As previewed last week, Atlanta will be the last stop for audition rounds this season and I am (as always) intrigued by what the Southeastern US will bring. Any auditions in Atlanta/Miami/New Orleans etc. tend to bring out such a wide variety of dancers and styles due to how far people are willing to drive in the region in order to prove themselves in front of the judges. A strong hunch tells me there will be a majority of Hip-Hop/R&B routines closely followed by ballroom, with at least one stunning classically trained ballerina (probably male) that blows everyone away and stands out all that much more because it’s an Atlanta audition. As with the first few installments, I will be skipping over the intentionally awful auditions as well as anyone who has no chance from the start. Here we go Atlanta!
First thought: I would like Cat to say “The ATL” much more often. In context, out of context, whatever. Make it happen universe.
Mariah Reives: There has been a trend in recent seasons of starting out every audition day’s tape with one of the strongest dancers, so it wasn’t a shock when Mariah walked out and proved herself in style. I, like most of America, do not seek out jazz willingly for the most part but she put on a performance from top to bottom here that made me enjoy the song she chose (“I’m A Woman” by Maimouna Youssef). Lyrically, it matches up to her aesthetic and lines, and the mood it set worked well with the laid back style she employs even with her more difficult moves. Mariah may be the first person this year to have what I like to call a “holy shit split” and she shows it off here almost half a dozen times to great effect each time. Her mom also has a serious case of StageMomitis but thankfully that won’t be much of a problem during hell week and after if she makes it that far.
Erik “Silky” Moore: “I wanted to take some time off and study the show and who got through and why” is the So You Think You Can Dance version of “Will Smith picks apart blockbusters to optimize box office results”. It’s actually a very smart strategy and I’m surprised no one has admitted to doing it outright before. Another rarity is Nigel stopping the music during a routine that doesn’t look terrible, but I’m glad he did because he brought up the same thing that was on my mind in regards to Erik’s music not matching his freestyle movements in the least bit. After all of the talk about using his family’s experiences in an insane asylum I expected something much darker, instead he went with the guitar-laden “Ants” by Edit. The two together work better than anticipated, and the five years between auditions for Erik clearly improved his skills immensely. I think his
Kelly MacCoy: Another jazz dancer, thanks Atlanta. Kelly had the “drag queen styling” corner of the competition locked down before the music even started and then RuPaul of all people comes through the speakers and I was almost out on Kelly before her first step. Her routine had the artistic appeal of an exercise tape porn spoof with the skill of a 14 year old gymnast who’s parents think she can still make it to the Olympics someday. She’s a skilled dancer, but combine her jerky transitions between every move, the campy faces, and her sway back the odds are against her to make it much farther than the Broadway round of choreography. She’s one of the few 18 year olds who has auditioned so far who doesn’t seem to have much potential for growth past the skill she possesses right now. I can’t fault her for working “Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous” to the fullest extent though.
Christopher “Mr. Strange” Griffin: Can Dragon House make it a dynasty of dancers making it to the Top 20? I’m torn between “Yes” and “Hell Yes” but you never know what can come of the tough choreography rounds. Christopher maintains the legacy of his housemates by being endlessly entertaining while on stage and an overall charming persona period. Animating to “Going Back to Cali” while wearing a Cosby sweater is a pretty baller move and really made me feel like the 90’s were back. I’m not going to delve too deeply into a later audition that occurs that manages to prove the opposite, but I’m happy Mr. Strange was able to show up and prove that Dragon House still spits out talent regularly. Hopefully people will remember this performance instead of the embarrassment a few auditions down the road that the entire house has to flat out apologize for, but with the way reality television works that may not end up being the case.
Conrad Dechabert: Conrad chooses the Main Title Theme from Planet of the Apes and pardon me if I never expected a Danny Elfman score to look so good on an audition stage, but he definitely proved himself to be able to dance in a more masculine style with that theme as his soundtrack. Some part of me was upset last year when the main reason Nigel and Mary decided against moving him to the next round was because of his feminine dancing, because as long as you have talent you should be able to show it off no matter if the gendering is skewed. On further thought though, it does make sense as far as partnering in the later rounds goes to make sure everyone can support a partner and bring the heat when needed. Also, Conrad should stop letting his friend use him as a practice board for tattoo work.
Taveaus “Dynamic” Woods: I’m sorry if I butchered the spelling of his name, but for the longer and more complicated names/nicknames the producers really should leave the chyrons up on screen longer. I’m speaking as an army of one here but it needs to happen. Dynamic is a protege of Fikshun’s and comes across as one in both good and bad ways. The good side of things is that he has the same level of talent as his mentor, yet on the flip side he will have to traverse the same difficult path that Fikshun did in order to get a sniff of the Top 20. Fikshun was the exception to the rule, and I don’t see Dynamic making it deep into the competition even if he is able to prove himself in choreography. (Note: I was right, as his choreography is a huge letdown).
