This is how it ends…on pointe. Puns very much intended.
It’s a week later, all the votes are in and counted, and we crown TWO champions this year…so I’m sure it’s no big spoiler which two dancers took home the title of America’s Favorite Dancer.
Tonight’s expanded panel, dressed to the nines, included Lil C, Adam Shankman, Debbie Allen and Tyce Diorio along with stalwarts Mary Murphy and “Nige,” who I will personally flog if he fully gets up to do the Gangnam style dance. *sigh*
The show opens with the top 20 in one final group number, a much ballyhooed and highly praised contemporary fusion choreographed by Christopher Scott and Zooey Deschanel. Oops, sorry—not used to seeing Sonya Tayeh look NORMAL…well, as normal as one can look with a lip ring, I suppose. It was well staged and well executed, but y’all know me and dances about windy storms and potential devastation don’t get along well. I will say it was superbly danced, and it was wonderful to see all my Top 20 dancers get a good bit of airtime and dance time within this number.
The “best of” section, AKA the “what we’ll most likely see on the tour” portion of the show begins—I suppose the side benefit of crowning two winners out of four people is that we can squeeze a little more dancing and less of that heartbreaking “kiss and cry” letdown we have to endure with the losing contestants.
Nigel selected Travis Wall’s Titanic-inspired contemporary piece with Audrey and Matthew and that fancy chaise lounge. Solid number and performed excellently again.
Lil C, who has been conspicuously absent save a few audition episodes this season, picked the Witney/Twitch hip-hop swagography from Luther Brown. I tell you, the more I watch Witney do this number the more I realize how fearless she is with dance. Ballroom might be her specialty but damned if she didn’t match or exceed expectations in every foreign form she got—from the Bollywood to the contemporaries to this hip-hop number, she was engaging and technically dazzling. She even pulled focus from Twitch a few times in that, and that’s no easy feat.
Debbie Allen chose Sonya Tayeh’s lovers’ contemporary featuring Tiffany and George. One of the better showcases of George’s exquisite talent and Tiffany’s skill displayed this season.
Adam Shankman selected Cole and Lindsay’s opening show salvo—the Jason Gilkison paso doble that so wowed Nigel that he proclaimed it the best ever on the show. Again, I could list you a lot of paso dobles that were en fuego, but this performance is definitely among my top 5 favorites of that style. And it’s Cole…half nekkid…so there you go.
Tyce Diorio’s turn to pick, and he called for the Nappytabs character pop from Amelia and Will. I’ve seen a lot of criticism about this dance (mostly about the dumpster), but I really liked this 21st century version of Alley Cat. It’s a really fun piece that lets them be technically stunning and naturally goofy doing something they love to do. Plus, y’all gotta give Will his props for that back walkover lift he does with Amelia. THAT’S the chemistry they should have had in the butt dance for Mia week.
Mary Murphy got sentimental, selecting the aforementioned Tyce’s suitcase routine that Chehon and All-Star Kathryn performed so movingly. This was, I believe, the first contemporary following the bench routine where Chehon taps into whatever emotional wellspring was hiding within and blends it so stirringly with his usual technical prowess that it transcended mere performance into a visceral audience experience.
This year the judges were limited to only one danced selection, so they let Cat in on the action. Cat’s pick—the Doriana Sanchez cardiofest liftopalooza disco number with Tiffany and All-Star Brandon. I guess the season and the tour would not be complete without sliding at least one disco into the mix, though unless they sneak some All Stars onto this tour, I can’t see who they’re going to train to do this with Tiffany. Will’s got the height but Chehon’s gotten the reputation of Liftmeister, so it could be either of them…although I would be extremely interested to see whether Cole could pull off smiley and bubbly.
The top 4 dancers even got to choose their favorites:
Eliana: Bang Bang contemporary with Alex Wong (Stacey Tookie). I expected it, though I loved the second Girard/Wong pairing better. I’ll take either or both on tour.
Nigel remarked that Desmond Richardson wants Eliana for his company. I see I need to get a few more jobs to buy some performance tickets.
Chehon: Argentine tango with Anya Garis (Miriam and Leonardo). I AM surprised he picked this one—I would have loved to see the Bollywood again or the contemporary with Allison (since this was as heavily themed as the Holocaust piece, I figured I wasn’t going to see that one).
Tiffany: Mandy Moore contemporary with Ade (Celine epic). This was her masterwork in the competition, so this choice wasn’t unexpected either.
Cyrus: Animation with Twitch (Christopher Scott)…he picked what I expected him to pick, though I was hoping he’d go with the dubstep he did with Comfort. I’m glad, though, because minus the competition nerves he was a lot more in sync with Twitch this time, and even outdanced him. Considering my everlasting adoration for Mr. Boss, for me to say THAT is a REALLLLLLY big thing.
