So You Think You Can Dance, Season 12: Performance Finale

E: Wow, they really put these kids through the ringer.  5 pieces each!  That’s a killer.  The show itself, well, not so much.  I really liked about half of the show, and the rest?  Meh.  To my surprise, the dancer I’ve been rooting for all season didn’t have the best night.  Will it matter?  Who’s going to win?  Is it a duel between the two dancers the producers prefer, or do Virgil and Hailee the spares, the unexpected but marvelous, stand an actual chance?

The judges begin the show with a standing ovation, which is nice if not necessarily merited by the end result.  Cat pops out wearing my favorite piece of the entire season, a long sleeves belted minidress with a high neck, white with a pattern of flowers outlined in black and occasionally colored in with red and blue.  If that sounds flag-like, it wasn’t at all; it’s very mod, an impression aided by Cat’s 60’s influenced up-do.  I love it so much.  Nigel’s wearing a snazzy pseudo-tux, black with white piping, Jason’s wearing a black suit with a black and white floral shirt, and Paula has on a short dress in emerald green sequins with a plunging neckline.  Cat informs up that the finalists will each do a solo, dance with an All Star in their own style, and also dance with each of their competitors.  So settle in for a long night!

First up, Jaja and Hailee have a Misha Gabriel and Nick Boss hip hop routine, where they’re outlaws on the run from a crime scene.  We’re promised something hard hitting and new to the show.  It’s not that, but it’s fun; the two women start on a ladder, wearing black leather pants with baggy crotches and midriff shirts with sheer sleeves under backward baseball caps and bandannas over their mouths to show that they’re criminals in some sort of goofy ninja/wild west/hip hop fashion mash up.  The song is “Put It In The Bag” by Kalenna featuring B. Simm (hey, is that my old classmate Bill Simmons? no?) and both girls come out of the gate slamming in what I can’t help feeling is a cool but content-lite routine.  During rehearsal, Travis trash-talked, saying that Jaja better watch out because Hailee was outperforming her, and blast me but I think she did.  It’s hard to admit, because I adore Jaja and have wanted her to win all season, but Hailee’s proved she’s earned her spot as a finalist not just by hitting as hard as Jaja, but bringing a bigger stage presence.  There’s great unison and tons of attitude from both; on a re-watch, I think it’s just that Hailee’s sort of visually louder than Jaja, resulting in you looking at Hailee more even though Jaja was also doing interesting work. I suppose in terms of voting it could amount to the same thing.  Except that I’m not sure Hailee is as beloved as Jaja (certainly not by the producers, for whatever inexplicable reason) and if people just vote for whomever they love, none of this will matter. Anyway, it was a fun if not extraordinary start.

Nigel too thinks it was a fun routine.  He’s not sure they were authentic robbers (I don’t know what he’s going on about; clearly those clothes were intended to be authentic), but they’ve certainly stolen his heart. (Ack.) Paula loves the lady ninja vibe and thinks they both killed it with snap and flash articulation.  Is this an actual thing or just Paula-talk?  I have no clue.  They were neck for neck, perfectly matched.  Jason, on the other hand, thinks that Hailee delivered more nuance and layers in her performance, going from girlish to sexy to tough (did she?  possible. I’ll have to watch that yet again); Jaja was full street all the time, but that worked as well.

Next we get a lyrical hip hop routine from Phillip Chbeeb for Virgil and Gaby.  Interesting, interesting.  He has this rather abstract idea that Gaby’s going to stand in for the beautiful memories that Virgil needs to leave behind.  You hear that sort of thing from contemporary choreographers all the time, I guess, so sure. Bring it on.  We see that the choreography is intricate and involves complex partnering, which obviously we talk about ad nauseum because it will require tiny Virgil to lift gargantuan Gaby!  A lot is made of Virgil claiming to be 5’3 on his license but possibly being shorter than that; Gaby says she’s 5’4, however, and based on their relative heights his claim looks legit to me, even though I thought he was shorter than that (and more than an inch shorter than her).  This brings to mind a weird observation that I made in college and still find to be true; if a man and woman are the same height, you will invariably think of the woman as taller.  Even when you see them next to each other and can compare their heights exactly, the girl will appear taller.  Check it out.  It’s totally true.

