So You Think You Can Dance — Finale Performance Show

11 08 2011

It has been a wonderful journey with the best group of dancers to ever be picked in the Top 20 of So You Think You Can Dance. Tonight, the four favorites who flitted into our hearts were: Marko, Melanie, Sasha and Tadd. Katie Holmes and Kenny Ortega served as guest judges for this evening (I just LOVE Kenny Ortega).

Final4

The final 4: Marko, Sasha, Melanie, Tadd

Dancers: Melanie and Marko
Song: “I Feel Love”
Artist: Donna Summer
Choreographer: Doriana Sanchez
Style: Disco
Story: None, just high-energy disco.

I was wondering when disco was going to show up. This song was a blast to my past. It was lovely seeing them partner again. Dressed like John Travolta, Marko did a slightly better job than Melanie with a bit more energy into all his movements. While it was danced well and it was fun to watch, there was no emotional investment in it for me and did not bring me back to that golden era. Kenny thought it was electric, sizzling and great. Katie loved it and said it was like watching Saturday Night Fever. Mary Murphy pointed out that the lifts were not great and they went in and out of the style. Nigel agreed with Mary and felt they were uncomfortable in the style and hoped that they do better in their other routines this evening.

Dancers: Sasha and all-star Mark Kanemura
Song: “Raise Your Weapon”
Artist: Deadmau5
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Style: Contemporary
Story: Ode to Sasha from Sonya, that Sasha handles all the struggles in her life with such grace and integrity, fueling her and giving her power. Mark represents the obstacles.

Another emotional dance for Sasha. This dance brought both goosebumps and tears and then a “hell-yah” out of me during the final sequence when she throws her obstacles to the ground (i.e., Mark). What a powerhouse duo in this pairing (Are you ready to join Lady Gaga’s tour, Sasha, with Mark?)! It stung me in all my emotionally vulnerable hotspots. Sasha has had some incredible performances, but this one tops them all. Mark is the perfect example of someone who did not win the show who went on to do fantastic things in the dance world. Like a fine wine, he has gotten better with age. Katie loved it, especially that walk at the end. Mary pulled out her train-whistled woo-hoo for this and called her a champion and a star. Nigel thought Sasha just threw down the gauntlet to the other three contestants.
Before getting to Sasha’s critique, Kenny had glowing things to say to Sonya who was deeply moved by his accolades. Turning to Sasha, he cited her struggles this week–an injury, battling against Melanie–but claimed her “Sasha, Warrior Princess.”

Dancers: Tadd and all-star Joshua Allen
Song: “Hustle Hard” (Traditional)
Artists: Ace Hood
Choreographer: Lil’C
Style: Hip-hop
Story: None, just the hustle.

Lil’C choreographed a very difficult routine. Tadd is the dark horse in this race, but having Joshua dance with him did not help him, like watching a master and his apprentice. Joshua was crouching lower and hitting harder. Tadd made it this far not only because of his dance technique but also his personality. Just looking at Tadd though, this is the best I have seen him dance all season. Mary said his difficulty is the “sweetie-pie” factor, but was able to pull off a hard-hitting hip-hop style. “Hustle Hard” was Tadd’s theme song for this season. Nigel complimented the moves on the knees, but still felt he was too sweet. Kenny thought the pairing was perfect and wants a pair of the red shoes. Katie thought his hustling was terrific and she loved the pairing. The red shoes helped to highlight how fast of a dancer he was.

Dancers: Melanie and all-star Robert Roldan
Song: “Sacrifice”
Artist: Sinead O’Connor
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey
Style: Contemporary
Story: Unrequited love; in order to save herself, she has to say good-bye.

My goosebumps started halfway through and were at standing straight up on my arm and traveling down my legs by the time the song was over, a lovely rendition of the famous Elton John song. I loved this pairing as well, as each complimented each other. Nigel felt like Sasha threw down the gauntlet and the challenge was accepted. Kenny would push himself to the front of the line to have a chance to work with Melanie. At this point, Cat announced that he would be resurrecting “Dirty Dancing” and got Melanie her first job after SYTYCD. Katie thinks she is a magical dancer and loves how she creates stories. Mary feels like she is in a class of her own and is so proud of her. Melanie feels so blessed for the journey.

