Big, big sigh of happy everything. How great was that? I did not expect those results, but I could not be happier.
What I did expect: Cat in a spectacular minidress (white with a sweetheart neckline and spangles) and a large panel of judges – Nigel, Mary, Tyce, Debbie Allen, Adam and Lil’C. Huh. Is that weird of me? I can’t extract the Allen from Debbie Allen. Just can’t do it. The judges are arrayed in varying degrees of formal wear; Nigel’s in tone on tone paisley, Tyce’s tuxedo seems to have a suede collar, which is just screwy, and don’t even get me started on the turtleneck. Adam and C look dapper as ever, Mary has a fabulously Spanish influenced ensemble with large glittery flowers in black and red, and Debbie Allen has poofed and flowing 80s hair over an off the shoulder black gown with enormous pleated ruffles. It’s a lot of look.,visually and physically.
The show goes through a few stuttery introductions, including most of the original pairs and the top four bouncing up and down whipping up the crowd (so cute!) before Cat introduces the top twenty number. It’s a collaboration of Sonya Tayeh (adorable in a plaid jacket and bangs) and the super delicious Christopher Scott, which of course means its set to a piece by Nathan Lanier. The judges and Cat talk it up, and wow, were they right to.
The men wear slouchy olive suits over loose creamy long sleeve t-shirts; the women have on royal blue dresses with long pleated skirts and black patches on their stomachs. Wind blows them across the stage; pairs come together, fight to hold on, fight to stay upright, fight to stay together. Cyrus dubsteps across the stage (or at least, I’m assuming that the hand motion voguing stuff is dubstep, based on the show’s single dubstep routine) with five of the women flowing off his arm. George and Dareian do acrobatics; Chehon and Daniel do ballet. Some of the organizational bits – and definitely the acrobatics and dubstep – felt like Christopher Scott, as did the score (“Torn” – at once dramatic and tender) and the lighting. The dancing itself felt mostly like Sonya. But who the heck cares? It was all kinds of awesome. It just was.
And what a delight it was to see fallen favorites back in the mix. Daniel! Amber! I’ve missed you. Alexa, way to work that fierce fuschia stripe. It’s actually difficult to recognize people if their hair doesn’t stand out (oooh, look, there’s Nick with his almost pompadour!), but that too is okay. There’s something in the piece, some flavor of smoke and disaster and confusion resolving into order and tenacity and strength, that I can’t get enough of. When the girls arrive en masse, stomping their feet and flicking their skirts at us, their visceral power awes me. Our final image is of Eliana and Tiffany flying through the air, their blue silk dressing rippling, tossed up for Chehon and Cyrus to catch. Gorgeous.
After everyone’s done applauding and gasping, the judges each get to offer us one favorite piece. Just one? Man, I made that wish list waaaay too long. Head judge and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe is up first, and his pick (from my list!) is Travis’s Titanic piece, danced by Matthew and Audrey. Aw! It’s actually better than the first time. Her assisted scissor kick lift goes a good ten degrees past vertical this time if not more. Awesome. After the music ends, I notice that instead of stroking her arm as he did the first time, Matt cuddles Audrey and then gives her a kiss on the cheek before hustling her off the stage.
Next just up is Lil’C, who goes for Luther Brown’s “My Homies Still,” which he titles “Swagography.” This was an alternate of mine, and certainly the most hard hitting, stereotypically hip hoppiest of the season’s hip hop routines. The song still sets my teeth on edge, but Witney and tWitch rock it. Her character cracks me up; she’s so far over the top she’s a whole other person, and it’s great. And I love love love everyone “waiting for the bus.”
God bless her heart, Debbie Allen requests “Turning Page!” That reached high on my personal shortlist for the season and I was giddy that it got included; I didn’t think it would. George and Tiffany are also even better than they were the first time, I think. Man. I’m really loving this episode.
Taking time away from these performances (boo!) Cat informs us that we’re going to revisit the top five auditions of the season. First up is number five, Leroy Martinez, the cherubic dude who works with at risk kids, keeping them off the streets with dance lessons. What a love he was! We get to see Adam weeping and saying that Leroy makes him want to be a better man. Or at least, love his job and feel momentarily humbled. I was meh on this idea at first, but I guess I don’t mind. It’s good to look back.
