Dumpster love, Hairspray and the Heart of the Ocean: Surprising performancesindicate early leads in Week 1 of SYTYCD
After a week off for Independence Day, we're back on with our favorite over-the-top reality TV option for the summer, So You Think You Can Dance. The new two-hour format is going to mess with our brains for a little while, but bear with us as we muddle through this great hurdle together.
This episode is finally the first performance show for an audience, which means that text-voting can begin and contestants can start having their dreams crushed next week. Hooray!
The show opens with an all-hands-on-deck dance routine to represent a crazy Mad Men-type office environment where everyone is either possessed or far too emotional about their deadlines. All the women have ultra-teased hair and super short skirts, and all the men just want to leap and spin and twirl. It's how I dream my office might one day become.
All the women have ultra-teased hair and super short skirts, and all the men just want to leap and spin and twirl. It's how I dream my office might one day become.
A tongue-tied Cat Deeley botches her hosting duties by calling judge Mary Murphy the wrong name. She makes up for it by wishing producer Nigel Lythgoe a happy birthday, indicating that he does in fact age in normal human terms. Guest judge (and actual choreographer) Kenny Ortega is back to increase the show's legitimacy as well as the spray-tan smarm factor.
First to dance this week are Cheon and Witney who get paired up for a samba choreographed by the impressively square-faced Louis Van Amstel. Witney is a ballroom dancer by training, so she has no trouble outshining chiseled ballet dancer Cheon in this one. He can definitely move his feet quickly and he certainly looks his ballroom best, and they do look incredible together. But I'm primarily watching her the whole time. I always forget how little women wear whilst ballroom dancing.
Afterward, Van Amstel doesn't look pleased in the crowd shot. Nigel, of course, heaps the praise on Witney and then tells Cheon he's "overcompensating his turnout." We're all really just looking at his exposed chest. Mary agrees about his trouble with his foot issues and wants him to "cover his holes" more. Then it's screeching, red-faced time as she announces Witney's first class ticket on the Hot Tamale Train.
SYTYCD wunderkind Sonya Tayeh directs the next contemporary routine with baby-handed Tiffany and her partner George. Unsurprisingly, this piece is about star-crossed lovers "melting into butter" over one another, so I'm ready for some serious dance-sex on stage. Instead, there's a lot of posing and falling and running away from each other. Lots of weird angles and leg extensions.
But, of course, Sonya choreographed it so the judges are just dripping with compliments, mostly for her. Kenny does accuse the dancers of "spilling it all over the stage," however, so that's gross and funny.
Next up is boring old Janaya and step dancer Brandon who are being choreographed by Napoleon and Tabitha (Nappy Tabs!) in a new hip hop routine, set to the Drake and Rihanna song "Take Care." It's a piece about love and addiction and DANCE! Both dancers are doing all the moves, but it lacks the passion of a really great routine. Can't say that either of them are going to stick around very long. Choreographers and judges all seem to agree.
Kenny stumbles to find compliments for everyone. Nigel critiques the choreographers for "not exposing" the dancers and tells Janaya to get down and dirtier.
Aussie ballet dancer Daniel and the stunning Alexa are making their debut with a seriously disappointing jazz number by Shawn Cheesman. The overcomplicated routine seems to go badly in rehearsal, so I'm totally into how it happens on stage.
I literally gasped at how stupid their shiny red outfits look, and they open the routine by writhing around in a big steel box. The dancers (who I thought were two of my favorites) are so worried about the technicality of the routine that they can't really enjoy themselves. It's really just bizarre; not how I want to see either of them displaying their talents.
The judges recognize the difficulty of the routine but want both of these expected early favorites to look like they enjoy themselves. Kenny is literally twiddling his thumbs as he stutters out his limited praise. It's not looking good for these two, who will hopefully have another week to redeem themselves.
Sassy-haired Amber joins super gay Ballroom Nick in a Vienese waltz designed by Jason Gilkison, who is being extra rough on Nick in rehearsals because he's a ballroom dancer. The couple is already spinning in circles when the camera turns to them and the music starts.
The music, mind you, is a cover of "Nights in White Satin" and they cleverly interpreted it by making Amber's dress out of — wait for it — white satin.
The music, mind you, is a cover of "Nights in White Satin" and they cleverly interpreted it by making Amber's dress out of — wait for it — white satin. With her dress doing what it's doing, it's almost like Nick isn't even there. But then, geez, they start up with the spinning and it all looks so incredible. Amber's dress is in the air, her panties are on full display, and it's just beautiful.