I swear when the routine starts, the two look like they’re playing pattycake on the floor, touching hands in a complex series of soft tuts.  Gaby’s wearing a short gray dress with white embroidery and a pair of gray socks, while Virgil wears a thin green hoodie and torn jeans.  He’s supposed to be mesmerized by her, reliving his past, and her gestures are indeed tender and loving. They move their feet around, grab hands and stand up together, and I can feel their anticipation of that particular move and desire to get through it without falling.  Afterward, however, the piece takes on a true life for me because the tricks are so darn cool.  It honestly feels like a contemporary piece, and I can’t tell if that’s just what happens when someone else does Phillip’s style or if that’s a good thing or not.  Elliot Moss’s “Slip” sets a perfect tone as Gaby slides around Virgil; he lifts her behind him and she balances momentarily on his shoulders before sliding down his back.  He holds her in a plank and she does an assisted wave in his arms.  He kneels on all fours, and she does a somersault around his body.  It’s very, very cool.  Now, is the emotional component there?  Not tremendously, except for the ending, where he looks at her and walks away.  I get the intellectual concept, but I don’t see it in the performance without looking for it.  In this case I’m not sure it matters; I feel like the piece stands on its own, anyway, and I love it.

In the choreographer’s ghetto in the audience, Phillip looks like he’s crying.  Does he just have watery eyes?  He’s clearly pleased, and the judges seem to be, too.  Paul appreciates Mr. Chbeeb for coloring outside of the box, and using a rather sleepy song for such eye opening tricks.  She loves the foot pretzel and what she calls a protractor turn, a great metaphor for a point where Virgil spun Gaby as she was poised on one leg.  It’s hard for Jason to control his enthusiasm; for someone who feels like he’s seen it all, the singer-dancer is forced to admit that he hadn’t.  He thought it was a perfect blend of street and stage, though like I said, I didn’t really see the street in it at all.  Maybe the plank wave?  Nigel’s super enthusiastic about the dance, the choreographer, and the dancers.  All your investment in learning other styles is paying off, Gaby, he gushes.

With mere minutes to rest during the commercial, Gaby‘s up again for a duet with Jaja.  Nick Florez and RJ Durell have a jazz routine for them with a Spanish flair, making them dance about duality and opposing forces in long skirts. There’s lots of close partnering, weaving and lifting. In rehearsal, the two spend a lot of time falling over themselves and each other. It’s Team Strength, tWitch quips.

And, hmm.  To quote Randy Jackson, it was just aaight for me.  I loved Joy Williams’ “Woman (O Mama)” and I like the patterned skirts and the way the girls used them like matador’s capes or flamenco dancers.  I like the Day of the Dead-like flowers in their hair (Jaja has an entire crown, but they only got two onto Gaby in time) and I like all the stomping and grace, but I don’t see the dualities at all; it irritates me when the judges blame the contestants for the choreography or the prepackaging of their routines, yet here I am, unable to stop myself from commenting on the choreographers setting up confusing expectations.  And unlike the last routine, the choreography doesn’t cast enough of a spell to cover it up.  What was it that they find a contradiction again?  Being a powerful and grace woman?  Whatever, boys.

On to the more important stuff; the performance.  It pains me to write these words, but Gaby totally smokes Jaja with her flexibility and fluidity.  In fact, you can see that Jaja can’t help throwing in a little animation, which is cool but jarring.  It’s a stark comparison for me, and rather a shocking one.  I mean, I’ve always liked Gaby, don’t get me wrong, but it makes me feel like I’ve been backing the wrong horse.

I can’t help rolling my eyes when Haitian Jason goes off on a long tangent about how being from Miami makes him an honorary Hispanic and they can just call him Jose Derulo.  Whatever.  They were so strong, he enthuses, they didn’t need a guy!  Gah, then why do you even need to bring that up?  I mean, why would they?  It’s a routine about being a woman!  Did you not see the song title?  You were like two spicy mojitos on a hot Labor Day, he finishes.  Nigel loves the song, the singer, the passionate choreography and the passionate performances.  Jaja stood out to him for not pointing her toes and being a little tense.  They’re both his favorites and he thinks one of them will win.  (Picking sides, Cat calls out in something of a surprise as if he hadn’t said that often before. I guess it is a little precipitous, though.)  The routine called for tremendous power and athleticism, Paula tells us, and thought the tenacious dancers worked well together even if, as Nigel pointed out, Jaja’s lack of training showed through.  It takes an athlete to dance, she reminds us, but an artist to be a dancer.

The next double belongs to Jaja — she’s teamed up with Virgil for a Stacey Tookey contemporary piece about a man trying to get his lover to reinvest in their relationship.  Since both of these dancers turned in spectacular contemporary pieces last week, I have high hopes for this number.  Stacey does too, saying that she refuses to dumb down the choreography, and is encouraging them both to stretch (literally) beyond what they think they can achieve.

