Sunday, June 01, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance - Salt Lake City/Dallas/Charleston/Washington DC Auditions (4x02, 4x03)

In dealing with the scores of inequities systemic to this show, I've of late resolved to confront them in the same fearless way that our civic leaders use to meet the gravest crises of our days: ignore them like they're not there, except when it becomes expedient.

To Kelli Baker, Mary Murphy said she would've screamed but that she was too choked with emotions. To Markus Shields, she felt so much that she couldn't even talk anymore. Hopefully the talent on the competition will be so off the charts that Mary will stay speechless for the rest of the season.

Perusing the Internets, I'm seeing a lot of weariness of the auditions, which surprises me because -- even considering the usual parade of human detritus (e.g. Dancing D, holla!) -- I don't think we've ever seen auditioning at this caliber. Reflecting on the SLC/Dallas episode, it wasn't as strong as I originally thought, but Charleston/DC seemed capable of reaching the dizzying heights that might silence Mary Murphy forever. By whatever metric you might use to count quality, I found the following auditions worthy of memorializing:

  • Gev Manoukian (SLC)

  • Kelli Baker(SLC)

  • BJ Harris (Charleston)

  • Megan Campbell (DC)

  • Markus Shields (DC)

  • Brandon Bryant (DC)

Except for the fact that Dallas was apparently forgettable, that list (each of which I've uploaded high-res versions for your pleasure) strikes me as a pretty strong bunch of auditions, and that's not any peripheral excitement that could have resulted. Check it:

I vaguely recall Gev Manoukian, our ice breaker (haw haw), from a second season glimpse at a few auditions that didn't cause waves back in those pre-high def days. (FYI, I wasn't sufficiently impressed to make a clip of it, especially not with Pandora's performance competing for hard drive space.) But this time around, Gev was petty swell, especially with his slow motion breaking at the beginning.

Download Gev's audition (12.6 MB)

Nigel: Do you gamble?
Kelli: No...
Nigel: Well, we're going to gamble on you, and a good place to gamble is where?


And I think I have an early crush.


Download Kelli's audition (12.5 MB)

The buzz on Kelli is that her pedigree as a choreographer's daughter is abundantly apparent, and the first time I watched her I could tell, though repeated viewings have sort of gone cold for me. Still, I'm certain that she's an excellent technician since she can do the Running Man backwards.



Megan Campbell takes good direction. After Nigel said that he was tired of her flipping her hair back, her hair fell over her face at one point during the critiques and she left it there for a couple seconds, like she was afraid that any more fussing with her hair would upset the judges.

Download Megan's audition (8.4 MB)

BJ Harris didn't have the same locking skills as, say, Robert Murraine, but his move at the end of his routine -- when he lifted himself off the ground on his toes -- is sickness defined.

Download BJ's audition (10.4 MB)


Brandon Bryant: Talent and power for miles.

Download Brandon's audition (12.4 MB)

By now, you've probably learned that the song he dances to is "Lux Aeterna" by Clint Mansell, though this particular version -- complete with a full orchestra and a choir -- is called "Requiem for a Tower," and is the Carmine Burana of this millennium, for better or for worse.

We briefly saw his season 1 audition, when he was 15:


A physique like that at 15? Crazy.

Despite his bravura performance, his youth is still apparent, like with his happy dance, which was interesting -- if by "happy dance" I mean his celebratory utterings, and by "interesting" I mean diabolical. Listen here. Sounds like backwards masking, especially towards the end, doesn't it? So I reversed it, then slowed it down by about 700%, and this is what we get. I think I can make out "fremme neppa venette."

Markus Shields isn't a lissome cutie or an obvious cutup, but man, he's smooth.

Download Markus' audition (11.7 MB)

As for the rest...


Nigel may be wholly disagreeable aesthetically and ideologically, but to some cannon fodder blondie who had given up dance but recently and was obviously rusty, he loosed a great line to describe the occasional glimmers of brilliance: "Whoa, that has a bit of class to it." I intend to reuse this line, in fact.

Though in the meantime, that blonde, and her friend, another blonde.


They're Kortney and Michelle, who got married on the same day -- to each other!




Other poppers impressed me more, but the air that Joshua Allen got was insane. Here's an unscientific composite image I made to illustrate how high:



Remind me again -- did Sheila's backstory have anything to do with being short on money? Because I'm hoping that she's not wearing a Wonder Bread hoodie by choice, but because of circumstances.

