Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SYTYCD Finale!

So here we are at the end of the road, beloveds--down to the final four most of us predicted pretty much from the start of the season. Happily, they're all good dancers, so tonight should be quite a show! Cat comes out dressed for Oscar night, in gold brocade minidress and lipstick a titch too dark for her ensemble. She has a ribbon in her hair like a little girl.

Our judges for this final night are, of course, Nigel and Mary, but sitting beside them are Katie Holmes and Kenny Ortega.  Bwah? I mean, of course Kenny Ortega choreographed the impeccable Dirty Dancing (as well as the High School Musical movie, I think), and has authentic dance chops. But Katie? Seriously? I know, I know, she's on Nigel's stupid foundation, but I still remember her "solo" from however many seasons ago. Girlfriend can't dance! And ever since Xenu sucked the personality out of her, she's no fun! I think this is a bit limp as a final lineup. Katie tells us she's been working on "a lot" of films (really?), but her only plug is for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, out now. (The commercials alone terrify me. I will not be seeing that one.)

With dancers preparing for solos, All-Star dances, and fellow-competitor dances, there's no time to waste! So we go right to our first routine, a Doriana Sanchez disco for Melanie and Marko. She tells us the goal is for them to explode with energy and sparkles, and that they should be "human mirror balls." Melanie looks great, actually--the 70s look suits her, even if they only gave her half a costume. Sadly, this disco is S-L-O-W. There are tons of lifts, but everything is labored and too deliberate. And although they're mimicking the side-by-side steps of disco perfectly, it feels fake. I think we need to let this style go, show. The contestants have no cultural memory for it any more.

Judges? Kenny Ortega starts us off and says merely, "Fun. Electric. Sizzling. Great." Um, really? Were we watching the same dance? Katie agrees that they were amazing, and conveyed fabulous energy through their faces. She sounds stoned. Cat turns to Mary and asks if it was like being back at Studio 54, to which Mary replies, "I wouldn't know, Cat." Heh. But she says that although she adores disco, and Doriana, and Melanie and Marko, the lifts were struggles and they kept slipping on the style. It's the finale, I guess we're softballing.  Nigel--whoa, Nigel got a haircut! He looks like a cartoon character. His hair is poofing up from his center part in twin waves. He and his hair agree that it was a little weak, and the lifts were problematic, but doesn't lambaste them.

Want to see a real SYTYCD disco?  Check out this one, from season 5’s Janette & Brandon:

Moving on to our first All-Star dance, we have Sasha paired with Mark (squee!) in a Sonya Tayeh routine.  This could be amazing—in his season, Mark was always Sonya’s muse, and Sasha’s well-suited to her style as well. Sonya tells us in rehearsal that the dance is about how Sasha faces all the obstacles in her life with “grace and integrity.”  Um, where did this “Sasha has had a terrible life” story come from? Why are we all suddenly acting like she walked over broken glass to get here?

The dance starts, and Mark looks like he walked right off a Lady Gaga rehearsal—mohawk, shirtless, a little black eyeliner and some sort of black pants with chainmail accents. He looms over Sasha with one hand on her head, pressing her down. The music is “Raise Your Weapon” from someone called Deadmaus. There’s a terrific sequence where Mark is mock-punching her (but not touching her) and her body contorts in a series of hits until she flips over onto the ground.  And then the music picks up so she can fight! Sometimes the cameraman seems to forget who we’re supposed to be watching…this is becoming the Mark show, a bit, but there are some amazing spins and twirls, and at the end, Sasha is standing over Mark, collapsed on the ground.  Well done!

Katie goes first and tells us it was “quite powerful.” She is a robot. If she continues to be this insipid, I will stop recapping her. Over to Mary, who gives us the first genuine “Woo-hoooooooooo!” of the season and then starts gibbering in joy. She loves Sasha’s intensity and her clarity of expression. Nigel also loves it, and praises Sonya’s work, which he loves when it’s dark. He also teases Sasha about having beaten up Lady Gaga’s principal dancer, and says Sasha’s thrown down the gauntlet tonight.  Kenny apparently wants to talk to Sonya instead of the dancers, but eventually finishes tongue-bathing her enough to tell Sasha that although she’s battling through injury (she is?), she’s a warrior princess.

