Okay, first of all, I know, I know, I know this is going to sound like a complete and total cliché, and I apologize in advance. But I actually DO think this looks like it could be the most exciting season of SYTYCD ever. And I’m not just saying that because I always get excited about exquisite dancing, either. The contestants this year are incredibly strong, and on top of that, they have so much personality, they could be doing sitcoms and movies! Am I right? I am, aren’t I? So on one hand, I really envy the judges — they’re going to get to see every number up close. But on the other hand, I pity them, too — because how on earth are they supposed to choose between “fantastic,” “amazing,” and “flat-out awesome” week after week? I have no idea. I tried to pick my favorites after last night’s episode, and I swear, it nearly killed me. But, at least for this once, I did manage to do it. So, that being said, my five “ones to watch” would be (in no particular order):
Caitlynn: Oh my God, this girl is a powerhouse. During her interview segment, she was precious — I mean, there are kittens that wish they were as cute as she is. But then, during her routine with Robert subbing for Mitchell, it was just like, “HELLO!” The character she was playing took control, and she became another person altogether. Totally stole the show for me. A brilliant illustration of “What you see isn’t necessarily what you get.”
Melanie: Like Caitlynn, Melanie (above, with Marko) is adorable to the nth degree — you just want to run up and hug her! But besides that, she’s so strong that she could have almost pulled off the whole statues-in-love routine by herself. Next, or soon, I hope we get to see her in a piece that will showcase her femininity.
Marko: First and foremost, this kid has wicked legs. Just absolutely wicked. There are houses right now being held up by pillars that aren’t nearly as powerful as his legs. Secondly, he’s just a really strong dancer. Yes, he lost his balance a couple of times during his number with Melanie. But I saw his potential, and his potential is tremendous. As he grows into being a better partner… oh, it’s going to be good! I can’t wait!
Sasha: This girl wants to dance so badly that it just jumps across the screen, that desire. It’s awesome to see. And it’s obvious that she’s well-trained, but in spite of that, her movements never seem artificial or “rehearsed,” they seem totally organic. She really threw herself into her routine with Alexander, but I think she has even more inside of her — when she lets it out, it’s going to be just… wow.
Tadd: I noticed there were a couple of questionable moments for him and Jordan as well, just getting from Point A to Point B during their routine. But overall, I was blown away by his sense of musicality and just his “presence.” A good partner and a great dancer. I suspect he’ll go far. The movie-star cheekbones probably won’t hurt him any, either.
And, as far as the other dancers are concerned, some quick thoughts while I’m on a roll:
Jordan Her strength: She’s a great performer. She gets your attention and holds onto it. Her weakness: Like with her partner, Tadd, there were a couple of “Hmm, that could’ve been smoother” moments.
Alexander His strength: Clearly, he’s a good dancer. His weakness: Good may not be good enough. Personally, I wanted to see him dive deeper into the character he was playing. His lines could use a bit of work, too.
Clarice Her strength: Same as Jordan, she’s a strong performer. When she hits that stage, you sit up and take notice. Her weakness: Especially dancing with someone who’s got as big a personality as Jess has, she’s going to have to go that extra mile, and a few yards after that, too.
Jess His strength: An extraordinary dancer. It’s in his blood, obviously. He eats, sleeps and breathes it. His weakness: His personality is SO big, he may not need to use ALL of it ALL the time. So maybe toning it down just a smidgen would be a good idea.
Ryan Her strength: I love her sense of musicality. And those legs… whoa! Her weakness: It might be a challenge for someone so young to bring as much depth to a routine as a more mature dancer. Then again, that could turn out to be a challenge she rises to.
Rickey His strength: I was really impressed by how riddled with emotion he was during his number with Ryan. His weakness: Same as Ryan, he’s very young. So it’ll be interesting to see what effect that has on his dancing week in and week out…
Miranda Her strength: She’s as endearing as she is entertaining. Her weakness: I thought there were some technical issues with her and Robert’s number – for instance, both of them were a bit heavy in the leg for a jive.
Robert His strength: He’s a hoot. His weakness: As entertaining as he is, his jive lacked nuance. (And he and Miranda could both stand to practice their back rocks.)
Missy Her strength: She can do incredible things with her body, with ease! Her weakness: In spite of those incredible things, she didn’t stand out for me. And in a field this strong, she’s kinda going to have to.
Wadi His strength: He’s a powerful dancer, and very masculine. His weakness: He seemed a bit tight in the upper body. Maybe all those muscles got in the way. ;)
Ashley Her strength: She’s kickass. She brought a lot of personality to her routine with Chris. Her weakness: Her commitment to her character seemed to get lost a little as the piece went on.
Chris His strength: Like Ashley, he brought a real vivacity to the stage. His weakness: He seemed to be playing it safe. In this league, you have to just go for it!
Iveta Her strength: She’s a modern-day Ginger Rogers. Her weakness: It’ll be interesting to see how she does outside of her comfort zone in the ballroom dances.
Nick His strength: He’s Mr. Personality. Just a luminous guy! His weakness: Ballroom is not his friend. His closed hold wasn’t, you know, closed. And that was just for starters…
Check out Melanie LaPatin’s album of wacky ballroom dance songs, Ballroom Remixed, featuring teen queen Kaya, Broadway babe Kerry Butler and electropop Boy Wonder Simon Curtis.