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'So You Think You Can Dance': Game changer?

Top6_MG_8165_1 This was an interesting season. In terms of the talent, I enjoyed it more than Season 6 (I think most people, even the producers, agreed that somehow, Season 5 didn’t work as well as Seasons 4 or 3).  But it felt a little bit disjointed, partially due to the World Series and the holidays (which is why we're seeing a Top 6 and not Top 4 in the finale).  And while I enjoyed having a winter "SYTYCD," it seemed to take a back seat to some other shows this season -- it feels more like a spotlight show in the sleepy summer. 

This finale encapsulated the general "I was really close to loving it" feeling I had all season. For one, I missed the Top 4 same-sex combos. How great was the Russian dancing from Season 4 or the two princes dance from Season 3? Can we imagine how Ryan would have danced next to Russell? We know that Ellenore and Kathryn would have made a great couple. 

And speaking of which, this may be an unpopular opinion, but I felt a little bit manipulated the big Ryan and Ashleigh Di Lello dance. I don't think that the judges would have made such a big deal about their performance if they weren't married to each other. It was fine, but frankly I've seen Ryan have better chemistry with Ellenore Scott or Kathryn McCormick. And the way the judges reacted, you'd think something truly groundbreaking had happened (like, say a gay married couple had performed on the show). They are a married couple that happens to perform professionally -- it's nice to see them dance together but nothing to cry about.

Also, one last gripe: Cat Deeley has been doing a lot of fake laughing all season, most frequently when she walks onto the set.


But I had to get the negative stuff out of the way because really, those issues aside, it was a very good finale. It started strong with a sexy Kathryn and Ryan samba -- I loved how at the beginning she basically used his body as a jungle gym. I actually can't see Ryan winning the competition because he is almost a better partner than he is a solo dancer, but that's why I like him. Adam Shankman correctly stated that this season was about the "rise of Kathryn." I liked Ellenore all season long, but I really loved seeing Kathryn grow throughout the competition.

Ellenore and Jakob kept it rolling with a Broadway dance from "Fosse" that exhibited what I could only describe as finale-worthy dancing. I especially loved Jakob's heel turns. I disagreed with the judges saying it was the most gorgeous Ellenore had been all season just because I think she's been gorgeous all season. 

Next, Ashleigh and Russell performed a Sonya Tayeh jazz dance, and due to either the choreography or his skills Russell pretty much stole the show. Ashleigh couldn’t seem to hide her disappointment when the judges largely extolled Russell's skills and development throughout the season, a topic that brought Mary to tears.

Ellenore and Ryan were reunited for a robotic Garry Stewart jazz dance that I had a feeling, as it was happening, that the judges weren't going to like as much as I did. I liked the stiff movements and the non-characters they had to portray. But Nigel Lythgoe didn't get it, picking on the choreography more than the performance, although Mary Murphy at least found it unique. 

Ashleigh and Jakob also came back to their original partnership with a Jean-Marc Généreux fox trot that I couldn't find anything wrong with, but despite what the judges said, I found their chemistry to be among the least engaging of those this season. Compare it with Ellenore and Russell's paso doble that came next: Ellenore totally grabbed the screen with her silhouette, until, of course, Russell slid into the screen on his knees. It was a badass performance, in short.

I never managed to fall in love with Jakob the person but I can't deny his dancing skills. His technical skills shined in an memorable Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson contemporary dance that felt like a classic as it was happening -- I could imagine it being a hit on the "SYTYCD" tour. And as good as Jakob was with his lifts and leaps, Kathryn matched him at every step. Adam Shankman proclaimed the dance a "game changer" and Nigel proclaimed Kathryn his favorite girl. 

I wish that we had seen Ashleigh and Ryan dance Latin ballroom since we'd been waiting all season for this potential pairing. It would have been nice to see them do what they do best on such a big stage. It was a typically beautiful Travis Wall dance, but you know, I can't help but wonder how it would have gone featuring, say, Jakob and Kathryn. 

