There’s a lot of discussion among So You Think You Can Dance fans—and, this season, even among the judges—of how much choreography factors into a contestant’s success on the show. Do (relatively) undeserving dancers ride the coattails of memorable routines to stay longer in the competition than they should? Or are the routines memorable because of the dancers?
Little from column A, but more from column B, as evidenced by tonight’s remounting of the judges’ favorite dances of the season. Mia Michaels’ “butt dance” is a clear case of the dance outshining the dancers. (Can you imagine that routine with, say, Jeanine and Ade instead of Randi and Evan? Yowza.) To a lesser extent, so is Asuka and Vitolio’s waltz. Caitlin and Jason’s Bollywood routine was exhilarating the first time around, but as their somewhat lackluster performance of it tonight showed, maybe the excitement stemmed more from the material than the two of them. You could argue that Melissa and Ade’s Cancer Dance saved them from elimination that week, though I maintain that no one else could have danced that routine like they did.
But other routines that were revisited tonight—specifically the disco and paso doble—could have failed spectacularly in the hands of less skilled dancers. So it’s unsurprising that our final two, Brandon and Jeanine, were featured more than any of their fellow contestants on tonight’s best-of-the-season show, with three routines apiece. Of course, that could have been planned by the producers—the next-day revisit of last night’s paso doble, which just happens to feature the final two, is especially fishy. (But not really, because that was a spectacular routine that made me a believer in the paso doble once more.) But the fact that Kayla—and, more tellingly, Jason—had two dances to Evan’s one, despite the fact that he placed higher than her, tells another story.
It’s fitting that Jeanine and Brandon were featured an equal numbers of times tonight, because they’re each equally worthy of the title. As my roommate put it, “Brandon’s the best dancer, but Jeanine’s my favorite, so either way I’ll be happy.” Though I have to admit, I was especially excited to see a girl get the title again this season—ya know, even up the gender distribution in that SYTYCD winners’ circle a bit.
That said, I did shed a single, glittery tear for Kayla when she was announced as the fourth-place finalist. White Lightening was the dark horse going into last night’s show—though there’s no way Evan deserved, on a technical level, to beat her—but hot damn if the girl didn’t bring it in every single thing she danced, even that corny-ass jive. Granted, she can’t hold a candle to Jeanine in terms of personality—in fact, in week five I believe I said that her “personality seems to be mostly derived from how much makeup she is or isn’t wearing” (because I’m mean). But tonight’s endless montages and her samba with Max (and of course, EAWMM’s Emmy Grab, a.k.a., the Addiction Dance) served as a reminder that she’s been a force onstage from the beginning. Last night the judges kept talking about how Jeanine had peaked at exactly the right time in the competition, and they were right; but Kayla seemed to be riding right behind her on that wave. Her final dance last night, the country-Western jive with Evan, may have been a bit of a flop, yes—but not because of her. In fact, that was the most magnetic I’ve seen her all season. Too little, too late.
But the real reason that jive tanked was Evan. He was outmatched by every single one of his partners last night, and each of his pair routines highlighted a different one of his weaknesses. He came across weak and puny next to the strong, captivating Jeanine in their Sonya contemporary routine—she was literally throwing him around. His boys routine to “Nasty” with Brandon was just embarrassing: When you can’t match Brandon’s level of masculinity, you know you’re in trouble. (Again, can you imagine that routine with Brandon and Ade? Lauriann Gibson and her hot-pink headphones deserved better.) And that jive showed how he can’t bring the energy in genres he’s not comfortable in: Broadway and jazz, he’s all over; ballroom and hip-hop, he makes look like work. The judges did plenty of ragging on him last night—clearly doing their best to prevent an Evan win—so I’ll just leave it at that.
I was struck tonight by how much better certain routines—specifically the group numbers—came across on the Kodak stage. (I think SYTYCD gets $1,000 knocked off its fee every time it name-drops the venue. Which just about covers the confetti costs.) Whether it was the stage or the fact that the pressure of elimination was gone for most of the dancers, Tyce’s “The Wiz” routine and especially the NappyTab/Dmitri “water dance” felt 10 times more exhilarating than they did the first time around. The Rage Boys Crew guest performance was exactly as pandering as it was the first time around, but hey, at least we got to see that kid chucked through the air again.
What we didn’t get to see? Wade Robson’s “jewel thieves” routine, which I think most people would agree was a standout this season. In fact, we didn’t see any Robson routines remounted tonight, I suspect because he didn’t seem to be in the audience. Then again, we did get a Robson group number last night, and it was pretty unremarkable—fun, yes, but there wasn’t much dancing going on in that cheerleading routine. Luckily, the other choreographers stepped up with a couple of standout finale routines, specifically Mia Michaels’ clothes-rending girls routine and the aforementioned paso doble.
Overall, how did you feel about this finale/season? I’ve gone up and down in terms of emotional investment in the contestants themselves, but as the past two nights have shown, we got to see some incredible dancing this summer. And in only one month, we get to do it all again. See you all in the [insert image of someone falling down] fall!
• This has really been a Tyce and NappyTab-heavy season. Both choreographers have their standout moments, but are also growing a little stale, getting more and more gimmicky with each show. (Tonight’s Phillip/Jeanine hip-hop number was a nice reminder that Tabitha and Napoleon are capable of producing really sweet, straightforward routines when they’re not busy making their performers dance in boxes.) I wonder if that’ll continue, or if the producers are saving up their blockbuster choreographers—Shane Sparks, Wade, etc.—for the more competitive fall broadcast?
• Brandon and Lil C should have a competition of who has prettier man-nails.
• Adam Shankman is awesome. Adam is who Tyce wants to be when he grows up and stops being annoying.
• Here’s a fun game. Fill in the blank: “Evan, what’s the nastiest thing you’ve ever done.” My answer: “Why, that would be you, Mary Murphy.” BA-ZING!
• Mary really held back on the shrieking last night, reserving it only for the paso doble. Maybe someone passed along our notes.
• Last but not least, thanks once more to Donna for filling in for me last week. I’m looking forward to teaming up with her to give you guys coverage of both nights in the upcoming fall season.