Buckle up, dancers. "So You Think You Can Dance" has started, and it's going to be a wild ride until the winner is crowned. The Season 11 auditions kicked off with a bang in the Big Easy, and New Orleans certainly brought the talent. Here are the Top 5 moments from last night's two hour premiere event.
1. Battle of the dance dads. Dads were a big factor on last night's show. And while there was a truly touching storyline with second-time-around auditioner Caleb Brauner (whose father passed away this December, a few months after busting some moves with Caleb at last year's audition), I'm talking about the dad silliness that ensued. First, we watched bottle dancer Mike Rase, who, um, knows how to twerk. And then there was another dancing dad—which enraged Mike—and the two duked it out onstage. I'm glad at least daughter Shelby Rase made it to Hollywood with her gorgeous solo, because otherwise...embarrassing!
2. Megan Marcano. Before we saw her dance, we heard Megan's back story, which really made me root for her. Megan's been living on her own since age 12—when her mom was arrested and her family split up—and now she's finishing up college (at Texas Woman's University). And then...she danced. And... HOLY SMOKES SHE WASN'T JUST GOOD, SHE WAS AMAZING. Mary Murphy said it best: Megan "flew across the stage with ease." I can't wait to see more of her this season. Take a look:
3. Trevor Bryce. With his not-so-subtle cocky attitude before his audition, I wasn't too sure what to expect. I'm not even sure what to call his contemporary-pop-lock fusion style, but, Nigel loved it. He called it "one of the greatest solo performances on 'SYTYCD'." I'm not sure I'd go that far, and I'd prefer less mugging in the future, but I think Trevor's really got the chops to back up all his hype. Watch the quirk here:
4. Caleb Brauner. This Missouri dancer first performed a lighthearted solo to celebrate his dad's life in New Orleans. It was solid enough to get him to the choreography round, but unfortunately, Nigel gave him a big no. (And not very nicely, I might add.) But Caleb didn't take "no" for an answer. He hopped on a plane to Chicago, and with a "dancers never give up" attitude, he competed with a heavier-hearted solo in front of the judges. He was again moved to the choreography round. But this time, with a stroke of luck—or perhaps persistence—he earned a ticket to Hollywood. Congrats, Caleb!
5. Rudy Abreu's power move. We first meet Rudy with Nick Garcia—best friends from Miami who are...something else. The dynamic duo competed separately, and they both nabbed tickets to Hollywood. Nigel was especially taken with a step in Rudy's solo that he called a reverse cabriole. Watch it here—it happens at about 1:47 and then it's replayed at 3:06. Look familiar? Alexia Meyer taught us how to do "The Super Cabriole" (or as her dad would call it, "The Flying Squirrel,") in Dance Spirit's April issue. Check it out here, and then watch her break it down below:
Bonus: Justin Bieber and his choreographer Nick DeMoura introduced the first two dance crews battling for a chance to appear on the show. We met L.A.'s Poreotics (supposedly a fusion of robotics and popping) and the East Coast's Syncopated Ladies. You already know just how much we love Chloé Arnold and her crew. #SYTYCDladies.
Thoughts? Who are you most excited to see this season? What were your favorite moments of the evening? Leave it all in the comments and we'll see you back here next week.
This week, the Top 8 were choreographed by—and partnered with—eight "So You Think You Can Dance" All Stars. I kind of love it when "SYTYCD" throws us a curveball like that. And it's a risky premise: Artists are usually at the top of their game as either dancers or as choreographers, but rarely as both at the same time. So what, I wondered as the show began, would we get? Mediocre dancing of beautiful pieces? Or vice versa? Something in the middle?
Well, a little of all of the above, it turns out. Read on for my Top 5 highlights from last night's episode.
1. Guest judge Jenna Elfman was kind of meh—but hey, she started out as a dancer! I love these kinds of discoveries. According to Wikipedia, she was in a Depeche Mode video and was also a "legs girl" for ZZ Top, whatever that means. We need concrete evidence of all this, STAT. (Wait—is she the girl on the left at 2:33 in this video? Please, please say yes.)
2. Fik-Shun and Allison's contemporary routine. It was based on society's prejudices about interracial couples—a not-so-veiled reference to Allison's relationship with a certain other "SYTYCD" All Star. Was it earth-shattering choreography? No, not really. Was the lantern theme—meant to represent the two of them "being in the dark"—especially effective? Nope. But it was a solid routine with a powerful message, and I like that Allison let Fik-Shun be himself at critical moments, playing to his strengths while carefully hiding his flaws.
3. Hayley and Dmitry's rumba. (Was Aaron's self-unbuttoning shirt earlier on actually Dmitry foreshadowing? Discuss.) There's nothing better than a good ballroom number, and it's rare that we get one that actually tells a story—in this case, the story of a woman who's just discovered her fiancé is cheating on her. The rumba suits Hayley's laser-focused technique well, though I do agree with Jenna that she could loosen up a tad. And I looooove when Mary talks dirty ballroom technique to me: "The international Latin rumba is so difficult, mainly because you can fall off-balance so easily with that type of leg action, but you [Hayley] did it beautifully." Don't stop, Mary! Don't ever stop.
4. Jenna and Mark's jazz number. Direct Mark quotes from the rehearsal footage: "I want to pull inspiration from so many different places that it's just an explosion of my head." "I'm totally not a vegetarian when it comes to dancing. I literally want it bloody. I just want it raw." "So bring out your inner Indian, and let's go to space." Somehow, all that translated to "Rich Man's Frug" by way of Lady Gaga (fitting, since Mark has been a Gaga dancer since forever) with that ineffable Markness layered over the top, and I loved every crazy moment of it. The red carpet/tongue! Amazing. And yes, Jenna looked great, although frankly it took serious effort to tear my eyes away from Mark. (Which is theoretically a problem in a routine that's supposed to be showing off the contestant...but I don't care. I love it.)
5. Amy and Travis' contemporary piece. This was Travis at his best: A classic, not-too-complicated story, with admirable, if not groundbreaking, choreography. I've also missed Travis as a dancer (at least since the end of "All the Right Moves"—R.I.P.!). And Amy is just so ridiculously great. I mean come on, those synchronized triple pirouettes that extended to second—good grief, kids!
In the end, Tucker and Jenna went home. Sad news. But at this point in the competition, every elimination is sad news.
What did you all think of the show? Did the right people go home? Let us know in the comments—and tune in next week, same time, same place for our recap!