As the City Kids headed to "wicked" Boston for the fourth night of auditions Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe were joined by guest judge Adam Shankman, choreographer of Hairspray (and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode). We could tell from the second they showed that there was a male Irish step dancer outside, and the Irish-rock music in the background proved it, but alas, no Irish dancers were featured. (We really want SYTYCD to have the contestants do soft-shoe Irish on the live shows, because unlike hard shoe, the dancers would pick it up easily).
Philadelphia may be the City of Brotherly Love, but there was plenty of it in Boston. Two different dancers credited their brothers for making their auditions possible. "Salsa-on-two" dancer Katlyn Rodriguez’s brother Jeremy, who is only 16, stepped up when her partner backed out at the last minute, learning a new routine in three hours. The impressed judges invited Jeremy to return in three years and sent Katlyn to choreography, where she made it to Vegas. (They can no longer fool us with their pre-commercial teases.)
Jenny Begley’s brother bought her the plane ticket that made her audition possible but the stage was all hers. She had gorgeous movements reminiscent of Jiří Kylián’s Stamping Ground, though it looked like she almost fell on the slick floor a couple of times. The judges loved her and sent her to Vegas.
Ballroom dancers Ashley Goldman and Phillip Kudryavstev kicked things off. They used to date but are now just dancing partners. She dominated that relationship, barely letting him speak, but onstage he lit up. Often with ballroom dancing it’s an effort to watch the men because the women are so engaging, but Phillip stole the spotlight (perhaps because Ashley annoyed us before they started dancing). She was a fine dancer, but he forced us to pay attention. If he makes it onto the show, he’ll need to let his personality shine--without her.
More quirkiness ensued, and some of it was actually good. But not the strange rabbit dancer, the man in women’s shoes, or lampshade wearer Natalie Vilos. Natalie wasn’t too bad actually, but she didn't even make it to choreography. Instead, Adam goofed around in her leopard-print lampshade. You know he’s disappointed he didn’t think of it first.
On the good end of the weirdness spectrum were popping-locking-animators Toshihiko Nakazawa, Jason Kidd (who looked like Seann William Scott), and John Tesoriero. More and more, the hip-hop dancers bring their own remixes of songs to accompany them. John went one further and brought his own musician: beat boxer Gene Shinozaki. Both were incredible with John’s wicked movements perfectly matching Gene’s crazy beats. The collaboration worked well, but there was a risk of the music overpowering the movement. Jason impressed with his tiny isolations and full body rolls, reaching into his heart and showing it to the sky, until the judges put a ticket into his outstretched hand. We’ll see how well he does in Vegas but he was certainly nice to look at (even Mary commented on it). Toshi gave a great Scott Pilgrim impression with his video-game-style animation in those funky gold lamé Hammer pants. His entertaining performance had musicality, flexibility, and range but he may also have trouble in Vegas. It was fun hearing him yell Yattai!, just like Hiro, after receiving his ticket.
Several dazzling contemporary dancers were in the house, including Jennifer Beals doppelganger Jennifer Jones, who had abandoned ballet after suffering from an eating disorder. She was an exquisite dancer: stunningly beautiful with incredible technique and a gorgeous face. She’s still grateful to her ballet training and rightfully so. Ballet provides the building blocks for all dance. She should go far.
Several others had beautiful lines and impressive technique. The judges loved Tommy Tibball’s strong feet though Adam had a pained look on his face throughout his whole audition. Shannon "Shizzy Shake" Tarantino was much better than her interview implied: The ditzy, mohawked redhead actually had an effortless quality, as Adam said, and she put a ridiculous grin on Nigel’s face. Anthony Savoy (like the Ballroom) impressed even though he was dancin to Sara Bareilles’s beautiful but overused song "Gravity." The judges also made an example of him after "Ribbon Boy" Anthony Bryant refused to wait around for the choreography, insisting that he be paid for his dancing. Is he currently making a living dancing? We suspect not.
Krumper Ernest "E-Knock" Phillips gave a vulnerable performance that left the judges in tears, telling the story of his emotional recovery after his cousin’s drowning. With raw power, pure thrust, and so much anger, E-Knock took us through every step of his journey. It was cathartic for him (and perhaps for the audience) but not enough to get him to Vegas.
A tapper and a ballroom dancer, both of whom were exquisite, closed the night. We are always excited when they feature tappers and Alexis Juliano was worth waiting for. She had immaculate rhythms, fantastic slides that travelled the length of the stage, and made great use of silence. Nigel is right: In tap, silence is just as important as sound because those audio gaps make sense of the rhythm. Similarly, sexy Kate Japshandy used silence and stillness in her smooth, efficient ballroom dance. And Adam showed us his brilliant Bruno Tonioli impression. More of that, please.
The auditions head to Memphis next week, where Wayne Brady joins the show for the first time. Another first: Mary drops the f-bomb. We’re looking forward to that.