From tape to live, Adam’s up next, and he’s picked a ballroom routine. I don’t know if the judges really pick these routines, or if the producers assign them. I’ve always sort of assumed it was the latter, although given that “Turning Page” seems like a real underdog, maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, Adam the Broadway dude has picked ballroom. Apparently this is not the first time. He wants to see “Unstoppable” (Yes! another from the top of my list) from Cole and Lindsay. And man, but they bust it out. This routine is just sick. Once again I’m struck by what a completely versatile dancer Cole is. I’d have had a hard time picking who to vote for if Cole had gone up against Chehon in the finale. I still want Lindsay to bite into Cole’s shoulder, and I preferred her dramatic make up from the first performance, but those are trivial concerns when weighed against the unstoppable awesomeness of this piece.
I don’t know if it was better or not, but I squealed when Tyce picked “Love Cats.” I figured they would, but it still made me crazy happy. It’s a great song, it’s a great idea, and it was carried out so precisely, so specifically, so full of fun and character. Couldn’t be happier to see Will and Amelia again. Delightful.
The #4 audition belongs to sniffly stay at home mom Bree Hafen (“Am I worth the time away from my kids?”). Girl really is so sweet, and her kids are just lovely.
Mary chooses Tyce’s Holocaust/refugee themed piece (“Eli Eli”) for Chehon and Kathryn. No surprise there – nor is the fact that Tyce looks quite smugly pleased with himself. I’ve said before that I think this piece is a bit overrated, but you had to know it was coming. And it was certainly beautifully danced and heart felt.
Just when I was worried that we were running out of judges to pick routines, Cat announces that each of the finalists will be picking their own favorites. Okay, that helps. Eliana gets to explain why she picked it, but we all know what she’s going to choose and why: it’s Alex Wong and “Bang Bang” for her most important and memorable moment. Awesome. Gosh, that red silk slip dress flatters her body, and the music is so eerie and haunting. Great stuff. When it ends, Nigel explains exactly why Eliana is the best girl ever; she shifts effortlessly from silly to serious, from one style to the next. Of course, Tiffany hasn’t put a foot wrong all season; America picked the right two girls. Huh.
Did we? Maybe. Then Nigel drops a total bomb; not only did Eliana top every judges’ list in Vegas, Desmond Richardson called Nigel up and said that he needed her for his company as soon as she got voted off.
Rightly, this makes Eliana cry. Dude, I hope you got permission from Richardson to relay that promise. Now that it’s out in public, though, I hope he sticks to it! Of course, my suspicious mind immediately wonders why Nigel brought it up, and if (since he knows the results) he’s just saying it to buck her up before she looses. Or is he promoting her as the best winner ever? Hmmmm.
After bringing us footage of the Ninja Twins, memorable audition number 3, Cat picks her favorite routine of the season – Tiffany and Brandon’s disco. That was fun, but it means we have to see those tragic pants again. Boo! But I might be the only one who thinks so; Adam tells Tiffany he wants them back. Oh, Adam.
It’s so hard to pick, Chehon tells us, because I’ve done so many routines I love, but the most important in terms of his “journey” was the Argentine Tango with Anya. Alright! Good for you for picking something so far out of your normal range, Chehon. That’s a mark of true growth. If I’d been guessing, I’d have thought “Leave” or “I Will Always Love You” where he got to show off a bit more of what he does. But he picked right. This was perfect, hushed and intimate and lost in its own world. And I got to see him smile this time! Magical, all the way through. Mary thanks him for picking that routine. “You have experienced greatness on this show,” she nods.
After showing us a little medley of the hip hop routine from the whole season, Cat claims it’s been a great season for the genre. So great that instead of picking something to reprise, they’re going to give us a whole new routine. Because everything else was so awesome. I see. But I won’t complain, because it’s Comfort and Cyrus and tWitch and Christopher Scott, not only choreographing but dancing! How wonderful is that?
