Several dancers heat things up at auditions in New York City and Miami during the season premiere

By Kate Ward
May 28, 2010 at 05:44 AM EDT
Mathieu Young/Fox
  • TV Show

It’s in the mid-80s here in New York City. I have officially made the transition from boots to flip-flops. I’m beginning my search for a nice pair of sunglasses. And I’m starting to crave one of those disgustingly amazing Coronas submerged in a margarita. (Sometimes, the things that seem so wrong are so, so right.) Know what this means, fellow So You Think You Can Dance fans? As Cat told us at the beginning of last night’s premiere, it’s summer! Well, not quite yet — we have to wait until June 21 for it to be official — but for all intents and purposes, it’s summer on television.

After all, So You Think You Can Dance has officially begun. As any fan of the reality dance competition show knows, SYTYCD and summer go together about as well as spaghetti and meatballs. Sonya Tayeh and Mohawks. Jody Sawyer and Charlie Sims. So after the utter disaster that was the fall season of SYTYCD — which, like a drunken one-night stand, seemed like a good idea at the time, only to make us feel nauseous and cheap at the end of it all — I can’t tell you how good it feels to swallow the Pepto-Bismol that is this upcoming summer season.

Especially since we can expect to see so many ch-ch-changes. Of course, not all of them are necessarily welcome — the show simply won’t be the same without Mary’s high-pitched shriek, even if my ears will suddenly be able to hear the sounds of summer (birds chirping, wind blowing, homeless men peeing) — but at least SYTYCD was perceptive enough to realize that a switch-up is needed as soon as things start to get stale. (Cough! American Idol! Cough!) Even if, sadly, only 10 dancers will make the finals this year, thanks to the inclusion of all-stars later on in the season. (Not that I’m complaining. Believe me, I am pumped for the return of Mark, Kathryn, and…wait for it… Pasha! Vodka shots all around!) And it might be tough to narrow things down, based solely on last night’s first auditions in New York and Miami.

SYTYCD (mostly) showed us footage of stellar dancers last night, setting the pace for what could be one heckuva competitive season. We saw graceful contemporary dancers! Hot — and I mean HOTT — ballroom dancers! Insane b-boys! And in my humble opinion, I believe we might have even seen this season’s winner last night. Yes, that’s right. We’re only two hours into this very young season, and I’m already prepared to crown a winner. That’s because the show highlighted one contestant with the backstory necessary to win over fans, and the dance skills necessary to win over the judges: 24-year-old Tyrell Rolle. The guy from the other side of the tracks — Liberty City, to be exact — bucked (heh) the stereotype, or so he said, by choosing contemporary dance over hip-hop and breakdancing. And for a guy who has only been refining his craft for seven years (not as long as it sounds), Rolle rocked. (Mmm…Rolling Rock.) The dancer boasted amazing extensions, impressive flexibility, and probably the best upper body I’ve seen from any male SYTYCD contestant. (And I’m not just talking appearances here!) On top of it all, it doesn’t hurt that Rolle’s got an emotional, supportive dad rallying behind him. Really, it’s almost not fair. At this point, does anyone else even have a chance?

NEXT: Stop trying to make Teddy happen!

Maybe 24-year-old Henry Byalikov, a former Burn the Floor dancer who auditioned with 28-year-old Giselle Peacock. Okay, wait. Excuse me for a second. I need to grab a hanky over here and wipe my forehead a bit, because this guy pretty much built the hot tamale train from scratch. As I mentioned last season, though I am a trained dancer, I know nothing about ballroom, but there was no denying that Giselle and Henry did indeed burn the floor. And though I’m usually nervous watching dancers shimmy in jeans — no one should stretch in clothing capable of tearing — it kind of brought you to the edge of your seat this time around, didn’t it? Of course, there will be some folks who claim that Giselle and Henry have an unfair advantage, since they are Broadway alums. And I’ll admit that I prefer my SYTYCD contestants to be total amateurs, so there feels like there’s more at stake during the season. (That being said, since dancers on average make about enough money to buy one Jell-O pack a day, there’s something at stake for all of ’em.) Yet I’m still hoping Henry makes it far — for no other reason, than to convince me to watch next season of Dancing With the Stars. Because if this guy cracks the top ten this season, there’s no way ABC is not hiring him, right? Maks isn’t getting any younger!

But last night’s premiere wasn’t all about the guys. Another possible contender is 27-year-old Miami auditioner Ami Aguiar-Riley, a married mom who I fell in love with as soon as I learned that she taught her son how to do the robot. (The running man is the logical next step, right?) Nigel might have felt Ami’s movements looked a little too aerobic, but I felt she was the first contestant from the school of herky-jerky dancing to actually bring feeling to her movements. Call it age, call it maturity, whatever, but Ami really danced, as Sonya said, like ”there’s life in you.” Yet, for whatever reason, the judges deemed her not as worthy as the contemporary dancers whose sole schtick is whipping their hair around showing their underwear (I’m looking at you, 24-year-old Megan Davis), so Ami was sent to choreography. Good thing the judges wised up and sent her through to Vegas.

