The judges let some questionable dancers through to Vegas, thanks to sex appeal

By Kate Ward
Updated June 03, 2010 at 05:55 AM EDT
Jeff Neira/Fox

Ah, Hollywood. Home to some of the entertainment industry’s greatest talents. As well as some of the industry’s greatest ”talents.” I put the word in quotes, because as we are all too well aware, for every Kate Winslet in Hollywood, there’s a Kim Kardashian. For every Meryl Streep, there’s a Megan Hauserman. For every Helen Mirren, there’s Heidi Montag.

In other words, there are plenty of folks who find fame and fortune in Tinsel Town mainly due to their, ahem, assets. And I’m not talking their retained earnings! And during the first hour of last night’s So You Think You Can Dance when Nigel, Adam, and new guest judge Hi Hat journeyed to L.A., I began to fear my favorite dance show on television would fall victim to the lure of the some of the Hollywood auditioners’ cha-chas (hint: not the dance), and trot out a season 7 cast equivalent to The Girls Next Door.

Not that we would put such a thing past Uncle Nigel, the judge who has, over the past six seasons, refined his skill for spewing out creepy compliments that made us all wonder whether or not he spent his weekends watching old episodes of Baywatch on his VCR. (Because you know Uncle Nigel still has a VCR.) I mean, this is a man so obsessed with sex, he literally cannot resist showcasing a man named Sex on almost every single season of this show.

So, honestly, it was little wonder that he saw such appeal in dancers like 18-year-old cheerleader Lauren Froderman, an auditioner so intent on making season 7, she claimed, ”I’ll do anything, please.” (Cut to: Nigel, wearing a robe and stroking his non-existent mustache between his thumb and forefinger saying, Hmm… anything?) And that includes being desperate enough to attempt to appeal to the judges by dancing to Marvin Gaye’s ”Let’s Get It On.” Yet, somehow, Lauren managed to deliver the least sexy choreography ever set to the music. The whole thing felt like a rejected number from a female bodybuilding contest: it was all posing, flexing, and, strangest of all, smiling. I don’t know about you, my fellow SYTYCD fans, but when I think of ”Let’s Get It On,” I don’t think toothy. (Ouch!) But I imagine there’s a special lobe in Nigel’s brain programmed to drop a canister of Viagra directly into his veins whenever the song is played, because the judge was completely blind to the fact that Lauren’s pirouettes weren’t stable, and that her performance was completely, 100 percent disconnected from the song she was dancing to. And only Hi Hat noticed her shortcomings. Adam strangely claimed that there was no disconnect purely because Lauren had made eye contact with the judges. You know who else can make eye contact with me, Adam? My cat. Doesn’t mean she deserves to learn a Doriana Sanchez disco routine! (However cute the little sparkly outfit might look on her!) But, since we know Nigel likes the flexible ladies, Lauren was sent straight to Vegas. So I have no choice but to deliver my Bring It On-inspired cheer (sing it with me!): I said, brr! Its cold in here! Must be an unsexy performance to Marvin Gaye in the atmosphere!

NEXT: B-a-n-a-n-a-s

I’ll repeat what I just said two sentences ago: Nigel likes the flexible ladies. So as soon as we saw footage of 18-year-old rhythmic gymnast Rachel Girma, we knew she was destined for Vegas as well even if she’s only technically been dancing for two weeks. Look, unlike Lauren, I think this pretty girl is a classy broad. And watching her rhythmic gymnastic skills, it’s a shame learning she had to abandon the Olympics due to a foot injury. But the fact that Rachel can be sent straight through to Vegas purely based on her ability to perform three ponche turns kind of strikes me as ridiculous and touches on one of my biggest pet peeves of SYTYCD: As I mentioned plenty last season, I utterly despise the way dancers on the show use gymnastics to wow the judges, because, honestly, back flips are to dancing as quality is to a Steven Seagal movie. There is no connection between to two. And Rachel’s success proves just how important gymnastics and stunts have become on a show that is supposed to value performance and technical skill over tricks and stunts. That being said, I agree with Nigel in his belief that people will vote for her, because, for whatever reason, the girl is likeable. Perhaps that’s because I’m hopeful she will perform a Chariots of Fire ribbon dance at some point during the season. Or because the sight of her dancing with the ribbon prompted me to immediately start singing the ”Ribbon Dancer” song, even though I forgot knowledge of its lyrics existed in my brain. (Ribbon dancer, dancin’ in the street!) But to watch Nigel consistently put b-boys and hip-hop dancers through to choreography while allowing Rachel (someone who, I repeat, has only been dancing for two weeks) to go straight to Vegas well, that’s just as bananas as a Gwen Stefani lyric.

