Well Dance fans – we’re into the homestretch as So You Think You Can Dance delivers its penultimate episode of the season. So who ended up in the finals?
Let’s take a closer look after the jump.
It was a jam-packed night of dancing where each competitor not only did routines with the All-Stars, but did whole new numbers with each other. So let’s get right to it.
Let’s start with the group dance that didn’t do much for me (this was actually the running theme throughout the episode). The dancing was beautiful, but it was very clearly a “Sonya Tayeh” piece, which took away the “gasp” factor of seeing something completely different. I also didn’t think the stage was used to its full potential: our small group of six dancers were clustered so close together, it definitely denoted that we were well near the end of the competition. A big change from when there were 20 dancers on that stage.
First up in the All-Star routines was Tiffany and Benji, the winner of season two (aka the best SYTYCD season). How I’ve missed Benji. They took on a jive routine choreographed by another former SYTYCD Canada judge, Jean Marc Genereux. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Benji but it was well worth the wait. This boy was jump jiving like an appliance on overdrive. There was so much exuberance and energy in the performance, I challenge anyone not to smile during it. And Tiffany kept right up with him, and even, dare I say, was the one pushing Benji to new heights. Considering his years of experience, I was in absolute awe that Tiffany was able to match him so perfectly. And to top it all off, Tiffany was barely out of breath after it all! A great routine to start the show.
Cole and All-Star Melanie were up next with another Sonya Tayeh routine. I think there should have been more spacing between the Tayeh routines, just for contrast. There was some jibber-jabber in the opening montage about Cole being pigeonholed-holed as a dark and creepy character, so apparently this routine was going to show his softer side about wanting to be freed from a stifling relationship. But throughout the routine, I realized that the story was detracting from the overall piece. Once I let go of the tacked-on narrative, I started to enjoy it. The movement, athleticism and technical skill were breathtaking. I just wanted to enjoy the piece for what it was – beautiful dancing and partnership. All this nonsense about character might help the dancers become more engaged with the piece during rehearsal, but as a viewer, sometimes its best to simply enjoy the dance as a dance.
Here is where Cole excels: when he’s not riddled with the task of creating a character. When he has to create a character, that’s when I find him most annoying. When it’s about being lost in the dance and being utterly engaged with his partner, he’s really magnificent. Last week I talked about being unable to take my eyes off Melanie (sorry Cyrus) but in this routine, she served her All-Star function: pushing her partner to greatness. Was this a routine I would remember for all time? No. But it was enjoyable in the moment.
Eliana was next up with tWitch in a “hip hop” number from Christopher Scott. I put hip-hop in quotations because it sure didn’t look like hip-hop to me. This wasn’t a bad thing at all; I rather enjoyed it when I wasn’t trying to associate it with a set genre. Personally, I really liked this routine – Elaina’s smile is so beautiful and the way she handled all those tricky lifts and leaps so gracefully was a thing of beauty. This piece was all about fun and personality. We already know that tWitch has these qualities in spades, but Eliana ain’t so bad herself. I disagree with Nigel’s comment that he’d rather see Eliana “dance” than have fun. That kind of criticism lands other dancers like Chehon in trouble. For me, Eliana performance skills and her ability to rope-in an audience are just as important as her technical abilities. Again, I don’t think this routine is one for the ages, but it was one of the most entertaining pieces of the night.
From super fun and sugar sweet, we do a complete 180 to anguish and tragedy. Chehon danced a lyrical routine with All-Star Kathryn, choreographed by Tyce Diorio. This was by far the best routine of the night and is likely to earn Diorio at least an Emmy nom, if not another statuette. It was absolutely lovely. There was a definite story, but this time, it didn’t feel tacked on or hokey, but served to set the stage. Chehon was just brilliant. It was another one of those routines for me where all the little nitpicky details fell to the wind and I just watched the performance. There were palpable emotions of grief and tremendous sadness that any viewer could relate to. This is a routine I would gladly pay to see. I echo the sentiments of Nigel praising the FOX network for bringing this kind of art to the masses.
Witney danced a jazz routine with All-Star Marco, who I only vaguely remember. It was a good routine, but I found myself having to watch it over and over just to get some good talking points. Perhaps it was because the dancers were so young, but this piece, although beautifully danced, failed to stir any emotion in me. I kept focusing on things other than the dancing, like the brilliant costuming and the inventive lighting. There were lots of great “moves”, but ultimately the piece didn’t resonate with me.
