SYTYCD Dance Critic's Desk: So You Think You Can Dance Season 8 FINAL FOUR FINALE!
About the Dance Critic
Kate Spenser studied classical and contemporary ballet beginning at the age of 10 in the greater Boston area. She attended summer programs at the Briansky Saratoga Ballet Center and the American Academy of Ballet. She continued dancing, and began choreographing, while in college, taking courses in the prestigious Five College Dance Department in Western Massachusetts. She has choreographed ballet, modern, contemporary, and hip hop dance pieces on dancers with a wide range of ages and ability levels.
I can't believe this season has gone by so fast! And what a season it has been - controversial eliminations, surprise breakthrough performances, and some of the most consistent dancers and performers the show has ever seen.
I couldn't be more pleased with the top 4 - I think that Melanie, Marko, Tadd, and Sasha are all gorgeous, strong, versatile, and promising dancers. And while there were ups and downs in the finale performance, they each demonstrated how truly talented they are.
On a whole, I thought the performances with the all-stars were better than the duets the top 4 each did with each other - though a couple of those stood out to me as well! And since we got to see so many pieces, and I just couldn't narrow it completely to 3, here are my top 4 favorite performances from the finale.
Video: Melanie and Sasha's Finale Duet
Runner Up: Sasha and Melanie Performing a Stacey Tookey Contemporary Piece
This piece couldn't be any more different from the duet these two did two weeks ago when Lady Gaga "gave them the boot," as Cat said, but watching Melanie and Sasha perform it together confirmed something for me - I LOVE these two women dancing together. I think they complement each other so, so well and really bring out each others' strengths. Nigel wants them both to join dance companies after the tour is over - wouldn't it be fantastic if they joined the same one?!
I thought the premise behind this piece was a little odd, considering how young these two are - I feared it would be totally unconvincing to think of them as "suppressed housewives." But they really brought a fantastic energy to the piece, one which made their characters' emotions feel very real. I loved the costumes (though it bothered me to no end that Katie Holmes kept referring to them as "outfits" and that she commented more on the clothes than the dancing), liked the set, and really, really enjoyed the choreography. It was a really strong performance from two incredibly strong dancers.
Video: Marko and Lauren Froderman
Runner Up: Marko and All-Star Lauren Froderman Dancing a Tessandra Chavez Contemporary Piece
I loved getting the opportunity to watch two of my favorite athletic dancers - Marko Germar and season 7 winner Lauren Froderman - dance together. These two dancers have a similar kind of compact, energetic control over their movement that makes them dance incredibly well together. They had great chemistry, too - though it would be hard NOT to have chemistry with either of these dancers!
I thought this choreography was really interesting - I loved how Tessandra Chavez played with interesting angles in the dancers' bodies, and I also loved how she used the music in less-than-predictable ways. I can't imagine how excited she must have been to be given such capable dancers to work with!
Marko has a really incredible talent for tapping into his emotion when he dances - he allows himself to be vulnerable and raw, and draws the audience into his emotion and lets them experience what he's feeling with him. This piece really allowed him to maximize this ability, and showed off his gorgeous dancing to boot.
Video: Sasha and All-Star Mark
Runner up: Sasha and All-Star Mark Dancing a Sonya Tayeh Contemporary Piece
I. LOVE. SONYA. TAYEH.
Seriously, I'm pretty sure she's my favorite choreographer of all time. Everything about this piece was perfection - I love that she choreographed it FOR Sasha, to tell her story as well as to showcase her strengths. I love how she hears things in the music that others don't and brings them out with her always-innovative choreography.
This piece had emotion, it had technique, it had awesome partnering, and it had an intense, emotional story that really allowed Sasha to connect with the audience and the judges. I would not be surprised if this piece won Sasha a LOT of votes.
My favorite piece of the finale! Melanie and Robert
Top Pick: Melanie and All-Star Robert Dancing a Stacey Tookey Contemporary Piece
It was a tough call, but in the end, this piece drew me in more than any other this week. Melanie has such a capacity to draw you in, to the point that you forget where you are or what's going on. While each one of the four dancers in the finale is incredible, and absolutely deserves to be there, I still contend, as I have since watching her first audition, that Melanie has this extra something that none of the other dancers has, this spark inside the core of her being that shows up, not just when she's dancing, but when she's speaking, being judged, and even goofing off for the camera.
As soon as Kenny Ortega said he wanted to work with her, I felt all my uneasiness about the idea of this Dirty Dancing remake melt away as I thought, "Yes! Cast Melanie as Baby!" I don't know if he'll do it, casting a nobody in a lead, but I love the idea - way more than any of the other names I've heard tossed around. I love that Kenny said he would put her in the movie, but Kenny, let me tell you, if you cast her as the lead, I hereby do solemnly swear I will go see it multiple times in theaters. Please take note.
I love Melanie, but I also love Robert, and I loved them together as much as I loved Marko and Lauren together. It appears that the equation for pure artistic genius = S7(finalists) + S8(finalists). I'd write more, but I think I'm going to take the time to watch this video another five times instead.
Video: Melanie and Tadd's Finale Duet
So Who's Gonna Win?
I've said it all along and I'm sticking to my guns here - I think Melanie should win. While the opening disco number wasn't the judges' favorite, she was the only one of the four that didn't have one (or two) piece(s) that left the judges and the audience completely cold. She's the most versatile, has the best stage presence, and, in short, is the best artist in the bunch. Her Jazz piece with Tadd proved that she can really perform - I loved that the judges recognized that she was embodying the character even before the dancing began, and that, as we've come to expect of her, she remained committed to the character throughout. She's got the complete package, and yet the thing she said she was most excited about from this competition was realizing how much she still has to learn - she is excited to keep training, to keep growing, and to keep expanding - she's the type of artist that any choreographer would give ANYTHING to work with.
Will she walk away with the top prize? We'll find out tonight! In the meantime, let me know who you think should win in the poll below, and tell me your favorite performances from the evening in the comments!