Ladies and gentlemen, Cat Deeley is back! What more is there to say? The cute, sweet, adorable, cuddly (too far?) host and protective big sister we all wish we’d had returns, and just like that all is right with the world.
Oh yeah, and she brought some dancers with her.
So You Think You Can Dance kicked off it’s eighth season this week with a two hour auditions episode, focusing on the graceful (usually) chaos surrounding the tryouts held in Atlanta and the Bay Area. While the auditions aren’t the “meat” of this series, at least not for me, it’s an important part of the getting-to-know-the-dancers process. It’s here we get our first hints of the backstories and personalities of the kids we’ll be rooting for over the next several weeks. And it also gives us a barometer with which to measure the dancers growth over the course of the coming season. SYTYCD is not only a fun, emotional rollercoaster ride with some amazing athletes and performers, it’s also a bootcamp. Most of the contestants have never lived the life of full-time professional dancers, and the pace of this show and the sheer volume of choreography they’ll be expected to learn can be daunting, to put it insanely mildly.
Do any of these kids have what it takes to survive the SYTYCD meat grinder? Let’s see what we have to work with so far…
Round 1: Atlanta
Judges: Nigel Lythgoe, Lil’ C, and the healthy return of Mary “Hot Tamale Train” Murphy (and guest-judge Granny Mandy for one dance)
Choreographers: Katee Shean (Season 4) and Jakob Karr (Season 6)
Hotlanta kicked things off in style, apparently breaking records for the number of dancers sent straight through to Vegas. Some of the memorable ones included Deon Lewsa, Jr. & Damon Bellmon (aka D Day), a pair of hip hoppers with a great sense of humor, decent (if not particularly stunning) skills, and the cheeky charm to hit on Cat during the interview process. Also, Kimalee Piedad, who dared to use “Gravity” in her routine (that song is untouchable after the Kayla/Kupono Season 5 performance), and Kyre Batiste, whose grandmother (the above-mentioned Miss Mandy) stole a seat on the judges panel long enough to spank Lil’ C and send her grandson through to the choreography stage.
But the two biggest coups of this round, and two of my picks for very early contenders for the crown…
Round 2: The Bay Area
Judges: Nigel, Tyce DiOrio, and Toni Redpath
Choreographers: Katee Shean and fellow Season 4 alum Will Wingfield (now with hair)
All of the promotional bits for this episode referred to these as the Oakland auditions, and the episode itself was clearly set in San Fransisco, so I’m splitting the difference and calling it The Bay Area. And the Love Coast gave us quite a few fantastic dancers. Among the standouts were the hyperkinetic Amber Williams, who could potentially become annoying if the cuh-RAY-zee doesn’t come down just a bit; Ashley Rich, the modern contemporary firecracker; B-boy extraordinaire Jeffrey “Machine” McCann; and the return of Ryan Ramirez, who got cut at the last possible second from last year’s season.
We also made acquaintance for the first time (that I know of) with a dance style unique to the Bay, Turf. Seems to be a particularly bendy, contortiony, disturbing… -y kind of hip hop. Truth be told I was looking forward to seeing how it would integrate into some of the other styles that the dancers must learn during the weeks ahead. But unfortunately none of the turf dancers made the Vegas stage this time around.
Now, since I pulled out two performances from the Atlanta auditions that I thought were worthy of videos here, it’s only fair I do the same for Frisco. Sadly, these two show up here for a completely different reason. The two above are what I consider transcendent potential winners. These last two are skin-crawling trainwrecks.
So, that was it for the first week of Season 8. Next week we get New York and Salt Lake City auditions Wednesday, June 1, and Los Angeles auditions the following day, Thursday, June 2. The week after that, Wednesday, June 8 will be the Vegas Callbacks, followed by the Top 20 Revealed Thursday, June 9.
Which brings us to the format for this season. Last year the show introduced the idea of All-Stars; dancers from previous seasons that were brought back to act as non-competing partners for the Top 10. We didn’t GET a Top 20 at all. This season we will go back to starting the competition phase with a Top 20 who will be broken into pairs. Once that group has been whittled down to the Top 10 we’ll get the All-Stars again (still no word on who will they will be this year). I think this is the best format for the show yet. Fingers crossed that Alex Wong will be among the dancers brought back to the All-Stars team.
So please give me some feedback. What did YOU think of these dancers? Are you excited for this season? How do you feel about the format change this year? Is Cat Deeley the best host any competition series has ever had? (The answer is yes.) Leave us a comment here on the blog or, better yet, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and sound off.
See y’all next week.