Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Last Dance - SYTYCD Finale

This is it, dance fans! Time for this season's finale--can Cyrus possibly be unseated? Will Tiffany ride her underdog status all the way to the winner's circle? Wait and see. All we know for sure is that Carly Rae Jepsen will be singing "Call Me Maybe." Aww, they've invited back the top 20! They all get introductions, more or less in the order they got dumped, I think? There are a couple of dancers I don't remember being on the show, actually.

Of course, since the votes are based on last week's show, none of tonight's dancing will affect the outcome. I don't really love how that worked this season--makes the votes feel arbitrary or unfair, even if at the time they made sense. Our judges tonight are all of the show alums--Tyce, Adam Shankman, Lil' C, and Debbie Allan. Cat is already milking introductions, and methinks someone has been told to stretch--our dancers are doing a quick change backstage. There's a bit of back-patting about Emmys (they won an Emmy for lighting, and Cat and the show are both nominated).

Turns out tonight's show will be "The Best of Season 9." Man, we just saw most of these dances! How can I miss them if they won't go away? But first, we have to have "the best group dance Nigel has ever seen," choreographed by both Sonya and Christopher Scott, for all 20 dancers. Let me guess, it'll look like the Matrix?  No, this looks like Titanic. There's a wind machine, and girls in vaguely period-y dresses, and everyone is doing their best mimed "walking into the wind."Guys are in gray Hammer pants and hoodies that look like they're the "Cozy Weekend Wraparound Cardigan" from Eileen Fisher. Not so butch. Cyrus gets a little slo-mo solo across the front of the stage, and then the dance is obscured by the spotlights shining right into camera. Way to earn that Emmy, guys. Overall, it was a nice dance, but to be honest, I don't really see why it was so amazing--it was definitely longer, at least.

Our first rerun dance is Travis's dance with the chaise longue, featuring Matthew and Audrey. All I remember about it is the leap, but Nigel praises it specifically for its use of the furniture as more than just window dressing--it's practically gymnastic equipment here. Audrey leaps gamely once again, but it doesn't have the same stirring quality when you know to expect it. All the judges are on their feet, but this is obviously going to be a softball night--there are no comments afterward, just applause for the eliminated dancers as they're ushered offstage.

Cat moves right on to Lil' C, who launches into a full-length Lil' C monologue, full of questionable neologisms and giddy enthusiasm. At the end of it all he asks to see Witney and Twitch dance the Luther Brown hip hop piece about the bus stop. Heh--Witney is bringing it harder than she did the first time...I think not competing is really freeing her as a dancer. Also, her blond hair is in this big blowout and she looks like a model--if she weren't so tiny, Tyra would be snatching her up for ANTM! There is quite a bit of hairography, in fact. Gotta hand it to her--I wasn't really even watching Twitch, and that's hard to achieve.

There is a Revlon commercial with Emma Stone that makes her look like the most beautiful woman in the world. She is shockingly good looking and yet relatable. I want just a drop of whatever she has. [This Non-Dance Interlude brought to you by Envy.]

It's Debbie Allan's turn to pick a dance, and she chooses a Sonya piece called "Turning the Page," danced by Tiffany and George. I don't really remember this one, but if possible George has gotten even more ripped since he was on the show. Holy cow. I will say that Tiffany has really come into her own--she's acting this dance well, if not at Allison Holker levels. But I think she's learned a lot this season, and I bet the tour will help, too. The song ends and she's tearing up, clutching George's head. Aww.

Time for a review of the Top 5 audition moments for the non-chosen dancers! They'll be parceling them out, so this is #5: Leroy, the heavy dancer who surprised them all by actually being a decent dancer, and wanted to start after-school programs to keep kids out of trouble. Adam Shankman cried, and Nigel was nearly forced to confront his sizeism. Cat tells us, by the way, that Leroy's was the last audition of the entire tour.

Now Cat comes to Adam, who picks one of the earliest routines, a Jason Gilkinson ballroom number. Adam laughs at himself because every year he picks a ballroom piece, but I agree with him on this one--it's Lindsay and Cole's paso doble. They begin, as you may recall, with Lindsay wrapped around shirtless Cole like a donut, holding herself there while Cole stands tall, before he swings her around his body and upside down. Ooh, Lindsay's bringing serious face here (as is Cole, but he always does). This time she feels like a better match for him. She's rocking her bondage-meets-superhero costume, anyway. Well done! That feels like it's going to be a tour number.

When we come back from commercial, the audience doesn't even need the judges to tell them what's next, because there's a dumpster onstage. I don't really like this dance, but it's the best way to feature Amelia and Will. To be honest, this pair is one of the ones I've missed the least--I was never the biggest Amelia fan when she wasn't dancing her own solos, and Will was jolly but a little immature. They're definitely having fun with this one, though, and I think are more playful this time around. Cat has to come scold them in the dumpster for messing around.

