Dance fans, we’re a whole three weeks in, and the judges are already losing their grip on reality. Does Cat ever just give them coloring books and tell them to take five? They make those markers now that don’t even leave a mark if they’re not on paper, so Nigel couldn’t draw on Mary if he tried. That feels like it would be a good investment.
Let’s see what these kids are up to in the New York auditions.
Kaylee “Impavido” Millis, 18 (Weymouth, Massachusetts)
Impavido abandoned every team sport in the books to pursue dance, and her parents were cool with it — as long as she paid her own way. So she’s highly motivated. The blue-haired teen is grateful to her parents for teaching her to take ownership of her choices, and Nigel is grateful that she’s found a funky style all her own. Aside from a couple of halting spins that seem like false starts at the end of her routine, Impavido is sharp; she can stop on a dime, her splits are the CLEANEST, and her choreography has personality. “You are an individual,” Nigel enthuses, throwing a little shade on the basic contemporary dancers with their “brilliant legs” and their hair that isn’t a primary color. I’m going to have to run her translation of her name (“to fear less”) past my old Italian professor, but Impavido is going to the Academy. Nothing like watching someone’s dream come true to wake you up in the morning!
Ana Sanchez, 23 (Cali, Colombia)
Glamorous salsa dancer Ana has “heard about the Hot Tamale Train thing,” and she wants in — so badly that she’s willing to risk life and limb to turn herself into a human Whee-lo toy. Girl’s got lifts! Ana is fine on the ground (my inexpert take on ballroom dance is that it’s not a good sign when I worry someone’s feet are about to slip out from under them), but she soars in the air. I’m so proud of/worried for this tiny Colombian Kristin Chenoweth! To quote Mary: [PIERCING SCREAM]. Ana gets one very hot train ticket the Academy.
Koine Iwasaki, 19 (Pembroke Pines, Florida)
Let’s talk about faces: Vanessa Hudgens has a great “watching people dance” face. Which is fitting, because Koine has a great dance face — she goes out there with a routine that somehow asks her to cycle through the full spectrum of human emotion in two minutes, and she feels it. Koine was born in Japan (give it up for the United Nations of Dance) and moved to Florida (oh girl, sorry) when she was 2. She started dancing before she spoke English. “Dance became my second language,” she says. That is genuinely beautiful.
So is Koine. She starts out fierce and never loses that edge, but she shades her performance with layers of pain and anger and makes a cool bridge with her back at one point. Vanessa loves her precision (that’s Vanessa’s Word of the Day). Koine is going to the Academy, which, by the way, is in L.A. this year. The More You Know.
HIP-HOP MONTAGE: Kyle Bennett Jr., 21 (New Britain, Connecticut), Shaquile Worsley, 26 (Manchester, New Hampshire), and Alex Diaz, 22 (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) may or may not have gotten tickets to the Academy??? NO ONE TELLS US ANYTHING. They definitely danced, and Alex definitely grabbed his crotch before waving at Vanessa, which she liked. I can tell you that much.
Joseph “Klassic” Carella, 25, and Huwer “Havoc” Marche Jr., 26 (Brooklyn, New York)
I think we’ve found the Brooklyn version of our identical Russian twins! They’re much happier than the Russian twins were, but they’re just as committed to their characters. Havoc is a human jump rope at one point; Klassic is Beyoncé, always. The flexers are sharp and creative, and they set their performance to a piano ballad, a risk that pays off because it lets their style do the talking. While Mary, impersonating some kind of tiny dog, growls that the guys were “sick,” Nigel praises them both for their work and calls Havoc a genius. (It’s early in the year, so I might be getting ahead of myself, but is Nigel… making an effort to respect hip-hop as an art form? Where are we?!) The judges put the guys through some unnecessary suspense before sending them straight to the Academy.
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Chaz Wolcott, 29 (Columbus, Ohio)
Chaz, who is 29, which is 90 in dance years, wins Most Relatable the minute he sits down with Cat. “You seem very smart and very together,” Cat says. “Well thanks,” Chaz replies. “I’m putting on a show.” AREN’T WE ALL.
Anyway, Chaz does, in fact, seem very smart and very together; he’s toured with Cats and Newsies, his parents were swing dancers, and his dad looks like Underrated TV Dad Steven Keaton. So far, so good. Before he hides his wrinkly ol’ mug in a nursing home on the Upper West Side, Chaz has decided to seize his last opportunity to audition for So You Think You Can Dance, and it’s a good thing he does; his turns are nice. Nigel wants him to keep his chin up (literally, but also emotionally, sure), and I want him to take off his damn jacket. But he’s charming and airy, and he makes Mary cry for what she claims is the first time in the history of her experience with tap dance. Mary is brazenly lying at least once a week now, and I adore her for it. Chaz is going to the Academy.
Darius “The Bigger Cheese” Reed, 24 (Paterson, New Jersey)
Okay, did we learn nothing last week? It is not a good sign when a contestant gets a fake movie trailer! Ever! Darius shows up in a floppy sun hat, fur coat, and stilettos (just you wait — he’s gonna lick those stilettos) and proceeds to treat SYTYCD like a lip sync battle, and not even a fun one. He just kind of takes off his clothes and does that cat fight move Sam tells the girls to do on GLOW. But I will give him points for honesty. “I’ve certainly seen better at what you do,” Vanessa sighs. “That’s true,” Darius nods. Darius is going home.
CONTEMPORARY MONTAGE: Logan Hernandez, 19 (Miami, Florida), Abby Griffin, 19 (Sevierville, Tennessee), and Cristina Moya-Palacios, 21 (Miami, Florida) are going to the Academy. The fact that we don’t get to see them dance feels especially cruel after what Darius just put us through.
Ryan Bailey, 23 (Baltimore, Maryland)
I should be equally upset about the good performances Ryan cheats us out of watching, but I just can’t be. This is the hardest I’ve laughed at any segment of this show in a long time. I flat-out cackled at the face Mary makes when his audition is at its weirdest. And I find it absolutely delightful that dance teacher Ryan motivates his students by yelling at them to “MAKE UNCOMFORTABLE CHOICES!”
That’s not to say I think Ryan is good. I think he’s real good at lowering expectations. I think he blasphemes the good name of Dirty Dancing. I think he goes out there and moves his hands just long enough that when he successfully executes one cool attitude turn, the judges lose their minds. Suddenly, Nigel’s over here praising him for “deconstructing dance” and justifying his dissatisfaction as some kind of performance art: “I hated it, so I liked it.” This is the last-night’s-Twin-Peaks-episode of dance!
Anyway, Ryan should go to choreography. Ryan (I’m painting this on a picket sign) should go to choreography. But Mary votes Academy, and Nigel admits that he didn’t want to say Academy because he thought people would think he was crazy. (Judges feel peer pressure too, kids.) Ryan, somehow, is going to the Academy.
That’ll do it! In two weeks, Vanessa absolutely schools somebody for not dancing enough. I cannot wait.
DARIUS-ISM OF THE DAY: “Forget Nigel… Forget Mary… POPPINS.”