It’s the finale of Season 11 and the results are in!
As has been standard over the past few seasons, several dances from the season are revisited based on judges’ choices, finalists’ faves and a fan pick based on social media vote…with all of the choices being likely fodder for the upcoming concert tour.
Tonight’s judging panel, along with stalwarts Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy, include early judges Tara Lipinski and Jenna Dewan-Tatum, and in their first panel appearances this season, legends Adam Shankman and Debbie Allen.
Mary Murphy is up first and picks Casey and Jessica’s Week 5 breakout contemporary, Travis Wall’s “Like Real People Do.” It lost some of the first time organics but it’s still a good piece, and they naturally nailed it technically, as usual. They’ll get it hammered out for the Tour….Debbie Allen makes her first appearance this season and picks Valerie and Ricky’s hip-hop duo courtesy of Pharside and Phoenix. The minute I heard “Turn Down For What” start I knew this was destined for heavy repetition. Considering it actually made me like the song, that’s a pretty good thing. Nigel’s choice was a nice little brag session, picking Rudy’s duet with FORMER All-Star Allison Holker–now a cast member and the latest SYTYCD alum on Dancing With The Stars–in the Ray Leeper “Dirty Diana” jazz from Michael Jackson Week. Nice cross plugs, Nigel…but how you mentioned everybody BUT Chelsie Hightower in that list is unfathomable. For shame! Jenna loves her some Rudy as well, as her selection is the Sonya Tayeh jazz piece “What You Need” performed with Tanisha in Top 20 week 2. That was a good piece and an excellent showcase for Tanisha’s abilities. Adam Shankman, also in the studio for the first time this season, gives the best intro EVER: “I want to let those two kings know that THIS queen is a fan!” Naturally, he’s referring to the fresh from last week Pharside and Phoenix hip-hop number “The Antidote,” given to Zack and Ricky, and I have to say those boys were just as filthy (Adam’s words) this week as they were last week. Tara brings back the Nappytabs hip-hop “Get Low,” performed by my boo Emilio Dosal and All-Star and Degree pitchwoman Jasmine Harper, which is lucky for them as you’ll see a few paragraphs down.
Blessedly, there was no official ranking this year, but we were still treated to memorable moments from the auditions. Most were expected–Courtney “How you doing?” Barnes, Jerrod “Hey Ms. Mary!” Swain and the 18 1/2 year old J4–but also included, and greatly appreciated, was Dani Platz, a young lady re-entering the dance world after a stint in recovery for an eating disorder. Her emotive expression of her experience through her dancing, and judge Christina Applegate’s recognition of her voice in that piece, was touching and inspiring, and I applaud the producers for including it.
The top four kids also get to pick their favorites:
Zack goes with his breakthrough contemporary, Sonya Tayeh’s “Europe After the Rain” with All-Star Amy Yakima; Valerie sticks to her roots and picks the “Sing” tap Anthony Morigerato created for her and fellow finalist Zach Everhart; Jessica reprised the “When I Go” contemporary from the previous week, choreographed by Stacey Tookey and performed with All-Star Robert Roldan; and Ricky went all the way back to the first performance show and pulled his “Vow” contemporary from Sonya Tayeh, that he performed with fellow finalist Jessica Richens.
The evening would not be complete with an over-the-top foray from Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who not only “attempts” some Travis Wall choreography onstage but whips out his own ticket to Vegas for next season…who’s gonna tell him they’re back in Pasadena now?
Since we’re back to a single champion, we get that dramatic drawn-out results reveal, and the 4th place contestant is announced–Zack Everhart. (Objectively, I have to finish this piece, but know that I call complete and total bullshit on America’s vote. At the very least I think he should have been Top 2 for the astronomical growth he’s had this year.)
The audience got to select from three hip-hop numbers in the course of the season: the snake piece from Emilio and All-Star Jasmine Harper (#SYTYCDgetlow), the skeleton piece from Serge and Carly (#SYTYCDskeleton), and the piece from Week 4 with Casey and Brooklyn (#SYTYCDhustle). In a move that once again proves I TOTALLY cannot read the America audience, the popular vote went to #SYTYCDskeleton, the piece “Senile” with Carly and Serge. Whaddayaknow, the audience can appreciate subtle skill after all. (However, I was partially correct in my surety that we’d be seeing “Get Low,” since as mentioned above it wound up being Tara Lipinski’s choice for an encore.)
Also on tap were the clear and overwhelming winners of the Crew contest–The Wanted Ashiqz. All four crews were great and had their own something special, but there was that extra edge from Wanted Ashiqz that gave me the feeling that they would wind up on the finale….and they did not disappoint. The hip-hop/Bollywood fusion group has an incredibly high production value with moves and precision to match.
Alright, it needs to be said–Sonya Tayeh and Christopher Scott, just get married already and have a SYTYCD baby! The Top 10 + 10 get blessed by the Miracle Duo’s latest concept piece, which is basically just people helping people and being kind whenever you can. I sure hope they can make this work with 13 people, because this not being on the Tour would be criminal.
Even Cat gets in a pick, and as it happens, it’s a duet from what is determined as the top two finalists–Ricky and Valerie reprising their very first partnership, the contemporary “Oh Darling” from Travis Wall. Which, of course, means that Jessica falls short of the title in 3rd place…and, like Zack before her, is eliminated immediately after her last performance of the night. Something tells me more people knew the results beforehand than have let on….
So it’s down to another couple, and America’s vote goes exactly where I thought it would (despite my hopes for a surprise win from a tap dancer): Ricky Ubeda. Honestly, I really have nothing against the kid other than it’s yet another contemporary dancer taking the title. But that’s not really fair to let my hang-ups and wishes color his victory. In truth, any of the four finalists possess a level of technique and passion that was worthy of a win. But you could definitely see something extra special in Ricky. On top of that absolutely insane level of technique embedded in his muscle memory, the high degree of passion displayed every time he stepped onto the stage essentially cemented America’s choice. Nigel called him a magician of dance very early on, and I have to admit that he’s right. The combination of skill and joy is entrancing, and what makes the experience even more profound is watching Ricky AFTER performing. The boy was literally spent and either near or in tears after every single performance–I honestly believe we as an audience felt a mere fraction of everything he put into his routines, which were often superhuman but looked as natural as breathing.
So Ricky is the latest So You Think dance ambassador, and he definitely earned it. As a former teacher myself–and as a big fan of Ricky’s teacher, Season 6 contestant Victor Smalley–there’s a certain feeling of pride and joy when you see one of your students excel at pursuing their dreams…and when those dreams just happen to be ones you yourself reached for and just missed, that extra vicarious thrill of victory has got to feel incredible. I imagine both of these Miami boys are over the moon right now, with no signs of coming down anytime soon.
UPDATE: I am ashamed to say that in my haste to publish on time I missed a few things. Enrique’s performance was lovely (and why is he doing the one name thing? SMH), but I was focused on the dancing. And I have to go watch again and fully appreciate the Les Twins performance. But it is absolutely shameful that I did not even mention Michael Demecki, winner of So You Think You Can Dance Australia….where do I even begin? That boy has moves Blake McGrath can only dream of….and I LOVE me some Blake McGrath. AND he danced to Cole and Lindsay’s paso song? Let’s just say it’s a good thing Ricky wasn’t competing there. Bravo, young man.