Daniel Baker, 23, is an Aussie by way of San Francisco (I loved the bit of Beautiful San Francisco b-roll where they had to film Daniel walking around in the rain because San Francisco didn't feel like cooperating, weather-wise). He's a ballet dancer, though the way he says it, it sounds like "belly dancer." Also, not to bring up LMFAO for the second time this recap but GIRL, LOOK AT THAT BODY. Daniel's got it happening, and that he takes the stage in shorts and nothing more tells me he knows it. I guess nine seasons in, the really impressive dancers who have somehow not gone out for the show already are naturally going to be the ballet dancers who are just now breaking free of their companies (we saw this in NYC with Chehon). Daniel is that rare bird that always seems to be overrepresented on SYTYCD: the stunningly gorgeous, decidedly straight dancer. Nigel WILL cast those guys every time. He's a blond twink for the boys, hunky Aussie for the ladies. Who's complaining? He can also dance, by the way, and the crowd eats it up. Of course, Nigel mocks some dude for standing too long, because boys shouldn't be into this guy, like KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE, asshole. Strangely, the judges also give Daniel the "if you like that sort of thing" ironic understatement treatment. Why are the ballet boys getting this kind of shabby reaction? Hopefully they're more enthusiastic in Vegas.
Jarell Rochelle, 22, dances for his mom, who is slowly going blind. They call mom to the judges' table so she can see better (Nigel: "Don't touch my water, it's vodka"). Jarell is good, expressive, pretty unusual but open in a Broadway way. Nigel found it delightful, and C was touched. Jarell gets his Vegas ticket and then the ... Top Model winner music? THAT'S a mixed blessing.
THE PRETTY BAD
I was very nervous about the appearance of Sam Shreffler, another nerdy Aspergers case. Only the show actually acknowledges him as such. He says he's studying autism research, and Nigel actually engages him about the challenges of his condition. Sam in untrained, of course, but his dancing -- while decidedly ragged and not good -- is exuberant and fun and not terrible. I'd buy him as someone who watched a lot of the show who picked up a lot of stuff from the dancers he saw. This seems to be an exercise in extroversion, perhaps? Either way, it's actually kind of life-affirming rather than soul-crushing. Nigel kind of cracks a joke about how it looks like he's fending off wasps, but Sam explains that he was acting like an ocean full of waves. I kind of believe this thing about dance makes him feel free to express himself. Nigel is kind and says Sam comes alive in dance. He tells him not to ever stop dancing, even if they can't put him through to Vegas. Everybody in the crowd does "the ocean," and Sam takes it in and it's kind of moving. The standing O isn't even patronizing because he did something there.