Finally, Kathryn and Russell finished off with a Tabitha and Napoleon D'Umo hip-hop dance that was robotic like Ryan and Ellenore's dance but more beloved by the judges (was I the only person who raised an eyebrow at the choice of a Chris Brown song?). I felt bad for Kathryn that her final dance found her dancing hip-hop alongside Russell since I couldn't imagine that it would be the best venue for her, but Nigel found her to be as gangsta as he was.

There is only one person in the competition who I'd be annoyed to have win but I feel bad for calling her (er, or him) out -- but I would be happy with any five of the six remaining dancers winning the title of America's Favorite Dancer, which is a pleasant position to be in. The season might have had a few growing pains settling into the fall schedule, but talent-wise it was one of the best.

-- Claire Zulkey

Ryan Di Lello, Ashleigh Di Lello, Ellenore Scott, Russell Ferguson, Kathryn McCormick and Jakob Karr. Credit: Kelsey McNeal / FOX

 
Comments () | Archives (15)

I'm hoping Jakob takes it, but if it goes to Kathryn, Ellenore, or Russell I'd still be happy. There are just so many great dancers/performers left, I don't think any one of them is a lock!

For my thoughts on the finale, check out my blog here: http://toointerestingfortwitter.blogspot.com/2009/12/so-you-think-you-can-dance-top-6.html

I dunno, Claire Z. I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit for a dance with Ashleigh and Ryan, not because I don't think they're good but because I've been equally interested in a lot of the others this season. However, I found their dance to be beautiful, flawless and extremely moving. Yeah, it would have been great to see them tear it up with a ballroom number, but I, for one, will remember this dance for a long time. There was a sweetness to it that I'd never seen on the show before. I'd be fine with any of the six winning at this point. I suspect it's going to come down to Russell and Kathryn, partly because they're amazing dancers and partly because Nigel lobbied so hard in his comments. I often feel he, in particular, tries to sway the vote.

I have to agree with DJ about Ashleigh and Ryan's dance .. it was gorgeous BECAUSE they are married .. a treat of treats that is seldom seen on the stage. I have, actually, never before seen love and grace so perfectly and excitingly blended .. absolutely gorgeous. The second thing that seems obvious to me is that, if you look really closely, you will see that Kathryn really hasn't grown that much .. she has been STUNNINGLY perfect from the very very beginning. And my third point .. well .. am I the only one who wishes Nigel would have his vocal chords removed and then stay home on sabbatical for a LONG time?

Disappointing season for me, certainly compared to last. There's nobody who compares with Brandon, Janette, Ade, Melissa... and the quality of the choreography wasn't as good either, perhaps suffering from the departure of resident genius Mia Michaels. That said, Jakob is clearly the best all-around dancer this run, though I would not mind seeing Russell win at all. Kathyrn beats the other two, but if Ellenore won I'd be okay with that, as I love her. Ashleigh and Ryan, who are both talented and likeable, are at the low end of this bracket for me, but I can see the novelty/emotional thing getting a lot of votes. First rule of competition shows is, the best person never wins.

But man, that contemporary WAS a killer...

I didn't like this season at all. The abbreviated run, the lack of audience participation in the initial shows, the absence of Mia Michaels, the near absence of Wade Robson, the permanent presence of Adam Shankman on the panel, Nigel's elevation to near-divinity, the flashing set, the LED backdrop that looks great on my HD TV, but miserable on my standard set, and I didn't find any real sparkle in the final six (six? What kind of finale is sorting out between six?) performers.

I may not be back next year.

Go Krump Krump!!

Ted,

I have to agree with you. This has been a disappointing season. Something just seemed off. From using the stage that was normally used during the finale to cutting the intro pieces and dare I even say adding Adam as a permanent judge. Maybe I've been inhaling too many pine tree fumes, but I kind of miss the ramblings of Lil C, the Sistah girl enthusiasm of Debbie Allen, the critiques of Mia Michaels (though she could be too harsh). So I'm hoping they take a break. And maybe next time around they will find dancers that truly light up the stage instead of a small handful of people whose names I can't remember.