Ooh, next is Tadd, dancing a Lil C hip-hop with Joshua. Oh, man, I think this is going to hurt. Tadd’s OK, but I don’t think he’s in the league of many of the dancers from past seasons, though he’s charming. They’re bringing the swag, shirtless in ski vests (a foolish combo) and cheerful red high-tops! Tadd’s definitely a lighter dancer than Joshua—he lacks his substance—and although he’s keeping up fine, he doesn’t quite have Joshua’s fierce gravitas when he dances. There’s this amazing side-by-side move where they’re both on their hands and knees, almost as though they’re going to do those horizontal handstands, but then they’re sort of moonwalk-crawling backwards? Trust me, it was cool.  When they finish, Lil C is dancing in his seat, so I think he liked it.

Did the judges? Mary goes first. (Damn, I just caught a glimpse of how long her hair is! It’s down to the small of her back. I confess I find that unseemly.) She thinks he did great, but had to combat his “sweetie pie” factor. Nigel felt he was outdanced by Joshua, and although it was done well, he didn’t really go hard enough. Kenny starts out by asking Lil C for a pair of the shoes (don’t blame him!), and says he loved how Tadd and Joshua played off each other. Katiebot says that she thought it was terrific, and she loves Tadd’s smile & sweetness.  Yeah, still boring. I think I’m going to start skipping her.

When we return from commercial, it’s time for Melanie and All-Star Robert to dance a Stacey Tookey contemporary. It’s a (say it with me) Love Story! In this case, it’s about unrequited love. This should be great for Melanie’s acting abilities, and it’s letting us hear some Sinead O’Connor, so much the better. Some of the shapes are amazing, but you know, she doesn’t have great chemistry with Robert. (Although I may be projecting since I don’t really care for Robert.) She’s selling it hard, but something felt a little…slight…about that one?

Nigel goes first and loved it—he says she and Sasha are neck-and-neck.  (This constant “You’re my favorite! No, you are!” is getting old. And the fact that he doesn’t do it for the guys has got to hurt Tadd’s feelings a little, no?) Kenny Ortega graciously shouts out the All-Stars, and then says “I would push myself to the front of the line to have a chance to work with you.” Melanie is grinning and tearing up simultaneously.  On to Katie, who says that she can’t stand Melanie and thought she stumbled around up there like a three-legged goat. NO! Of course she didn’t, she thought it was amazing. Like everything else she’s seen tonight. Mary goes on a long riff about Yogi Bear that I won’t bother to summarize, but she tells Melanie she has a quality that’s captivating and commands the attention of the room instantly. It’s actually very sweet.

Next, we’re back to Sasha, who’ll be dancing a Spencer Liff Broadway routine in which she’s an elegant lady who comes alone to a restaurant, but orders more than the daily special from the waiter, Marko.  And wow—Sasha’s dress is incredible. It’s floor-length, slit up to her hit, and made of shimmery blue (or silver?) sequins that look like liquid. The music: Ella Fitzgerald doing “What Lola Wants.” There’s a lot of napkin-play between them, and sliding all over the table and chairs at center stage.  This shows off Sasha wonderfully, and Marko is doing great with the characterization, but it’s not as showy a part for him. The choreography may have done him a bit of a disservice here.

Kenny goes to Sasha first, saying “From warrior princess to sophisticated lady.” Heh. Well-played, sir. Anyway, he loved it.  Katie? Katie says it sucked walrus balls.  Cat throws to Mary asking for a comment on the difficulty of juggling the dancing and the acting and the comic elements, and praises Marko for changing his character in the dance. (It’s true—he strutted around like a fussy penguin, in perfect waiter-y fashion.)  She also loved Sasha’s sauciness and femininity.  Will Nigel make it four for four? No! He wasn’t knocked out by it (and the audience starts booing). Basically, he didn’t like Sasha in soft mode, and he wasn’t as impressed by Marko’s characterization. Well, screw you, Nigel.

We’re doing little interviews with the contestants tonight as video packages, which I would normally skip except that the delightful Cat is doing them herself! Melanie’s segment tells us that she was closest to Ricky, that Marko kissed her in that dance weeks ago when she wore the weird fruit-stand dress, and that she hopes her deceased dad would be proud of her. We then cut to her onstage, already in tears as she starts her solo. One of the things I love about her solos is that she’s not afraid to be still, even when she only has 30 seconds, and it adds so much musicality to her movement. This one wasn’t as great as her solo last week, but still quite good.

