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Genevieve bemoaned the auditions that have worn out their welcome last week, and let me just chime in with a hearty "amen."  The fun of auditions — what little there is — is the sense of discovery, seeing something exciting for the first time.  But because of the claustrophobic formula of auditions, the deck is stacked against anyone who doesn't have a story hook, a gimmick.  Just being a good dancer isn't enough to get you thirty seconds of precious screen time.  But being a train wreck is guaranteed primetime slot in front of Fox's millions of viewers.

Leave it to SYTYCD to bust open the formula on the first dancer, a beautiful male ballet dancer named Billy who gets some detailed critique from Nigel instead of the chorus of praise that the formula dictates.  Amber Jackson, a strong contemporary dancer, gets the same treatment — Nigel slams her performance, meaning her disinterest in connecting with the audience, and they send her to choreography.  Maybe, just maybe, Atlanta will be different.  It would be interesting if instead of the entire divide between the talented and the deluded, there was some distinction among those who know what they were doing but had some essential piece missing — who had something important to learn. 

Ahhh, who am I kidding?  We've still got several weeks of auditions to go, and nothing's going to change anytime soon.  We get some possible front runners, like Jamal Jackson, who has the contemporary moves and polished grace that have propelled a lot of the top contenders in recent years.  We get returning favorites, like Anthony and Antwain's synced hip-hop routine.  (Nigel explains his recommendation of choreography for them by saying that "wherever possible, you should pick up choreography"; it's for their benefit, see, not for judging purposes — although Antwain blows his chance and the two are separated.)

And we get the characters, like Boogie Links, who is as interested in ingratiating himself with scantily-clad female contestants and hosts as in delivering a clever set of tricks.  We get the cancer survivor Jessica, the one-handed dancer who gets praised for her courage and called an inspiration before being sent to choreography to see if she can figure out one-handed partner work.  We get the untrained dancer — "I don't care what anyone says, my solo is dope" Jonathan — who thinks he's already great despite the evidence.  (Nigel: "All this is going to be cut out of the television show; nobody wants to watch this.  I'd be bored stiff watching this!").  We get Thomas visiting the boarded-up crack house where he was born.  (Nigel critiques him for falling into the "insularity" of praise dancing, which isn't about an audience.  Interesting.)

OK, so I was wrong.  This was different — and way better — than that stink bomb of a show Claire had to gasp her way through last week.  (Sorry, Genevieve.)  The critiques came from unexpected places, even if the auditions were from standard-issue SYTYCD Town.  And even though Lil' C rarely seems to have an idea that has not just been handed to him by his fellow judges, I'll take him any day over the increasingly unbearable Oreo.  The kick-fart might have been the low point of reality competitions in 2009.  Almost anything would have been a step up.

Grade: A-

Stray observations:

- Shoutout to my Georgia Bulldogs, whose "mike man" Travis throws down some frat-party moves and gets damned with the faint praise of "social dancer."  Woof, Uga, sic 'em!

- Mary, please lay off the flesh-colored eye shadow.  It appears that your eye sockets are getting smaller and smaller, perhaps being swallowed by the growing colonies of botulism in your forehead and cheeks.

- One of the failed auditioners cries because she's going back to "podunk Searcy, Arkansas — there's nothing there!"  I live 45 minutes from Searcy, and I'm sorry to say, she's right. 

- By the way, is this show going to be draw protests from the Scottsdale, Georgia Chamber of Commerce?  And how did Thomas get from there to a class with Mia Michaels?  I imagine we might be getting more of this story if he gets past Vegas.