So You Think You Can Dance S09E14: "Finalists Perform"
Well, it was finals week over at So You Think You Can Dance HQ, and much like the finals weeks at high schools and colleges around the nation, certain people began celebrating early while other people still had to study. The weird combination of high-pressure drama and tantalizingly imminent celebration made for one of the most exciting, bizarre, and fun-filled episodes of the season (and possibly of the series' entire run). Not a single performance (each person danced five times!) was less than amazing, and we saw sides of the dancers we hadn't seen all season. Plus, because this was the last performance before America voted, there were no eliminations—and therefore the judges had to do little else but sit back, opine, and act as silly as they felt like!
Plus some momentous things happened. Specifically: BALLET!
How had it taken this long for the season to give us a ballet performance? The pairing of Eliana and Chehon was a no-brainer! I'm not sure choosing the Nutcracker Suite was the best decision (what a cliché!) but Chehon's outfit WAS THE BEST DECISION. Sorry, not trying to be vulgar but WHAAAAAT OKAY. If we're being honest, this episode was HECKA beefcakey, up to and including Cyrus and tWitch's Animation routine:
I mean, I don't know how I didn't notice this before, but has tWitch always looked like a pro wrestler? Between this posedown and Chehon's inability to wear shirts (or the frequent presence of unlikely hunk Alex Wong [!]), I'm not sure there's ever been a season of SYTYCD where the dudes' physiques were on full display so frequently. This season has been very enjoyable! But I can definitely see why the show would need to balance out all the beefcake with an all-ladies pole dance routine. Just keeping things fair!
Anyway, this episode, am I right? So many good things.
There's never been a harder episode for which to determine ONE standout performance, but perhaps for novelty's sake, I think Eliana and Tiffany's burlesque routine was the most memorable and impressive:
I don't know about you, but I kept worrying they'd accidentally bump heads! I've never pole danced (it looks like a nightmare to me) but it can't be easy to learn a routine like this and execute it as flawlessly as these ladies did. Plus, hubba hubba, am I right fellas?
Because I was struggling to decide between two routines, I'll just point out the other one I liked, this Chehon-and-Allison Stacey Tookey contemporary number.
While I'm a sucker for dancers macking out on-stage, I think what I loved about this so much was how Tookey actively incorporated Chehon's ballet skills and turned it into a much better showcase for the amazing things he can do. Tookey's an ace choreographer, but something about this just felt elevated, you know?
Finally, how could I not embed the ballet piece?
Unfortunately I think MY preferences may not be the same as America's, but here goes: I hope Eliana and Chehon win. I love Cyrus and Tiffany, but something about the ballerina/os just gives me a thrill when I watch them. Last night more than ever Chehon proved he's versatile in almost any genre and has a surprisingly strange personality to boot; he's definitely proved himself to be more than the serious, classy, very European technician he first appeared to be.
In what was either heartwarming or extremely awkward, Nigel ended up telling the dancers to their faces who HIS preferences were: Eliana was not only his favorite dancer of the season but also of ANY season. And in an assessment that would seem to conflict with that statement, Nigel also said that Chehon was his favorite dancer of the season and Cyrus was his favorite person of the season. Tiffany was the only one left without hyperbolic endorsements, but hopefully she won't take it too personally (her individual journey apparently included a lot of fretting about how much camera time she was given).
Anyway, it's heartening that ALL FOUR of these contestants would make deserving winners. Regardless of who wins, nothing will seem like an outrage, and that's a good thing. I'll admit that the guys are much more exciting for me this year than the girls, but that might be because of how nonstop thrilled I was by the Melanie-Sasha showdown of last year. That finale was electrifying, for real. But I think this season may have had a better overall cast, so it all evens out.
Film director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine, Pirates of the Caribbean 4) returned for Season 9 and brought his positive, articulate, experienced feedback with him. It probably helped that no real negative criticism was given out all night, so Marshall could simply just praise the dancers in a genuine-seeming way. Although he did awkwardly try to connect one of Sonya Tayeh's routines to an observance of 9/11, he made up for it later by cracking a Queen Latifah joke following the ladies' pole-dancing number. (And it was pretty classy how he never explicitly bragged that he'd directed the Oscar-winning movie from which that particular song came.) All in all, he made a great guest judge, but I can't help but wish we'd seen more choreographers on the panel this season. Maybe we should just all put that on our Season 10 wishlists.
... Honestly, you'd think these dancers weren't having the most stressful, trying weeks of their lives based on the heightened amount of silliness that abounded behind the scenes. Or maybe that's just how they handle stress?
... Not much to say about Parisian dancer Jean Sok's routine except WOW:
... Matching Power Rangers T-shirts? I think I'm in love.
... Hey Jennifer Beals!
... I hope I never hear the phrase "quirky Tyce Diorio routine" ever again.
What was YOUR favorite routine of the night? Who do YOU think should win Season 9?