"No other show has talent like this," hostess Cat Deeley declared at the start of this week's Season 8 "So You Think You Can Dance" premiere. And this Cat had a very truthful tongue. The talent level on "SYTYCD" has always been obscenely high, with each season raising the barre--while the "American Idol" judges this year have been criticized for being too nice and telling everyone they're "amazing" and "beautiful," really, on "SYTYCD" many of the contestants ARE amazing and beautiful. I seriously think the only reason why this show isn't quite
as big a ratings juggernaut as, say, "Idol" or "America's Got Talent" is because it has fewer horrible contestants to ridicule, so it doesn't quite appeal to viewers' mean streaks.
Judging from the crop of Atlanta and San Francisco auditioners seen on this week's "SYTYCD" premiere, Season 8 will not disappoint. Yes, there were a few "funny" bad auditions, like a booty-poppin' ex-stripper who dubbed herself "Black Barbie"; a goofy Caucasian B-boy who went by the self-appointed stage name "White Chocolate"; a couple spazzes that guest judge Tyce Diorio called a "grande cup of not-so-good" and, even worse, a "cup of vomit"; and a sobbing drama king named D'on-que who treated his Cat interview like a therapy session and treated the stage floor like a punching bag.
There were also a couple of promising dancers who fell by the wayside, like gravity-defying Atlanta B-boy Timothy Joseph, who tweaked his knee in rehearsal and sadly had to bow out, and San Francisco's Levi "I Dummy" Allen, a specialist in a gliding style called turf dancing whose contortionistic (and, according to Tyce, "filthy and spectacular") audition was my favorite of the night, but who failed to demonstrate versatility in the choreography round.
But there were several fantastic dancers who made it through--and I can't wait to see genius choreographers like Mandy Moore, Sonya Tayeh, and Stacey Tookey get their hands on some of these kids. Here are my favorite successful auditioners this week, who I'll definitely be keeping my eye on in Vegas.
Melanie Moore - "I think that Zeus himself would invite you to come dance on Olympus," guest judge Lil' C told this artsy college student, in his usual colorfully worded manner. And there certainly was something goddess-like about this pixie-haired stunner. I loved her seemingly double-jointed shoulder-shimmy and advanced-yoga backbend, the way she practically nosedived into one of her daring tumbles, and how she balanced on her curled toes like it was easiest thing in the world (just watching that stunt made my own toes hurt). I don't know about her dancing on Olympus, but I'm glad I'll be seeing her dance in Vegas.
Deon Lewis & Damon Bellmon - They seemed more concerned with collecting foxy female dancers' phone numbers than with actual dancing, and they even shamelessly flirted with Cat Deeley during their interview. (Dominic Sandoval, watch out.) I almost wondered if they should have been trying out for VH1's "The Pick-Up Artist" instead. But these ladies' men exhibited tons of Twitch-style charisma onstage, and we all know personality is as important as technical skill on this search for "America's FAVORITE Dancer." Their dual routine was almost like a comedy act, and they exhibited so much chemistry between them. "I don't know anyone who wouldn't be entertained by that," said Nigel Lythgoe. Something tells me these two will have a blast in Vegas.
Marko Germar - An armed-robbery gunshot victim with a bullet still lodged in his arm, this guy moved like he'd never been injured, executing a series of tumbles that looked absolutely effortless. He just might be the shot in the arm Season 8 needs, pun intended.
Amber Williams - A girl that possessed the blonde bubbliness of Season 4's Kherrington Payne, the endless legginess of Season 5's Kayla Radomski, the quirkiness of Season 6's Ellenore, and maybe a smidge of the actual craziness of "Idol" reject Ashley Sullivan, this girl also attacked the stage with the energy of 10 dancers on 10 cups of coffee. "Your body does some fantastic things," said Tyce, while Nigel compared her to sex-kittenish '60s greats like Juliet Prowse and Ann-Margret. Amber celebrated her Vegas-ticket victory by jumping up and down and squeaking like a chimpanzee, after which Nigel said, "I'm not sure what we just let out of the cage!" I do agree that Amber has the potential to become annoying, but I'm intrigued by her and want to see more.
Ashley Rich - One of the best auditioners of the episode, this contemporary dancer had Tyce howling, "Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Where did she come from?" She also had metaphor-obsessed guest judge Toni Redpath comparing her to a "deer," "dessert," and a Sunday afternoon wrapped in a warm blanket. I agree, Ashley was all of those things and more.
Jeffrey "Machine" McCann - It's no surprise that this B-boy was amazing: One look at his IMDB credits shows he was in the "LXD: The Legion Of Extraordinary Dancers" TV series and two Step Up films. No wonder he received the shortest critique with the episode, with Nigel basically handing him a Vegas ticket practically before his music ended. But I wonder if Machine is a plant, considering that the Step Up movies are produced by "SYTYCD" judge Adam Shankman and Lil' C is associated with LXD. Is that really fair? Still, the guy is an incredible dancer, that cannot be denied.
Ryan Ramirez - A returning auditioner (she made it to the top 24 last year, and was encouraged to try out again), this golden girl was much improved by all the judges' accounts. "You can tell you've worked," said Tyce. Toni loved Ryan's "controlled abandon," and Nigel summed it up with "beautiful girl, beautiful dancer, beautiful performance." Will she make it all the way this time? I'd definitely bet on Ryan in Vegas.
So cue music--and cue the the Mary Murphy screams--and make sure there are plenty available seats on the Hot Tamale Train. Because it looks like that train is headed full steam ahead towards another awesome "SYTYCD" season.
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