one of my favorites as well, but the process doesn’t quite seem to be equal opportunity for dancers of other styles.)
As the auditions move on to Los Angeles, let me offer some concluding thoughts on the stand-out moments of Episode 2:
· The star of the night had to be Francois Gratton, the 54 year old father of one of the contestants. When spontaneously asked to share his first Father/Daughter dance on stage in front of the judges and audience, Francois rose to the occasion and offered a performance that was full of both skill and guts! An encore performance at the finale show would be great …
· On the heels of the release of the documentary “Race to Nowhere”, Samantha’s audition 3 weeks after getting amnesia didn’t inspire me in the same way it did the judges. Her amnesia was essentially caused by overworking herself during a case of mono ‘” pushing herself to continue dancing when she should have rested. Her story is a prime example of youth pushing too hard and putting too much pressure on themselves. Yes, she demonstrated remarkable courage to continue to pursue a dream that she doesn’t even necessarily remember (her friends told her that she loved SYTYCD), but how is jumping into a high pressure competition show helping to solve the problem that caused her amnesia in the first place? It seems to be a blessing in disguise for her that she didn’t make it.
· Chase Thomas received a lot of attention for the skimpy outfit he wore for his contemporary audition. People comment so much more when a male is dressed in this way to perform and yet women not only dress this way for dance all the time, it is expected of them! Chase’s outfit was in line with many normal men’s costumes in contemporary pieces. The comments directed at him would have been completely inappropriate were they said to any one of the equally scantily-clad females on the show.
Qu.O.T.E. (Quote Of The Episode): “I have to ask you … Do you sing?” -tacky guest judge Robin Antin using her appearance to shamelessly recruit for The Pussycat Dolls