Dancers: Sasha and Marko
Song: “Whatever Lola Wants”
Artist: Ella Fitzgerald
Choreographer: Spencer Liff
Style: Broadway
Story: A restaurant scene. Marko is the waiter, Sasha an elegant dinner who wants to order something off menu.

Hot and spicy, both Sasha and Marko played their roles well. She looked elegant in her purple gown, showing off her cougaress cavort, going after what appeared to be a younger, geeky waiter, portrayed by Marko. Kenny thought it was fun, and their character conversions were fantastic. He had a few extra words of praise for Sasha about her giving her all for every performance. Katie compared Sasha to the legendary Cyd Charisse and thought Marko was great. Mary did not initially recognize Marko and thought he was perhaps one of the all-stars. She was surprised at what a wonderful actor he is, saying that it is not easy to pull off comedy and dance at the same time. The dance, however, did not wow Nigel. He thought Sasha was a better warrior princess than a vamp. He did not understand Marko’s character at all.

Taking a break in the dance action, Cat showed some interviews that she had with all the contestants. Melanie’s favorite moment was dancing with Neil Haskell (with the launch she did into his arms halfway across the stage). Her closest buddy in the competition is Ricky because he can make anyone smile and was such a fighter regardless of the criticism each week. Out of the four remaining, she feels closest to Marko. She misses her father and knows that he would be very proud of her. She then performed her solo to “Song for Viola” by Peter Bradley Adams. I cried, feeling like she was dancing that for her father.

Cat asked Marko what he was thinking when she read his name as the first one through to the finale. He had closed his eyes and wondered why she was waiting (she was waiting for him to open his eyes). His favorite performance was “Turned to Stone” with Melanie. She asked him what it was like to have his mother in the audience, and he again shared that he was not always the most grateful child growing up. Winning would mean “everything” to him. When he got shot, he was searching for the reasons why he survived and perhaps this show was a vehicle for that. He then performed his solo to “The Fear You Won’t Fall” by Joshua Radin, incorporating all he has learned, growing a great deal since his original audition. Tonight, his father was in the audience for the first time, giving him an extra boost.

Dancers: Sasha and Tadd
Song: “Raindrops”
Artist: Basement Jaxx
Choreographer: Mark Ballas
Style: Cha-cha
Story: None, just fun and sassy.

This was not finale-quality dancing. Both looked uncomfortable in the style. Because of that, they did not have that hot, spicy chemistry. The height difference was an issue for me. Katie completely bypassed saying anything about the dance itself and just complimented them on the journey. I think Katie did not want to be booed. Although agreeing with Katie, Mary had to talk about the dance. It just did not work–the connections, the body positions, missing hand connections, lack of chemistry, although Sasha fared a little bit better than Tadd. Nigel agrees with Mary, saying it was uncomfortable to watch. While Sasha did a bit better, Nigel felt it did not bear well for her either. Kenny said it was too ambitious for the last show and for them to walk it off and come back and blow us all away.

Dancers: Marko and all-star Lauren Froderman
Song: “Shirk”
Artist: Me’Shell Ndegedcello
Choreographer: Tessandra Chavez
Style: Contemporary
Story: Two people drawn to each other who can’t seem to find a way to make it work.

Setting the tone for the routine, Lauren was already in character, shedding tears when the dance started. This was another dance that drew me in emotionally, taking me on a journey of moments of my own life. My goosebumps never lie. Mary thought it was beautiful, provoking honest communication in the dance, feeling his soul. Nigel felt like it was a fabulous performance, redeeming his past dances of the evening. Kenny again complimented the outstanding choreography. He felt this was perfect partnering for him, that their spirits became alive, taking him to a distant place. Whatever Marko was doing in that dance, he needed to continue doing it. Katie also thanked Tessandra for the piece. He thanked Marko for creating these picture moments for her while he danced and deemed him magical (Magical Marko–it works–Cat stop stealing my phrases).

Tadd’s interview and solo were next. He thought and dreamed about being in the finale but cannot believe he is here. He thinks America is connecting to him in his solos. His favorite routine was the vulture dance with Jordan that Travis Wall choreographed. Most nervous performance was the first show when they had to make a first impression. There is web site apparently called: The Official “Keep Your Shirt Off Tadd” Fan Club. He said for some reason people want him to be naked, but Cat points out there is a difference between shirtless and naked. Winning would change his and his family’s lives. Dancing his last solo before voting to “Momma Knows Best” by Jessie J, Tadd showed off why we love him so. It was playful and creative.

