Friday, June 7, 2019

So You Think You Can Dance S16E01: Judges Auditions #1

So You Think You Can Dance Blasts Off with a New Everything

© 2019 Fox Media LLC
Season 16, Episode 1 Unveils a Show Facelift

It’s June, yo, and with that comes the end of school, summer vacation and a new season of SYTYCD, complete with a new look, a new set of judges and a new format. No more traveling from state to state looking for competitors - this time the show has a sit-down venue in Hollywood and all contestants must travel to the freshly built, high gloss, high tech SYTYCD Theatre, where they compete on a round stage with over one hundred cameras that will give viewers a 360 degree look at every move they make, or at least the really impressive ones. Television viewers aren’t the only ones getting an in the round view of the auditioners because there is a raucous TV studio audience cheering them on as they enter down a gangplank that brings them front and center to face a new panel of judges.

© Adam Rose/FOX
SYTYCD creator and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy return for the 16th season, as well as choreographer Laurieanne Gibson and Dominic 'D-Trix' Sandoval. Gibson has worked for some big names in the music biz and Sandoval competed on season three and it is refreshing to have actual dancers on the judging panel once more, with all due respect to the lovely Vanessa Hudgens and the handsome Jason Derulo, whose skills as dance judges are limited to being lovely and handsome, respectively, much to the dismay of anyone who danced on the show, watched the show or caught even the briefest glimpse of one of their critiques in a TV commercial. Thank goodness for Gibson and Sandoval, and that’s all there is to say about that.

Episode 1 of the season was only an hour long so they had to jump in and get moving. With the best Reality TV host currently on the air, Cat Deeley, providing truncated interviews, they quickly bring out six contestants, all of whom are talented dancers, avoiding the painful absurdity of clowns, attention seekers and weirdos with bizarre gimmicks - a factor of past seasons that this writer is happy to see dropped from the proceedings. Of the six dancers showcased only one was sent home, while the other five were given golden tickets to the Academy. The unlucky dancer departing the show was 29 year old Amanda Butler of Dallas, a mother of three who dances hip hop with a troupe of other moms who joined her onstage to perform with her (and also with Dominic, whom Nigel dared up onto the stage). Butler was charming but lacked the skills to move forward with the show, but the judges were kind in their appraisal of her inspirational qualities as a woman who won’t let three kids put her in a Mom box.

The dancers moving forward:

© Adam Rose/FOX
Desi Saenz, hip hop. The charming 18 year old seemed nervous in her pre-audition moments with Cat but once on the stage and dancing to 'Thinking', the virtuosa gave a performance that stunned, popping and locking and isolating in ways that reminded me of Comfort Fedoke. Once finished dancing, the SYTYCD rookie returned to her sweet, humble self but let that persona confuse nobody -- the judges put her right through, and rightly so.

© Adam Rose/FOX
Stephanie and Ezra Sosa, ballroom. The 19- and 18-year-old siblings out of Utah did a lovely, albeit by rote, job with their fun routine, and though the judges remembered Stephanie from Season 15. I found her younger brother to be the more skilled dancer during their playful and sassy jive to 'Proud Mary'.

© Adam Rose/FOX
Matthew Deloch, contemporary. After a torn meniscus took the 20-year-old out of season 14, he has returned stronger than ever, performing to 'Glacier', and in this performance we all benefit from the 100-plus 360 degree cameras. His technique is flawlessly breathtaking, leading Gibson to remark that 'Mr. Ailey would only have dreamed of seeing you.' One only hopes that he doesn’t get overshadowed by other contemporary dancers with more personality and fire because he is magnificent.

© Adam Rose/FOX
Sarah 'SMAC' McCreanor, jazz. The 26-year-old from Australia was labeled the Lucille Ball of Dancing by Mary after performing an endearing bit of storytelling to 'Boogie Wonderland'. Her number had a lot of personality, humor and obvious skill, even if the personality and humor might have distracted from seeing just how skilled she is. Indeed Gibson told her, 'You hide the beauty in your technique by supplying entertainment.' I am excited to see what the fierce and funny fiery redhead does next.

© Adam Rose/FOX
Gino Cosculluela, contemporary. 18-years-old, this lyrical dancer appeared on Dance Moms in his youth. His fluid and emotional performance led Nigel to label him 'Baby Baryshnikov' and 'Top Ten Material'. His solo to 'For All We Know' was filled with technique and nuance, a fact easily validated by his mother, whom Nigel put on the panel for a bit of fun. This will be one to watch.

In quick snippets we are also shown golden tickets being given to 26-year-old Jesse Sykes (hip hop) of Salt Lake, 22-yearold Dayna Madison (jazz) from Memphis, and Benjamin Castro, an 18-year-old contemporary dancer from Miami. Given the history of the show they will probably not be heavily featured in the future, meaning they probably get cut, but one can hope, as they look like quality dancers.

© Adam Rose/FOX
Speaking of quality, the new season looks great. Things have to change in order to grow and these changes are approved of by this writer, especially the attitude of the judges, which seems overwhelmingly positive this year. There is a great deal more enthusiasm coming from the judges’ table than I feel we saw in the past two years. Maybe they, and the show, are getting a second wind.

What did you think of this episode? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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