The Boston auditions found an abundance of good dancers and kept the cheese to a minimum

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Credit: Kelsey McNeal/Fox
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You fooled me, SYTYCD. You fooled me like a water-squirting clown lapel. You gave me nearly 45 minutes of solid — if not quite exceptional — dancing, making me believe that maybe, maybe we wouldn’t have to endure any auditions from attention-seeking, delusional hacks.

But, alas, that wasn’t the case. Methinks one of SYTYCD‘s producers spent too much time this week hanging out with Norm & the gang during these Boston auditions. How else can you explain the show highlighting Paul Magliato — a not-quite-bad-enough-to-be-laughably-bad dancer who is not even eligible for the competition — when there were 20-someodd other dancers put through to the choreography round? At least when American Idol televises the audition of a too-old contestant, there’s some sort of sweet factor to it. (e.g. a husband dedicating his song to his late wife, a 60-something with a beautiful voice who just wanted his turn in the spotlight, etc.) But SYTYCD had an entire segment devoted to Paul’s Napoleon-Dynamite-grows-up routine. Of course, I could just be bitter, because the guy might just give me nightmares, considering his eerie resemblance to the scariest toy of all time: Hugo, the man of 1,000 faces.

Then again, beyond Paul’s eye-rolling performance, last night’s episode was fairly impressive. We saw plenty of dancers who were wicked cool, some of whom did indeed deserve to move their cars from Harvard yard to the Bellagio.

So let’s start with the truly awesome, shall we? In my opinion, SYTYCD tragically only gave us a few short glimpses of the dancer who possessed the most skills of the night: Kimara Wood. This dreadlocked contemporary dancer infused some welcome African influence — there’s truly not enough of that on the SYTYCD stage — and the guy flew so far in his jumps, I doubt he’ll even need a plane ticket to Vegas. Plus, I’ve got to hand it to Kimara for doing the one thing many of these dancers inexplicably refuse to do: buy a ponytail holder. Memo to female contemporary dancers: SYTYCD is not a Garnier commercial.

Speaking of which, let’s talk Channing Cooke. I have mixed feelings about this blonde beauty. Reasons I like her: (1) She works in an ice cream parlor. Any girl who can enjoy a good Chubby Hubby is fine by me. (And sorry, Nigel, that is not a euphemism of any kind. Even though I’m sure you’d like it to be, what with the way we watched Channing back flip in slooooow motion, The Man Show-style.) (2) Channing seems to have a personality, and not the kind that will make Mia want to stab you in the bad, ouchy type of way. Reasons I don’t: (1) She seems to be a tumbler — and you know how I feel about tumblers. (I won’t waste time rehashing my old criticism of flip-happy folks like SYTYCD producers waste time rehashing the rules of the audition episodes before every show.) 2) Most of her routine resembled a yoga instruction tape on fast-forward. Which made me want to, consequently, fast-forward her routine. And only Flash could follow a yoga session on double fast-forward! But I won’t completely lose faith. Channing seemed to improve in the choreography round, and she seems well on her way to becoming season 6’s goofy sweetheart, á la season 3’s Lauren, or season 5’s Jeannette. (Oh, Jeannette. In Róisín Murphy’s words, we used to love you truly.) And the judges sure liked Channing. As Tyce said, ”I love you. You’re amazing and fantastic.” Then he immediately put down his mirror and began singing Channing’s praises.

NEXT: Whimsy on parade

So while Channing seems set to sail through, last night’s episode boasted some underdogs, the best of whom was b-boy Jean Lloret, who was so impressive, the judges sent him through to Vegas without a single critique. While watching his audition, my inner monologue went something like this: Eh, this looks like nothing special. Jean’s just making like a 15-year-old arcade kid and replicating DDR moves on the stage. Guess I’ve got nothing to do but drink my Snapple and watch him get rejected by the judges. Snapple is great, but I wonder why Coca-Cola discontinued Fruitopia. Wait, I can’t get distracted! Now it looks like Jean’s going to breakdance — Strawberry Passion Awareness was a perfectly good drink flavor, after all — and…wait a sec, holy crap! How did he do that?! Even Leonard Nimoy couldn’t explain the physics involved in this! So, yea. Here’s hoping the untrained Jean becomes the Ivan of this year. (P.S. ”Fruitopia” is in Microsoft Word’s dictionary. Just thought you guys needed to know this.)

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. First of all, one doesn’t have to wear a bow tie and checkered pants to prove that he’s quirky. Sure, it would be funny if I showed up to work dressed like the Hamburglar, but, mostly, it would just be distracting and unnecessary, like Teddy’s outfit. Secondly, to me, his moves were simply too manic, as if he graduated magna cum laude from the Tiffany school of extreme hand-dancing. Plus, I couldn’t help but notice he seemed all too aware of the cameras. And that just turned me off like a pair of stupid pants. The judges, however, loved him, and sent him straight to Vegas. But I can’t help but think he was aided by his awesome Jason Mraz song choice. The song, however, only reminded me of how much better Jason and Jeanine danced to it last season.