Dancers: Tadd and Melanie
Song: “Show Me What You’re Working With”
Artist: Sista Monica
Choreographer: Ray Leeper
Style: Jazz
Story: A guy cheats on his girlfriend and she catches him in the act. Sexy, naughty with a little dysfunction thrown in.

This dance showcased Tadd much better. Since he was comfortable, the chemistry flowed like river rapids between them. I got sexy, naughty and the dysfunction. It must have been difficult for Melanie to dance that short while with one heel on and one off; I can barely walk that way. The routine was a lot of good fun. The strip-tease of Tadd for his fan-base was a great touch after the comments made in his interview. The routine brought Nigel’s evening to life. He praised Tadd for a job well done, while complimenting Melanie for selling the character before the dancing ever began. Kenny apparently let out a “woo” during the dance. He loved everything about it and felt the choreographer delivered the perfect routine to showcase their strengths during a finale show. Katie felt like it was a breath of fresh air. Mary thought Tadd brought the sexy back and Melanie’s strut was like no other.

In the final interview and solo, Sasha never thought she would make it this far, loving that her sister has been with her the entire journey. Her favorite moment was when Lady Gaga threw her shoe. Several routines stood out to her, but she asked Cat which one she liked and Cat said the routine with Twitch. She talked more about the wonderful routine with Kent Boyd (with the wall), saying she had to go to a very dark place, and she had to put her journey into the dance. Seeing people affected emotionally in response to her dancing meant a great deal to her. Dancing to “Be Be Your Love” by Rachael Yamagata, Sasha also showed the audience the growth attained this season from that of her first audition.

Dancers: Sasha and Melanie
Song: “Heart Asks Pleasure First”
Artist: Anh Trio
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey
Style: Contemporary
Story: Suppressed housewives in the 1950s, feelings of isolation and loneliness. The two join forces to break free.

Extremely beautiful. Melanie and Sasha are in direct competition with each other, yet they dance and support each other every time they dance together like true professionals. Another moment of chills for me. Kenny thought the picket fences were symbolic of prison bars and the space in the yard the only place where these women could express themselves. It made him feel hopeless and he wanted to rush in and free them. It also made him curious about their paths, where these characters came from and where they were going. Katie loved the message about friendship and the power that two women can give to each other. Mary enjoyed every second of it, enjoying the movement and musicality. Nigel shared with the audience what we did not see–that each of them hugged each other and wished each other luck before the show came back on air. He said it did not matter who won because they would both grace any dance company they would join.

Dancers: Marko and Tadd
Song: “B.O.B.”
Artist: Outkast
Choreographer: Chuck Maldonado
Style: Gumboot stepping (hip-hop)
Story: Form of dance that was used to communicate in the mines of South Africa

A fantastic, high-energy way to close the show. Tadd had the slight edge in this dance, but Marko was not too shabby. The timing was a little off, but I noticed Tadd looking over at Marko at times to try to get them back in sync again. Katie enjoyed the athletic ability in this number, but it also sound like she was holding something back. Mary felt like it was solid gold for her. Nigel pointed out the rhythms were not together in this routine. Then he crushed them by saying he has felt all along a girl would win this season and that hadn’t changed although they stood up well for themselves tonight. Kenny thanked the dancers and the choreographer.

If it was simply based on dancing tonight, it would have to be Melanie, Marko, Sasha and Tadd. If it came down to most improved dancers over the season, it would be Tadd, Sasha, Marko and Melanie since Tadd, the b-boy held his own outside his own style of dance. Then Sasha was finally partnered with someone who brought out the best in her during the all-stars, and Marko and Melanie have remained pretty level throughout the competition. If it is based on the dancing all season it would be a tie between Melanie/Sasha then Marko and Tadd. However, the show is about America’s favorite dancer. Sasha has an overwhelming fan base and it will come down to who voted more, Melanie’s fans or Sasha’s fans. The margin of votes will be very, very close.  I predict Sasha is going to win.  But Nigel is right:  Both Melanie and Sasha will have tremendous careers after this (and I believe Marko and Tadd will, too).