Anyway, in this instance of Nigel gamely trying for a sound bite, he asked Sheila if she knew "how a roulette wheel does its numbers," to which she gave a horrified shake of her head -- no, she didn't.


OK, firstly, you don't need calculus to know roulette is a loser's game, which Sheila demonstrated here, because apparently she never took statistics, the relevant subject here. People who are afraid of math (e.g. girls), look away now.

Given: The wheel has 38 possible numbers. Numbers 1-36 alternate between red and black; you can bet on whether the ball lands on a red or black number, or if the number is even. However, the final two numbers are 0 and 00, which are both green and in the scope of roulette, neither even nor odd.

If the wheel only had 36 numbers -- all red and black -- then your best bet would to wager by color or odd/even because those give you the best odds of winning on any given spin: 50%. Make that least worst, since you'd merely break even with those 50% odds over the long run -- make that the very long run, i.e. you play roulette infinity times (assuming you bet the same amount of money every time). Example: You place 1000 $10 bets on black. Keeping with the odds, you win 500 times (+500 x $10 = +$5000), lose 500 times (-500 x $10 = -$5000). +$5000 + -$5000 = 0, i.e. you break even.

But the wheel has 38 numbers, and if you bet red/black or odd/even, your odds drop to 47.6%, which doesn't sound like much at first, but if you extend it to the previous example of 1000 spins: You win 476 times (+$4760), lose 524 times (-$5240) -- that's a net $240 loss, which the casino is happy to gobble up. So despite Passenger 57's sage advice, never play roulette.


The twins! Red was clearly the more acrobatic of the two. As for Gray, I couldn't spot any singular difference between his first abortive audition and the second one with his brother, but who cares, watching the two of them together was like watching the Wonder Twins in action. I suppose Gray would be Zan, who can transform into any water-based whatever -- that is, the lame one.

But their sly humor was great: "I've lived with him just about my entire life," said one. "Yeah," responded, the other, "same here." LOL twins, am I correct?


I really could've done without him spanking himself during his float, but I can't otherwise fault a fellow Asian nerd and a chance to dispense more pop culture knowledge on you young ones: Phucdat's outfit was Bruce Lee's getup from Game of Death, and I can only guess that his goggles homaged Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


The show brought back Anthony Bryant and in turn Anthony Bryant brought back the hi-top fade.

Though technically, that's not quite accurate, since Anthony has been trying out every year, and even made it to the final cuts in Vegas at least once.

I followed Phucdat with Anthony for good reason; when the two of them were cut, the editors cuts back and forth between their reactions, which was a heavy-handed way of putting labels on the two of them -- "Phucdat is the gracious loser, but look at how petulant Anthony is!" I've never been overly fond of Anthony -- not to say I'm impervious to the way Nigel treated him in the past -- but the show going out of its way to editorialize like this is weak gamesmanship.

But then again, that gamesmanship did lead to my new ringtone, so I can't get my righteous on too much.


I trawled the Internets, and apparently these two were copping druid style (I'd originally assumed it was inspired by Japanese dance or folklore). While I can't complain too much about the auditions this year, I'd have far preferred to see more of this routine over the inert spectacle of Dancin' D, holla! The two ladies went to the trouble of painting up their faces, and all Dancin' D, holla! did was print up a T-shirt with his on it, holla!


Speaking of scary...


Paige Jones' spray-on tan is disgusting, on top of her being a total hack. I can only think of a couple reasons how she's proceeded to Vegas.


Perhaps her one saving grace is that she isn't afraid to play up her blondeness.


To avoid ending on a horrifying note, here's Cat in all her compassionate hugging glory:




Indie rating: Led Zeppelin - "Here's to My Sweet Satan"


atomicgoofball said...

HI! this is phucdat aka atomicgoofball, thanks for the write up! and thank you so much for being one of the few who knew about the homage to bruce lee and the game of death suit!!! the goggles are actually rec spec perscription goggles, helps me see when i dance! visit my site or

Anonymous said...

It's good to have your SYTYCD recaps back, Leee.

Ted said...

We love Phucdat! Gotta post The Quest Of The Burning Beat.

Leee said...

Phucdat! Thanks for commenting -- and for googling yourself. ;) I definitely hope you'll audition again next year -- you were the funniest contestant we've seen so far, and intentionally so, which is the key.