Talent search shows are like fancy three-course meals at a good restaurant. You've got audition episodes that are supposed to whet one's appetite, then we get a main course, then dessert. Tonight we got the first taste of the main course, and it was pretty good.
After Cat Deeley's rather dramatic introduction, we're introduced to our top 20 dancers one by one. We'd say who they all are, but really, who wants to read off almost two dozen names? After the brief opening number, Cat comes out to the stage. After reminding us of the prize (a quarter million dollars, and the supposed title of “America's Favorite Dancer”), she introduces us to our judges. For tonight, it'll be Dan Karaty, Mary Murphy, and Nigel Lythgoe. How high will Mary score on the shriek-o-meter this time?
Of course, it's a two-hour show, so we have to have some filler. A recap/montage of our top twenty's progress so far runs. It's a bit early for a toilet break, but then again I'm not a Fox programming executive. Then again, that's what the fast-forward button is for. Ain't technology so useful?
The first pair is Jaimie and Hok. She's a “contemporary” dancer (an utterly meaningless word, if you ask us) who auditioned in New York. Hok, well, we know who he is. Do we really have to go over this again?
It's a hip-hop routine this week for the pair, courtesy of Shane Sparks. On stage, it's pretty good. Jaimie's no hip-hopper, but at least she's trying. As for Hok, you could tie him up and he'd still do hip-hop well. He's that good. The chemistry seems to be there, and Hok decides to crawl over to Cat when the dance ends. Is there something we don't know about him? Dan praises Jamie for attacking the routine, Mary worries a bit that it'll be forgettable, and Nigel doesn't like the choreography – which goes over real well with Shane. Good-naturedly, of course.
An aside here... they should never do side-by-side shots with Cat, Hok, and Jaimie. Ever. She is freakishly tall. Either that, or the entire top 20 would never make a basketball team. We're not sure which one.
Anya and Danny are next. We've seen a bit of both of them – Anya, with her partner and fellow top 20 finalist Pasha, and Danny gets a recap of his family history. She does ballroom, he does contemporary. This week, it's the jive, with choreographer Tony Meredith. We get the Heavy Hand of Editing, when it's implied that the two of them just might not get along.
Their background song comes from Avril Lavigne, which strikes us a somewhat unusual choice, but it works reasonably well. It's a pretty good routine, nice and high energy. Anya shines here, but Danny manages to keep up most of the time. It's universal praise from all three, with Mary coining the “Hot Tamale Train”, and getting a rather low six on the Shriek-O-Meter. We're with Nigel, we don't fully understand it either. Nigel calls them a “couple to be reckoned with”.
After the break, we get Lacey and Kameron. Lacey, if everyone already didn't know, is the little sister of last year's winner Benji. So what is a pro crumper, anyway? Kameron hasn't had much airtime before, but we got a glimpse of him last week. How can anyone miss the hair? He must have got the memo: to succeed on reality TV, you must have distinctive hair. She does swing/Latin ballroom, he does contemporary/hip-hop.
Mia Michaels is doing the choreography for them. After a little up-close action that would get sexual harassment lawyers hot and bothered, we're told that Lacey is having hard time getting it. Well, she eventually got it, because they are pretty impressive. For someone who doesn't have much, if any, contemporary experience, Lacey does superbly. It fits the music well, and the audience loves it, with plenty of shrieking that would do Mary proud. The judges all love it – even though Dan thinks Kameron was a glorified prop. Nigel agrees with Dan, and even gets a dig in at the Sopranos. Was this before or after that finale which, we're told, went over so well with fans?
Sabra and Dominic are next. We haven't seen Sabra before. She was born in the Netherlands, raised there, Germany, and Utah. How's that for globe-trotting? Oh, and like Kameron, she has points in the Notable Hair department. Dominic, we soon find out, is a b-boy from Sacramento. We get a warning from Mia about his cockiness, although Nigel gave him a pass. The couple's first test will be disco, choreographed by Doriana Sanchez.
After the three routines we've seen, it's not quite as good, but not really bad. Dan says what we're thinking: it was okay, but not great. Mary likes it a fair bit, singling out Sabra for praise. Including her hair. Nigel points out that Dominic hasn't danced with a partner before, and says he looks like John Leguizamo. Is that supposed to be a good thing, or a bad thing?
Ashley and Ricky are next. She's yet another of those contemporary dancers, and it's no surprise Mia likes her. As for Ricky, he claims to have a “mathematical and scientific” approach to dance. Ooookay. It sounds like a bunch of gobbledygook to me. Or, rather, a pile of doggy poo. The pair of contemporary dancers will be doing... the tango. This could be a problem.
