Last year I tuned in to So You Think You Can Dance looking for something similar to American Idol, having been in withdrawal that July for a few months. What I found was something very raw, yet ultimately very entertaining. I didn’t expect to like it that much. By the end, I very much cared who won, and was delighted it turned out to be Nick Lazzarini, and what a story it turned out to be that the runner-up was his best friend, Melody Lacayanga.
Tonight I sit here, elated that Taylor Hicks won American Idol 24 hours ago, and while “Dance Idol” won’t replace American Idol in my heart, it will replace it in my TV viewing habits. So You Think You Can Dance is changing up a few things this year. Instead of everyone that makes it to the next round in auditions having to first pass through a choreography lesson, now only some will be required to do that, as auditioners will either receive an airline ticket to Las Vegas, will receive the news to go home, or will receive and invite to let the judges take another look at them while learning a choreographed routine. Also, the show is moving to the American Idol format of performances one night and results the next, instead of results from the previous week preceding the performances every week.
The hosting duties have changed as well, since last year’s host, Lauren Sanchez, has turned up pregnant. Cat Deeley, a British television personality, has picked up in her place. She starts tonight’s debut at the second season’s two days of auditions in New York. Whoever makes it to Las Vegas here will be put through their paces for five days, until the hosts collectively pick ten guys and ten girls to compete against each other in the finals. The prize package has been enhanced as well this year. The winner will receive a one year contract to appear in the hottest Las Vegas show with Celine Dion, a brand new car, and $100,000.
The day starts off early for the New Yorkers as they’re standing in line at 42nd Street. It’s snowing, but it doesn’t seem to deter many dancers. The judges for these two days in New York will be Nigel Lythgoe, the American Idol and “Dance Idol” executive producer and ex-choreographer, Dan Karaty who has choreographed n’sync and Jessica Simpson, and Mia Michaels, a contemorary choreographer who was nominated for an Emmy award for her work on a Celine Dion show. Nigel can be just as funny and crusty as Simon Cowell, although he doesn’t make use of analogies nearly so often, Mia is one heck of a free spirit, and Dan is great at recognizing raw unusual talent. The three of them are looking for talent, star quality and a little bit of sex appeal.
This is all lucky news for Dave Soller, 32, from Smithtown, NY who is at the auditions today with his mother. He says he has a sexy style of dancing, doing rock, hip hop and pop, and believes he will be a sex symbol like Britney Spears. He’s wearing a black and white leopard print shirt and yellow see-through blouse with red pants. Yep, sexy all the way. He wants his stage name to be “Sex.” As he auditions, he looks like nothing other than someone who watches dancers on TV and tries to emulate them. He doesn’t seem to quite get it, and Mia laughs out loud. Mia believes “Sex” reminds her of Tiny Tim meets PeeWee Herman, and Dan tells him he looks like he was out on a mission and was after something. Nigel calls “Sex” unique, then says he’s not sure if he should be allowed out by himself. As he is let down easy, he wants to speak to his mother first before the cameras, and she is quite upset that he was called PeeWee Herman. She says he has won many dance awards and trained for years. Well, that’s good, as it means he will have no trouble finding dancing work elsewhere.
Gino Guevara, 31 from Middletown, NY looks like a chunky Ray Romano. Doing a jump, he falls and pops his knee out, and Nigel calls in a medic for him. After he is fixed up, he walks to the front of the stage to talk with the judges. Nigel wants to know how old Gino is, as the age requirements for this show are 18-30. Gino says he is thirty plus one, so he is fully aware of what the rules are, and when caught he then says he won’t be 31 until June 8th. Asked what year he was born, Gino isn’t real quick with the numbers this time, and is told no thank you. He says after his audition that the sad thing for him is that he will never dance again. Apparently he really hasn’t spent a lot of time around the world of dancing, if he thinks one knee pop means you’ll never dance again.
Erica Wallace-Jackson, 21, of Baltimore, Maryland, comes out and does a routine to Brickhouse. I saw better moves last weekend at my 9 year old daughter’s recital. Nigel tells her he doesn’t think it’s the right competition for her. He isn’t as kind to some others, telling one guy he doesn’t want to be cheeky, but he looks like a dancing hobbit. One girl with a “perma grin” on her face is told that her smile sits on her face like a grimace, and reminds him of the Bride of Chuckie. Mia adds that she has no confidence, and says it’s like lookng at a bad car accident. Another guy that is clearly upset tells the cameras after his audition that he is going to smoke them like this. I’m not quite sure what he’s talking about, but if he means they are going to regret not welcoming him to Las Vegas, I think he’s the only one with the regrets.
Russian Stanislav Savich, 21, and Ukranian Juliya Tamarkina are dancing partners, and feel they complete each other as dancers and people. They talk about how expensive the dancing career is, and Juliya notes it’s even more so for girls. If you can find ways to teach dance to someone, you do. She got him a hamster for his birthday because she thinks he looks like one. They do a modern jazz dance together tonight, and she is really very good, with him not being too shabby either. Nigel tells them they are both hot, and where she smoldered, he was a very strong partner. Dan tells Stanislav he is a lucky man, because Juliya is really something. Mia wants to see more from both of them. They are headed straight to Las Vegas. The last pair to do this was Nick and Melody last season, and Stanislav and Juliya reminded me quite a bit of them.
