Your judges tonight are Jean-Marc, Tre, Blake, Luther and Mary. No surprises for the first episode – well, other than the fact that they went with five judges, and Mary’s judging two shows this week, and what happened to Moses, which is just downright tragic. (For SYTYCD USA viewers who don’t follow the Canadian show: Moses has auditioned all four years for the show, made it to final cut years two and three, and finally made the show this year – and then had to pull out because of torn shoulder ligaments a week before the first performance episode. The backstage video was just him crying. Poor dude.)
Lindsay and Christian: salsa. (Lindsay: contemporary, Christian: ballroomer.) This was a ridiculously good way to start off the show: easily one of the best kickoff performances for a season ever (up there with Philipchbeeb/Jeanine from season 5 USA and Ben/Pania from Australia s2). Tony-N-Melanie called it a street salsa, but for me this split the difference between a competition-style performance salsa and a street dance. This is not a criticism, as both Lindsay and Christian were very, very good in this: the over-shoulder split-leg lift could have been a bit faster and smoother, perhaps, but I suspect that it was actually choreographed that way. Lindsay in particular was impressive because she matched Christian step-for-step (and he was predictably excellent). I’m sorry, but it’s been so long since I saw a really great ballroom performance on SYTYCD and I am jazzed.
Jordan and Joey: contemporary. (Both contemporary dancers.) In vignettes, Joey is shown dancing practice dances with Sabra, which is random but wonderful. This dance was a Stacey Tookey number that was apparently dedicated to “everybody suffering in natural disasters,” and although that theme didn’t come through for me – it felt like a dance that could apply to any difficult situation solved through selflessness – that doesn’t mean that the choreography wasn’t lovely and the dancing superb on Jordan and Joey’s part. The twinned leg extension on the floor: amazing. And Stacey Tookey defied my expectations because, when the music hit its crescendo, I was expecting standard SYTYCD intense contempo-flailing and then she did not do that thing, instead going to slowness and deliberation, and I was very pleased to see that happen.
Denitza and JP: hip-hop. (Denitza: ballroomer, JP: hip-hopper.) Despite that JP is the hip-hop dancer here, I actually felt Denitza did the better job simply on the basis of performance: JP looked a bit nervous and uncomfortable. They all hit all their marks, but I didn’t particularly care for the choreography, which wasn’t up to what I expected from Tucker Barkley (who is a really insanely good hip-hop dancer); it felt thrown together and often arbitrary, and I don’t know if that’s to Denitza and JP not getting his steps and the dance having to be dumbed down, or if he just had an off night. This wasn’t especially bad, but it was average, and suffered following two excellent performances in comparison.
Shelaina and Matt: contemporary. (Both contemporary.) I really liked the shit out of this routine. I don’t think Shelaina and Matt danced it quite as well as Jordan and Joey danced their routine (Matt in particular had one or two visible bobbles), but Sabrina Matthews’ living-doll choreography was exceptionally entertaining, and minor mistakes aside both Shelaina and Matt really got into their characters and danced the hell out of this: the piece had a great edgy, brittle feel to it which I appreciated greatly, and the lifts were just cool in a way that’s really hard to approach with contemporary lifts. This was very good.
Yuliya and Adam L: “theater.” (Ballroom and jazz, respectively.) Adam L looks suspiciously like Pasha and dances suspiciously like a jazz dancer version of Pasha. I believe there has been cloning! Anyways, both Yuliya and Adam L danced this quite well, but here is the problem: it is a Melissa Williams routine, which means that even before the dancing begins I am expecting something corny, frenetic, disorganized and mashing up genres for the sake of it, and once again I am not disappointed. For all that this was a “theater” piece, what it actually turned out to be was a jive with some jazz flourishes to it, not unlike Melissa Williams saying “well, I have a trained ballroom dancer and a jazz dancers – let’s work with that!” and then failing. Again. (I’m sorry if this seems like I am being hard on Melissa Williams, but it has now been four seasons and she hasn’t choreographed one single piece I liked. I am just thankful this was not “new disco.”) It’s a shame, because in spite of the lackluster piece I thought Yuliya and Adam were doing their best with it.
