What has bright lights, stretch limousines and bloody noses? So You Think You Can Dance Vegas Week. Her Tallness Cat Deeley warns that the the choreography is tougher, the judges harsher and the talent better than ever. A hundred fifty-two dancers (thus the title of our little essay) have survived the rigors of auditions across America and are here to prove they’re worthy of making the Top Twenty. And in the judges’ corner, we have Tyce Diorio, Mia Michaels, Debbie Allen, Adam Shankman, Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe. Honestly, I think the world may be coming to an end: no one mentioned that Mia is an “awesome Emmy-winning contemporary choreographer.” There, I’ve said it; I feel much better—don’t you?
We have a whole hour of network television (honestly, I haven’t seen this much filler since I ordered a cup and saucer from Replacements Unlimited and they were shipped in a four-foot-square box packed to the brim with Styrofoam peanuts) so we’d better let all the competitors do solo performances.
I’ve never been a big fan of left-overs, but SYTYCD loooves them, so our first featured dancer is Nathan Trasoras. He auditioned for last season but, quelle horreur he was only seventeen at the time. Still, kind-hearted Nigel invited him to Vegas for this season, because—wait for it—he’s turned eighteen in the interim! Funny how that works. “Is he still good enough?” You’ll have to wait to find out, but here’s a hint: Adam’s grinning the whole time Nathan’s dancing.
Our other featured soloist is Ellenore Scott. Tyce is overheard, “I definitely see her in the top twenty.” When the judges give her a Standing-O, I put a little green checkmark by her name.
HORDES OF DANCERS
More Styrofoam peanuts: snippets of ten dancers’ solos. Actually, all the montages this evening put me in mind of rolls and rolls of lovely wallpaper unfurling. After about the second roll, it’s hard to be appreciative. A guy named Chance (his parents no doubt fans of Ronald Reagan B-movies) and a gal named Page are escorted to the garage. Then there’s more filler, umm solos, including one unwelcome glimpse of one young man dancing in what look to be his tidie-whities.
Double Empathy Alert: Allison Becker is hearing-impaired and Thomas Hamilton needs a dance career to escape the toughies and drug dealers in his hometown of Scotdale, GA. (Trust me, no one from Scotdale, GA, ever had a faux-English accent like this guy.) Thomas’s only claim to distinction is nearly giving Nigel a heart attack when he forgets part of his solo and makes a leap onto a not-too-sturdy looking light tower. The cold-hearted judges consign both to cruel fates. They’re out.
Total casualties so far: 41.
Political Football Alert: Willem de Vries and Jacob Jason have already accomplished wonders. Not only are they same-sex ballroom champs, but Nigel claims they gave him an appreciation for same-sex dancing. Tyce must be “miked-up” for the event, because once again we get to eavesdrop on his comments to the other judges. He thinks “the tall guy is great” and “hates the guy in black.” Willem is the tall guy and he gets to stay; Jacob not only has a black shirt but also gets the black mark next to his name. More than the dancing partnership may have been broken up. Willem, who doesn’t appear overly concerned, is interviewed and announces Jacob has just vanished into thin air without so much as a fare-thee-well.
More Styrofoam peanuts: Tabitha and Napoleon will be choreographing Hip-Hop for the remaining dancers. Cat says, “Hip-Hop was too much for dancer after dancer.” Among the casualties: Jean Lioret, a street dancer from the Boston auditions who’d been anointed “the best of the B-Boys.” Alas, Jean gets an “unsatisfactory” mark in “Following Direction” and doesn’t go through.
Drama Alert: Now dancing, Ryan Kasprzak. Ohmigod, did you know his brother Evan made it to the Top Four in Season 5? And that Ryan himself was the last man cut before the top twenty? Oh, and that he’s a Fan Favorite? Definitely gotta cheer this one on. The judges vote is split 3/3, so Ryan lives to tap another day, but boy does he ever get a scolding from Nigel. Never a good sign and Ryan knows it: “Nigel definitely put the Fear of God in me.” Note to Ryan from me: lose the argyle sweater vest and the newspaper-boy cap—you look like a fugitive from a Lina Wertmuller movie.
