Welcome back to So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation, or, So You Want to Feel Inadequate. The audition rounds are headed to Chicago this week. Will anyone dance to “All That Jazz”? No one should; it’s not age appropriate. But … will anyone dance to “All That Jazz”?
Most of these kids look older than me.
J.T., 10, Jazz: Take it to the bridge, J.T. This small one shows up looking classy as can be in an orange bow tie and matching suspenders, and then he busts out an aerial. To quote Paula, J.T. “packs a punch” with his flips and turns, but for my money, the best thing about him is that he is completely without guile. He’s one of those people who use a word to define that word. J.T.’s favorite pose is his favorite “because it just is.” Of his polka-dot attire, he says, “I love it so much. It’s just like, the polka dots.” Asked what he has to say to America, he shrugs, “Nothing.” J.T. is bringing honesty back. He gets a ticket to the Academy.
Tahani, 12, Hip Hop: Nigel scolds a few kids tonight for “pulling too many faces,” but Tahani is not one of them, because when Tahani talks about the importance of facials, she knows exactly what she’s saying. Girl’s got personality. Her dance is refreshingly not gritty — she hits hard, but she’s having fun, and she wants everyone else to have fun watching her. Good news, Tahani: I had fun. She even has a positive attitude about throwing up on Paula: “All of the happiness came out on her jacket.” That’s one way to spin it. Tahani’s going to the Academy.
ASIDE: Great moments in interviews and even better moments in naming: “My b-boy name is Distraction.” “Why?” “Um, because I get distracted a lot.”
Emma, 10, Tap: We have our Paula strategist! Like Hailee before her, Emma is out to win over the middle judge on the panel by dancing to one of her songs, and, also like Hailee, Emma goes with “Cold Hearted.” It’s the dancer’s choice. But since Emma is a tapper, she goes a step (ha) further. Her routine works in a couple of spins that might as well be straight out of the first 18 seconds of the “Straight Up” music video, which were life-changing seconds for me personally, so more power to her. Don’t hold it against her that she wasn’t born when these songs were written; the important thing is that Emma is GOOD. Paula calls her “electrifying.” Then she and Nigel trade insults for a while. Don’t think about Nigel’s age, either. Emma is going to the Academy.
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Tia, 12, Ballet: Her mom’s big pep talk is, “You’re Spanish for one minute,” which — no — but as soon as Tia starts dancing, I forget all about how much that’s not the way it works. Tia is poised and controlled beyond her years. A few counts into her audition, Nigel gives his seat to Fabrice Calmels, principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet Company, and joins Tia’s mom on the bench, leaving Fabrice to offer the best, most specific critique of the evening: She needs to pay attention to her right foot, because sometimes when she does the battement, she flexes back down. Listen to that sentence! It sounds good because he’s French, but it also sounds good because it’s real. The judges need to be critiquing these kids — it’s a sign of respect. I feel like I just hit dry land after months at sea. Maybe it’s a Spanish beach. Tia is going to the Academy.
NEXT: Ladies, leave your man at home