All four dancers are dressed as casino card dealers, with white shirts and suspenders and colorful vests. Comfort and tWitch watch as Cyrus and Christopher play. Chris deals, they go all in, the cards are down (the dancers swaying back and forth with each sharp movement) and Cyrus has won. They freeze, and the camera circles the dancers (so Matrix) until Christopher tosses the table over, cards and chips flying, clearly certain Cyrus cheated. The other three surround the suspect, pull him by his suspenders, buffet him about, dancing and clomping around him. (At a certain point you have ask, ungraciously, whether they’re hiding Cyrus’s inability to keep up with the rest or not.) All four begin to dance in unison, and at Comfort’s urging, Christopher finds a way to stick his hand in Cyrus’ pocket, where he finds the ace of spaces. Rut ro! Cyrus leaps into the audience. And stay out, ya bum!
What a good addition! Christopher Scott seems so unlikely, somehow, soft and mild and not angular, yet man, can he dance! What a lot of fun. And geesh, how many times have we used Messianan’s “Holy Ghost” now?
Surprising no one, Tiffany picks the Mandy Moore routine she danced with Ade, “The Power of Love.” Very cool. She’s also super sweet – you can kind of see how she’s mentioning Sonya and others so as not to offend anyone by picking Mandy. But this is the one which makes the most sense for her. This is where the judges really started to notice who she was. I’d have been happier with “What I Like About You,” her brilliant jive with Benji, but I can see why this piece means so much to her, and how lovely it is to dance in her own style. Tiffany cries as Mary compliments her; what I love about you, the judge proclaims, is the essence of you. It’s your soul.
And yeah. There is no topping that.
The second best audition belongs (unsurprisingly) to the Exorcist. I didn’t really get this guy, but it was clear they did, so I see why he’s on top of this list. Well, not quite on top. On the absolute tip top is the Dragon House crew. Wow. Isn’t that kind of biased, given that one of them is a finalist? I can’t decide if it’s more of a coronation of Cyrus or a consolation prize. It doesn’t really matter, though. Their story is great (how many young dancers live together in that tiny apartment?) and so is their work. Three men in suits and spotlights dance to Cyberoptics’s “Cryosleep”; Boris Penton is in the middle, but I can’t tell for sure if fellow auditioner Andre Rucker is the guy on stage right or not. I think it’s him? Tiny in gold with a gold mask is former auditioner Brian Gaynor, who moves between them and eventually – well, either shoots them or (more likely) clicks them off with a remote.
Will you lose all respect for me when I admit that I genuinely like “Call Me Maybe” and – even better – “Good Time?” That’s why Carly Rae Jepsen’s third single disappoints me so. I was all excited that she was our musical guest (and excellent get) but blech. That said, she looks adorable, bouncing around in a little flowered dress over leopard print shorts, and former contestants Ryan and Nathan look great dancing behind her. Nice! I get so goofy excited whenever I see a former contestant employed.
After a mini-recap of much of the season (Tyce snapping at Nick “you’re in the top twenty so just stop crying already!,” crying, kissing, Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s hot jalapeno bus) Cyrus gets his choice. And to complete the circle of finalists picking routines with the All Stars, Cyrus wants to dance with tWitch again. Okay. Clearly it was either going to be this or dubstep (and I think I’d have preferred the latter) but this is great too. It is funny that none of the dancers picked anything with their original partners, isn’t it? I can see why Eliana and Cyrus didn’t, but Chehon and Tiffany had great routines with Witney and George.
Anyway. “Like a Criminal” starts up with tWitch and Glitch behind the glass doors. This time, Cyrus doesn’t break his glass well, and has to punch again at a stubborn strip in the middle. The effect still kills, though.
If you hadn’t picked that routine, I would, Nigel tells Cyrus. Mary said that routine stole the finale show, but honestly, you stole the whole season. Well, that’s laying it on a bit thick! We enjoyed being with you on your journey, he says. Don’t just be content working in your own genre; please keep stretching yourself. And hey! Someone should pay him to advertize something!
Er, okay. Is that a weird compliment? I get it, it just seems like a real non sequitur.
