Let's all stop pretending that we weren't slightly dreading this premiere. The news broken earlier this year that Fox had cut an hour from the show per week and So You Think You Can Dance would only be airing on one night struck fear into our collective hearts. Nigel Lythgoe tried and tried to fix what wasn't broken first by introducing the all stars in the seventh season, then by mixing the standard format with the all stars last summer. But ratings were in sharp decline (could it be because Nigel all but announced Melanie as the winner at her first audition in the first episode last season?) so the end seemed to be in sight. So no doubt the producers are trying to win over familiar audiences and please new viewers with this season premiere, because it was universally strong, and unexpectedly so considering how weak the past few years have been as a whole.
So with that said, I don't have much to cut. The editors did that for me by only including a few auditions over the two-hour episode, and nearly all of them were good or touching in some way. I will fully admit that I feared the worst when Amelia Lowe, the season's first audition, took the stage. She's a total wackjob obsessed with the flappers of the 1920s, and they did a bizarre introduction of her in black & white like an old silent film. Then she started dancing and the judging panel immediately freaked out, as if Jesus himself were gracing the stage. Tyce literally yelled out loud with a giant smile on his face when she crouched down and stood up. THAT'S IT. Crouched, stood, "whoo!" No. She wasn't really doing anything. What she did wasn't even all that impressive, but the judges were beside themselves with praise. And she was sent through to Vegas. Uh oh. One audition in and I'm already confused as to what people see in her; this doesn't bode well.
Next up was Mr. Roboto (hey, if Nigel can make offensive racial comments then so can I), a truly annoying hip hop dancer with loud hair and no ability whatsoever to speak English. He's boring. He flails around a little bit and scoots himself across the stage on his back without using any limbs. Ok, whatever. And then he goes through to choreography. Strike two, it's gonna be a long night.
And next we have the first of the evening's highlighted bad auditions. His name is Austin Freeman, and I'm still not entirely sure he wasn't putting on an act with his wiggle dance. Nigel is convinced he isn't, but when he's dancing to "Sexy and I Know It," with it's whole "wiggle-wiggle-wiggle-wiggle-wiggle-YEAH" section, and says that it might not have been the right music choice for his dance style... I had to smile. This bitch clearly knew how to get some airtime. So regardless, I was entertained and won't hold this particular bad audition against them.
So I'm bracing myself for the worst with the third "real" audition, a street dancer from Philadelphia named Shafeek. But it turns out, he's kind of amazing. His motion was entirely fluid, a beautiful mix of b-boy tricks and lyrical movements. I'm all about him, so my fears are momentarily quelled. Okay, so it's about time for the other shoe to drop, right? No... the next two auditions in New York are great.
Now I'm thinking Dallas must be where it all falls apart. First up is a mom of two, Bree Hafen, who brought her children with her. Oh, and they're both dancers... yeah, this is where it falls apart. But then she's amazing, and her kids totally win me over. When Nigel gives the young boy a ticket to Vegas to hand to his mother, I almost lose it. The purity of this woman's movement is gorgeous, and she dances like she's not got nothing to lose. I love her.
Things go a little haywire with Stepheon, a hip hopper nicknamed "The Zombie," when he rolls his eyes in the back of his head and does some truly fucked up vocal inflections. And even though I don't end up liking his audition, I can see that he's not all that weak as a dancer. He's followed by another creepy hip hop dancer named Anton "The Exorcist" who has invented a style of dance where he takes people's pain, forces it through his veins, dances it out of himself, and then "returns their soul" in a more pure condition. Ok, the crazy train has left the station and the season nine is officially going in the direction I had feared.
But the bitch is brilliant. His movement is so understated and free and heartbreaking. He's weird, for sure, but he's also undeniably talented. Then walks in the most beautiful man to ever audition for the show (not an overstatement, trust me), an Australian ballet dancer named Daniel. I'm immediately in love, and when he dances it's all I can do to not completely queen out like a tween at a Bieber concert. He's utterly beautiful in every sense of the word. He dances like Alex Wong, all strength and male grace... sorry, I'll keeping going on unless you tell me to stop. Then there's another bad audition from a kid with autism; it's one of those situations where he's clearly just doing it to do it, and you can't exactly say anything other than, "We're so proud of you! How brave!" The audience loves him, of course, because Texas is nothing if not totally accepting and warmhearted to people who are different. [insert eye roll here]
Dallas closes out with a total twat named Von Kipper, who trashes the show and says he doesn't want to be on it... while he's on camera and auditioning for a spot on the show. Oh, and he has a lisp so I immediately judge him. Cat Deeley gets her first great moment of the season when she tells him that she doesn't think he will ever be chosen, followed by a line I want put on a t-shirt ASAP: "Take your gerbil outfit and get out of here." He blows the audition after Nigel tears him a new asshole for his douchebag attitude and walks out being made an example of. Bravo, Nigel... I guess I don't hate you all the time. He's followed by an adorable audition from a young man who dances for his nearly-blind mother to the song "Good to See You Again." The movement isn't terribly impressive and a lot of the lyrics are mimed, but he's so charming that I didn't care. I'd vote for him.
So yeah... I guess I wasn't expecting much, because this episode totally won me over. But don't worry, I'll probably expect too much next week and be back to cutting bitches down.