Strange thing that's happened: over the course of this audition tour, I've begun to develop an appreciation for the contemporary dancers, both male and female. I'm personally rather astonished, as I've been vocal about the overabundance of contemporary on the show, but for a specific type of dancer, I'm not dismissing them out of hand. (I think my recent exploration of ballet has sharpened or inoculated my taste here.)
The prime example in this episode is Nico Greetham, AKA Billy Bell redux. Why? Because of his attention to the music, which itself is from a genre that's not typical for this show's version of contemporary. (Of course, the song -- Ólafur Arnalds' "Brotsjór" -- has been used on SYTYCD before). In addition to his musicality, he broadens the idiom of SYTYCD-style contemporary (just like Billy) to include more than the by now rote competition moves, and even throws in some baffling non sequiturs (just like Billy) with that come-hither "HELLO SAILOR" wave (I'm thinking of Billy's, uh, dice rolling gesture, which happens way back here.)
(The worst part of his audition, however, comes afterwards, when Mary, hearing his mom call him "papi," seems to render the term of endearment as "puppy" with an unidentifiable, Pacino-in-Scarface accent. I guess she and her schtick have reached a point where she can say anything, no matter how culturally insensitive, and we just shrug at her like the racist grandparent we tolerate because what hope or point is there in trying to rehabilitate them?)
Following Nico is Novien Yarber, the guy in the beanie who had the outward aspect of a hip-hop dancer but who pulls out extensions like crazy and aims to show the masculine side contemporary. I've noticed whiffs of criticism about the quality of his choreography, which explains why I'm not nearly as bowled over by him as I was with Nick Muckleroy, but anyone who breaks out of the competition mold is going to grab my attention in a big way.
Then there's Jenna Johnson, she of the lethal legs with the roundhouse that could've killed her partner and a few other exhibitions of flexibility and extension. As impressive as those tricks are, her routine is a short one, and also cha-cha, which I'm over. Also? The shaping of her eyebrows bugs me. I'm sad to say this last point is a non-trivial complaint, because they're what's keeping me from going all in for this:
The two of them should get a spin-off where they just hang out and talk about how boys are stupid... but only after Jenna tweezes the brows.
At the outer edges of partner dancing, Isabel Freiberger (not to be confused with trapeze artist Elyse Frelinger -- I have trouble keeping the two names separate in my mind) brings the best salsa we've seen in this audition tour (of course, that's not necessarily saying a lot). What's key is that unlike Katlyn Rodriguez from last week, she has the benefit of a regular partner and what I assume is a familiar go-to routine, so that it looks big, polished, and spectacular. Also, she wears a sensible costume, even if she makes me want to cover my eyes when I saw her dancing on the pavement outside in her dance shoes (and her partner as well).
At least she's wearing her heel protectors!
Shame she loses her timing so badly in the choreography round.
Unless she's got money to burn, the fact that she has a fringed (not tassled!) dress suggests that she's got more than a bit of Latin training in her
Oh, and a guy called
He isn't the only hip-hop standout -- popper (jooker?) Larry Booze's audition is all around brilliant. I love the song (I do believe the first T-Pain track I've ever heard), and his swinging door lives up to the status of a signature move. Dancers like him are what the audition phase should be about: brilliant flashes of genius who may not translate to the parameters of the show but who deserve a moment in the spotlight. We don't get enough of that by any reckoning, but when we do:
As Lacey might say: SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.
I could do with much less Wayne Brady, who has perfected the art sounding classy while saying nothing of substance.
I see that TPTB consider Zooey Deschanel's guest judge stint last season such a rousing critical success that they decided to invite one of her lesser New Girl co-stars to serve in a capacity that actually has influence on the proceedings of the competition. This sounds like a wonderful idea, like mango chutney!