The next dancer, Jason Luks, 18, of Mendham, NY reminds me of Dick Van Dyke a little as he does a tap dance routine. Nigel thinks he was fabulous, and says anyone else that comes on the show that taps will have to come up to Jason’s standard. He likes the performance of his face as well as his feet. Mia calls him fantastic, and loved everything, including his choice of music and costume, saying his feet are just ridiculous and amazing. Dan says Jason is the best tapper they have seen, including last year. Needless to say, this guy moves on.
As Heather Stambo, 18, of South Windsor, Connecticut is auditioning, she reminds me of the dancers that are always in the back row at my daughter’s recitals. They’re always either too heavy or not very good. Heather just doesn’t seem to have it naturally in her. Nigel is shocked to realize she is a dance major at Harvard Conservatory. Once he hears she teaches dance as well, he asks if kids actually pay to learn from her. Heather says she’s even been requested. Nigel suggests they get their money back, calling her the William Hung of So You think You Can Dance. Dan says she shouldn’t be teaching it, and that so much of this goes on in the country, with kids thinking they are learning, but learning it wrong from something like this. As she is rejected, Heather says she is opening her own studio in the fall. It does make you think of a domino effect, with a bad teacher having been taught wrong, teaching others the same, and perpetuating the bad dancing to others that will teach it wrong as well.
Ian Benardo, 25, of Bronx, NY believes Angelina Jolie is jealous of his lips. Cat tells him they probably aren’t of his runny nose. He considers himself a mix of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Janet Jackson, and he dances around the room and pole dances with a column. Walking into his audition he asks where he can put his mink, and as says he’ll have to put it on the floor, Nigel mentions the mink looks dirtier than the floor. He is oddly effeminate while he dances, and Nigel warns him not to take any more clothing off. He claims to have been dancing his whole life, and when Mia asks if he trains, it prompts an exchange of Nigel saying he wouldn’t classify that as dancing, Ian saying he wouldn’t classify that as a suit, and Nigel saying it isn’t; it’s a jacket. He claims he dances in his room, at his friends’ homes, and at clubs. When Mia says she doesn’t classify that as dancing, he asks her, “And who are you?” Nigel tells him if he is going to be rude to people, he may leave. He leaves with “three words”, and says the third word is the exclamation point.
David Warshaw, 24, of Oceanside, NY, takes the show home with him to meet his family. His brother DJs, while his parents dance in the living room. As an Orthodox Jew, he says he sometimes goes to the synagogue to pray, and busts a move breakdancing while people start giggling. This afternoon, as he dances, he reminds me a lot of Will Ferrell, and I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or bad thing. He does a move where he falls forward, misses, and hits his face hard, knocking the yamulke right off. He says after he’s okay, and just hit his head. Dan tells him he’s bleeding a little bit, and he blows it off. Dan also mentions that he was a little off the music, but chalks it up to nerves. He thought he did okay for never having any formal training. Mia liked his intensity and effort, but tells him if he keeps looking at the floor, it will soon become his friend. Regardless, everyone votes no to him moving on, and the medic checks him out as he leaves the room.
Jason Perez, 18, of Fresh Meadows, NY, is a little person, but says he dances freestyle, and has been dancing since he was young. He does pretty well, but I keep seeing him having a hard time in couples, as the really large Allan had a hard time with some of the smaller girls like Melody last year. Nigel thinks the same thing, and also notes there not being enough training or technique. Mia disagrees about dancing as partners; she thinks it would be interesting to watch, but agrees on his technical efforts. As Nigel and Mia argue the point of his size and dancing in couples, Jason just walks off the stage. Jason says he’s danced with a girl before, so it’s not impossible, and he’s upset that there’s nothing he can do about his size. Nigel just can’t get past that his head would not be in a good position with a girl in pairs. Wow, that would be bad. I’m sure Jason wouldn’t mind, and even if it didn’t make his partner uncomfortable, it would certainly make the audience uncomfortable.
Musa Cooper, 23, of Burlington, NJ is back this year. He was a street dancer who did well last year, but failed in the choreography part. He worked hard at it this past year, and took some classes. Watching him, he is just very entertaining to watch. He does a back flip, and lands laying on his stomach. Nigel appreciates his new ability to pick up the choregraphy, and notes him being outstanding last year and this year. Mia likes the amount of energy, and Dan says he is now a Musa fan. He liked seeing brand new tricks on Musa. He gets an airline ticket on the spot, and hopes to go further this year. I sure hope he does well in Vegas, as he was just so entertaining.
By the second day, the snow has left, and it’s now sunny. Street performer Christopher Bryan, 19, of Bronx, NY is amazing with his flips and turns, kicking his legs in the air, and doing back bends. Dan says it was like the most ridiculous twenty-five seconds he’s ever seen. He believes it was one of the better performances, and likes that there was no set up between each trick. Mia decides to call him No Prep, and says what he does is humanly impossible. Nigel sends him to the choreography round later in the day, as he believes he won’t go further because of his lack of real training.
Emily Rodriguez, 21, of Staten Island, NY, is heavyset, and pulls her pants down to show her butt. It seems all she does is just run around the stage. Nigel says there’s a lot of her, and he saw most of it in that routine. She promises to lose weight, and he says that’s not what he’s talking about. Mia says a lot of things don’t work for her technically and stylistically. Nigel ends Emily’s day here.'.