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Well folks, it’s time for another round of painful auditions on So You Think You Can Dance, this time in Chicago. If this was American Idol, I’d be watching with the sound off. Unfortunately, turning off the sound generally makes things worse, since the music is often the only good thing about these episodes. After years and years of dance classes, maybe I’m more sensitive to bad dancing, but man, I spend most of these episodes just feeling embarrassed for these people.
Before we delve into the depths of craptastic auditions, let me share some of the things I’ve learned from So You Think You Can Dance this season:
- Interpretive dance = bad idea. Even if you’re talented, you still come off like Romy and Michelle dancing at your high school reunion.
- Flipping your hair around makes you sexy
- Lip-synching while dancing means that you really feel the music
- If you can fling yourself around in the air and spin on your head, that’s a free trip to the next round.
It’s only 8 a.m. on the first day of the Chicago auditions and there are already hundreds of people waiting to get in and strut their stuff. Some hopefuls reveal that they’ve even spent the night on the streets to be at the front of the line. As they all wait, everyone gets a wristband and a number, as well as some time to warm up.
This week, judges Nigel and Mary will be joined by hip hop choreographer Shane Sparks, thus ensuring that the aforementioned head-spinners will be over-populating the next round. As always, the dancers (and I use the term loosely) will have one minute to impress or horrify the judges.
Our first hopeful is local Chi-town boy Tony. Tony seems to be spending more time trying to pick up on anything in a skirt rather than warming up. He claims he can pick up a girl in 45 seconds and I call b.s. in 2 seconds. Tony hits the stage, the music starts and he is the white Rerun, newsboy cap and all. I expect him to shout out, “Hey, hey, hey!” The judges look perplexed as he jiggles around. There’s some lip-synching and he finishes off by showing the judges The Hand.
Nigel Says: You say you’re the only one in the family with rhythm? You will never be a professional dancer
Mary: That was spastic and frantic.
Shane: You’d be fun to watch at a club, but you’re not right for this show.
Tony tells the judges that he works for a company that sells defibrillators. As Tony huffs and puffs, Nigel tells him to keep one of those defibrillators close by. Tony says farewell to the cameras, telling us that he had a great time and made some great friends…..in the few hours he spent in line. Tony forms attachments quickly.
Four hours into the auditions and the line of dancers is still around the block.
Next up, unfortunately, is Jessica Wilson, who tells us that she’s been waiting her whole life for this opportunity. Jessica has been dancing since she was 3 years old and will be performing a lyrical dance about a relationship she had. She says that the dance gave her strength. I’ve blocked out most of her dance, but I remember enough to say that a) Jessica’s dance did not give me anything but a case of the giggles and b) Romy and Michelle could wipe the floor with her. Whoever has been taking money from her for dance lessons should be shot because it is not good. Nigel finally puts us out of our misery and stops Jessica.
Nigel: Did you watch this show last year? Did you see final top 10? Who among the top 10 from last season do you feel you dance like? Jessica says she dances like herself.
Mary: Do you have any dance training? Jessica says that she’s studied for 13 years. Mary tells her that it felt like a 5 or 6 year old’s recital.
Shane: The level of dance needed to make it in this competition is way beyond you.
Nigel: You will never ever become a professional dancer.
Even though Jessica was really bad, I still feel bad for her as she swallows her tears and walks offstage, totally dejected.
Next up is a montage of the numerous bad dancers who, like Jessica, got the boot. It’s like So You Think You Can Dance: Spastic and Delusional Edition. At least one of the rejects promises to be at the next audition to try again. Out on the streets it’s freezing, but the hopefuls keep coming.
It’s time to reach for the air sickness bag/waste bin/etc. because here comes another clichéd segment (in contrast to all the others). It seems that Nick and Andrea met at last year’s auditions and they are still together. Cue the montage – set to Captain and Tenille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” – of Nick and Andrea in their All American cuteness. If they could’ve found a field, these two would’ve been filmed skipping through it. Even though neither of them got past the first round last year, both Nick and Andrea are back this year to give it another go. Nick will be performing solo, while Andrea will be dancing with her partner Greg. Andrea says that she’ll be just as happy if Nick makes it and she doesn’t. Nick agrees with her, but you just know he’s crossing his fingers behind his back.