E,

Well said. This was a very low point of a season for this show.

Mia's seat should be a revolving guest seat. I missed Lil C, and others...enough Adam, although this was far from being the only problem with this season....

This entire season was void of any real emotion, very ironic as this is the very essence of dance.

I feel manipulated by the whole season.

I'm kinda glad Mia Michaels was gone. The new people who replaced her (especially whoever managed the Jakob Kathryn routine) brought more interesting stuff to the floor.

Not too sound insensitive, but I always found dance rountines based on personal drama (friend suffering from cancer, lovers meeting in heaven) a bit heavy handed.

That the show had to hurry along to fit the fall schedule, to the point of eliminating contestants right after the performances in the early episodes and limiting the penultimate show to an hour is a GOOD thing.

I was annoyed by all the small changes this season. No rotating judge position. Didn't like the new stage. If the viewers don't get to vot for 1/3 of the season it sort of defeats the purpose. And then the finale. I liked the final 4 with every possible dance combo to the 6 finalists just dancing every guy/girl combo possible. Plus... every performance show all season is 2 hours EXCEPT for the final one? Instead we get a ton of dancing crammed into an hour so rushed there isn't time for anything else. I loved the dancers this season but for me they are fixing the show to death.

I'm with DJ on Ashleigh and Ryan's dance. Kathryn has been my favorite all season, and Ryan my least favorite as a soloist (but am grateful for all the great female performances he has enabled!), so I was really surprised and a little sad that I was not as drawn in to Kathryn and Jakob's performance as everybody else was, and as I expected to be. It was Ashleigh and Ryan whose performance made me catch my breath and ultimately made me cry: their movement was beautiful, and the tenderness and joy in their faces was something you just don't get to see on a stage. Incidentally, as to the judges' reaction: I thought Nigel in particular belittled the routine and Ashleigh as much as he possibly could, while Mary and Adam were ambiguous. They certainly didn't fawn over it. I want Kathryn to win, too, but Nigel's partisanship was annoying. I actually do NOT enjoy watching Ashleigh do ballroom--she resorts to all the worst fakeness of the style, and I actively disliked her audition--but I have thoroughly enjoyed everything else she has done on the show. I now really like her, but up against Kathryn and Ellenore, she still comes in a respectable third girl, and probably 5th in the competition. It's a very talented group.

Uhm, the judges never really commented on how Ryan or Ashley performed together...they just acknowledged that it was a special moment for them. That's hardly an outpouring of praise. They even acknowledged that they had better chemistry with other dancers.

Ashley and Ryan aren't the best dancers but they clearly love each other, which sadly is out of the ordinary these days. You can tell their relationship is an anomaly by how cynically audience members respond to their affection for each other.

Also, how does Ellenore's silhouette and Russel's slide exhibit their chemistry with one another? They were behind a screen and not even interacting yet. That's just neat staging. It has nothing to do with chemistry. And Jakob does have better chemistry with his partners. As the judges have said he's a very selfless partner. What he lacks is personality. He's more attuned to the dance and his partner whereas Russell plays to the audience more. I guess that's why I like Kathryn best of all. She's nearly as flawless as Jakob but she also finds a better balance between supporting her partner and playing to the audience.

I love this season. Love Adam Shankman, he is so funny and sensible. His critiques always make sense to me (not Little C. please!) My favorite dancers are Russell and Eleanor. The other contestants are great, but these 2 are real, raw and original. I'm glad Russell won. Fox should create a special program featuring performances from all these great dancers.

I did not notice fake laughing , may be Cat forgot she is in America and people don't understand royal audience as Cat Deeley would have to face when she is on telly.
So,Catherine smile American at the risk of being pretentious this time.
It is a Brit show so lets learn a few Brit qualities.


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