Before I say anything, I just want to point out that I know and have in fact danced with one of the people in this shot:
My overall impression of the Boston auditions is a puzzle, because it seems to add up to less than the sum of its parts. I can't say why for certain, but I wonder if it has to do with how people described it as having scads of ballroom, which is true enough, but most of these auditions are cha-chas which, as I've mentioned many times before, tend to leave me disengaged. That said, the hidden gems (@anniebarrett) are actually the two-and-a-half ballet auditions that we get to see, which shouldn't come as a surprise as I'm trying to burnish my credentials as a balletomane.
The first is Jennie Begley (whose name I so misheard that I rendered it in my notes "danni vegli," though in the cold light of day, that's not so far off). Her solo combines classical idioms and modern interpretation in a thoroughly arresting way that is, in a word, mature. The show lists her as 24, and the six years that separates her and the clutches of round-cheeked girl contemporarists is a chasm of artistry, separating substantive expression from simple juvenilia.
The second is Anthony Savoy, who has a physique that's seemingly born for ballet. His build, with those long legs and arms, has such natural extension that his lines are simply beautiful, and more than makes up for the the song he dances to (and about I remain ambivalent). Just gorgeous. (And in case you were wondering about the company he had been keeping his audition a secret from, it's Dance Theatre of Harlem.)
Finally, the half is Jennifer Jones, the striking Jennifer Beals lookalike, whose jazz solo, in all of its ethereal airiness, would've fooled me into thinking it a ballet performance. Go Beantown.
As underwhelmed as I am at all of the cha-chas were, I'm relieved that at least they're taking the place of more contemporary. I do believe that the greater New England area has a fairly robust competitive ballroom scene, especially at the collegiate level, which might explain the younger couples auditioning. The most glaring example is Ashley Goldman and Phillip Kudryavstev, whose youth and relative inexperience strike me quite clearly -- their connections are fumbly, and the styling, especially Phillip's, could be crisper -- belie their ticket to VEAGS. And although I found my attention wandering during their audition, Gene and Elena Bersten offer a stark contrast, with much steadier connection and control during their routine. Also, I'm puzzled that the judges go nuts for Phillip, whose slight build is a far cry from the diesel of past male ballroomers -- not just Pasha or Ryan Di Lello, but even early-season eliminees like Jamie Bayard and Jonathan Platero were a lot more packed. But maybe that's the point -- a muscular build isn't a guarantor of ballroom success, and maybe Nigel is willing to try a more adolescent-looking kid in a bid to appeal to the tweens.
One more note on the partnered styles with Katlyn Rodriguez, salsa on two. I have to say something looks awkward with her, and I have a strong feeling it's related to the bikini she wears. Salsa is no more demure than any of the Latin styles, but her costume is excessively skimpy and I wonder if any of it translated into stiffer, more cramped movement.
Moving on from ballroom: Jason Kidd. Clever choreography, but as animators go, we've seen better in the prior auditions.
Beneath the annoying mall-punk, "Shizzy Shake" exterior, Shannon Tarantino has got real skills, with athletic yet graceful power.
I'm still not a tap fan, but Alexis Juliano gives me the chance to quote from Einstein on the Beach: "If you know like gong like like a gong gong gong gong gong gong / Hey Mr Bojangles."
Tommy Tibball is, I hope, more than an Italian-American Kent Boyd.
I still remember E-Knock not only from his season 3 audition, but from his participation in ABDC season 1 and season 5.
We've got Shankman fans in here, don't we?
OK, it's just me. As loud and schticky as he is, I love his obvious enthusiasm, and he permanently won me over when he broke down during Billy Bell's solo.
Anyone else supremely annoyed that the judges are faking out the contestants in the choreography round? It's like they're not satisfied till every inch of every corner has been infected with the SYTYCD brand.
Now, for Cat being cute (kind of redundant, but):