You remember in Mean Girls when Regina told Gretchen to stop trying to make fetch happen? Well, I wish SYTYCD would stop trying to make 18-year-old Teddy Tedholm happen. Perhaps I’ll eat my words later, but Nigel & Co., Teddy Tedholm is not going to happen. Sorry. I’ll reiterate what I wrote last year about the guy when he auditioned for the fall season: ”Someone who doesn’t appeal to me? Teddy Tedholm, a self-described whimsical dancer who moves like he’s a mime trapped between the vices of a paint can shaker.” Teddy might have inspired Mia to deliver a backhanded compliment — ”You remind me of the unpopular kid, the one that was always laughed at, or made fun of” — but passion doesn’t always make up for lack of technique. Especially when Teddy expresses said passion through cheesy, theatrical movements better reserved for an angst-y play performed in a college dorm. Yes, Teddy’s passionate about dance. But so was 25-year-old biohazard remediation technician/country line dancer Scott Vogel. And I’d rather see the journey of a camouflage hat-wearing, bodily fluid-cleaning country line dancer than yet another run-of-the-mill contemporary dancer. But perhaps that’s just because I liked the way Scott used metaphor when he said he’d be back next year: ”Hopefully I’ll wipe the floor with everyone else.” Oh, Scott, you kill me. Get it? Get it?!

NEXT: Real dancers have curves

As for some other dancers who killed it last night: 21-year-old Daniel Baker neared perfection (as Mia said), 19-year-old Henry Rivera proved to be a likable and technically proficient dancer, 23-year-old Wadi Jones probably takes forever to get from destination to destination because he literally climbs up walls, 30-year-old German Michael Petr did Patrick Swayze proud by executing a knee slide, 21-year-old Jose Ruiz can somehow increase speed while spinning on his head, 20-year-old Edward Spots showed what Alvin Ailey men are made of (choreography, Nigel? Really?!?!), and we didn’t see nearly enough of the ridiculously leggy 20-year-old Briana De Falco. (What an arabesque!) And I’m already behind 29-year-old Anthony Burrell, but maybe that’s because slow-motion dancing automatically makes me want to slow-clap. It’s like a reflex of something. (As for 23-year-old Isolock — here’s hoping he refines his skills enough to make it through to Vegas next year. And who else thinks he sounds like a popsicle?)

Even though SYTYCD was meaty with good auditions last night, I still have to bring up my beef with the premiere. Every season, the show introduces us to one dancer with some sort of ailment, injury, or chronic disease that rises above adversary, truly bringing inspiration to the stage. And the judges cry. And we cry. And it’s a moment. We all hug each other. (Or just wrap our arms around our televisions pretending to do so.) But I still couldn’t help but be incredibly perturbed watching the judges critique 18-year-old ”thick dancer” Megan Carter. News flash Adam Shankman: Real dancers have curves. I know the judge was attempting to make a statement after seeing Megan dance, saying, ”You blew every single stereotype so far out of the water. I think I hold stereotypes sometimes too. And I’m so happy that you just schooled me. You just school everyone out there.” But it’s tough to swallow his comments after hearing him let out a patronizing ”aww,” as soon as Megan began her audition. I’m sorry, but it’s simply insulting to hold Megan to a different standard than other dancers. If you’re going to tear up watching her dance, do so because her dancing moved you. Not because she shops in a different department than the skinny dancers. And though it is definitely is more difficult for plus-size dancers to book a job, it’s not impossible. Megan would hardly be the first one to attempt to pursue a career in the art. Plenty of contemporary companies boast heavier dancers in their troupes. For God’s sake, even SYTYCD has had its fair share of curvier dancers. (Remember season 2’s Donyelle?)

NEXT: Sarah makes us like crummy romcoms

Sadly, Megan didn’t make it through to Vegas after struggling during the choreography round, but another voluptuous dancer did: 22-year-old Sarah Brinson. Thankfully, for whatever reason, the judges didn’t highlight Sarah’s weight as much as they did Megan’s — perhaps that’s because Sarah is a stunning dancer (who needs to work on her arm work a little bit), or because she’s blessed enough to resemble a Charlize Theron/Katherine Heigl hybrid. Come on, we all knew that Nigel had sex on the brain while watching Sarah — why else would he bring up Tiger Woods? (He was a little too hopeful asking if her golfer parents knew Woods, wasn’t he?) Either way, after watching Sarah’s gorgeous extensions, I suddenly found myself liking The Ugly Truth a little more. And that takes a lot.

Speaking of The Ugly Truth, we saw plenty of disasters on the show last night too — but I don’t really feel like wasting more than one sentence on the likes of Mike Perlman, a 27-year-old attention whore who exists solely so I could one day punch him in the face. (One sentence wasted!) And I don’t want to waste more than two sentences on 21-year-old Candace Craig, who almost made me like her by referencing the Spice Girls, but quickly became annoying as soon as she voluntarily bounced her far-too-exposed breasts for the third time. It’s bad when even her boobs want out! (Two sentences wasted!) And I don’t want to waste more than three sentences on poor 19-year-old Daria Kopylova, who didn’t deserve to have her Electra complex plastered across all of America’s television. I know it was creepy, and I know it was awkward, but why broadcast this daddy-daughter dysfunction? Especially since the moment was simply uninteresting. (Three sentences wasted!)

I would go on to insult 30-year-old Jamie Greco, but how can you attack anyone who works for the company that released The Toxic Avenger? And who pulls off a fruit basket hat better than the Chiquita Banana? I can’t help it, I enjoyed Greco’s health food striptease, even if I cringed a bit hearing Nigel tell Jamie, ”I hope every vegetarian doesn’t go out looking like this!”

As Porky the Pig — not a healthy food — would say, that’s all, folks! I’ll see you all next week after the next round of auditions. For the time being, let’s discuss last night’s premiere: Do you think Tyrell has a shot at the whole thing? Were you also a bit offended with the way the judges handled Megan? Do you wish the show would just do away with all the bad auditions? How great is it to have Mia back on the panel? And how sick are we all going to get of Lady Gaga’s ”Bad Romance” after seeing hopefuls dance Jason Glover and Courtney Galiano’s choreography to the tune? (I still can’t listen to Pitbull’s ”I Know You Want Me” after last year.)

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.
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  • 07/20/05
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