To close out the night, we have a routine for the Top Ten and for ten All Stars (Comfort, tWitch, Allison, Alex, Brandon, Melanie, Ade, Anya, Kathryn and Marko) . It’s fierce, a combination of The Lion King’s “Circle of Life” with something called “Nants Ingoyama” joined together by District 78. Tabitha and Napoleon have done the honors, and it’s a rollicking, stomping, primal African jazz meets hip hop wonder. Who didn’t want to bound around their living room watching this? I loved the costumes (Comfort’s feather headdress, Cole’s zebra striping) and really just everything about it. The four finalists end on a rock above the others.
And that must have been taped, because everyone’s now in fresh clothes with clean faces and different hair. Eliana and Tiffany stand with Cat as she plays a clip about their time on the show. Tiffany’s already won by making it here, when she almost didn’t even get to Vegas. Vegas wrecked both of them. Eliana just wanted to put a good face out there for ballet. When the clip ends, both girls weep freely. Tiffany’s put on a white mullet dress with thin straps, while Eliana’s got on a strappy black dance top over black lycra leggings/pants with really unfortunate kidney bean shapes cuts outs on the side, outlined in gold. And here I thought nothing could be more tragic than those disco pants! The girls tremble together, holding hands, and after a dramatic pause, Cat declares that America’s favorite female dancers is… Eliana!
YES! Tiffany would have made a worthy winner, and I genuinely wasn’t sure which one of them would take the crown, but I was hoping for this. Hurray! “What just happened?” Eliana cries, hand over her wide open mouth. Quickly, Cat shoves both girls off the stage while the boys film begins to play.
Once again, Vegas broke them down. They’ve learned so much. I’m so surprised to be here, Cyrus gushes, but being on stage makes me feel like I have superpowers. I put so much pressure on myself, Chehon admits, and I learned I don’t have to do that. AW. “I came into this competition not believing in myself and I can leave this competition feeling like I’ve achieved something,” he says. AW! That’s so fantastic. I could just eat him up. It astounds me to think how much I disliked him. I was so off base! And yet, see how much he’s changed, because you can see it really plainly over the course of the season how more and more of his characteristic sweetness is revealed in his face.
Like his fellow ballet dancer, Chehon’s in rough and tumble black, cool leather jacket over his shoulders. The contrast isn’t quite so stark; Cyrus is wearing jeans and white shirt with a pastel pink jacket. Are they the new Crockett and Tubbs? There are tears in Cyrus’s sweet eyes, and his lip in practically quivering. He wants it so badly, and I’m sure that the prize is his. But no! Chehon couldn’t be more shocked to find that he’s the one. He’s the winner!
At the edge of the stage, Witney clutches the dancers next to her, saying “I’m going to faint, I’m going to faint!” Cyrus swallows his disappointment and hugs Chehon; when he pulls away, he’s fighting to keep from weeping. Cat drags Eliana in, and she and Chehon embrace as streamers and confetti rain down. The first person on the stage, throwing his arms around Chehon is Alex Wong, leading a mob of jubilant contestants and All Stars; and in the final seconds you can still see Alex in the jubliant throng, crying out to Eliana “Ballet! Ballet!” It’s Team Ballet for the win! Aw!
So. Okay. First, interesting that Tiffany was in three of tonight’s Best Of routines, isn’t it? Chehon and tWitch were in two, with Cyrus and Eliana in one a piece. I’m always intrigued by how this rarely matches up with who wins. Most of the routines I expected made the finale, though there was less ballroom than I’d anticipated. Anyone else notice that Chehon was the only finalist to pick a routine outside of his own style? (Okay, Eliana did too but for the purposes of this show you have to practically count contemporary as ballet, especially when she’s doing it with another ballet dancer.) The three original pieces were spectacular.
I hear nasty, nasty rumors that this may be the end for our beloved show. That can’t be! Heck, it’s not like that dating show FOX tried worked any better! I hope this speculation turns out to be false, because it’s extraordinarily upsetting. What do we do to convince FOX that this would be a complete travesty? Send them ballet slippers? Chalk? Photos of jazz hands or dancers ugly feet? Hope against hope that Cat wins the reality competition Emmy this weekend? (Damn. She lost. So annoyed that the show lost the choreography one, even if Alex was in the admittedly delightful winning number on Smash, but I’m thrilled for their lighting designer on his well deserved statuette.) There’s got to be something. Because as lovely as this was, this cannot be the end! Thinking about waiting until next May is hard enough.