Hilda Clark Bowen (a.k.a. PBMom)

Hilda Bowen (a.k.a. PBMom)





So You Think You Can Dance — Top 10 Performance

21 07 2011

Congratulations to So You Think You Can Dance for the well-deserved 8 Emmy nominations.

Tonight was a game-changer in the format of the show. The contestant would now be paired up with former alumni of the show, affectionately known as the all-stars. Neil Patrick Harris was the guest judge this evening. Tickets for the tour go on sale July 29 which kicks off in Orlando, Florida.

Dancers: Marko & all-star Chelsie Hightower
Song: “Cinema Italiano” (The Ron Fair Remix)
Artist: Kate Hudson
Choreographer: Jason Gilkison
Style: Samba
Story: A photographer and his muse.

The big question of the night is this: Will Marko and Melanie shine being apart? While Marko did well, it was not his best dance. Perhaps Melanie is his muse. There was a lot of footwork, but there were spots where I felt his arms could have been up higher and his legs could have been together more than apart. But Mary Murphy is the expert in ballroom and she loved it. He does get kudos for those massive lift/twirls.

Dancers: Jordan & all-star Brandon Bryant
Song: “Who You Are”
Artist: Jessie J
Choreographers: Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson
Style: Contemporary
Story: The highs and lows of love.

This was a wonderful partnering. Brandon’s age and experience brought more out of Jordan as did the beautiful choreography which left me with goosebumps. The combination gave her a deepened maturity in her dancing. This is one of the reasons why I love the all-stars so much. The contestants seem to rise up to their level. Jordan received high praise from all the judges including a plea from Nigel to keep her in the competition.

Dancers: Tadd and all-star Comfort Fedoke
Song: “Look At Me Now”
Artist: Chris Brown (featuring Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes)
Choreographer: Chuck Maldonado
Style: Hip-hop
Story: None.

Once again, having Comfort in the mix elevated Tadd’s level of dance. The choreography was also very complex to a very fast beat, but Tadd rose to the challenge. It played to Tadd’s strengths. There was very good chemistry between the two dancers. Nigel and Neil both felt he out-danced Comfort. Mary thought he was ghetto-licious.

Dancers: Mitchell and all-star Melody Lacayanga
Song: “Take Off With Us”
Artist: All That Jazz Soundtrack
Choreographer: Tyce DiOrio
Style: Broadway/jazz
Story: Taking flight.

Once again I’m afraid for Mitchell because Broadway does not bring in the votes. I did not watch SYTYCD in season 1, so Melody is new for me as well. Mitchell had great height in his leaps. There was something awkward about the routine, but I think it was in the height difference actually. I thought Mitchell out-danced Melody. The judges did not like it with Neil Patrick Harris taking aim more at Tyce’s choreography. It was like someone tried to make Boeing, Boeing a musical. It just did not work. Sometimes the dancers are at the mercy of the choreography. Perhaps the awkwardness was not in the height difference, but the fact that the dancers were not feeling it so they overperformed.

Dancers: Caitlynn and all-star Pasha Kovalev
Song: “Malajunta”
Artist: Orquesta Color Tango
Choreographers: Leonardo Barrionueva and Miriam Larici
Style: Argentine tango
Story: A disconnected couple from the 1930’s era falling in love.

This LA-noire-type tango was on fire. With a partner like Pasha how could you not get totally wrapped up in the chemistry? The intricate steps with the interlocking legs are very difficult and I hope the audience can appreciate that. I still worry for Caitlynn because Broadway and ballroom do not do so well with voters. Mary Murphy gave Caitlynn a standing ovation and was near tears. Nigel commented that she used to be a girl dancing but now he saw a woman dance. Neil stated it took a little bit for him to get into it but he was completely mesmerized by it.

Dancers: Sasha and all-star Twitch
Song: “Misty Blue”
Artist: Dorothy Moore
Choreographer: Christopher Scott
Style: Hip-hop
Story: A couple’s whose love has burned out and they try to rekindle the magic.

As much as I enjoyed Alexander, there was a disconnection for me since the first week between the two of them. Tonight, Sasha was partnered with someone who not only had the chemistry but also had the skills to match her. As a married person of 19 years now, I appreciated this dance a great deal and could relate to it. This routine sizzled with sensuality. It was very nice to hear this song again. The routine was received quite well by the audience based on the level of clapping and hooting they did. I just love Twitch and everything he does. Nigel could not even speak. Neil called it the best routine so far in the evening. The routine brought Mary Murphy to swearing, calling it a “sexy-ass number.”