I thought we'd get a regular dance next, but we go right into Marko's interview. He talks about the relief of making it to the finale, the heady experience of being on a show that he'd always watched from Guam on the internet, and what it meant to have his mom in the audience. (Hint: it meant a lot. He loves his mom.) He's shirtless for his solo, although I don't like his shorts. His music is so pretty, though: "The Fear You Won't Fall," by Joshua Radin (but there's a woman's voice on the track, too). He's lovely, and this felt better packaged than some of his earlier solos. His mom is standing and weeping, and tonight his dad is here too. (His dad looks like an awesome dude from the '70s.)

Now it's time for Sasha and Tadd to dance a Mark Ballas cha-cha! Mark is one of the "Dancing with the Stars" pros, and got his dancer to the finals last season, but was always choreographing stuff that pissed off those judges. I think he'll have more leeway here. They look cool, Sasha in fringed skirt over sheer black bodystocking, Tadd in white shirt and skinny tie. The music isn't a Latin standard, but something called "Raindrops" from Basement Jaxx. Ooh! There's a spanking! Tadd, you naughty boy. The two of them look good together, and Sasha has great hip action, but I feel like she's tripping over her feet a little? Something doesn't look right in the middle, and this thing feels slow.

Katie goes first, but instead of commenting, she takes another hit off her hash pipe. Mary sounds really somber, and says that she loves Sasha and Tadd, but "I have to talk about what we saw just now." Basically, she hated it. She looks really miserable to say it, but says there were serious problems in the number--Sasha did a little better than Tadd, but this one was a lemon. Nigel also looks like someone just killed his grandmother as he agrees with Mary. Basically, he says they finally found a style that was too much for Tadd's still-limited training, and he got served. The audience is dead silent, not even booing, which means they agreed. Awww. (I missed Kenny in here somewhere, but you get the idea. Let's move on.)

Marco's All-Star is Lauren from last year, and they're dancing for a new choreographer, Tessandra Chavez. Tessandra has a TON of bright red hair. We don't waste much time on the rehearsal vid, but jump right to the stage, where Lauren is already crying and Me'shell Ndegeocello is on the soundtrack. The two of them are writhing in pain, twisting and spinning, and I think LoFro is pleading with Marko to stay? Beautiful moment in the middle where LoFro runs into his arms and Marko spin-lifts her three times, with her setting a foot down between each one. The story isn't overtaking this--it's just beautiful dancing. I like this piece! It finally shows off what Marko can do, as well. 

This should cheer the judges up a bit. Marko's crying again, though, and even Lauren looks emotionally spent. Mary is fanning herself and says to Marko, "You just thrust greatness upon yourself." She loves the heart and the emotion of the dance. Nigel says that the four dancers in the finale are brilliant, but he's been a little disappointed thus far...until now. He thought it was fabulous. Kenny also loved it, and thanks Tessandra for the "gift to the show" of her choreography. He adores the pairing of Marko and Lauren as well, and thought Marko swept him away. Katie calls it "bamaziful" when she can't decide whether to say "beautiful" or "amazing." 

Time for Tadd's interview with Cat. Unfortunately, I wandered off to check Twitter and wound up tweeting about the upcoming Shark Night 3D, which features lake-dwelling Great Whites! That is how awesome-bad it's going to be. So anyway, let's assume Tadd is having a great time, is excited to be in the finale, and hopes he'll make breakers proud. Solo time! He is jam-packing the solo with tricks and attitude, and does a fun backstroke move lying on the stage. He's cute, but he's not going to win. Broke some hearts, though!

Now it's Tadd and Melanie's turn to dance together, to a Ray Leeper jazz routine. In the rehearsal vid, Ray Leeper has Crazy Eye. Just sayin'. Once again, it's a couple-story; in this case a guy gets caught cheating, and then she...strips him? Takes her shoes off? Whatever. Yikes--the first glimpse of the styling here is confusing. Melanie's in skin-tight leggings and a cropped jacket sort of in the last-scene Sandy from Grease mode. Oops, I misspoke. That's not a jacket, it's a sparkly bra with attached sleeves. Oof.  Melanie throws her shoe at Tadd right off, and then is dancing with only one shoe for the first several measures. Eventually Tadd takes her other shoe off, and then she takes his shirt, and I'm not really convinced  by this story. They're both dancing well, but I find this number a little gratuitous. Also, the final closeup reveals that the bra-sleeves are tone-on-tone leopard print. I just can't condone the styling in this number, I'm sorry.

