Back when I was first watching it, the initial season of So You Think You Can Dance Australia impressed me very greatly. The dancing and choreography (which Australians call “corry,” which is inexplicably wonderful for some reason) ranged from “solid” to “exceptional,” and my only worry for the franchise was that Australia had used up all of its top-tier dancers in the first season, where only about twelve of the twenty finalists were really good-to-great dancers and of those only three (Jack, Rhys, and Kate) were definite standouts.
But now that the second season is on, it turns out that my worry was utterly misplaced, because holy shit, this season is so much better than the first it is downright staggering. With the exception of Max (thankfully gone with the very first elimination), just about every one of this season’s dancers is at least at the level of Demi last season (“amateur with exceptional talent and work ethic”) and although it’s too soon yet to tell who the true standouts are, that’s mostly because this season’s dancing has been so utterly exceptional.
Usually on an early episode of SYTYCD there are two or three really great routines, three or four okay routines and one or two crapburgers. Thus far on the second season, there’s been a horrendous onslaught of really great routines and then everything else is at the very least okay. (The only genuinely bad routine was the top-20 contemporary by Max and Jesse, which was… yeah. Bad.)
Anyway, it’s still early in the season, but right now my favorites include Charlie, who is much like Joshua from the fourth American season in that he’s primarily a self-taught hip-hop dancer with some technical training and a ridiculous resevoir of talent; Lamb and Timomatic, who have the best team name (“Lamb-o-Matic”) and who although I don’t think they will go all the way (in fact I think both will have a fight to make top 10) have incredible, intense chemistry as partners; Danny, who despite the fact that every choreographer feels the need to include his trademark sideways spinning jump is really ridiculously skilled in the way that only a classically trained contemporary dancer can be; Pania, who is a Kiwi so I feel obligated to root for her as New Zealand is Australia’s equivalent of Canada (and also she is an awesome hip-hop dancer); and Gianne, who is just so awesome on so many levels it is stupid.
And of course there are all the joys that are specific to the Australian version of this show, like the fact that choreographers there tend to fuse styles with near-regularity, so a “lyrical” piece becomes lyrical hip-hop or a quickstep tosses in some breaking just because, or the pleasure of listening to the comments of Jason Coleman, who is quite simply the best reality show judge ever – he is all substance and no bullshit, kind of like what Simon Cowell wishes he was but never will be. (Fellow judge Matt Lee is only a step behind Coleman for excellence in judging.) Plus, there is Jason Gilkison ballroom choreography almost every week, and the sudden, surprising greatness to see that former contestant Marko Panzic – eliminated early in the first season – is probably the most exciting choreographer on the show this year.
The Aussies have done right again. Memo to the producers of the Canadian show: you set a high bar, and they vaulted right over it.