Now, before moving on, let’s take a moment to recognize all the unnamed pretty-faced dancers who made it through to Vegas, regardless of their lack of prowess on the SYTYCD audition stage. Aaaaand done.

When the judges weren’t focused on T and A last night, they zeroed in on some TLC. There was 18-year-old Taylor Costello, a dancer with zero control of her own body who began her routine with my SYTYCD pet peeve No. 1 (a back flip), and ended her performance with my SYTYCD pet peeve No. 2: divulging her skeletons to the judges. I’m not trying to be cynical here, friends, but anyone who watches SYTYCD knows the sympathy vote goes a long way. So when Nigel & Co. ask what drives you dance, a good reality TV answer is the one Taylor delivered: ”I was adopted. And [my biological mom’s] passion was to dance. And she died when I was young. She was murdered. She was shot in her apartment.”

NEXT: The Gokey way or the Cook way

As much as I feel for Taylor’s tragedy, I can’t help but view the admission as something less than genuine. I know I haven’t suffered as much as many (knock on wood), but I didn’t roll into my Entertainment Weekly job interview and say, ”This one day, my DVR didn’t record Rock of Love, and I was forced to watch re-runs of According to Jim instead. It was a really tough day, but it pushed me to be strong in my desire to one day write about crappy Vh1 shows!” (Okay, not quite comparable, but you know what I mean.) Reality show contestants might be persuaded to share details of their pasts, but they are by no means forced to do so. There is the Danny Gokey way (trot out your tragedy as much as possible), or the David Cook way (never once mention your tragedy for personal gain, no matter how hard Ryan Seacrest attempts to draw it out of you). It’s hard not to be skeptical of those who walk down Danny Gokey lane (a very scary place where this plays on a loop), even though Taylor was not put through to Vegas after showcasing her maniacal dancing.

Yet, when we traveled to Chicago — a place where one dancer said competition is in your blood (and by competition, I think he meant high cholesterol) — 18-year-old Andrew Phillips was sent through to Vegas after delivering a sob story. Let me say that I really want to give Andrew the benefit of the doubt. I really do. His relationship with his twin brother, who suffers from spina bifida, was touching. But I wish I could say the same about the way the auditioner seemed to trot out his brother as if he were at show and tell. And I imagine the judges were swayed by Andrew’s backstory — after all, he hardly deserved the ticket to Vegas, based on his lack of technique: Andrew never pointed his toes, couldn’t land his pirouettes, and had virtually no turn out. But, as we all know after watching Jodie Sawyer in Center Stage (yes, I might just reference the movie once per recap), it’s not about technique, it’s about performance. (Or backstory.) So Andrew was labeled the little engine that could and was given his ticket.

After seeing several questionable dancers, I clasped my hands together and thanked God for 26-year-old Alexie Agdeppa, a season 6 reject with some serious dancing chops. She might have been dressed like a giant doily (nice lace top), but her movement was youthful and fresh. Her tour jet was flawless, her moves calculated yet flowing, and her performance utterly joyful. Note to Lauren: this is how you use a smile on the stage. As Adam said, ”She’s everything.” If this girl doesn’t make it to the top 10, well, then I’ll re-watch a TBS airing of Jury Duty. And seeing how that is something I definitely don’t want to have to do, I’m fairly confident in her future success rate.