Since we’re on the subject of pairs that work great together, let’s talk about our married ballroom couple, Karen and Matthew Hauer. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not all too familiar with ballroom technique. But was anyone else relatively bored with these two? Mary loved the pair — and even compared Karen to J.Lo — but it just reminded me of two ballroom solos performed side-by-side, with a cool pose at the end. Where were the pot stirs? Insane lifts? That might not be their specific ballroom style, but audiences are going to need this couple to pull some proverbial rabbits out of their hats in order to feel inspired to pick up the phone and vote.

Then we had our other ballroom dancer, a Fabio-esque auditioner with an inappropriately vanilla name: Gene Berston. Seriously, with a name like that, you’d expect to see a bald sports writer carting around two soccer-playing kids in a minivan. Instead, Gene resembles that sleazy guy who hangs out by the payphones on the street, just waiting for a woman he can verbally sexually harass. The judges could have even pressed charges during his eyebrow-lifting audition, when he ripped open his shirt Dmitri-style, exposing his chest and a canister-shaped necklace. His audition was a bit showboat-y — you have an ass, we get it — but he still showed quite a bit of strength, especially when you consider he was performing solo. But if he continues on past Vegas, Nigel might have some competition for the ladies.

NEXT: Pop locked?

Thankfully, we got a reprieve from the cheesy thanks to hip-hopper Kevin ”K’Bez” Hunte, whose audition was, unfortunately, only above average. I wanted to root for K’Bez — especially after the former SYTYCD rejectee’s ”everything happens for a reason” speech — but he didn’t even come close to hitting his moves hard enough. He swore to the judges that he was training in other areas, something that sent Tyce into a confusing tizzy. How unnecessary was that? Instead of giving the guy some constructive criticism, Tyce instead decided to go all Nancy Grace on K’Bez’s bum, insulting the dancer’s routine and hesitation going into his flip. (I’d like to see you do some back flips, Tyce. And your Mary Katherine Gallagher leg kicks do not come close to counting.) Sure, K’Bez should have incorporated the new moves into his number, but Tyce did not need to give the dancer love that tough. A simple, ”Please, just show us what else you can do,” would have sufficed. Let’s not be too harsh on the judge, though: maybe Tyce just needed some fiber in his diet. Either way, after a successful choreography round, K’Bez was sent to roll the dice in Vegas.

Another popper didn’t fare quite so well. Fabrizio ”Breeze” Jenkins — who evidently hung up his apron after filling the cannoli at my local Italian restaurant in Jersey to audition to Boston — boasted one of the most entertaining solos of the night, only to leave the choreography round thanks to a bum foot. Of course, it was his own fault: the guy fell during his audition, hurting his ankle. And it’s too bad. He was good enough to cover up his own fall to make it look intentional, and he was quite the entertainer. He’s certainly not top 20 material, but it would have been fun to see him duke it out in Vegas. Especially since the other dancers would root for them…if they knew what was good for them.

Last night’s other ousted-too-soon auditioner: The 6’8” Ryan Casey, a talented tapper whose only flaw was his own body type. I was in awe of Ryan’s tap skills, but while watching his audition, it just seemed like something was…off. Perhaps that’s because his upper body looked like the product of a mating session between an accountant and one of those evil trees from The Wizard of Oz. Not that that’s a bad thing. No, that actually intrigues me. Because when it comes down to it, not every dancer needs to possess a body type that would please Balanchine. Heck, back when the art of ballet was being refined in the 17th century, Louis XIV helped create moves that accentuated his sheer size and many robe layers. So who’s to say everyone needs to be short and skinny? (Though, it does help in the industry.) Unfortunately, in the end, the judges couldn’t get past Ryan’s size — partnering would certainly be an issue in the future — and he was cut after choreography. But for anyone who might poo-poo dancers who don’t look the part, I have one word for you: Donyelle.

Finally, can we give it up for crumper Russell Ferguson? Nigel might have thought Russell’s crumping solo looked too one-dimensional without the support of a whole group, but I completely disagree. Usually it’s hard to see the technical prowess needed to execute the style with all the distractions of a group krumping number. But in Russell’s case, his technique was clear as a bottle of Pepsi in 1992. To me, it really looked like art. ”Filthy and dirty” art, as Tyce said, but art nonetheless.

Anyway, friends. I’m pooped. Did you think last night’s audition episode was wicked awesome, or as flat as a glass of tragically ignored brewski? Did you get enough Pasha, what with that shot of his backside? (In my opinion, still not enough.) Did you find Tyce to be like Dr. Evil, or Dr. ”Look at me!”? And finally, who do you think is a lock for the top 20?

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So You Think You Can Dance

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.
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