So You Think You Can Dance: A Phoenix Rising

For the second audition of season 6, So You Think You Can Dance made its first stop in Phoenix, Arizona. For their introduction to So You Think You Can Dance, Phoenix brought plenty of talent and strangeness to the stage. While there were plenty of just good old beautiful dancers -- the real story of Phoenix, were the metaphorical phoenix's of the auditions: Allison Becker and ballroom boys William DeVries and Jacob Jason.

In mythology, a phoenix isn't a city in Arizona, but rather a beautifully plumed bird that at the end of its life burns fiercely only to arise anew from its own ashes. In today's society, the phoenix has come to signify someone who rises above difficulties and challenges, to transform into something beautiful and powerful. It's about creating hope and life from places and events that are insurmountable and inhospitable. It is a cultural symbol for triumph against all odds.

The first phoenix of Phoenix was Allison Becker, a hearing-impaired contemporary dancer. As a toddler, Allison had meningitis and doctors told her parents she would either die or become deaf from the illness. Despite being unable to hear music in the way the rest of us do, Allison was always drawn to dance. Instead of listening, she feels the music through vibrations. For her audition she dances to The Fray's "You Found Me," which sincerely should be banned from all reality show competitions or tissues should be dispensed from the TV with the first few strains of the song. She is a lovely dancer, though lacking in crisp follow-through and technique. Most of all, and impressively, is that Allison's audition was incredibly musical. It was clear with every step she was indeed feeling the music on many levels.

Allison is reality TV gold, as well as a genuinely inspiring story, so it should be no surprise that Nigel was smitten from moment one. As she finishes her routine he blows her kisses, signs that he loves her, and tells her that while she's technically not as strong as many other dancers, what she did on stage was beautiful and moving. Mary Murphy manages to say she agrees with everything Nigel said, a rarity indeed, before breaking into tears. Thank goodness my TV got the memo on dispensing tissues for that Fray song, because Mary Murphy totally managed to make me cry.

Mary had a cousin who was also hearing impaired, so Allison's passion and dancing really touched her. Through her botox tears Mary tells Allison, "Though I am crying, I want you to know how happy you just made me." Miss Mia Michaels, our guest judge for the Phoenix auditions, does her best to hold back tears before also praising Allison for her braveness and beauty. Though the judges are enamored with the triumph of Allison's story; they are concerned about her technique, so they put her into choreography. When Nigel asks how Allison thinks she will do during choreography as a deaf dancer, Allison doesn't miss a beat. Responding with considerable spunk she says, "I'll be great in choreography." And she is. After wowing the judges (and probably welling them up too) Allison is granted her ticket to Las Vegas.

But Allison wasn't the only phoenix in Phoenix, in fact there were at least two others: William de Vries and Jacob Jason. William and Jacob are same-sex ballroom dancers, champions in fact and as we all know, they are auditioning in anything but a hospitable environment. During season 5 audition's Nigel about lost his mind over a pair of boy ballroom dancers, raising considerable ire among GLBT groups, dancers, viewers, and our own John Kubicek.

Though they are nervous about auditioning in front of Nigel, for good reason, William and Jacob believe it's their duty to show America that there's "a world of same sex dancers out there." As the pair take the stage, Nigel's brow furrows and his arms cross aggressively over his chest. Whatever his apology, it is clear Nigel is still not keen on ballroom boys. But as William and Jacob begin to dance with precision, and pizazz, even Nigel himself has to take note of their talent and technique. In astonishment he says to Mary and Mia, "Even I have to admit, they have great lines."

As the music ends, William and Jacob nervously approach for their judgement. Mia Michaels is already teary eyed and so is Mary Murphy. Yet again, I'm grateful for the extra tissues by my side. Both Mia and Mary commend the ballroom boys on their bravery for auditioning and for dancing together. Mia says the pair are a beautiful inspiration. And as for nay-saying Nigel? He thanks William and Jacob for showing him that "same sex ballroom can be very strong and very good," admitting to a degree he was wrong to be so harsh about all same-sex dancing after last season's auditions. While they're not given tickets to Vegas straight away, both William and Jacob shine (with female partners) during the choreography round and they are granted two tickets to Las Vegas. Phoenix's from Phoenix indeed.

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