At this point in our history together, I’ve come to regard So You Think You Can Dance as I would a long-term significant other. We’ve been through five seasons and countless good times together, and no matter how bloated or self-congratulatory it occasionally gets, underneath it all I can still see the show I fell in love with, and I stick by it. But year after year, nothing tests our relationship like auditions. It’s like your boyfriend’s insufferable friends coming to crash on your couch for a few weeks a year, their every obnoxious quip and corny joke reflecting back on the person you love and sullying your opinion of them by association. But with love comes acceptance, and if getting to spend time with the SYTYCD I love means looking the other way while it indulges its leering (Nigel), screeching (Mary), bitchy (Tyce) friends for a few weeks, I can accept that.
That said, auditions behaved themselves pretty well tonight—with one major mugging, farting, Tasty exception—and they even brought along some pretty cool friends to boot. Like not one, but two solid street dancers with enough studio polish to make it to the Vegas rounds. And a gawky, tap-dancing giant whose “educated ankles” and good nature made what could have been a standard “freakshow” throwaway sequence into a charming (if ultimately go-nowhere) story.
But tonight’s show also raised some questions. Like why did Russell, whose crump routine was probably the best thing of the night, get sent to choreography, while b-boy Jean was sent straight through to Vegas with no judging at all based solely on some (admittedly very impressive) power moves? And why bother sending skeevy ballroom guy Gene onto choreography to learn more ballroom, when the point of choreography is seeing how you fare outside your comfort zone? For that matter, why bother sending him on at all? Yes, his technique and footwork were good, but his sweaty, shirt-tearing, booty-popping antics and choreographed eyebrows were so off-putting I could barely watch. Even Cat thought he was a creeper; there’s no way he’ll ever be one of her “babies,” so why pretend?
Then there was checkered-pants Teddy. I honestly don’t know what to make of this guy. On the one hand, he gave a unique, likable performance that displayed a natural inclination for movement, though perhaps not a lot of technical skills/training. On the other hand, everything about him, from his outfit to his routine to his aggressively look-at-me-I’m-whimsical persona, screamed “character,” and not in a good way. But he did exhibit some likable self-awareness (“I mean, I am wearing a bow tie”), and he seems like he could adapt to a bunch of different genres—his routine had elements of popping, contemporary, and Broadway—so what the hell, give him the ticket to Vegas.
Speaking of “characters”: Paul Magliato. I know it’s pointless to rail against SYTYCD’s insistence on cherry-picking delusional weirdoes to flail around for our amusement; but like “Sex” (how long until we see him again?), Paul’s inclusion was so transparent and mean-spirited that it sapped any enjoyment I might usually derive from watching a 46-year-old man flounce and twirl like a toddler in shiny blue tights. Sure Nigel, you can act all noble with your “Do you want us to honestly critique you or do you want to walk away with what’s left of your dignity?” spiel, but we know as well as you do that the only way a dancer who’s 16 years past the age cutoff is getting onstage is if he gives you good freakshow.
But I’d watch an entire hour of Paul auditions over another minute of Tyce Diorio acting the fool. I couldn’t help but choreograph a raised eyebrow when Ol’ Tasty chided Gene for coming off “a bit desperate” mere minutes after he farted on Mary during a ridiculous “look-at-me” high-kick routine. I seem to recall a time back in Season 4 when Tyce came across as likeably flamboyant—Shankman-esque, if you will—but now it’s obscured by his bitchy, canned comments and creepy face-pulling. Tyce, when Mary “Hot Tamale Train” Murphy and Nigel “Dirty Old Man” Lythgoe are starting to get annoyed with your act, it’s time to tone it down; they already go to 11, there’s no need for you to go to 111.
But hey: Three hip-hoppers on to Vegas! Only one Manic Pixie Dance Girl! Only one look-at-these-weirdoes montage! That's improvement. Okay, auditions, you can hang out a little longer… but don’t overstay your welcome.
• It’s becoming pretty apparent that there is some serious music manipulation going on in SYTYCD land. I’m not sure if they’re restricting the music dancers can use on the front end, or if they’re changing it out in post, but there were a couple of routines tonight that seriously did not match their musical choices. Unless all dancers only listen to Black Eyed Peas, Jason Mraz, and “Calle Ocho.”
• I love when the judges all put on “hard” faces while they’re watching the hip-hop routines. They were straight mean-muggin’ while Russell was dancing.
• Nigel tells the most belabored, clunky jokes on a show full of them. That Salem witch thing was painful.
• Tonight’s “Cat Deeley Is The Best Person Ever” moment: “Pahk the cah in the Hahvahd Yahd.”