But before I go there...
Brandon Bryant had amazing strength last year, and he probably has more this year, plus some preternatural (supernatural?) control. See that pic of him? It's not a jpg, it's an animated gif and he's been standing like that the entire time you've been reading this. The kid is a total lock for the top 20, unless he's bumped out by some genius like Will Wingfield or Chris Jarosz again.
More Brandon, Nigel is a 'phobe and why it matters to call him out, and laughable feline behavior framed inna pictorial style—AFTER THE JUMP.
Download Brandon's audition (10.2 MB)
Brandon had some remarkable tricks last year, but he topped them all with that wicked spiderwalk. If it has a technical name, I kind of don't care to know it, because a move this sick needs a Bond villain sobriquet like spiderwalk.
It's so nefarious that the judges coughed up no fewer than three tickets for him to
I've also noticed a lot of kids -- and trust me, it's got to be kids, because if they were older, they'd know -- asking about the song he dances to. Easy: it's "O Fortuna" from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. Nota bene: if you like this song, you are goth. (To translate for the kids, goths are the '80s and '90s versions of what emo kids are today.)
Between "O Fortuna" and "Lux Aeterna"/"Requiem for a Tower" from his previous audition, Brandon apparently leaves no dancer cliche unturned.
OK, so the other thing that's got us all in a tizz. I wanted to leave it mostly alone because I don't want it to overshadow everything great about the show, but at this point, Nigel's comments to the same-sex ballroom couple have ballooned to the point where I simply can't ignore it. (The controversy has also spilled into Twitter, so you know this issue has trendiness on its side.)
A lot of people have already weighed in -- here's a brief but thoughtful summary. For the historical record, I think that Nigel was grossly inappropriate to Misha and Mitchel, but that's probably the least interesting thing I have to say about this topic, which is obviously more complicated than simply homophobe vs. PC backlash, and which is better seen as a proverbial teaching moment in a particularly literal sense.
Whatever side you're on in the nature vs. nurture debate with regards to human sexuality (and insofar as you can clearly define sides in this case), I firmly believe that our responses to homosexuality and in fact other forms of human otherness are culturally learned. We might view Misha and Mitchel dancing together uneasily, but rather than resort to the "natural" response of histrionic revulsion (sword-fighting? Really? I thought we were talking about dance), we can approach a more empathic position that first respects basic humanity, e.g. not outright dissing how others carry themselves, because to do otherwise would so often question and ridicule their identities. Then the important and tricky kind of respect: to be able to honestly critique them while avoiding the condescension of lowered expectations and to hold them to standards to which you'd hold others. If we afford others the benefit of such respect, then we'd be treating them fairly, which is the minimum standard that we ought to abide by.
The upshot, ultimately, is that despite inner misgivings, if we control our outward expressions of how we relate to others who are different and at least not treat them like (moral) lepers -- and afterward honestly assess our feelings -- then at some point our opinions and beliefs will gradually change to accommodate the outward form. That's the idealistic hope, anyway, for this formalist.
That's my careful big-tent piece (which doesn't seem so persuasive now that I read it over, oh well); I'm now moving on to a polemics.
Different places and people I've consulted (hah -- a couple of tweets adds up to consultation now) have contrasted Nigel's squishiness against the concrete and technique-specific criticisms offered by Mary and (to a lesser extent) Sonya, but here I have to say that the other two judges were being let off too easily. Mary said, "It was hard for me to even kind of focus on that technique 'cuz I was still trying to figure out-- it would've been easier for me in other words if one person was playing the female role and one was playing the male role." OK, she might've been using "male" as a synonym for "lead" and "female" for "follow," but if we accept her synonyms, we'd ignore how ballroom roles are inextricably tied to gender conventions, behind which she's hiding some of the same rigid ideas of gender performance and the same anxieties about sexuality for which Nigel is being bashed.
(A caveat: long-time readers will know how far below contempt I hold Mary Murphy, so I may very well be persecuting her through sticklery.)
When Sonya's turn to speak came, I thought she was going to provide a refreshing corrective; if anyone on that judging panel was going to be flying a freak flag, it'd be her, right? But then she echoes Mary, and says she's confused by the breach in classical form. She was the last person on that panel whom I'd expect to appeal to classical form. (Rhetorical chiasmus!) Lesson here for me: Don't judge a choreographer by her mohawk.
She is surprisingly adorable, though.
But thankfully, the show provides its own comic relief to lighten the mood.
A termite walks into a bar, and he says, "Is the bartender here?"
A Lexis-Nexis search reveals that she apparently butchered the punchline, such as it is: "Where's the bar, tender?" Because a bar is made of wood, see? Not exactly the level of humor you'd hear on Frasier, that's for sure.
Even more thankfully,
... who is drawing here upon her vast knowledge of modeling to bring us Blue Steel.
Since we're still in the audition phase, our superlative dance-host kitten doesn't have as much time on camera to shine as brightly as we know she can, but even then, she is a smile made of rainbows and diamonds. And to that now we can add... MUTAGEN.
There are really only so many ways to sing her praises -- wait, I am underestimating Cat's awesomeness, so here goes: she's is never afraid to stretch herself -- her comfort zone is bigger than words and wider than pictures (not to mention her giant hand) -- to make the dancers feel comfortable.
The prelude to her "Dry cleaning! Dry cleaning!" punchline. No ego, this woman!
The comic chops of this woman!
This year, though, she also seems intent on bringing the gangsta out of the Brummie.
More auditions I liked:
While Chimezie didn't land cleanly on his flips (the run up the wall, and another backflip), he was wearing an Optimus Prime t-shirt.
Lo! She is a girl Twitch! I shall call her Twitchette.
Mutation is familiar to anyone who watched the third season of America's Best Dance Crew whose Ringmasters perform the same kind of contortionist dance, though they call it Flexing. The Ringmasters are harder with a touch of krump, though, where Storyboard-P and Hobgoblin work more towards the liquid spectrum of hip hop.
Storyboard-P's illusion above is actually the exact same move that the Ringmasters used to open one of their routines on ABDC. Small world, this Flexing/Mutation!
Memo to Travis Wall.
You did the Danielle Chorizo shtick last year.
Maksim Kapitannikov made it to Vegas.
As did Kellen Stancil. (No relation to Herbert Stencil, I'm wagering.)
In short, the New York auditions were very kind to male pattern baldness.
I may be the only one who didn't mind the umbrella in Kellen's routine. It showed off how well he controlled himself and an external object. But his reaction to Mary when she asked, "What does the umbrella represent to you?" He brought an umbrella onstage and "didn't expect [her] to ask that question"? Disingenuous!
Is that Shortney Galliano in the foreground, or is Peter Sabasino's loud Italian family happy to see me?
(Is he trying to pull a Daniel Franco?)
Next week: Cat channels Showgirls!
Indie rating: Ciara - "Never Ever"