Sprinkled throughout the broadcast were the 5 Best Audition Tour Moments from non-contestants, and while I’m pleased with WHAT’S on the list, I take some issue with the order.
5. Leroy Martinez (Big Boy in Utah—hip-hop youth counselor), who I STILL think should have at least gotten a ticket to Vegas, even if they cut him later. As I will always have a soft spot for Allan “Big Poppa” Frias, Leroy had me at hello….and grabbed me tight with that backflip to the floor.
4. Bree Hafen…and her kids. Someone I also wish could have gone further, but I will have to keep pushing FOX to hold this show so Stella Hafen can join the Season 22 Top 20.
3. The NInJA Twins—Nick and James. Somebody PLEASE give them a reality show. I need more of them in my life. Plus, they made me proud being over the age limit and still pulling off a ticket-worthy audition.
The top two are deserving but problematic:
2. Hampton Williams—Number 2?!? REALLY?!? He made judges cry. TWICE. There is NO WAY this shouldn’t be at the top of the list. However, selected for the top honors…..
1. Dragon House—the auditions of Cyrus and his fellow housemates Boris and Andre. While I appreciate the live segué, C’MON MAN! I will, however, take any excuse to see Bryan Gaynor again—it’s a shame his scoliosis curtailed his potential in THIS competition, but I am glad to see he is not letting that stop him in any way. I would also like to take a moment to mention the fourth young man of this quartet (since Cyrus did not dance this number with his housemates) who, if my detective work is any good, is Kenneth “Xclusive” Paryo. I hope to see him in the Season 10 auditions.
Other bonus performance for the night included:
*A hip-hop specialty with Cyrus, Twitch, Comfort and Christopher MF’ing Scott. That white boy can do whatever he wants—I am there to watch it. And why is it that we are not seeing more of Ms. Fedoke onscreen? An animation Royal Flush.
*Carly Rae Jepsen—new music, thank you Jesus! I’d have taken Call Me Maybe if Janelle and Dareian had gotten to do their cha-cha, but I knew THAT wasn’t happening since a) neither made the Top 10 and b) they were panned so badly it probably didn’t even make the repeat short list. I can’t tell if Cat called some dancers by name (usually it’s an alum when she does that), but cute bit of filler. (Upon squinting and pressing my ear to my laptop’s speaker, I believe I heard the names Nathan and Ryan—I’m guessing Nathan Trasoras from Season 6 and a fellow who looked a whole lot like Mr. Di Lello from Season 6 made an appearance in the background. Of course, I didn’t get a very good look at the blonde girl, so THAT may very well be Season 8’s Ryan Ramirez that Cat was talking about.)
Top 20 group—Top 10 plus 10 All-Stars: Nappytabs leave London with a sitter long enough to put this African/hip-hop number together. Welcome to the jungle, y’all. Fortunately it was really good and the District 78 mix worked this time, ‘cause I’ll cut somebody over The Lion King.
You see a lot of surprise and shock from people who win contests and pageants, but none so intense and heartwarming as when our ballet finalists Eliana and Chehon were crowned America’s Favorite Dancers. Eliana was literally floored, while Chehon went from surprise, shock, elation and happy tears in 0.7 seconds. Even amidst flowers, streamers, confetti, fireworks, and Cat Deeley repeatedly calling their names, Eliana was STILL in disbelief, repeating “What just happened?” over and over (and even several hours later on Facebook) and Chehon was holding onto Cat’s arm for dear life. I would have been happy with any of the guys or the top three girls holding the title, but the fact that after nine seasons not one but TWO ballet dancers conquered America enough to win sends me over the moon. Ballet contestants have had the hardest time adapting to the judges’ and public’s satisfactions, and because only a select few actually made it far enough into the Top 10 to perform their own style, mainstream audiences have had little to no exposure to ballet outside of possible field trip with their grade schools. I hate to go so far as to say it legitimizes ballet, but I’ll bet you an arm and a leg there’s a whole slew of little kids tugging on Mom’s leg begging to go to ballet class after this. Hey, I’m told that’s what happened with me at the age of 2….
By the way, who else here got a little lump in their throat when Cat barely got the “Th” out of her mouth to thank everyone and the first thing we saw was the big gray blur that was Alex launching himself toward his ballet compadre to congratulate him on the win? A vicarious win for our Season 6 superstar—the only thing that could have made that moment better is if it were Cole…who I have no doubt was probably the second one up.
Here’s to fighting for Season 10…..
P.S. This is the end of the show critiques; however, I have a much-anticipated tour stop to attend, so until I’ve gotten my next fresh fix of my Top 10 superstars, I will be doing a few more show-related blogs through the month for your reading pleasure.