Our final competitor Cyrus was up next as he danced hip-hop with All-Star Comfort. Not only was it a hip-hop number, but a dub step number – one of Cyrus’ specialties. Now I imagine plenty of viewers are calling foul about this; it seemed entirely too coincidental that Cyrus would draw something so smack dab in the middle of his genre so late in the game. I must admit, I too found it fishy. Yes, we have to consider that Cyrus has difficulty doing any kind of choreography at all, but in all honesty, have we ever seen Cyrus really pushed? Technicalities aside, once the routine started it totally blew up the dance floor. Comfort has never been one of my favorite dancers, but in this routine, she was absolutely perfect. The two dancers complemented each other – hitting every bit of the intricate choreography. The story concept was well executed, as well – very simplistic but served to ground the routine. Whether it was a setup or not, this number was just mesmerizing and likely to show up again come finale time.
As the All-Star numbers wasn’t enough work for our competitors, they still had to rehearse entirely new routines with one another! First up to task was the old pairing of Witney and Chehon taking on a cha cha. It was nice to see Witney back in her genre as I often find it difficult to look at anything else when she’s in her element. The judges took Chehon to task, more or less calling his role in the number a hot mess. Granted, the opening lift was a tragedy, but for the rest of the routine, I felt the same way as guest judge Christina Applegate: I honestly didn’t notice Chehon was that bad. In truth, it could be because my eyes were focused so much on Witney and how she just owned that stage.
Eliana was paired up with Cole for a Mia Michaels routine that again, encapsulated raw and visceral emotion. There was a bit of a back story, but I quickly let that fall to the wayside so I could just enjoy the piece. It had more resonance than Cole’s earlier piece with Melanie, but lacked the emotional connection that I had with Chehon’s piece with Kathryn. I don’t want to necessarily compare them, but with such heavy routines as these, it’s hard not to. I appreciated the simplicity of the dance and I absolutely loved the music track, though – caveat – I’m a sucker for strings. The whole routine was stripped down to its essential core, highlighting the bare emotion and powerful movements.
The final piece from our competitors paired Cyrus with Tiffany in a Broadway routine choreographed by Spencer Liff. This routine was just sticky sweet right from beginning to end and the perfect number for Tiffany’s perma-grin. When it came to the dancing I felt Tiffany did amazing, jumping around with much of the energy she showed in her first routine with Benji. As for Cyrus, I can’t say I remember what he did in terms of dancing but his performance was good ol’ Cyrus- completely infectious and full of personality. I didn’t read “sexy” from this routine as the opening package suggested, but it was a fun and entertaining routine nonetheless.
Just before judgment was imposed on two of our dancers, we got a number from the AXIS dance company. Although I found the routine interesting in terms of the musicality, impressive synchronicity and uniqueness of movement, ultimately I felt distanced and couldn’t really get into the piece. Usually when we see these professional dance troupes perform, it’s like a wave of maturity in comparison to the routines we see from the competitors. In this instance, however, I felt the routine was on par with what we saw throughout the show. This could be attributed to the fact that at at this stage in the game, the competitors are delivering quality routines that challenge the pros.
After all that dancing, we finally got our results. Witney and Cole were sent packing leaving Eliana, Tiffany, Cyrus and Chehon in our final four. I know I said I wouldn’t predict, but I can’t help but chime in my thoughts on who’s going to take it all: Eliana and Cyrus are my stand-out choices, but if I could ultimately choose the winner from the pool of our Top 20, I would have gone with Eliana and George.
Other bits and bobs:
- In terms of solos, they were all pretty adequate, but I was sincerely disappointed with Witney’s. I understand it’s extremely difficult for a ballroom dancer to do a solo, but she looked like she was just awkwardly flicking her skit around. Definitely needed a partner for this solo.
- I must say, it was absolutely inspiring hearing from the parents of the dancers – Cole and Chehon’s mothers especially. It’s likely to be very challenging for parents to be supportive of dancers, especially male dancers, so it was heartwarming to see that there are parents as wonderful as Cole and Chehon’s. I’m really hoping those video packages will speak to the more close-minded parents.
- Weird rhinestone insect rings aside, I ultimately love Mary Murphy as a judge. She very clearly speaks from the heart and gosh-darnet, it sure is touching to hear what she’s got to say when she’s really touched.
So what do you think of our final four, Dance fans? Happy? Outraged? What routines are you hoping to see in the finale? Sound off in our comments section below!
So You Think You Can Dance airs its Season 9 finale on Tuesday, September 11 at 8:00pm EST on FOX.