E: Yay, dancing! Yay, All Stars! Boo, Knock Knock whatever you are, taking up so much of our precious time with a commercial.
Yay, Cat Deeley’s extra special aqua dress with its beautiful ruching, bejeweled shoulder strap and flowing back. The diamond cuffs are pretty great, too. Cat’s clothes are always fun because she takes such risks, but this is a particularly stunning outfit. She tells us that ten years ago this week, So You Think You Can Dance began airing, and since that time there have been more than 200 episodes, 1000 routines and 227 contestants. (227? Huh? How does that number make sense?) Sounds like a good excuse for a party to her, and to me too. This, she says, is So You Think You Can Dance — and she throws her arms open with gleeful abandon, laughing.
We transition immediately to a starry stage rimmed with All Stars, dancing to M83’s haunting “My Tears Are Becoming A Sea.” First Travis comes to life, then Allison, then Jamie, Brandon, Kathryn, Alex, Robert, Jasmine, Marco and a light haired girl I can’t identify, gently lifting and touching each other. I may have gotten the order wrong in parts, but I think the point is, ten All Stars, one for each year the show has been on the air. It’s very pretty and gentle and smooth, with a tidal ebb and flow to the movement that I like a lot.
Bringing up a few more stats, Cat tells us some of what the former contestants have been up to. Movies: tWitch has costarred in Magic Mike XXL and the Step Up franchise, and Kent in Teen Beach Movie. Television: Joshua, American Horror Story, Courtney, Hit the Floor, Dmitry, Bones. Broadway: Melanie, Finding Neverland; Alex, Newsies. Back Up Dancers: Jasmine, Beyonce; Comfort, Missy Elliot; Mark, Lady Gaga.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Let me add a few more she didn’t mention: the Step Up franchise includes tons of SYT alum like Kathryn and (a different) Brandon. If we’re going to stick with made for tv movies, you also have Mollee Gray in the Teen Beach movies (in addition to choreographers Christopher Scott and Jessica Lee Keller) as well as the High School Musical trilogy. Benji Schwimmer had a villainous role in a Lifetime Christmas movie (Holiday Spin). Kherington – tWitch’s partner on the show, remember her? — was the lead in the ill-fated Fame reboot. For television shows, you shouldn’t forget winner Jeanine Mason in Bunheads, or Alex on Smash. Lots of SYT dancers have made appearances on Glee, Dmitry Chaplin wasn’t alone on that episode of Bones (Eliana and Chehon were with him), and I noticed Will (Amelia’s partner) on Nashville. And somehow, they managed not to talk about Dancing with the Stars, which has to consider SYT its feeder show: former contestants Jenna, Lindsay, Alan, Brittany all made up this year’s troupe, with past pros including Dmitry and Lindsay, not to mention Lacey Schwimmer, Chelsie Hightower and Witney Carson, the latter of whom won the fall 2014 season. Clearly this wasn’t an accident, though I’m just not sure why. And many SYT dancers have appeared in production numbers on awards shows like the Oscars, the Emmys and the Tonys (and who knows, maybe the Grammys); Alex, for example, is at least half way to a performance EGOT.
So. Okay. From here, Cat mentions all the musicians who made their television debuts on the show, back in the days when they had results shows with musical guests, beginning with Lady Gaga (an unforgettable piece of performance art), Katy Perry, One Republic and Florence & the Machine in their American debut. And then we see a clip of Cat introducing the one star actually made by the show, Christina Perri, who was working as a waitress when Stacey Tookey found her song “Jar of Hearts” on youtube, set a routine for Billy and Kathryn to it, and the platform launched Perri into a solid and impressive musical career.
This brings us to the actual performances in the show. The three judges each get to ask for a routine to be danced, all of them choosing Emmy-winning routines. Nigel picks Mia Michaels’ The Bench from season 2, one of the show’s most iconic routines as well as a huge marker in Travis Wall’s career. Oddly, he’s joined this time not by his former partner, swing dancer Heidi Groskreutz, but by All Star Kathryn McCormick. I wonder why? She’s the only dancer who doesn’t appear. It certainly still works. Jason picks one of the First Lady’s favorites, “Run the World (Girls)” with Jasmine and Comfort from season 11; Paula harkens back to season 3 (another deep cut!) for the Wade Robson piece known as The Hummingbird and the Flower. All three routines are worthy and wonderful, though I’m slightly surprised no one went with Addiction, which is arguably the most famous routine the show has ever produced.
Cat decides to take a turn for herself, too, and gives us Mark Kanemura’s k-bop routine, “I Am The Best” with Jenna. Not one of my personal favorites, but there’s no denying how fun it is. My kids go nuts when the dancers unroll a pillow from the lip couch, which lays on the floor like a tongue. Afterwards, she hops out to the audience to show us Cody Colson. After playing the audition clip where Nigel encourages the young man to think about trying out for the dance team at the Special Olympics; since the show aired, the Special Olympics organizing committee/American team/powers that be have contacted Cody and invited him to compete. Aw!
Throughout the show, we’ve seen montages from all twelve seasons. Contestants waiting in line. Contestants with bad auditions. Contestants with brilliant auditions. Contestants who didn’t make the show. Contestants with tough life stories, like this year’s homeless teen Eliazer Chapman, tWitch saying that if he doesn’t make the show for season 4, he’s going to join the navy, Caleb Brauner and his dad, and one that finally puts a name to a favorite dancer from last year whose identity I puzzled over repeatedly during this year’s Vegas episodes, eating disorder survivor Dani Platz. I’m sorry I didn’t place you before, Dani! It was driving me nuts trying to figure out who you were (she’s the one I thought Nigel called Tandy). And I really, really hope you make the show next time. Contestants with obscure styles the show has highlighted, from turfing, cranking, animation, jit, and juke to things that are almost audition specific like the wobble and the creep. We even get little interview bits with Princess Lockeroo when they do a section on waacking! So even if the show didn’t get far with its first waacker (poor Lily), we get some honor for the style. Plus there’s Shan Shan Rothlisberger with her horse’s milk. We see magic moments from the show – Witney and Chehon’s spectacular lift, Anna Kendrick telling Hayley that if she had the dancer’s body she could achieve world peace, Cat wearing tWitch’s grill, Alex and Allison’s “Halleluiah,” The Garden, Courtney and Tucker, Jenna Elfman crying over Tucker, Mia Michaels crying about her dad, Dee’s high flying ladder dance for Hayley and Curtis, Mary Murphy screaming, Lady Gaga throwing her shoe, the Breast Cancer dance, the original Bench.
Finally, we get to see the top stage and street routines as voted online. Augh, I wish I knew what the options were! I love Travis’ “Fix You,” starring Robert and Allison, though I wouldn’t have selected it as the best stage routine ever. On the other hand, the street winner is quite obvious – “Outta Your Mind” for tWitch and ballet dancer Alex. All in all, it was a fun little trip down memory lane, interspersed with excellent solos by the 18 remaining contestants. I will take all the So You Think You Can Dance I can get. Here’s looking forward to more dancing next week!