Dancers: Jess and all-star Kathryn McCormick
Song: “The Lonely”
Artist: Christina Perri
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey
Style: Contemporary
Story: Not being able to see what is right in front of you.

This routine required Jess to give all his eye contact to Kathryn while Kathryn is basically ignoring him. There was not a flowing movement that I would have liked to have seen with the routine. Even dancing separately, there still has to be a bond between them for the audience to be pulled in–a difficult order to be filled by even seasoned dancers. Kathryn did a beautiful job and I have missed seeing her dance. Neil thought the choreography was magnificent but pointed out Jess’ facial expressions that are typical of a Broadway dancer, but thought it was the best he has seen Jess dance. Mary concurred that it was her favorite piece Jess has done to date. Nigel thought Jess did a great job.

Dancers: Melanie and all-star Pasha
Song: “Everybody Hurts”
Artist: Tina Arena
Choreographer: Jason Gilkison
Style: Viennese waltz
Story: A guy who has lost his will to live with Melanie as the friend who is nurturing him through it.

Melanie did not lose herself without Marko. This was the second time this evening I got the chills. Melanie’s movements were ethereal and she looked like a guardian angel cradling Pasha’s troubled soul. I am not really sure what might be troubling Pasha’s soul since he got to dance with two beautiful women this evening! Mary complimented her on her effortless lifts and felt she was right up there on the top of the leaderboard. Nigel called her a solid, brilliant dancer. Neil thinks Melanie looks like she is from the past but dances like she is from the future and is easily his favorite dancer on the show.

Dancers: Ricky and all-star Allison Holker
Song: “Precious Things”
Artist: Tori Amos
Choreographer: Tyce DiOrio
Style: Jazz
Story: A bad dream (Ricky being Allison’s worst nightmare).

It’s hard to imagine cheerful Ricky as anybody’s worst nightmare, but he pulled this dance off. The lift where Allison is in a curved position and Ricky’s arms are straight up took my breath away. There was great power in his movements. Both Neil and Nigel were impressed with both the choreography and Ricky’s performance. Mary thought it was raw, reckless, passionate, intense and committed.

Dancers: Clarice and all-star Robert Roldan
Song: “Aila Re Aila”
Artist: Khatta Meetha
Choreographer: Nakul Dev Mahajan
Style: Bollywood
Story: A game of cat and mouse.

Nakul threw everything except the kitchen sink into this dance routine. Clarice did a fantastic job keeping up with all-star Robert. This season of SYTYCD has got to be labeled the kissing season. This sexy dance was fast with intricate moves. Everyone loved it. It was a great way to end this wonderful show.

Solos

Sasha‘s routine to “Syrup and Honey” by Duffy had very complex moves and good emotional connectivity. It reminded me of a little dragonfly. Jess performed his solo to “Come By Me” by Harry Connick, Jr., utilizing the entire stage very well with his Broadway-like routine. He always has a lot of good energy. Melanie danced beautifully to “You’re The One That I Want” by Angus and Julia Stone. Ricky performed a lovely solo to “Daylight Breaks” by Cassidy Haley. Clarice danced her solo with a Latin-vibe to “Royal T” from Crookers featuring Roison Murphy. Performing to “This Time” by John Legend, Mitchell redeemed himself from his all-star routine. Jordan danced to “Tonight” by Lykee L., taking to heart the judge’s advice last week that they needed to see something different from her. Tadd provided an entertaining solo to “Everything I Can’t Have” by Robin Thicke. Caitlynn’s contemporary piece was lovely to Florence and The Machine’s “Cosmic Love.”  Marko closed out the solo performances of the night with a song from Gavin DeGraw, “More Than Anyone”, reminding us what a beautiful dancer he is.

For me, my least favorite dance this evening was Jess, but I am very worried for Mitchell because he was the only one to receive negative feedback. It would be difficult to say exactly which my favorite was because I had so many. All the solos were stupendous.

I would like to pass on some news from Miranda’s fans at @mirandacandance on Twitter. On Saturday they have an exciting announcement to pass to everyone and a chance to win some really great prizes, so make sure you stay glued to Twitter on Saturday.

Who were your favorites and least favorites this evening?