Thursday, August 12, 2010

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 7 - Finale, Pt. 1

Photo courtesy of FOX

The moment is almost here. In less than 6 hours, Cat Deeley will tear open an envelope and say "America's Favorite Dancer is...." and then, well, who knows? As we learned in Season 6, all bets are off when it comes to the finale. There will certainly be confetti, screaming, crying, hugging and two people trying their hardest not to look like their world is crushed. Other than that, it all depends on what the voters did last night. So before the curtain closes on another season of So You Think You Can Dance, let's take a look at last night's performance finale. Each dancer performed 5 times, so we have a lot to cover.
The night began with Kent and All-Star Lauren performing a Bollywood routine by... shock... Nakul Dev Mahajan (seriously, is he the only Bollywood choreographer in America?). Of course there was plenty of ridiculousness in the costume department - Kent looked like a disco ball in his shiny aluminum foil getup - and to be honest the shoulder pads made him look a little bit like a hunchback. As for the dancing - at this point, Bollywood is no longer new in the world of SYTYCD, yet it amazes me how different the style can be from routine to routine. Last night's piece (using "Om Mangalam" from Kambakkht Ishq which I'm sure will be selling hundreds of thousands of copies on iTunes...) felt more than ever like a fusion of Bollywood and hip hop - the high energy matched with the hard hitting movement was the perfect way to begin a finale episode.

The high energy continued as Lauren and Twitch campaigned for votes in a Nappy Tabs hip hop routine. Do you get it? Campaigning for votes on the night of the finale?! Oh, Nappy Tabs, you've done it again. Although Lauren did an admirable job as always of tackling a style that is not her own, her movement felt a little stiff in this piece. Instead of being deeply grounded, she danced on her toes and it caused her to be out of sync with Twitch on several occasions. I much preferred her first hip hop routine with Twitch from a few weeks ago and was disappointed that she didn't reach that level last night. Still, you can't beat that smile and this was a mere blip in Lauren's pretty fantastic record this season.

Making his first appearance of the night, Robert was finally paired with Mark - a duo I have been praying for all season long. Performing to "Whip It" and dressed in suits and sleek eye make-up, this jazz routine was classic Mandy Moore. No, that's not right. It was definitely choreographed by Sonya. Hmmm... no. Wait... this was choreographed by Tyce Chinstrap Diorio?!?! Get the hell out of here! This routine was so far out of Tyce's comfort zone, and I mean that in the absolute best way. Mark and Robert were pretty much born to dance together and their individuals strengths and styles came together for one hell of an explosion on the stage. In case there was any question that I desperately wanted Robert to win, this routine made me absolutely sure

Robert quickly returned to perform with Lauren in a stunning Dee Caspary contemporary routine to Cinematic Orchestra's beautiful "That Home." The pair flung themselves across the stage while using a pillow to represent the warmth and comfort of home. There were daring stunts, gorgeous lifts and quiet tender moments that left me marveled and in awe of the two dancers. Lauren was absolute perfection and, as Mia said in her critique, Robert displayed once again that he has grown more than any other dancer this season and become a brilliant and mature performer. Total chills moment.

My chills didn't last long thanks to the next piece performed by Kent and Lauren. Listen, I love Huey Lewis and the News just as much as anyone (I even saw them in concert last summer)... but really, Mandy Moore? Just. So. Predictable. And also a complete rip off of her Billy/Lauren routine earlier this season with the bedazzled Converse shoes - except that routine was way better. This was so Dancing with the Stars it hurt, and the definite low point of the night. Wah wahhhh. Let's not talk about it anymore, k? Awesome.

By the grace of God, things picked up with the next routine - a Stacey Tookey contemporary routine with Kent and Allison that told the story of a relationship spirally towards an inevitable breakup. Loved the Joshua Radin music and cheered for the marionette choreography in the middle. The concept was clear as day, yet I never believed that Allison and Kent were actually in a relationship. Yes, it was danced fantastically, but the connection wasn't strong enough and Kent looked like a young boy instead of a man. Allison has been a tremendous addition to Season 7 and has brought out the best in her partners - but I can't help but think that Alex Wong, Robert and even Jose established emotional bonds with the All-Star far more successfully than Kent. And, yes, I know he had an emotional breakdown and couldn't utter more than 4 words at a time without bursting into tears and Shanks wanted to throw a ticker tape parade about it - but I just wasn't buying it. Sorry.

Then, as soon as the opening phrase of "Cool" from West Side Story started playing, I started getting chills again. It's not often we get to see a routine from WSS on the show considering the original choreography is considered some of the best, if not the best, in musical theater history. I am so glad Spencer Liff took a risk with Robert and Kathryn and this "Interrogation" routine. Kathryn was as sexy as ever and Robert showed us how a man should dance. Both dancers showed incredible strength and passion - it was loud, in your face and smokin', and once again solidified my vote for Robert.

As if last week's Argentine Tango wasn't sizzling enough, Lauren and Pasha teamed up again, this week for a cha cha by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin (who thankfully was not required to dance). Ballroom choreographers always pick the best music, and last night was no exception with Xtina's "Not Myself Tonight." The lifts were truly amazing - especially the knee-on-the-shoulder-into-a-roll maneuver towards the end (and, yes, that is the official technical term for that move... Google it). Lauren is the definition of a spitfire and she was a pleasure to watch.

The last routine of the night was another attempt to bring same-sex ballroom successfully to the SYTYCD stage. And, unfortunately - despite Kent and Robert's best efforts - it was kind of a flop. Choreographers Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo crafted a Malevos routine to tell the story of two battling gangsters, but it never really clicked. With two such incredible dancers as Kent and Robert, it's a shame we weren't able to get a performance like Neil and Danny's prince routine from Season 3 or Twitch and Joshua's Russian dance from Season 4. This was simply a poor ballroom imitation with floppy hats. It was, however, leagues better than Adechike and Jose's embarrassing Paso Doble simply because of the two male dancers' fantastic presence and abilities. Still, not the best way to end the night.

There were, of course, solos throughout the night (because apparently 4 routines wasn't enough for each dancer). Surprise of the century - Robert's "The District Sleeps Alone" was my favorite and I also loved Lauren's Mary J. Blige solo. I know it seems like I've been hating on Kent, but I actually really enjoyed his solo, though I am always left wishing he would use less gymnastics. Ah well.

To be honest, this is the first season when I would not mind any of the finalists being crowned America's Favorite Dancer. Robert, Kent and Lauren are all phenomenal dancers and I think it really comes down to whose personality appeals most the voters. Still, a decision had to be made and, in case you haven't been paying attention, as soon as the numbers were announced I went into a voting frenzy and totaled 200 votes for Robert. A special shout-out to my mom, who has never ever voted for a reality show and was motivated enough to vote for Robert 25 times last night. Go Mom!

What did you think of last night's performance finale, fellow judgers? Were you as surprised that Robert and Mark's routine was choreographer by Tyce? Did you think Mandy Moore's bullshit face during the judges critique was wonderfully awkward? What routines are you looking forward to seeing during tonight's finale? And who do you think will be named America's Favorite Dancer in less than 6 hours?! Sound off in the comments!
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