Nick’s up first and he’s a tapper. A good one, too. His tapping is clean and his moves are original. He’s the first one that I’ve seen so far that I didn’t think might be there on a bet. The crowd cheers as he finishes and the judges seem happy for the first time.
Shane: That was dangerous and over the top. I can’t believe you didn’t make it last year.
Mary: You have something that commands attention.
Nigel: You were exciting to watch. Yes, it was over the top, but you need to learn to control it.
Nick’s the first dancer of the day to make it through to the Vegas audition.
Andrea and Greg take the stage and it’s quickly apparent that Nick got all the talent in that couple. Performing a sort of interpretive jazz dance (see, told you!) to the song “Fever,” Andrea and Greg look like two people dancing on the stage by themselves. They barely interact.
Nigel: It was very sexless. There was no passion. Your routine last year was sexier.
Mary: There is no connection between the two of you.
Shane: You don’t have any feeling between you. If you had an attraction to your partner – even if you wouldn’t act on it - this would have been totally different. There was no spark here.
Nigel: Ya’ll weren’t good enough.
Un-phased by the fact that Andrea didn’t make it to Vegas, the two lovebirds skip off down the sidewalk together. She’ll probably follow him to Vegas and we’ll have to sit through another nausea-inducing montage set to some Elvis song.
It’s getting later on in day one and the dancers are still keeping occupied. Some are warming up and others are just goofing off. I normally hate these montages, but this one is set to “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquoi, which is one of my favorite dance songs. They should set the whole show to this song. Highlights of this montage include someone breaking and spinning with a folding chair and a girl pulling a double wardrobe malfunction as the rest of the dancers cheer her on.
train wreckhopeful is Knowlton. Knowlton tells us that he doesn’t have a six pack: he has a keg. He also tells us that he has a business selling steak on the side of the road. Um….yeah. He doesn’t say if those are beef steaks or something he obtained on the road. Roadkill Boy starts dancing and it’s like redneck popping mixed with some disco. He’s throwing in all sorts of moves, including the Running Man. He’d kill at a club, but probably not in this competition. All the while that Knowlton is groovin’, Mary is cackling away. Ditto on my friend waywyrd’s statement that you should be able to mute just Mary’s nasty laugh.
Nigel: You’re a dancing clown. If this show was So You Think You’re Funny, you’d win it.
Mary: That was hysterical. You’re probably the life of all parties, but I’m not sure what else to do with you.
Shane: You’re a funny guy. I loved everything you did.
The first day of the Chicago auditions ends with only one person – Nick – sent through to the Vegas audition.
At the start of day two of the auditions, it’s cold in Chicago and the dancers outside are just trying to keep warm. Inside, the hopefuls are practicing wherever they can: the stairs, the hallway, anyplace there’s some space. Soon enough, it’s time to start another day of cringing (on my part) and the first group of dancers head in to audition.
First up today is Tim Cruz from Cleveland. Tim tells us that he teaches choreography. Tim will be dancing hip hop for today’s audition and will be wearing black gloves to accentuate his hand movements (and I shout "Jazz hands!"). The music starts and oh, it is bad. If you were to show people in Outer Mongolia a tape of Tim dancing, they’d say “That dude is lame.” Tim’s moves might have been cool in, say, 1988. The choreography is bad and he punctuates it all with cheesy facial expressions.
Nigel: You just gave white dancers a bad name. You don’t have one ounce of rhythm. I’ve never danced hip hop, but I know I could do it better than you just did. If you could see yourself, you’d stop dancing. If you end up watching this show, you just might stop.
Mary: It’s hard to believe you’re a choreographer. Tim says that he teaches choreography at a danced studio. The judges laugh and Nigel says that he should give that money back. Mary tells Tim that he needs to be a trained dancer to teach.
Tim’s debacle leads into a series of supposed dance teachers and wannabe teachers, all of whom are denied. First up is Alison Enrique, who favors us with some bizarro club dancing, which includes lots of writhing around on the floor. Mercifully, it doesn’t last long.
Nigel: Do you take dance classes? That you pay for? Alison says she takes classes 4 days a week. What do you want to do? Alison wants to be a teacher.
