August 13, 2010

And the winner is...

This season of So You Think You Can Dance has taken some hits - the injuries, the judging inconsistencies, whether there were more pros or cons in the all-star format, etc. But overall, I thought the dancing was top shelf this season, I thought the quality of the entertainment was the best since season 4 and I thought the finale was the most emotionally satisfying in the show’s history.

Right from the start it was firing on all cylinders last night. The opening group routine was a terrific production featuring all 11 contestants plus the all-stars choreographed by one of the gentlemen from the Legion of Xtraordinary Dancers, who really are the shit. They even found a way to include Alex when they brought him out in a chair and had him doing some synchronized hand work that was very impressive.

The thrills continued when they flashed over to the judges table and who did my eye spy but Mary Murphy! After putting up with a whole lot of nonsense from the judgery this season, it made me appreciate what Mary brought to the proceedings - namely some genuine affection and enthusiasm for the dancers and the overall quality of the dancing on the show as well as some ballroom expertise that I think would have saved us all from raves over Robert’s constant, terrible flailing around during his ballroom routines. So I was thrilled to see her smiling, botoxed face on the panel last night, joined as it was by Stacey Tookey, Tyce DiOrio, Kenny Ortega and the usual three stooges – Nigel, Mia and Adam (who, by the way, appeared to be a good 8 inches shorter than everyone else on the panel).

The collected “judges” then started introducing their favorite dances from the season and then the dancers once again took the stage to recreate them. I agreed with some and others definitely wouldn’t have been my pick. And after half a season of talking about it, I was a little disappointed that they didn’t recreate the prom routine with Kent and Lauren.

They also had some guest performers. Quest Crew (minus Dom) did a really entertaining number that included one guy in a gas mask and top hat who didn’t remove either the entire time. A couple of tap-dancing teenage brothers did a thing. And when Nigel faked a stubbed toe as part of the Season 7 Injury Curse, a 7 year old boy named Luke came out and tap-danced better than anyone has ever tapped on the show before. Oh, and Black Gold performed their song that the show has used to back the “best bits” packages for the departing contestants this season.

They also invited Charlie Bruce over, she’s the winner of So You Think You Can Dance UK, to perform a Mandy Moore routine with Neil. So not only is she beautiful and an amazing dancer but she’s lucky as hell to boot. Ok. It’s a great routine that makes me wonder where that sort of choreography was for us this season. Perhaps Mandy didn’t leave her best ideas in 2007 so much as she left them in Britain.

Half way through the show Cat called our finalists to the center of the stage to let Robert know that he’d come in third. I knew that would be his fate and all I can say is that on this show, more than any other reality competition I can think of, there truly are no losers. Just ask fellow third place contestants Neil, Katee, Kayla and Kathryn.

There was one, much-ballyhooed performance still to go before we found out who won. The Alex/Twitch hip-hop routine was, by most accounts, the highlight of the season but with Alex unable to recreate the number on stage due to his Achilles tendon’s stubborn refusal to do it’s one job properly, we had to see it another way. Normally they would have simply replayed the original performance for us (as they did with Alex and Allison’s week 1 Hallelujah routine) but it seems that a big fan of the show, and of Alex’s, called Nigel and asked if she might pay tribute to Alex by recreating that routine for the finale. And Nigel said yes because he never passes up an opportunity to grab viewers with a stunt. So they added a door to the set piece for Dr. Twitch’s therapy office, for maximum reveal drama, and when Twitch answered the knock, there hung Ellen Degeneres.

NappyTabs re-worked the routine to simplify it for her and the four rehearsed for a week. She didn’t treat it as a joke like I feared she would. Instead she gave it her all, she did an admirable job, and when it was over, she gave a heartfelt speech to Alex and the audience about how much dance and the show mean to her. It was a nice moment.

And when that nice moment was over, Cat called Kent and Lauren – the exact right top two for this season in my opinion – to the center of the stage and announced that America’s new favorite dancer is…Lauren Froderman!

They had just seconds left in the broadcast so things moved fast after that but it was probably the most joyous and sweet final moment I can remember from this show. She received her flowers and the Gatorade bottle with her picture on it and then a million pounds of confetti rained down on her as the rest of the contestants and all-stars stormed the stage for hugs. Lauren quickly cracked open her Gatorade and doused herself, as all the real athletes do in times of victory, and then Twitch and Dominic whisked her up onto their shoulders and everyone celebrated.

There are many, many things to love about this show, not the least of which is the extraordinary dancing, but my favorite thing is how much the contestants – each year and from all previous seasons – genuinely love and support each other. From this show I can see that the professional dance community is a family of people who do what they do because they love it, not to be better or more successful than anyone else. They are truly wonderful, hard-working, talented, awesome people and I get misted up just talking about them.

Congratulations, Lauren and congratulations to all of the contestants and all-stars and choreographers this season. You are amazing people and it’s been my privilege to share another season with you. I look forward to spotting all of the dancers in many things to come and I’ll see everyone else back here next year when we find another batch of our favorite dancers.

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