Dance’s best season ever

I am a fan of So You Think You Can Dance from the beginning–I started watching when it premiered in early summer of 2005 and held onto it like a lifeline shortly thereafter. (For those not in the know, I am from New Orleans, and was shooed up to Central Louisiana by a weather phenomenon we prefer not to call by name) I have watched each season and managed to record from Season 3 forward, scoured YouTube for clips to watch over and over (until Dick Clark Productions decides to flex their muscles) and have bought tickets to 3 of the tour concerts (attending 2, but that’s a long, bitter story)–4 if you count the one I just bought for this year’s tour. I have had a number of favorite dancers and have recognized the technical brilliance of many of the contestants, which I believe makes me wholly qualified to state unequivocally that Season 8 is by far the most excellent display of dance talent I have ever seen. To date, nothing had touched Season 4 for me in the area of fabulosity (though Season 5 came VERY close)–but up to now there have been dancers who made the Top 20 that I’ve wondered how they got there. Not that any of them were bad dancers–I just thought there were other contestants that should have been chosen.

EVERY SINGLE DANCER was worthy of Top 20 status this year. EVERY. ONE. I definitely loved some dancers more than others, but this has to be the first season where I have agreed with the vast majority of the judges’ choices and comments. The very first competition show had the judges in such a deadlock that NOBODY was voted out–a first in the show’s history. I do happen to think some dancers went way too soon, but in a lot of those cases it came down to an unlucky dance style or just choosing between a great dance performance and a spectacular one.

I pretty much called the top 3 three early on…Melanie, Sasha and Marko. I usually can tell from the auditions who is gonna to capture my attention, and Melanie quite literally had me at hello. There are certain things in life that just make you stop and focus your attention–I couldn’t do anything else but watch Melanie dance. Nobody could even talk to me while she was in motion. Marko transfixed me, as well–just something about his quality of movement….and it just didn’t hurt that he was CUTE! Sasha tried out with her sister Natalia (who I will track down in Bakersfield and DRAG her to next year’s auditions if she doesn’t go on her own), and I could definitely see some power there. Though I had other sentimental favorites (including “old folks” Iveta and Robert), I knew from watching that these three would end up on top.

So this week’s finale shows really didn’t surprise me much–executive producer Nigel Lythgoe himself predicted from the beginning that a girl would most likely take the crown this year, and I found it really hard to disagree with him. The girls were incredibly strong and all of them seemed to adapt well to the styles they drew every week. And even though the guys’ efforts were largely good, it was the girls who grabbed the attention. I developed emotional connections with Sasha and Melanie through their dancing and their life stories–how do you not love girls whose main reason for getting into dance was their sisters when that’s exactly how my life in dance began?

I did hedge my bets–I assumed that Melanie would get the large share of the vote, so I did what I could to boost Sasha’s numbers. (Not to wave the race card around, but there has not been a brown-skinned girl near the Winners’ Circle since Donyelle in Season 2, and there aren’t enough visible role models for me in the dance world, so….) But I can’t explain the magic that is Melanie. Lil’ C, frequent choreographer and judge, mused that Zeus himself would invite her to Olympus to dance. She is captivating in her movement–things look fluid and effortless when she moves, and you can see the emotion when she performs. Your heart soars when she’s joyful and aches when she’s sad or anguished. Sweetheart that she is in real life, you somehow buy it when she portrays a scorned woman and ramps up the sex appeal. Is it any real wonder that she pulled 47% of the overall vote to win?

I figure that I summed up my feelings in my Facebook status after the show: “Sasha looks like me…Melanie IS me. Either way, I win. Way to go, girls!” But the true winner, as Nigel pointed out, is dance. Which suits me just fine–especially if the next few seasons bring the same high caliber of talent.