NEXT: Who doesn’t love the Urkel dance? Nigel, apparently…

Ditto for 20-year-old Jarrod Mayo, a young powerful dancer that literally jumped to new heights during last night’s show. The mama’s boy also managed to incorporate stunning emotion into his performance that didn’t seem manufactured, and is so adorable that Nigel couldn’t help but wonder if the apple fell not too far from the tree. (”Is mom cute?,” he asked maybe a little too eagerly.)

Another dancer that seems destined for top-10 glory? Eighteen-year-old Ryan Ramirez, someone who will likely become one of the season’s most controversial contestants, due to her prior connection to SYTYCD. Turns out Ryan was discovered by judge Mia Michaels herself during a dance convention and brought in to assist Mia with her choreography. And I don’t doubt that because of this prior relationship, the judges were far harsher on Ryan than she deserved last night; Though I felt Ryan was a graceful dancer very in tune with her own body, the judges chided her for not connecting to her performance. In choreography, however, the dancer appeared clumsy but was sent right through to Vegas regardless. Okay, guys: start conspiracy theories now!

While you do that, I’m going to forgo a traditional transition sentence for one mentioning that I never thought I would put ”amazing” and ”Audrina Patridge” in the same sentence. But I’m about to do it: Also amazing was 22-year-old Audrina Patridge look-alike Melissa Sullivan, a tapper who trained under Jason Samuel Smith and even once met legend Gregory Hines. (Can you believe I just did that?! Combining those two words was like trying to combine oil and water! Or trying to combine the words ”oil spill crisis” and ”solved”!) Maybe it’s because I love tappers or covet her combat boot tap shoes, but Melissa’s hipster-chic presence seems unlike anything we’ve previously seen on the SYTYCD stage. Nigel curiously felt Melissa was being rude to Stevie Wonder by dancing her routine to his music (No, Nigel, rude is whoever decided Stevie should duet with 98 Degrees), but allowed her a chance to go to Vegas after sending her through to choreography.

Sadder than the realization that Audrina Patridge’s bank account is healthier than mine, though, was the panel’s rejection of 21-year-old Christopher Gilbert, whose hip-hop routine was one-third James Brown, one-third Steve Urkel, one-third Stefan Urquelle, and all parts awesome. Come on, Nigel. How could you cast this guy aside? Not only does he rock an ugly sweater, but he knows how to use a prop! And if we’ve learned anything over the years, we’ve learned that SYTYCD choreographers love props. Imagine what he could have done with that cane if Mia added some rose petals!

NEXT: Mmm, deep dish…

Before I let you go, friends, let’s get some quick hits out of the way: Other dancers sent to Vegas were 20-year-old Matthew Morrison look-alike Adrian Lee (who I probably won’t be able to get behind, because of my irrational hatred of Will Schuester); 18-year-old bright-eyed and bushy-tailed small-towner Kent Boyd, who has traveled to big cities like Columbus; and 24-year-old Christina Santana, a returning ballroom dancer who will inevitably get slammed with the sexy label. And then there was 26-year-old Lindsey McLevis, 18-year-old Missy Morelli, and 21-year-old Cheryl Smith, three dancers who got less airtime than a liberal on Fox News. And of course, there were the bad: 25-year-old Kellan Borchers, who danced like drunk William from Can’t Hardly Wait; 28-year-old Melinda Jacobson, who likes her big hair; and 30-year-old Hella Hung, who got the racist edit, what with SYTYCD‘s use of the Japanese-esque background music.

Of course, I can’t forget to mention the warm fuzzies brought to us by 25-year-old deaf dancer Jarrell Robinson, someone I wish the judges would have given a chance to after seeing his amazingly astute attention to rhythm and timing. (It’s not like they haven’t supported deaf dancers in seasons past!)

Now, I’m on my way, fellow So You Think You Can Dance fans! Did Lauren also rub you the wrong way? Were you as unimpressed as I was with L.A.’s talent pool? How do you feel about contestant sob stories? Who do you hope makes it through to the top 10? And who is suddenly craving Giordano’s?