I started watching FOX’s “So You Think You Can Dance” for the first time this summer, and I’ve never looked back (except every so often to make sure my husband hasn’t actually collapsed from boredom).
The big finale episode is this Wednesday night, and I don’t know about you, but I’m on the edge of my seat. The problem with so many reality competition shows is that they start out strong, then get slow in the middle when it starts becoming pretty clear who the top 2-4 will be, but we still have to sit through all the pretty-good types, just to kill time. That’s certainly been the case with SYTYCD this season. I’d say for about the past three weeks I’ve been certain – to about the 87th percentile, and barring any weird audience voting patterns, that it would be Marko, Tadd, Sasha and Melanie in the finale. That didn’t stop me, however, from gripping the edges of my seat in fear whenever Tadd found himself in the bottom two. (I really like Tadd. That will become clear.) Honestly, I wasn’t in love with most of the other girls (even going so far as to accuse them of hairography), with the possible exception of Miranda, who I thought was super-endearing even though she wasn’t one of the strongest dancers. Caitlynn started to find her footing towards the end, mostly because she got to dance with past contestant and “All-Star” Pasha (um, can we talk about Pasha for a second?? Pasha is amazing. I can’t believe I’ve lived my life in ignorance of his existence. In addition to being riddled with his own particular, er, assets, he brings out the very best in every single girl he’s partnered with). In the end, however, Melanie and Sasha were simply too strong for anyone else to have had a fighting chance. And that’s not just because neither of them has enough hair to tousle it sexily during their solo performances. With the guys it was the same story – I started out a huge Jess fan but towards the end was growing bored of seeing the same top-to-bottom pirouette move every single week. I give both the judges and the TV audience mad props for picking the four truly most talented dancers in the competition to fight to the finish.
So who will be crowned the Season 8 champion?
There’s Marko. And I’ll just come right out and say it. I don’t like Marko. I don’t know why. I think maybe it’s his voice, which makes him sound like a Guamanian Marge Simpson. His specialty is contemporary (although weirdly, the show seems to think it’s jazz – this I have not seen), and the other contemporary guys (Mitchell and Ricky) just had these long, lithe bodies that were amazing to watch. Marko seems a little clumsy in comparison, though he’s a stronger dancer overall. Being paired with Melanie gave him a huge leg up, so to speak. And yes, I know the poor guy has a bullet in his arm. He deserves to be at the top. I just hope he doesn’t win.
Then there’s Tadd. Tadd is a b-boy, which is something I had to look up. He’s from the mean streets of Salt Lake City, and he has no dance background. I’m guessing there are some haters out there who will say Tadd just panders to the audience by doing ridiculous things (somewhat incongruously referred to as “tricks”) with his ridiculous body every week. To which I respond…yes, but he just does it so well. As judge and producer Nigel Lythgoe said – and I paraphrase, less Britishly – Tadd is what SYTYCD is all about. He doesn’t come from a dance background, yet he’s taken every single thing the choreographers have thrown at him and torn it up. (His jazz performance to “Another One Bites The Dust” with Season 7 winner Lauren was a personal favorite.)
Then, there’s Sasha. I tried so hard to hate Sasha. I really did. She’s got a bit of an attitude, as well as soul, in that soulless way that only people who know they have soul can pull off. But she’s remained one of my favorites despite my best efforts. Every time she’s on the stage you can’t take your eyes off her. I was in love with her breakfast-themed hip-hop routine with t-big W-itch – it was like watching a TV sitcom, except with more soul. Also, her body can basically twist in half, which is undeniably cool – she does it here, a little.
Finally, there’s Melanie. Melanie is great. I want to take her home and be her friend. My one criticism of the show is that sometimes the dancers are buoyed by weird choreography. (Despite her emotional meltdown as a guest judge, I respected Lady Gaga for calling this out. I’m guessing the other judges avoid doing this most of the time as it’s a lovey-dovey-supportive-type show, and plus they probably have to see the choreographers over breakfast-themed-hip-hop the next day.) While Melanie’s had the opportunity to dance some of the most beautiful pieces on the show, she’s also had a few weird ones thrown at her, mostly in the form of 18 consecutive Deep Contemporary pieces. Like Tadd, however, she has brought it every single time. And her hip-hop routine last week – again, with tWWWWWitch – ensured both her place at the top of the pack and my own newfound love of Nicki Minaj.
Overall, I’m calling one of the girls as the winner. I think it’ll be a very, VERY close call, but just for posterity’s sake I’m going to go with Melanie, for sheer likability if nothing else. But in the end – again, in the immortal words of those brilliant judges – the real winner here is dance. I’ve heard it said that one of the things that makes the show’s host Cat Deeley so likable is that it always seems like she’s there for the show itself, not to advance her career, which is a feeling you sometimes get from other reality competition shows (“Idol,” I’m looking in your direction.) I’m going to go a step further and say that I get this feeling from every single person involved with the show, from the judges to the guest judges (who all clearly actually follow the show) to the dancers to the audience. They’re big personalities, but for the most part they’re not really known outside of the dance world. They are there for one reason and one reason only – because this is what they love to do. As art becomes more and more something we primarily experience on television, this is an invaluable quality, and I applaud each and every one of those seriously-ab-ed dancers for making us feel like we’re a part of something so special.
The “SYTYCD” finale airs this Wednesday, August 10th at 8:00 p.m. EST on Fox. Once you’ve watched it, come back and congratulate me for being right about the outcome. I’ll look forward to seeing you then.