Tonight’s grand finale began with the Top 20 dancers performing a group number from The Wiz. The dancing would continue fast and furious throughout the two hour episode, interspersed with plenty of not so subtle advertising for the SYTYCD tour, the upcoming movie Fame, etc.
Choreographers’ Choice – Each of the seven judges/choreographers on tonight’s panel chose one of their favorite dances from the season. This is an annual tradition, and it gives many of the top 20 dancers a chance to perform one more time, while also highlighting some of the best performances of the season. Next to the description of each dance, I’ve included my thoughts about it (in italics) from when it was originally performed.
- Adam – Phillip and Jeanine’s hip hop routine to “Mad” by Ne-Yo (Tabitha and Napoleon) – Tabitha and Napoleon are my favorite hip hop choreographers. I love that they bring so much emotion and story to their routines. And this one was so interesting – it had me captivated from beginning to end. Jeanine kind of reminds me of Kristin Stewart (aka Bella), except she has a lot more personality. And Phillip brings such interesting movements to any performance, plus he seems to do well with anything that’s thrown at him – I think the choreographers will love to work with him.
- Nigel – Janette and Brandon’s Argentine Tango (Leonardo and Miriam) – I wouldn’t say that there was a lot of heat between them, but Janette did a fantastic job with all the leg work and looked great, and Brandon was a great partner. Nigel and the other judges gave them a standing ovation! And Nigel said it was as close to ballroom perfection as has ever been on the show. I had to go back and watch again after all the praise the judges gave. I liked it better the second time, and noticed Brandon’s complete focus on Janette, reminiscent of his intense stage presence in his first audition solo. I still think that I’ve seen couples dance the tango with more chemistry, but they were definitely technically excellent.
- Debbie – Asuka and Vitolio’s waltz (Louis Van Amstel) – Louis called this more of a “lyrical, spiritual waltz.” He wants it to embody the journey Vitolio has gone on, from being an orphan, to where he is now. I am usually more critical of a dance that is touted as some sort of emotional catharsis, because often in these cases, the judges ignore technique and gush about the story (the key example being Lacey and Neil’s flower dance from season 3, which I still think was way overrated). This one started out well, very smooth and flowing, and Asuka looked beautiful and light as a feather in her shimmery dress. Unfortunately for me, somewhere along the way it fell flat. Vitolio especially seemed to drag his feet a couple of times, and there was no connection between the two dancers. Except for a couple of standout moments, it was one of those “going through the motions” routines.
- Mary – Jeanine and Jason’s contemporary to Jason Mraz’s “If It Kills Me” (Travis Wall) – Well, now. That was a a mesmerizing, sensual routine! I’d like to see more of Travis’s work on the show, because this was great. Jeanine and Jason did a great job of conveying the relationship of these two close friends who are attracted to each other, and all the conflicting emotions that would go along with that. I even liked the heart locket prop that was tossed back and forth between them. Well done. This has been my favorite performance from Jason, and only reinforces my strong opinion of Jeanine as one of the top, if not the top, female dancer this season.
- Mia – Kayla and Max’s Samba (Louis Van Amstel) from the top 20 episode – Kayla looked great in all that fuschia fringe. Samba requires a LOT of energy! I got tired just watching it. It was a lot of fun to watch, even though Max isn’t my favorite contestant.
- Debbie – Top 16 group routine hip hop/samba (Tabitha and Napoleon and Dmitri) – I just had to laugh at all that water splashing around the stage! But this was a good one.
- Lil’ C – Caitlin and Jason’s “Jai Ho” Bollywood routine – I didn’t remember Caitlin smearing red lipstick all over Jason’s face when they first performed this. – I didn’t even recognize Caitlin behind her elaborate costume. I liked her better than Jason in this performance, but they both did a good job with the fun choreography.
- Adam – Evan and Randi’s “butt dance” (Mia Michaels) – This was back when Evan and Randi were still among my favorite contestants. They were so cute together! I think it was when they got split up that their individual weaknesses started to show. – Mia’s description: “It’s all about the booty.” Evan is supposed to be hypnotized by Randi’s butt. She’s like a sexy poodle, and he’s lost all control of his body because he’s mesmerized by her. Interesting… It was terrific! Bizarre, humorous, but terrific. This was excellent choreography for Evan to show off his Broadway-style, and Randi looked smashing in a completely flattering pink negligee. Loved the characters, loved their total investment in the concept, love them!
- Mary – Jeanine and Brandon’s paso doble (Louis Van Amstel) – This is the third dance by Louis that the judges have chosen tonight! I’ve never paid much attention to him, but he seems to be a favorite of the experts. – Let’s hope that this paso doble makes up for the two less than stellar ones earlier this season. And it was definitely better than those. These are the two contestants to beat, and if they aren’t the final two, I’ll be disappointed. They are the most exciting dancers to watch, and have been for most of the season. I loved their in synch twirls and kicks, and as Adam said, the way they “filled out every single thing in between with the intensity and the movement… the movement never ended.”
- Nigel – Kayla and Kupono’s addiction routine (Mia Michaels) – It’s clear that many people in the crowd, including several of the judges, were deeply moved by this encore performance. I saw lots of tears being wiped away. – I’m not always an automatic fan of Mia’s work. (I especially didn’t like Neil and Lacey’s famous flowers in heaven routine.) In this dance, Kupono is the addiction that Kayla is trying to get rid of. And in Kupono’s defense, I’d imagine it was difficult for him to portray addiction in this performance, when his family experienced the hardship and destruction that it leads to. Their performance did, indeed, convey a lot of emotion, and they danced it very well. Mia did a nice job of creating a powerful interpretation of the grip of addiction.
- Tyce – Brandon and Janette’s disco routine (Doriana Sanchez) – Oh no, not disco again! I am often annoyed by all the strutting and white pants. As usual, I wasn’t wowed by the choreography, but the two lift and spins were rather impressive. Janette looked cute in her little pink dress, but Brandon was quite tacky looking in his sleeveless vest and butterfly collar.
- Mia – Melissa and Ade’s breast cancer routine (Tyce Diorio) – How nice to hear that Tyce’s friend is now cancer free. – This piece is about a woman who has breast cancer. They danced it well, and it moved Nigel to tears. Melissa was totally in character, conveying weakness and frailty and pain, and Ade was a strong partner, as always.
- The Top 8 Dancers and the Judges – Mia Michaels’ Chorus Line routine – It would have been nice to see the judges do a little more dancing than they did, but it was nice to see them on stage anyway.
Countdown to the Winner
- The third runner-up: Kayla – No surprise here. She’s an amazing dancer, but I didn’t expect her to win, since she’s somewhat lacking in the likeability and personality categories.
- The second runner-up: Evan – Whew! Dodged a bullet there. I was going to get nervous if Cat had called out Brandon’s name. All is as it should be. The final two dancers are Jeanine and Brandon, and they both very much deserve to be there.
- The first runner-up: Brandon
- The winner: Jeanine!
That’s a wrap. Another summer, another season of SYTYCD. I loved both Brandon and Jeanine, so having them as the final two was perfect, and Jeanine really did deserve to win. Now we have less than a month to relax and take a break from dancing before season six kicks off on Sept. 2. Hope to see you back at Eclaire Fare then!