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So You Think You Can Dance: “Finale”

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About a half hour into tonight’s So You Think You Can Dance finale, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe announces the show has been renewed for an 11th season and the auditorium explodes with cheers and applause. Unlike its sister series American Idol, the future of SYTYCD is always in question, but its loyal fan base knows how important this series is to dance as an art form. For 10 seasons, this show has brought a diverse array of dance styles to homes across the nation, inspiring young dancers that have grown up to become contestants themselves.

Tonight’s finale is a showcase of the season’s best, detailing the major developments this summer through select numbers. The judges panel of Nigel, Mary, Paula Abdul, Adam Shankman, and tWitch (plus Cat) pick their favorite routines to see performed again, and the Top Four also get to pick a number to remount. Add in original group numbers, visiting performers, and a surprise duet between Nigel and Mary, and you get an episode packed with dance. There’s plenty of filler as well (the Top Four see All-Star Dominic’s movie, audition replays, rehearsal montages), but overall this episode is a great way to end a strong season.

The evening starts with a Top 20 group routine by season two’s Ivan, and it’s a sloppier, less interesting version of a Wade Robson number from season six (above). The Top 20 dancers look particularly young in Ivan’s piece, and the evening’s other group routine shows what a difference maturity makes. NappyTabs had a spectacular season, and they close it out with a gloriously fun “Rock Lobster” routine for the Top 10 and the All-Stars. And what an assortment of All-Stars it is: Allison, Melanie, Kathryn, Comfort, Witney, Neil, Joshua, Robert, Alex, and Marko. NappyTabs branching out into pop jazz territory has done amazing things for their work (see: their wonderful “Puttin’ On The Ritz” number), and they capture the joy of a beautiful day on the beach just in time for fall. I also applaud NappyTabs for having the men take their shirts off, although Robert’s shirt refuses to leave his body at first (I wouldn’t either).

This season ultimately belonged to the women and the All-Stars, and this episode spotlights that; the contestant who received the most votes was a female, and five of the eight favorite routines feature All-Stars. The first of the favorites is Paula’s pick: Paul and Makenzie dancing their Mandy Moore contemporary routine to “Edge Of Glory.” Paul and Makenzie were one of this season’s power couples, but they don’t perform as well without the fire of the competition. Hayley and Nico’s Sean Cheeseman Broadway routine (tWitch’s pick) also fails to match the original performance’s quality, although that lift over Nico’s shoulder is still one hell of a trick. (I’ll be posting my top dances not recreated tonight between paragraphs from here on out.)

Season 10 was the first where a tapper really took off, so of course Nigel picks the tap trio as his favorite dance of the season. Aaron, Alexis, and Curtis perform this even sharper than before, and it’s easily the stronger of Aaron’s two dances after a lackluster performance of his Stacey Tookey routine with Kathryn. The rest of the Top Four dance their personal picks better than before; Jasmine picks “Blurred Lines” with Marko, and Amy and Fik-Shun perform their NappyTabs bellhop number. It’s interesting that Amy and Fik-Shun stayed packaged as a couple while Jasmine and Aaron became less associated with each other, and keeping that partner connection is what gives them the edge to win the competition.

For the first time in SYTYCD history, a couple travels together from the Top 20 to total victory, and I’m very pleased with Amy and Fik-Shun as this season’s champions. Amy has consistently been the most energetic, technically flawless dancer of the group, and her biggest error in the competition was her partner’s fault. Fik-Shun grew because of Amy’s talent, pushing hard to keep up and offering a charismatic partner for Amy to interact with. He had his problems in the more technical styles, but he was able to build and maintain momentum through the entire competition while Aaron eventually started to dip.

Amy deserves the title, but Jasmine dances like a winner tonight, especially when she takes the stage for her NappyTabs hip-hop with Comfort (Cat’s pick). The All-Star routines are rounded out by Mark’s jazz number with Jenna, tWitch and Fik-Shun’s Luther Brown hip-hop (Adam’s pick), and two Travis Wall routines: Robert and Tucker, and Amy and Travis. Robert fixes the timing problems of his first run, making the routine even more powerful. The four pieces are all drastically different and exquisitely performed, showing the diversity of the art form and the quality of the artists groomed by this series.

When Nigel announced there would be an 11th season, I was one of those people cheering. This show has provided so many talented individuals the opportunity to express themselves in a way unlike any other athletic competition, and after 10 seasons, SYTYCD is still turning out exceptional young dance professionals. Here’s to another 10.


Stray observations:

  • Cat deserves an Emmy just for transitioning out of the Mongolian bowl dancer “whore’s milk” segment.
  • That Mary and Nigel bit is like watching the teachers dance at the school talent show. Cute, but wholly unnecessary.
  • So who’s going to see Battle Of The Year In 3-D on opening day? (Where did the Step Ups go?)
  • Much thanks to @AlisonMarieJay for identifying the choreographers of “Rock Lobster” for me on Twitter. Cat shouts out Ben Vereen but forgets NappyTabs.
  • I love that Cat’s happy dance became a thing this season.
  • “Uncle’s dance at the wedding” is the move I will be whipping out at all weddings from now on.
  • What were some of your favorite routines of the season? Don’t forget to post links.