Top Moment #4: The Dallas mother of toddlers, Bree, who was just getting back into dance. She did very well, although watching now you can see that she's not at the level of a Tiffany or Eliana. However, her kids were very cute. (I think that was the one when her little girl of...18 months or so? danced onstage, but they didn't show that part.)

Mary's next, and chooses the relatively recent dance about the Holocaust refugees, done by Tyce for Chehon and Kathryn. Jeez, they're both already bringing it hard in closeup--they already look broken and tearful. We're reminded again of how amazingly strong Chehon is, especially for someone relatively slender--he lifts Kathryn up in an arabesque right over his head, and she's not bracing on him at all. Watching this it's hard to imagine that for half the season Chehon couldn't connect with the camera!

That's all the judges, but we still have over an hour of show. To fill it up, they added a twist this year: each of the four finalists also got to choose a favorite to dance again! OK, that's cute. Eliana picks her "Bang Bang" ballet piece with Alex--which of course she did. That's what made her the front-runner, and it was amazing. It's even more ferocious this time, even though I think Alex kind of ran her into their prop tree on one lift. Their connection is much better this time around, and the dance still feels way too short! Really lovely, and choreographer Stacey Tookey beams. 

Eliana gets a little audience with Cat while the audience screams. She's on the verge of tears as she waits to hear comments from the judges. Nigel begins by reiterating that Eliana is his favorite girl this year, which seems a little rude on non-judged finale night, even if it's true. He also tells her that she was at the top of every choreographer's "keep" list after Vegas, and that Desmond Richardson (formerly of Alvin Ailey and ABT, now running Complexions) called Nigel and told him, "The minute she gets voted off the show, I want her for my company." Eliana looks staggered at that news, and Nigel continues, "The trouble is, you never got voted off the show!" It's a total tongue-bath, but well-deserved. And good for Eliana--I hope she calls Desmond :).

Top Audition Moment #3: The Ninja Twins--the sassy gay dancing twins who do everything synchronized. They made the judges laugh, but weren't keepers.  Lucky for them they weren't dancing ballroom, or Nigel would have scorned them.

Time now for a Doriana Sanchez disco number, performed by Tiffany and Brandon. I notice that no one seems to have requested this dance, but we're getting it anyway. They are extremely sparkly. I don't think the peekaboo jumpsuit is doing lovely Tiffany any favors, though.  Ew! OK, now I remember this dance--it's the one where Tiff lifts her leg over her head and Brandon pulls her into an upside-down split by her ankle. I'm convinced a tendon is about to tear every time he does it. Fortunately, Tiffany emerges unscathed, and with both legs still attached. They did a good job, though it still looked like work. No disco has ever approached the first season's Kamilah and Nick, I think.

It's time for Chehon's personal choice, and he talks about learning to tap into his emotions and lose the icy ballet facade he's been trained in. He tells us that the one that was a defining moment for him was the Argentine tango with Anya. I actually think it was probably his Holocaust dance, but since that's already been picked, and this brings back the delightful Anya, I'm good. I love how the dance opens with some ballet leaps, just to show off his height. He's selling the connection so much harder now! I actually believe they're going to walk offstage and make out. (And who could blame them?) They end with Anya held upside down against his leg, and Chehon keeps her there for ages before turning her upright like a gentleman.

Mary leads off our praise, unsurprisingly, and loves it. She tells us that they always loved him, even though they were hard on him, but that he absolutely broke through on the night his mom came to the show. I think this all speaks to The Power of Mom. Wait, that's it? I would have liked more gushing or ranking details, to match Nigel's speech to Eliana. We love you anyway, Chehon!

It's time for a hip hop routine, apparently, and we get a montage of all the hip hop on the show this season. (There were a lot of routines!) But instead of a re-run, Twitch, Comfort and Cyrus are dancing a new Christopher Scott routine. I'm typing this without looking at the screen, and when I look up, I see four dancers, not three...turns out they meant that Chris Scott was also in the routine! Fun! They're dressed in 40's style vests and armbanded shirts, and seem to be playing poker. (However, I don't think Chris is following a regulation deal--he turned over the flop, the turn and the river all at once.) And then there's some camera trickery--they half-overturn the table and chairs, but freeze that way while the cameraman rotates around them. Here's the Matrix! Heh. Cyrus is getting shaken down in slow motion. There's suspender play (which sounds dirtier than it is) and plenty of animating from Cyrus and Chris. They do a fun bit where they make a box with their arms and then tut a bit, and the contrast of their black & white skin is striking. You'll be happy to know Cyrus gets away at the end of the dance :).