How DARE YOU bring Jenna Dewan Tatum out here as a judge without Channing in tow. Absolutely unacceptable, judging panel. I understand Mrs. Tatum has a drastically different schedule than her hubby but don’t try to tell me a certain host couldn’t have pulled some strings in her circle of friends to get those abs in the house.
Ricky Ubeda: By far my favorite dancer of the night, Ricky manages to be one of the few people on the planet besides Shonda Rhimes who can transform a random Coldplay track into an emotional set piece worthy of his talent. Don’t get me wrong, “Us Against the World” is actually my favorite song off of Mylo Xyloto but I wouldn’t recommend it for a performance in the least. Ricky also proves me right in my prediction that there would be one stand out (probably male) ballerina amidst all of the animators and hip hoppers tonight. Nigel says what everyone is thinking when he tells Ricky that he’s already a favorite to make it all the way, and my only worry with him is that he won’t have enough upper body strength to properly partner during some of the lifts and swings that will undoubtably pop up later in the year. A minor quibble, but keep it in the back of your minds when Mandy Moore asks him to lift someone over his head and we get a “this practice is so tough” montage during a live show.
Marissa Milele: There has been a much higher proportion of dancers who are friends of previous competitors or returning dancers being shown this year during auditions. I’m not sure whether it is a product of having too many solid dancers in one year therefore making it necessary to pick the already known dancers out of the fray to highlight, or whether there is a lull of talent this year requiring some fudging of the talent displayed by using previously seen dancers. The first reason makes more sense logically, but the latter has me a little worried as we move forward. I’m glad they kept Marissa’s cut short and sweet as even though I enjoyed her performances last year, it doesn’t look like she has grown much in the past year. She has too much muscle without the actual strength to get any height on her lifts, and relies on her gymnastic elements slightly more than necessary. Her music – “Black Blade” by Thomas Bergersen & Two Steps From Hell – is right along the lines of something Sonya will presumably choreograph to this year so if Marissa makes it past the Green Mile this season we know she will be able to step into Ms. Tayeh’s rehearsal room with confidence. The judges giving her a ticket so quickly seemed like the easiest way for them to shuffle her off to the next round without a promise that she will make it any farther than last season.
Elaine Kimble: The first audition all night where I didn’t take any notes, Elaine absolutely captivated everyone watching in our living room. She doesn’t have the strengths that some dancers have, but her arm control and lines are classically pretty. Her performance is the human embodiment of “All of Me”, which I originally expected to appear with the same frequency as Sam Smith’s music this year but that hasn’t been the case. No matter, I’m sure Mandy Moore will put together a “classic love story” at some point around the fifth week of the live shows built around the concept of John Legend and Chrissy Teigen. Elaine was also the first tearjerker video package of the night, and one that is actually legitimate in its sadness instead of ratcheted up to make it seem more life and death than it was. I would have liked to see her get her ticket immediately instead of an arbitrary choreography round, and the reasoning behind the judges’ decision to keep her there for a final tryout didn’t match up with their rationale for other performers, but hopefully she glides right through and can prove that she has fierceness inside of her during hell week.
Angelina Granitz: Shyness is one of the biggest turn offs for an audience when a dancer comes on stage and it initially turned me off in a big way before she even began her performance. Angelina has the demeanor of a much younger and timid woman when speaking to the judges, but when she has the opportunity to dance that shyness melts away and leaves behind a bold and controlled dancer who has more confidence in a move that lasts 3 seconds that she does in the entirety of her clip reel. Dancing to the elegant “Quartet N. 2” by Dustin O’Halloran contributes heavily to her simplicity and extreme steadiness, but I wish there were a few “dancier” moves to her performance to break things up. If she gets to the live shows her demeanor isn’t going to help garner her any votes from viewers.
Christina Moya-Palacios: Out of all four weeks of auditions, Christina may be the best pure dancer out of anyone. She is one of the few who could make it in a company right this minute and has the legs to match the skill. She reminds me of Alex Wong in a big way, and the show would be stupid to not bring him back as a guest later in the season if they need someone to fill in as an All Star partner for her. The second person to dance to a movie soundtrack (weird trend alert) she performs to a song from the Perfect Sense score. I love me some Eva Green and Ewan McGregor dark romantic comedies, so that was a welcome surprise. Christina is one of those dancers who I don’t really have much to say about until we see some variation in style from her, but until then it is clear she is as experienced a ballerina as almost any other dancer in the competition is at their genre. Placing her on my Mia Michaels wish list immediately.