Casualties Owed to Hip-Hop Round: 21.
EVERYBODY LOVES THE CHA CHA CHA
Hip-Hop behind them, Day Two starts with everyone learning the ChaCha from “one of the most brilliant choreographers and dancers in the world” Louis Van Amstel (I am hoping against hope that Mia’s head doesn’t explode in envy) and Anya Garnis. Louis warns this is not going to be a piece of cake—expect a difficult routine.
I’ve discovered that one of the things that makes this season of SYTYCD so special is that every episode seems to feature a contestant gushing blood. Today’s victim is Billy Bell. Almost as soon as they begin practicing the Cha Cha, his partner Christina Santana smacks him in the nose with her arm or hand or something. Trust me, it was suitably gory. Poor Billy, he has to stay off the dancefloor until the bleeding stops. Will his dreams be crushed or will be be able to make a dramatic comeback? Watch this space.
No show would be complete without a “first” of some sort. Here’s Russell Ferguson the very first Crumper in the history of recorded civilization to be invited to the Vegas Round. Heavy responsibility representing all those crumpets. As luck (or producer manipulation) would have it, Russell draws as his partner the lovely Iveta Lukosiute. Oh, did I mention Iveta’s a world Cha Cha champion? Funny that. While they’re dancing, Nigel lets out one of his patented “Whoo-Yeahhh Baby” exclamations (which coming from Nigel never seems quite authentic somehow) and in the critique Adam is equally enthusiastic, “That was HOT, Dude.”
More Styrofoam peanuts: a montage of the ballroom routines.
Ahh, here’s Billy back. At least he doesn’t look like an extra in “Nightmare on Elm Street” anymore, but the nosebleed has deprived him of proper practice time. Suspense building: will the brief time he and Christina snatched in the lobby be enough? Okay, I won’t torture any longer—Billy goes through.
Also featured: another B-Boy, “Legacy” Perez. As you may surprised to learn, B-Boys are not accustomed to dancing with a partner, so learning choreography and being paired with Paula Van Oppen, is tough for him. To stay in the competition he’s going to have to “dance for his life.” The judges tell him that he’d better rent a personality for the next performance or the B in B-Boy is going to stand for bye-bye.
Cat warns: “It’s going to be Survival of the Fittest in Vegas!” Cat has a tough job.
You knew it was coming, didn’t you? Ryan Kaspryzak attempts the Cha Cha. Judges reaction? Nigel, “Yesterday, we gave you an extra chance. Today it looked like you were gonna mug her halfway through the dance. The style just wasn’t there.” Ryan is reassured that his audition solo was just the bee’s knees, though, and he won’t be forgotten. On his way out the swinging doors, Ryan makes a cell-phone call to his brother Evan to deliver the bad news (subliminal message—don’t forget fans, you can make even a mediocre dancer a Star on this show).
John Litzler, whose performance would fit nicely into a gymnastics competition floor-routine, does his last-chance solo. Nigel’s pretty harsh, “The way your face was: it was like the lights were on, but nobody was home.” He’s a goner, but gets some nice parting gifts by way of encouragement to return to try out next season. Hopefully he’ll have some of the new halogen bulbs by then.
One last suspenseful moment: Legacy is sitting on the stairs sobbing. Cat wonders, “Will our best B-Boy Ever let his emotions cost him a spot in the Top Twenty?” After Legacy does the life-dance, Nigel tries some tough love. “Legacy, your ChaCha stinks. You’re only staying because your B-Boy is so fabulous. You need to be able to dance on your feet as well as your head.” Mia expresses her admiration with a phrase that gets bleeped.
Other victims of the day are faves Teddy Tedholme, Skip Skipper and Shelby Steppe. I’m thinking they’re the victims of alliteration discrimination.
And as the sun sets on the Vegas Strip, we’re left with the Super 77. Next week? Cat knows, “The competition escalates, the choreography is tougher, and the cuts are heartbreaking.” Aren’t they always?