It's time for Tiffany to pick her favorite dance, and she chooses her Mandy Moore piece danced with Ade (although she also talks about what an honor it was to work with Sonya). Tiffany's dressed in a purple genie costume, basically. She does a lovely job, and Ade hauls her all over the floor, but I don't really think this is such a remarkable dance. If you asked me to list them, I wouldn't have remembered this one--but Mary agrees with Tiff's choice and says it was the moment when they saw her as a mature dancer, and not just a cute little high schooler.

Top Audition Moment #2: It's the guy doing "Exorcist Style" dancing--sort of bonecracking but scary and musical. Mary wept. At the end he rips his heart out and sinks to the floor. I wish they'd shown more of it, actually! (Wait, did they ever give us his name?)

And then Cat runs right into Top Audition Moment #1, which is the Dragon House crew (i.e. Cyrus's roomies). But instead of showing us their clip, they've invited them to perform live! She introduces them as "featuring our old friend Brian Gaynor," and I don't know who that is until he emerges in gold suit and Jabberwock mask--he's the amazing robot guy with the spinal disease. This routine is terrific, and really shows off how impressive multiple animators can be together. It's reminiscent of  Christopher Scott's style, actually, and I wonder if it was all their own choreography? Guess so, because Cat doesn't intro another choreo. That was fun to watch, though I'm a little surprised Cyrus didn't do a guest solo.

And now it's time for Carly Rae Jepsen...but she's not doing "Call Me Maybe"! She's plugging her new hit, Don't Care. Sorry, Carly, it's not magic--although I like your hot pink Docs. Here, just listen to this instead:

Then we have a Broken Hearts montage--people getting cut from Vegas, from the show, etc....and then more favorite moments. I muted it and am playing SongPop on Facebook. (Have you played this? It's basically Name that Tune, and it's awesome.)

Time for our last routine, and it's Cyrus's choice. Man, did they ever not give him a plum ending spot in the rotation? Unsurprisingly, he chooses the duet with Twitch--or "Twitch and Glitch," as it were. This was a good routine. Guess they had to buy more breakaway glass--and man, that stuff flies far! The stage is covered in it. Good think they're animating and not breaking, or they'd be cut to ribbons. It's still a great routine, and I think Twitch may have actually improved his animation skills since the week we saw him!

Nigel says that if Cyrus hadn't chosen that routine, he would have--and that Cyrus didn't just steal the show, he stole the season. Nigel says "journey" a lot and then says that half of America reamed Nigel out for saying he wouldn't vote for him (as I'm sure Nigel intended). He then says, "If some product doesn't use you as the face of their company, they're stupid." Um, thanks? Best wishes on becoming a corporate shill, Cyrus? It's not exactly "Desmond Richardson wants to hire you."

This commercial for "Hotel Transylvania" makes clear that I don't know the difference between Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. I can still live with myself.

We're here at last! Time for the results, right? Not so fast! We're getting a final group routine, in which the Top 10 face off against the All-Stars in something jungle-themed. There are rocks and it looks like the set of Lion King. Oh! It basically is--they're playing the "Circle of Life" music, but of course it's a--wait for it--District 78 remix. WHO THE HELL IS DISTRICT 78? HOW DID THEY GET ALL THE MUSIC? It's a conspiracy, I tell you. I always find these very literal African dances a bit racially problematic, but perhaps that's just white guilt talking. It's fun, but I have trouble picking out individual dancers unless the camera gets right in their faces. The dance ends with the four finalists rising over Pride Rock. Cat doesn't tell us who choreographed it (unless I missed it), but the camera cuts to Napoleon nodding with pride, so I'm guessing it was he?

OK, this time we're really getting the results. We start with the girls, but first we have the Journey Montage. They're excited, they're nervous, they're crying, they're ecstatic, they're dancing. We love them both. When we cut back to the girls (Eliana in black, Tiffany in white), they're both weeping. And the winner is...Eliana! She collapses to the floor, and Tiffany graciously applauds--I don't think she was surprised. Eliana is a wreck, laughing and crying and doing her version of the Taylor Swift "surprised face," which feels a tiny bit disingenuous.

At last, it's time for the guys. Same deal--montage, which ends with a final dance pose revealing that they both have serious 12-packs. It was a good season for abs, y'all. Cyrus is about to cry, but Chehon looks composed. But even as I'm typing, "Of course the winner is Cyrus," Cat announces that the winner is...Chehon! His head snaps up and he bursts into tears. The fellow dancers and the judges are looking equal parts shocked and delighted. Cyrus (in a regrettable pink blazer) is given flowers and escorted offstage, good-natured to the end. Chehon is undone, and as Eliana rejoins him onstage, they shoot off confetti cannons and the rest of the dancers and all-stars crowd around. Will bounds up to Cat and picks her up for a squeeze (the only dancer tall enough to lift Cat off her feet!).

Hooray! Good dancing was rewarded! A good time was had by all. See you next time...whatever show that may be :).

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