Thursday, August 11, 2011

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 8: Finale, Pt. 1

My reactions to the routines in last night's performance finale on So You Think You Can Dance went a little something like this: yikes, oooOOoo, aight, wow, cool, ugh, ahhh, yummm, WOAH, blech. In other words, last night was all over the place. The good was really good and the bad was really bad. Not exactly the way you envision a finale. As I posted earlier today, previous season finales have brought us a plethora of iconic moments, and last night's efforts kind of fell flat in comparison.

Of course, there are a lot of reasons why this happened. The most obvious one being that the dancers have got to be beyond exhausted at this point. Forget all the previous weeks of grueling competition, just consider this week: each dancer had to learn and perform four new pieces and a solo, in addition to the old pieces that will be performed in tonight's results finale. That is a lot of dancing to cram into one week and one body. As for the other reasons, here's looking at you, choreographers. Many of these routines just didn't measure up to what we have come to expect from this program and this talented crop of choreographers.

Then again, it could all be because guest judge Katie Holmes sucked all the energy out of the room whenever she opened her robot mouth to speak. I knew it wasn't going to go well with Katie when the first thing out of her mouth was a plug for her upcoming movie. Gracious. Thank goodness High School Musical and Dirty Dancing legend Kenny Ortega was also present to dish out some praise, criticism and, in Melanie's case, job offers.

Tonight, a winner will be crowned and Season 8 will be in the history books. But before that happens, let's rate last night's performances from worst to first and then VOTE IN THE POLL for who you think should and will win tonight...

10. Melanie and Marko - Disco (Doriana Sanchez); "I Feel Love (12" Version)" by Donna Summer
I know that disco is a controversial genre amongst SYTYCD fans, but goshdarnit I just love it. I always envision Brandon and Jeanette's explosive routine from Season 5 and I can't help but smile. I can't believe this was the first time disco was performed this season, and it's so unfortunate that it was downright miserable to watch. I've never seen Melanie or Marko deliver such a glossed-over, fake performance, and they definitely struggled through the piece's various lifts. The dynamic duo of the season will certainly redeem themselves by performing "Turn to Stone" tonight, but last night was a cheesy hot mess.

9. Marko and Tadd - Gumbot Stepping (Chuck Maldonado); "B.O.B." by Outkast
You could really tell these boys, dressed as miners complete with a wheelbarrow, were exhausted by the time they came out on stage for this piece. It required so much fast footwork and hand-eye coordination that their tired little bodies just couldn't get through at the end of the night. I would've loved to see this routine in a different week when they could've really attacked the choreography head on because the routine itself was actually pretty entertaining.

8. Sasha and Tadd - Cha Cha (Mark Ballas); "Raindrops" by Basement Jaxx
I love Basement Jaxx as much as the next guy (do people still like Basement Jaxx?), but this music was not the right choice for a fiery cha cha. It started off fun with a big ol' spank on Sasha's behind, but it pretty much fizzled after that. Sasha's hips were wiggling and Tadd had his most debonair face on, but you could clearly tell they were both out of their element here.

7. Tadd and All-Star Joshua - Hip Hop (Lil' C); "Hustle Hard" by Ace Hood
This was a rough, tough, super aggressive classic hip hop routine from Lil' C, and seeing Season 4 champion Joshua back on the stage in this style was so great. We are so used to seeing Tadd as a tongue-in-cheek sweetheart, but he pulled off getting down and dirty, even if his face needed to portray that a little better. I loved the ground work the pair performed on their knees—that could not have been easy—and it didn't hurt that Tadd's abs were out in full force.

6. Sasha and Marko - Broadway (Spencer Liff); "Whatever Lola Wants" by Ella Fitzgerald
So often this season the musical selections for Broadway routines have distracted from the piece, but in last night's case, Ella's growling voice was perfect for bringing out the story of an elegant woman seducing an unsuspecting waiter. Sasha was quite the vixen in her sparkling purple gown and Marko played the goofy waiter so well. Nigel complained that the characters weren't big enough, but I think that was one of the piece's foremost strengths.

5. Melanie and All-Star Robert - Contemporary (Stacey Tookey); "Sacrifice" by Sinead O'Connor
Though I didn't quite understand the message of unrequited love until the very end when Melanie walked away, I was hypnotized by her and Robert's beautiful lines and tremendous extensions and flexibility from start to finish. The lifts were fantastic and the pair of them danced wonderfully together. Perhaps not the most memorable routine, but certainly a well-executed and gorgeous one.

4. Melanie and Tadd - Jazz (Ray Leeper); "Show Me What You're Working With" by Sista Monica
On a night like last night when the pressure and stress is unbearably high, it's nice to put a fun and light piece into the mix, which is exactly what Ray Leeper did. Melanie strutted all over the stage dressed like Sandy at the end of Grease, adorably scorning Tadd for cheating on her. The characterizations really drove this piece, as did the chemistry between the dancers. Also, heart boxers. 'Nuff said.

3. Sasha and All-Star Mark - Jazz (Sonya Tayeh); "Raise Your Weapon" by Deadmau5
Just like with Ellenore last week, Mark Kanermura was built to perform Sonya's choreography. And after last night, I think Sasha is, too. She was once again Sasha Fierce Warrior Princess as she battled the obstacles that Mark represented. The strength and intensity was at unbelievable levels, especially when Sasha wrapped her leg around Mark's neck and flipped into a wheelbarrow walk across the stage—a stunning display of true athleticism.

2. Marko and All-Star Lauren - Contemporary (Tessandra Chavez); "Sirk" by Me'shell Ndegeocello
What a remarkable piece of choreography, especially when performed by these two talented dancers! Telling the story of a love that just won't work, Marko and Lauren practically oozed pain and frustration. The emotions were coming out of every single pore in their bodies. There were huge moments of big grand extensions and lifts paired with quiet, small isolated hits. All the while, it was pure gorgeous dance.

1. Sasha and Melanie - Contemporary (Stacey Tookey); "Heart Asks Pleasure First" by Ahn Trio
It should come as no surprise that the two front-runners dancing together would produce the best routine of the night. Sasha and Melanie simply are phenomenal together. They don't compete, they just live the dance, and I could watch them dance together for hours on end. This piece about suppressed housewives yearning to break free was gorgeous and heart-breaking. My attention kept snapping back and forth between Sasha and Melanie, who performed their hearts out in their brightly colored dresses. If anyone wants to remember in a single routine who the best two dancers of Season 8 were, this is the piece to watch.

And, in addition to all of their routines, the Top 4 each had an interview with Cat followed by their solo, each of which was remarkably impressive. They are truly danced for their lives during their solos!

So not the best of finales, but certainly enough fantastic dance to remind me what a talented Top 4 we have in Season 8. Like I said yesterday in my predictions, this is the first season in a while when all of the finalists are completely deserving of making it all the way to the end.

Ultimately, I'm going to stick with my prediction from yesterday (and my votes from last night) and say that Melanie will be crowned the Season 8 champion (Side Note: I voted once for Tadd and his abs... I had to). What do you think? Vote in the polls below for who you think will and should take home the title of America's Favorite Dancer.

What did you think of last night's performances? Were you underwhelmed? Would you have ranked the pieces the same way I did? And who did you vote for to be America's Favorite Dancer??
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