The judges will have to tell you how it went, because I was distracted the whole time. Nigel says the number "brought his evening to life," so I guess it was good. He loved Melanie's characterization, which was clear even when she stood still. Tadd, he says, redeemed himself from the previous number. Cut to happy Ray in the audience. He still has Crazy Eye. Kenny also loved it, but he talks so slowly I'm tired of recapping him. Katie spits on the ground, knocks back a bourbon and extinguishes a cigarette on Mary's arm. Mary shakes it off so she can tell us that the routine was fun and sexy and fabulous.

Last interview! It's Sasha's turn. Her favorite moment was when Lady Gaga threw her shoe, and who can blame her. (Fun fact: Sonya gave up her Gaga shoe to Melanie, so they each had one, and Gaga signed them both & let the girls keep them.) Sasha's favorite number was her hip-hop with Twitch, and rightly so. Cat asks about the judges' "emotional" comments from her Wall Dance with Kent, but Sasha still hedges and doesn't tell us what the issue was. While I respect her reticence as a person, I'm annoyed by it as a blogger. Time for her solo! It's great, by far the best of the bunch tonight. Her legs are insane--they just fold over and under themselves like she's a Slinky.

We're getting down to it now! I've actually caught up with the Tivo, in time for Cat to tell us we're going to see a Sasha and Melanie routine by Stacey Tookey. It's a story about two "suppressed" housewives in the '50s who come together to find the strength to break free. This is shown a little too literally onstage by having them each sit within little white picket fence squares. The music is evocative, something from a movie, but I can't place it.  It's called "Heart Asks Pleasure First," by the Ahn Trio. (Or just Ahn Trio? I don't know if it's a name or a group.) They're both in shimmery dresses with circle skirts. I'm not sure I really got the whole message Stacey was going for, but the dance was pretty. Not heart-stopping, though, and I think not as stunning as their Sonya dance from the other week. [Note: looked up the music, and it's from The Piano, of course.]

Kenny, of course, doesn't agree with me. He thought the fence concept was amazing and it was wonderful. Katie? Katie has stepped off the dais and is beating the crap out of a stagehand while screaming for a decaf skinny latte with extra soy. Mary adored the musicality of the piece and thought the two of them inhabited the phrasing beautifully. Nigel tells us all that Melanie and Sasha "held each other and cuddled each other and wished each other luck" before they started, which is nice, but feels a little pervy when he says it. He then tells them that they would both grace any dance company they joined. Doesn't talk about the dance per se.

Marko and Tadd are our last pair, and will be doing a "gumboot stepping routine." Cat looks as baffled as I am. I know step, but in gumboots? Is that a genre? Chuck Maldonado is the choreographer, and tells us that gumboot stepping came from South African coal miners. The guys are rehearsing in sneakers, not boots, but I think "gumboots" must mean work boots, and not the rain boots I was imagining. And they're dressed as miners onstage...oh, in rain boots. I know nothing. But I don't care, because the music is Outkast, "B.O.B.", and it's fun! The guys clearly like this dance, but their synchronization isn't great, and you can't hear any of the stepping! Isn't that the point? I think step, like tap, is not well-suited to this particular venue. They did OK, not great, but the routine had a lot of energy. We start with Katie, who shanks Kenny Ortega, plants a big wet kiss on Mary, and steals Nigel's wallet on the way out the door, flipping the bird to the camera. Mary says they were "mining for gold," loved the concept and thought it was great. I think she's being easy on them because it's been a lackluster finale. Nigel has to pat himself on the back for inviting a professional gumboot step troupe to perform on the show a couple of seasons, and then tells the guys that they were good, but not perfect, and he's always thought a girl would win this season. Um, thanks? WTF, dude? (Or is he rallying votes for the boys so it won't be a runaway Sasha/Melanie dance-off?) Kenny tells the guys "you did your job." And again I say, um, thanks? I think everyone's worn out at this point. 

Cat tells us it's up to us, Ameriker! Go vote for your favorite! Although I think Sasha won the evening, Melanie's still my favorite overall. But honestly, the only one I think isn't of winning caliber is Tadd, who is still more charm than skill at this point. Who's your pick to win it all?


Carole said...


My favorite parts of your commentary are the Katie Holmes jabs! I'm still laughing, and it's not even 7am. Yowzer! What is WRONG with her? And Mary's extensions (hair, not limbs) were just plain horrifying, like some furry creature was sleeping on her back.

Melanie's been my fave since the try-outs in Atlanta. I don't watch those, but happened to catch her by chance and was mesmerized. Hope all four go on to dancer success.

Abby said...

I think those were my favorite parts too! Surely she's just going to ditch her Scientology handlers some day and go on a spree.