After last night’s show, which was a serious uptick in a quickly flagging audition cycle, Donna noted that “The fun of auditions — what little there is — is the sense of discovery, seeing something exciting for the first time.” Tonight’s auditions in New Orleans not only continued this week’s upward trend, they also provided us with some fun new discoveries.
First off, we discover that auditions sans Nigel are a little more genteel, but also a little more fun. Dr. Lythgoe was off getting adulated this week, so Mary Murphy headed up the panel with Adam Shankman, Lil C, and Lil C’s freakishly long man-nails. (I know I harp on Lil C’s nails all the time, but they freak me out so much you guys!) It was nice to see Mary taking charge a bit tonight. So often she’s relegated to the role of shrieking, catchphrase-spouting sidekick, which unfortunately overshadows the fact that the woman really does know her stuff when she chooses to express it at a normal volume. It was also a nice little peek into what this season will be like with Adam Shankman taking over as a permanent third judge. His and Mary’s cute little “Mary’s Rules” routine was the sort of good-natured fun that the SYTYCD judging panel is capable of when it’s not crushed by the weight of one Hot Tamale Train after another bearing down on it.
The night’s next two discoveries were a little more literal: Two subgenres that we haven’t seen before on SYTYCD, the regional hip-hop style “New Orleans Bounce” and the ballroom offshoot “Theater Arts,” which dancer Kimalee Piedad very accurately described as “ice dancing without the ice or skates.” Both dancers get sent straight through to Vegas, though, as is often the case with very specialized hip-hoppers, I’m skeptical about Bouncer Skip’s legitimacy as a contender. Like Mariko, the juker from last season’s auditions in Memphis (who claimed juking for that city, even though we Chicagoans KNOW it originated here on the South Side), I suspect we’ll probably never hear from Skip again. As high-energy and fun to watch as his bouncing was, without any training—not to mention any prior knowledge of the show he’s auditioning for—it seems unlikely to translate to other styles. Then again, Phillip made a good long run on the show last season with a fairly specialized skill set, so who knows?
We also discovered tonight that SYTYCD apparently has some sort of lab in New Orleans where they’re breeding one photogenic super-dancer after another. SYTYCD frequently claims that a season or city has “the best dancers yet,” but the exceptional amount of talent on display tonight makes that assertion seem a little less empty. There was ballet dancer Jonathan, who was “another little gem-aroo,” in Mary Murphy’s words, what with his acrobatics/hip-hop background and adorable pinchable cheeks. Then came another trio of fresh-faced, high-jumping, straight-to-Vegas contenders—Alison Nance, Calvin Turer, and Edward Spots—who all made an impression despite being clumped into a montage together. Later on in the night, we see Jakob Karr get one of the few Mary Screams of the night before he’s hustled off to Vegas, and Diana Drexler backs up her sob story—her grandpa died the day before her audition—with a lovely routine that gets her to choreography and eventually Vegas. Diana is a slightly less obvious choice than most of the people who were sent to Vegas tonight—she’s 29, married, and a little less polished-looking than the typical SYTYCD contestant—but her post-performance interview was genuine (“I don’t want to be that girl. I’m good. I’m dancing,”) and extremely endearing. (“Oh, there was effort. I feel like an old lady.”)
And lastly, we discover how many Red Bulls it takes to create one of the weirdest SYTYCD hopefuls in recent memory: Six. Cat says that they “couldn’t help but notice” hip-hop dancer Eric Leblanc; well, it would be hard not to notice a guy who’s literally acting like a monkey in the middle of a subdued, almost deserted holding room. (The five other people in that room looked decidedly less amused.) As funny as it was to see the shrieking Eric give Mary Murphy a taste of her own medicine, the judges’ decision to send him on to choreography seemed a little cruel based on the fact that he was “very dizzy” after finishing his slightly amateurish routine. Sure, there were elements of solid hip-hop in his dancing, and he was obviously enthusiastic, but he lacked any of the control or discipline of a real dancer. As I was watching him, all I could think of was this:
The night’s other breakdancer, Justin “Power Moves” Kenney—who just made it to Vegas on a wing and a prayer—seemed like a much safer bet on the judges’ parts. If he was smart, he’d start taking every dance class available to him from the second that ticket hit his hand until his plane to Vegas took off.
Speaking of: Only one more audition show until Vegas! It’s been a bit of a slog, but things are looking up as we head to Salt Lake City next week.
• Cat Deeley has always said in interviews that she’s a horrible dancer, but she’s been getting down quite a bit in the audition lines this season. Go Cat!
• “I heard you learned the New Orleans bounce last night, Adam!” Oh Mary, that definitely earns you an “oh snap!”
• Beads, masks, a second-line parade band… wait, I forget, which city are we in again?