With his head in his hands, Nigel implores her not to become a teacher. She leaves without any other comments from the judges.
The next dance teacher is Duron Benifield, who really needs to save the rep of all the dancer teachers to come in these auditions. He has some fast footwork and he can dance. The judges look semi-happy.
Shane: You can dance but I’d like to see you do ballroom. Duron breaks out a little Cha-Cha.
Duron is through to the choreography round.
Ron Evans is our next hopeful and it’s time for more street dancing – popping, locking, whatever. What happened to ballet and jazz? Anyway, Ron’s so into it, he doesn’t even look at the audience for the first half of his routine. All you see is the top of his bald head. The first thing you learn when performing is to NOT look at your feet while dancing. You might find your feet really interesting, but nobody wants to look at the top of your head. This advice meant that I spent much of my youth tripping over things because I was trained not to look down. Ron finishes up with a move that looks like that scene in Alien, but nothing comes out of his chest.
Nigel: You were dope. Yep, Nigel said “dope.” Good job. It was interesting, inventive and different.
Mary: That last move was really entertaining. It was unusual as well. You blew me away.
Shane: You are the truth (and I say “huh?”). You’re one of the sickest poppers I’ve seen.
Ron is through to choreography round.
For those of you who watched the show last season, this next dancer will be familiar. I did not watch last season, so when they introduce Nigel Holt, I say, “Who?” Nigel tells us that everyone knows who he is, but I think I just proved that, no, we don’t. Nigel clearly doesn’t have any self esteem problems. He tells us that he’s back to audition again because it’s convenient for him. Uh-huh. Nigel does some hip hop stuff and it’s good, but we’ve seen better today.
Nigel: What do you feel you brought this time vs. last time? Nigel says, “Everything good.” Have you had any training since last year? Nigel tells the judges that his style is within himself.
Mary: I don’t know why you came back this year.
Shane: Shane is the only judge who liked Nigel. He says that it’s rare to find a breaker who can pop.
Based, it seems, on Shane’s opinion only, Nigel is through to choreography round
Erika Gee is the next hopeful. She tells us that her strategy is to put on a character and get in the judges’ faces and make it about them. Erika does her thing and there a lot of hair flipping and smiling. She’s not great, but at least she’s not breaking or popping.
Shane: I loved you. You can do every style of dance.
Mary: You were so much better than I anticipated. It wasn’t brilliant, but you have a great personality.
Nigel: I thought it was great. You got us to watch you and grabbed/kept our attention.
Erika is through to Vegas.
It’s 7 p.m. and one there’s one final dancer. Angela tells us that she’s like dancers in those 1980s music videos. Dancing to “Proud Mary,” Angela goes for it. Clad in a white skirt and burgundy top, it’s all very Tina Turner meets Cyndi Lauper. She flails around a lot and I wonder what music video she thinks she belongs in. The piece de resistance of Angela’s performance comes at the end when she pukes into the orchestra pit (Big finish!). Mary cringes behind a pad of paper as the crowd of dancers in the back of the auditorium cheers.
Nigel: I don’t want to be mean since you’ve just been sick…. and you weren’t even watching yourself.
Shane: Shane’s in hysterics. He has no comments.
Mary: It was like watching an SNL skit. You have NO technique. I’ll have nightmares.
Nigel: Good luck with your other career, ‘cause it won’t be dancing. Ouch.
It’s been a long day and it’s not over yet. It’s time for the choreography round and Shane will be running this round. The dancers have to prove that they can pick up choreography. They’re given ten minutes to learn the steps and then it’s judgment time. A very few make it through. With only nine dancers left, including most of the hip hop dancers, Shane tells them that he felt that none of them came through with the choreography. None of them will be moving on to the Vegas auditions. Nigel Holt, one of the dancers who got cut in this round, tells us that he’ll be back. Thanks for the warning, Ego Boy.
Only 25 people made it through to Vegas in this round. Most of them were apparently too good or too bland for us to see them, since I recognize none of them except for Nick and Erika.
Tune in next week when the top 121 dancers head to Vegas for audition week. It’ll be lots of injuries, crying and mental breakdowns. Hurray!
Practicing spinning on my head…Critical@fansofrealitytv.com