Cassandra and Francois: rhumba. (Cassandra: jazz, Francois: ballroom.) Cassandra refers to herself as “Cassexy,” which – she is eighteen, so it is forgivable that she would do something like that, but that does not make me say “.nnnnnno” any less. Eric Katy and Kelly Lannan’s choreo was really very nice here, hitting exactly that level of “epic” I like to see in a SYTYCD rhumba (to the point that, when rosepetals began falling from the ceiling, it didn’t seem forced), and Francois and Cassandra mostly did it justice: she was a little tentative in parts, especially at the beginning, but as the dance progressed she clearly found her groove and transitioned from just walking through the steps to dancing them. Francois was, unsurprisingly, really terrific. This was damn good.
Carlena and Boneless: hip-hop. (Both hip-hop.) Carlena gets the “by the way, I had a horrible childhood” vignette, presumably because the producers realized that after the judges lectured her for being bitchy they needed to counter that so that voters wouldn’t treat her like the plague. Anyway, the crowd went absolutely apeshit for this, which isn’t surprising because Carlena and Boneless absolutely murdered Steve Bolton’s choreography, and I think the last time I wrote that about a hip-hop routine on SYTYCD was when Alex Wong and Twitch danced off in season 7, and that is sort of cheating because it was Twitch, who was proven and professional talent by that point. (Aside: when is Twitch going to get to do choreo for a show? He deserves a shot if he wants it.)
Teya and Kevin: contemporary. (Teya: hip-hop, Kevin: contemporary.) There’s a sort of point where a non-trained dancer can hit when they’re doing technical choreography that I really love seeing (and this goes for other genres as well): they’re not doing extensions in the way that a trained dancer does, but they fall into the dance and work it to the best of their abilities, and it becomes something special, which is the reason to watch this show in the first place. Pasha hit it in season 3 USA, Demi hit it in season 1 Australia, Legacy hit it in season 6 USA, and Teya hit it here. Kevin was extremely good, justifying his inevitable fan-favorite status (as he’s been auditioning since season 1, and lost sixty pounds over the four years as he pursued dancing – really, the visual contrast is striking). Stacey Tookey’s choreography here was more what I expect out of a “standard SYTYCD choreography” mode than her first piece, but that didn’t make this not good.
Lauren and Rodrigo: cha-cha. (Lauren: Latin ballroom, Rodrigo: hip-hop.) GUSTAVO MOTHERFUCKING VARGAS routine, oh yes, and his choreo did not disappoint, but if we are being truthful this is the sort of routine that the term “hot mess” was invented to describe. The performance quality was off the charts: this really felt like a genuine club performance and Lauren and Rodrigo have insane amounts of chemistry., and Lauren can cha-cha like nobody’s business. However: Rodrigo wasn’t doing a cha-cha here. He was doing this sort of weird synthesis of hip-hop with a little Latin flavour and some purely animalistic movement, and I can’t call it good cha-cha in conscience, but it was extremely entertaining, and I suspect that since he took his shirt off the teen girls will be voting for him in force.
Geisha and Adam L: new disco. (Both contemporary, but Adam clearly has some b-boy roots.) OH GOD IT’S MY FAULT I SAID “NEW DISCO” AND IT’S LIKE WHEN YOU SAY “CANDYMAN” THREE TIMES. Yes, it’s another Melissa Williams routine, and I’ll say again that “new disco” is just an uneven fusion of jazz and disco that veers back and forth between focusing on one or the other depending on who’s dancing it, and why can’t Melissa Williams stop trying to make “fetch” happen? Geisha and Adam did as well as could be expected with it, for what that is worth, but… yeah. The entire thing felt half-speed. (Also, I am unabashedly rooting for Geisha right now as she is a fellow Carletonian.)
Melissa and Shane: afrojazz. (Melissa contemporary, Shane jazz.) Both Melissa and Shane are tryout veterans (her four times, him three), so they are clearly pleased to be here. An excellent piece of work from Sean Cheeseman, I thought, and Melissa and Shane murdered it: their unison moves were dead perfect, their performance quality was superb and their chemistry solid. I don’t have much else to say, other than A) this was great and B) this episode contends with Australia season 2 and USA season 5 for “best opening performance episode ever.”
Probable bottom three: Denitza and JP, Yuliya and Adam L, Geisha and Adam A.
Should go home: Yuliya and JP.
Will go home: Yuliya and Adam L.