I'm already on record disapproving of the format for the finale of this season. But now they've gone me one better and scheduled only one hour -- one measly hour! -- for the top six dancers to compete for one spot.
The talent has been of a rarified quality this season, but Fox network schedulers have not done them any favors. We're rushing to the end, with a curtailed showcase for the finalists and little room for the traditions that have made the show work. But kudos to the show's producers for shoehorning nine dances -- everybody all the way around the horn -- into this brief performance show.
We'll all have a chance to compare notes on the final performances -- along with the inevitable special dances and guests -- at tomorrow night's two hour results show liveblog (with Genevieve and Noel!). Meanwhile, enjoy one last recap!
Kathryn and Ryan start things off, and the choreographers are trying to make sure Ryan doesn't get lost by stripping him to the waist and having him flaunt his stuff. I find the half-nude Ryan distractingly ... smooth. But I'll admit that it was high-energy, and Kathryn was electric as usual. I like Ryan better flinching as Kathryn landed hard on his back than I did in his top-ballroom mode, though.
Ellenore and Jakob get to sink their teeth into a Fosse-esque Broadway routine, and what's not to love about that? Hard-hitting, flamboyant, energy to burn, with great attitude. They're so well matched -- Ellenore dancing big, and Jakob exploding out of his compactness.
Ashleigh and Russell get a lyrical jazz number to a Jewel song. I think secretly this is the style in which Russell belongs. He commits to the performance and throws himself about the stage, and there's something about the emotions that this style tries to evoke that match what Russell has to offer. That series of moves after Ashleigh threw him into the air were stunning.
After the mix-and-match, we get Ellenore and Ryan together in a jazz robot dance. Ellenore's quirky vibe is perfect for this, but I was surprised at how thoroughly Ryan was able to stiffen up and get totally blank. I'm not sure the dancing was interesting enough -- some tricks to dazzle us and make the style pop.
Ashleigh and Jakob get to let the good times roll with a classy foxtrot. It's right in their wheelhouse, but then what isn't in Jakob's wheelhouse these days? Fun, smooth, elegant but with a little edge of excitement left over from the Broadway routine a few minutes earlier.
Ellenore and Russell get the pasodoble, and I was impressed that Russell could muster up that leonine energy to make this work. Ellenore was lovely and strong -- beautifully controlled. She wins the award for the three most diverse performances tonight.
Kathryn and Jakob have contemporary, and it's a passionate, extroverted routine guaranteed to get the teenage girls punching their speed dials. Even though there's a sense in which this is predictable as a contemporary routine -- the emotions of yearning and connection and expressiveness are pretty easy to dial up -- the performance was on a whole 'nother level.
Ashleigh and Ryan finally get to dance together, and Travis Wall gives them a contemporary routine about luvvvvvvv. I've been waiting all season to be underwhelmed by them as partners, but the unison side-by-side moves were beautiful, and that's the stuff that moves me. It was simple and the emotion was sincere. Mary's right; it's nice that they got to have this moment in front of America. (Now they can gracefully step down and let the better dancers win.)
Kathryn and Russell get the last word -- hip hop. And it's a showcase for some cool tricks and Russell's strengths. Love the segment that they danced with Kathryn on Russell's shoulders; love Kathryn standing on his back. And especially love the fierce face she pulled toward the end; it looked like she was shouting out, and I thought it was an honest look inside her joy.
Your winner? With six people competing for votes, anything could happen -- which I hate. But you know how I feel. Jakob is the only one who should win, and anything else were to intervene, I want it to be Kathryn.
- So they get to be on the cover of Dancespirit magazine! Why isn't this mentioned every week, like Top Chef does with the feature in Food & Wine magazine?
- - Funniest line of the night, from Nigel to Ryan: "I'm so pleased you've found a shirt; now you must remember to use the buttons."
- Come back tomorrow night and enjoy Jakob's well-deserved victory live with us!