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So You Think You Can Dance: Season 8 Begins

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My on-again, off-again relationship with Fox's summer show So You Think You Can Dance, or SYTYCD (which isn't really any less of a mouthful), should have handicapped me to write up the review each week; indeed, I feared the worst as I uttered "who?" when the judges for the San Francisco auditions, Toni Redpath and Tyce Diorio, were introduced.

Then Nigel Lythgoe said the word "fabulous," Mary Murphy guffawed at something that wasn't funny at all, Tyce called one dancer's audition "a warm cup of not very good," and a few people cried before, during or after their auditions. I was in familiar territory.

Eight seasons in, and the show has barely changed at all. Executive producer Nigel is as watered-down a version of Simon Cowell as ever, Mary Murphy still calls herself "hot tamale" and we still get to see some of the most incredible undiscovered talent in the dancing world.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, here's a summary: Dancers from across the nation compete in open auditions for a chance to go to Las Vegas, where they will work with coaches on a variety of styles. If the judges (Nigel and two others) are iffy during an audition, they can ask the dancer to stick around to learn some more choreography. Once in Vegas, the competition is whittled down week-by-week, American Idol-style, until one dancer is chosen as America's Favorite Dancer.

Got it? Good. On to the recap.

We begin our story in fair Atlanta, where Mary Murphy and Lil C join Nigel as judges. The auditions are incredibly fruitful, and we learn later that 10 dancers in a row are sent to Vegas.

Made it through: First up is Bianka Hinkerlian, who performs a Colombian salsa with her partner, Giovanni. The pair are incredible in keeping rhythm, and at one point, I swear, it looked like they had sped up the film. Nigel calls it fantastic, Lil C remarks on how well they kept rhythm and Bianka will come back later to learn some new steps. She will move on to Vegas after succeeding in the choreography round.

Next up is the first sobfest of the season. When Vickie Moore says she's a painting student at Fordham, my initial reaction is "well, she's a goner." But then they show some B-reel footage of her painting at home and walking through the doors at Fordham, so I guess she makes it through. Vickie's dad died after a liver transplant, and she tells the camera a little tearfully that dance gave her an outlet she could throw herself into.

Her contemporary performance captivates the judges, and we hear Mary whisper "wow," as Vickie gracefully tumbles, twirls and glides across the stage. Mary calls it "whoa," Nigel says it's "amazing," and Lil C says "clapping wouldn't do it justice." We'll see her again in Vegas

Friends/Romeos Deon Lewsa, Jr. and Damon Bellmon charm Cat Deeley with their claims that they've been getting a lot of girls' numbers, but they charm the judges with their humorous performance. Lil C. cracks his first smile of the night and says of their team work "you can't buy that kind of connection." At first, it looks like Deon's only going to Vegas, but Nigel had just pulled a fast one on Damon and tells him he's going to Vegas too. Good one, Nigel.

Marko Germar, who was once robbed at gunpoint and still has the bullet in his arm, gave a thrilling contemporary performance akin to Vickie Moore's. He moves on to Vegas, no question, and if he and Moore are ever paired up, they would be unstoppable.

Kimalee Piedad, who clutches to her partner in weird, uncomfortable-looking poses, but the judges liked it, so I guess there's something there.

Honorable mentions:

We get a visit form John "White Chocolate" Palermo, whose hip hop club moves are less than impressive. When he tells the judges "I can keep my rhythm," Lil C counters with "no no no no."

Contestant Kyré Batiste brought had his whole family in tow, but even a whipping from his grandmother couldn't change how the judges felt: after the choreography round, Kyré was asked to leave.

Oh yeah, you read that right. His grandmother took off her belt and started whipping Lil C. Be sorry you missed it.

Montages: One probably put together by a bunch of angry English majors explores the unique wordsmithing that happens during judging. Mary's use of the word "organtic," for example, goes up against Lil C's "oxymoronical," and "dominissive." Well done, English majors!

Also, why does Lil C see fit to wear his headphones around his neck during the auditions? Just wondering.

All right, one city down. That's it for...Oh wait. We have another hour.

And we're off to San Francisco and get two-thirds of a new judges' panel with Tyce Diorio and Toni Redpath.

For the most part, SF fails to impress, and we say hello and goodbye to a former stripper, Tyce tells Toni one audition is "one big hot cup of vomit," and one contestant throws a temper tantrum or something after his audition. "I accomplished what I came here for," he says after the audition. Yes. And now that you've been on TV, what's your next goal?

Made it through:

Amber Williams impresses the judges with her self-described "ghetto-funky" style, but her hyper quirkiness is a little much ("I'm just like aaahhhhwaaaaaa"). Still her personality is a little refreshing in what has been a relatively dry process so far.

Danielle Ihle shows off a lot of pirouettes in her audition, but the judges think her emotional content is a little shaky. She brings it during the choreography round and advances to Vegas.

B-boy Jeffery McCann gets a very short critique, a resounding "heck year" from Tyce. He also has looks, charm and a great backstory: he lived on the street, hustled for a living until he found dance. The only potential problem is that he's 28, practically middle-aged in the dancing world.

Ryan Ramirez, who didn't get cast in season 7 auditioned again this year. I guess she improved, because the judges put her straight through to Vegas after a strong performance.

Honorable mentions: B-boy Timothy Joseph does enough tricks to move him on to the choreography round, but he injures his knee during rehearsal and can't continue because "it wouldn't be fair" to his partner. A good dancer with such a good heart, and it's a little difficult for us to watch him take his number off outside the theater.

Next week: Auditions continue in Salt Lake City and New York.

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