Ballroom expert Mary calls their work "dreamy," Kenny calls it "lovely," and Nigel tells Nick not to grimace while he's making good dance.
Vampiric Ameilia and her smiling giant partner, Will, are paired up for another hip hop routine by Nappy Tabs. I'm pretty nervous about them looking badass because they are literally the whitest kids on this show.
When the music begins, he's hiding in a dumpster that's been placed on stage, and she's wearing a literal cat suit, so we're off to a good start. It's not really hip hop, what with The Cure's "Lovecats" providing the soundtrack, but it's fast and it's fun. And her ass is literally presented in the air for most of it. They end up in the dumpster at the end, but come out smiling regardless.
Kenny says the most inappropriate comment of the night to Amelia about her costume, and it is surprisingly Nigel who calls him on it. Nigel then identifies the importance of personality in the show and points out how these two are exactly what the show wants. Mary calls Amelia a "quirky, little vixen" and everyone has a giggle. Yeah, they're my vote for the week and for the rest of the season because America's just going to eat them up. Called it.
Belly dancer Janelle is paired with adorable contemporary dancer Dareian to do African jazz by Shawn Cheesman. When did African jazz become a dance style on this show? Either way, I'm down for it. The couple is wearing offensive costumes, of course, and the song is called "Jungle." So there's that. Janelle's all storts of bendy, which helps in this ridiculous opening segment of twisting and floor crawling. Eventually, Dareian throws Janelle on the ground and drags her across the stage, so we're keeping things classy.
Nigel avoids making any critiques by simply pointing out all of Janelle's recent injuries. Luckily, Mary loves both of them. Kenny calls the routine "cross-cultural." Thanks, Kenny.
Eliana and Cyrus are doing a scene from Hairspray for a Tyce Diorio Broadway number. Cyrus (who you may recall has no formal dance training) has giant gages in his ears and a mohawk, and he's dancing to a 60s-style Broadway song. It's maybe my favorite thing that's ever happened. Thank goodness, he's great with the timing and musicality and is having so much fun with it.
Cat's so happy at the end she starts chanting "You just did Broadway!" And Tyce is in the audience reminding everyone that he choreographed this and he is important too. Kenny calls it "real Broadway." Nigel rains on the parade by telling Cyrus he's "not quite a good dancer," but picks it up by telling America to vote for him. He then goes on to tell Eliana she's the "benchmark" for all the other girls this season.
Oh, but wait! Audrey and Ryan Gosling-lookalike Matthew are here, too! And it's a Travis Wall piece about the Titanic. Wha-what? There's leaping, there's posing on a chaise lounge, there's 1900s costuming and vague references to The Heart of the Ocean. And there's The Righteous Brothers singing "Unchained Melody." It's pretty damn sexy, to be honest, and Audrey is doing the aerial splits up in this jam just about every four seconds.
Yeah, this is probably the one everyone will remember from this night what with all of the pop culture references all jammed together with dance. It's pretty damn iconic. The judges give it a standing ovation, and Nigel admits he liked it "better than anything else this evening."
For the final dance of the night, Blonde Ballroom Dancer #2, Lindsay, is paired with samurai dancer Cole to learn the Pasa Doble with Jason Gilkison. From what I gather in their descriptions, this dance will be less about bull-fighting and more about women being poisonous.
From the get-go, this routine is impossibly dramatic: There is lightening and loud music and flipping and bare skin. Ninja-style seems to translate very well into Pasa Doble because Cole is commanding this stage like a bare-chested robot monster. He's holding his own with Lindsay's constant cape flipping and chest scratching. It's really all too much.
And then there's another standing ovation. Kenny calls it "one of the best performances he's seen on this show." Mary can't even close her mouth, she's so awestruck. Nigel agrees that it's the best Pasa Doble that has ever happened on the show... and it just came from a martial artist. What is even happening this season!
So there you go. We're off to a good start this first week with plenty of surprises and nail-biting suspense as to what is in store for the rest of the season. The Top 3 and Bottom 3 should be pretty clear this week, but who even knows what will happen in the weeks to come?
My picks for Top 3: Lindsey & Cole, Audrey & Matt, Amelia & Will
My picks for Bottom 3: Alexa & Daniel, Tiffany & George, Janaya & Brandon