Alex da Silva will be doing the choreography for this pair. She seems to be doing most of the hard work here. If he was supposed to be a matador, he was one that had been gored by an irate bull a few too many times. That hurts, don't you think? Not terribly impressive. Dan doesn't find it that good, and he faults them for their lack of chemistry. Mary agrees, and Nigel points out that it was a hard routine for this particular partnership, given their height differences.
Cat says it was nice to have someone her height on the stage. So she really is freakishly tall, then, eh?
Next up is Sara and Jesus. The sole b-girl dances for the Denver Nuggets, and according to her she's done some other styles as well. Jesus, meanwhile, was introduced to dance by, of all things, a Janet Jackson video. Hopefully, it wasn't Nipplegate. Their choreography today will come from Wade Robson. He calls his concept having something to do with “vagabond cabaret”. What he's talking about, we have no idea.
As for the routine itself, it's a little... strange, to be honest. We don't understand it much, if at all. It's something that has to be seen to be believed. Still, even if we didn't get the routine, they both did well at it. Whatever it was. Dan gives the routine credit for being something unique to the show. Mary calls it spectacular. Nigel makes it a clean sweep of favorable reviews.
Couple number seven is Jessi and Pasha. Jessi's graced our screens a bit before. She knows how to make use of, uh, props very well. She brought out the baby oil for her audition, and she famously emerged from a suitcase in Las Vegas. Pasha, this season's Hot Guy From Russia, was Anya's regular dance partner. Tony Meredith is back, teaching this pair to do the waltz. He's more or less comfortable here, but Jessi isn't.
Norah Jones as waltz background material is pretty strange, but it works for them. It's a pretty balanced performance for the pair, with neither one really overshadowing the other. Overall, it's a pretty nice waltz. Dan, who normally finds the waltz boring, likes it this time. Mary likes it a lot as well, and we get a nine on the shriek-o-meter. (For those keeping track, that's the highest score so far.) Nigel, for his part, points out that many ladies wouldn't mind being in Jessi's shoes.
After Pasha, we have another import from Russia. This time, it's Faina, the ballroom-dancing sister of Stanislas from last season. Cedric calls his style of dancing improv, but if he's not doing hip-hop he's just okay. Just to make things more interesting, neither one is good outside of their specialties. Oh joy. This is going to be fun, eh?
The Shane Sparks-produced hip-hop routine isn't pretty bad, but there doesn't seem to be an awful lot of partnering going on. Oh, and Faina? Short shorts and high socks don't look good. Or maybe it's just us. Anyways, it wasn't impressive. Faina fails to garner much praise from the judges, but you really can't expect a ballroom dancer to become a hip-hopper overnight, can you? Cedric gets some praise, but if a hip-hopper can't do something from Shane Sparks well, then he's not much of a dancer, is he?
Second to the last is Lauren and Neil. No interesting backstories here, except for Neil's recent unemployment. Alex da Silva returns to teach this couple the salsa. It doesn't seem to be off to a great start in the practices, but neither one is a salsa dancer. That's to be expected.
On stage, it seems a little subdued and lacking in flair for a salsa dance. Or maybe that's just us. The highlights seemed to have Lauren moving between Neil's legs. Get your mind out of the gutter, people! Dan isn't impressed, but most of his comments seemed to be about Lauren's hotness. Someone needs to set up Dan on a date, we think.
Back to the judging. Mary isn't a fan either, pointing out that Neil didn't seem to have any chemistry. She gets booed for her efforts, and Nigel remarks that he's the only one not being booed tonight. (What is it about Brits and Fox reality shows? Simon Cowell, Nigel Lythgoe, Gordon Ramsay. If you're from across the pond, must you be nasty to be on Fox?) Nigel offers more of the same, but how many times can you say they had as much chemistry as oil and water?
And, finally, to bring this two-hour episode to an end, is Shauna and Jimmy. Not much interesting in the way of backstory to this couple. Tyce Diorio will take care of the Broadway routine; he wants it to be a little wacky and zany. We'll be the judge of that. They seem to have pretty good chemistry, which is always a good thing.
The routine lives up to the zany tag. It's not such a bad way to close out the show; it was fun to watch, they seemed to have a good time, you couldn't find anything bad to say about it. Dan thinks Jimmy outperformed Shauna. Mary thinks they were a wonderful pair together, and Nigel agrees. His only complaint? The outfit, getting his boo of the night.
As we end the show, Cat asks the judges who's in danger. Nigel, playing the suave diplomat, answers with Benji, last year's winner. Mary does nothing but break the shriek-o-meter. (The bill is in the mail, Fox.) Dan is the only one to actually give an answer, naming
And there we have it, the top twenty performances are done. Off to a very good start, just okay in the middle, recovered in the end. Stay tuned for the recap of Thursday's results, brought to you by the fantastic AJane!
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