Stacey’s used Woodkid before, but I don’t remember disliking them.  “I Love You (Acoustic)” really does not speak to me, though, and I have a lot of trouble getting into a piece when I actively dislike the music.  And then I’m not sure the choreography brings us as much emotion as I wanted.  Maybe it’s just that I have something like this in my head to compare it to.  Maybe the dancers just don’t have enough time to concentrate on feeling this?  Maybe it’s hard to emote indifference?  Both of them are usually so good at character, but I don’t get the story line from either until the very end, and I don’t understand why not.  Jaja looks lost rather than bored or mistrustful, and Virgil doesn’t look like anything.  Other than a miniature Hulk, that is; he’s only got on purple pants, and Jaja wears a lavender Grecian gown, her hair loose but braided on the top.  There are big leaps, lovely floaty bits where Jaja makes her dress swirl, and a lovely sequence of final moments where the two repeat an assisted backbend from the beginning but with Jaja leaning in with renewed trust and joy, culminating in a very sweet and striking embrace.

I’m glad Stacey didn’t take it easy on you, Nigel says, and he loves that Virgil dances to the extreme edge of his personal space (something we heard a lot with Alexia early in the season).  He remembers seeing Jaja chacha one year in Vegas, and thinking, wow, that girl krumper is really doing it, huh?  And here she is, really doing it.  Sure, we see the lack of technique on both sides, but their personalities carried it through.  (For Nigel.  Not as much for me. )   Paula’s proud of the two, and appreciates their devotion to growing in their craft.  Keep going, she says; it’ll free your body, and then you can do and say everything.  Similarly, Jason commends them both on their growth, saying he’s watched the footage from the start of the season and so should they, because it will make them proud.  Even their bodies look different.

I’m rather excited at the reteaming of Hailee and Virgil, especially since they’ve drawn a Josh Bergasse Broadway routine which should really show them both off.  I expect this could be more in Virgil’s wheelhouse than Stacey’s number; the last piece was an emotional stretch for him that (unlike last week’s stunning Melanie Moore routine) he simply didn’t make.  And, yes, the conceit is promising.  Hailee’s a quiet girl who lives downstairs from a drummer, and his incessant drumming makes her finally explode and burst into his apartment.

We hear that story unfold in Bette Middler’s weirdly titled “Billy-a-Dick,” a song about a girl who longs for the return of the upstairs neighbor who’s been shipped off to war and replaced by an infuriating drummer.  The song actually spends too much time longing for the soldier and so is eventually distracting, but it does very clearly provide the inspiration for the setting in it’s first few lines.  Virgil’s drum drum drumming away on the metal frame of his cool red couch, lounging in jeans and a white t with chains hanging from his belt; Hailee bursts in in true Rosie the Riveter style, wearing a red bandanna, slim capris and a floral crop top.  She upbraids her neighbor, who could not care less; he’s just laid back and happy, capering all over the room, drumming.  As promised in the rehearsal package, he leads her on a very acrobatic chase. Finally, she manages to snatch the drumsticks away, but instead of leaving, taunts him with them, smirking, until he recovers them with a leap and roll.  She tries unsuccessfully to snatch them back until eventually she just collapses on his floor, furious and spent.

That was so much fun, Paula gushes, and such a wonderful nod to MGM musicals. Okay, I can see that.  She’s particularly floored by Virgil’s timing with the drumsticks, which matched the music all the way through.  Good point, Paula; that couldn’t have a been an easy detail to pull off.  She praises the height Virgil achieves on his jumps, and tells Hailee that her look (by which I’m pretty sure she means her hair) is perfect and she should never change it.  Making less sense than almost any point in the entire season, Jason suggests that Hailee wasn’t angry enough through the whole routine and shouldn’t have been smiling.  She only smiled when she was taunting Virgil with his sticks, Jason!  Bah.  You’re an twinkie who isn’t paying attention.  (Okay, I have actually been pleasantly surprised by him through much of this season, but he wasn’t paying enough attention to her performance or the dance itself if he didn’t understand where he choices were coming from, because they were obvious.) Do these people really appreciate the awesomeness that is Hailee?  I don’t think so.  I get what he’s saying, Nigel nods, but generally thought the routine played into both their out-sized personalities, and that they really are Broadways babies.  I agree; I hope they end up there and I get the chance to see it!  Then Nigel floors me by saying there’s another baby on the stage, inside Cat’s flat tummy.  You probably won’t be shocked to hear that I teared up a little with that news.  Yay, Cat!  She blushes happily as the audiences and dancers go insane, and Nigel promises to send her little tiny tap shoes.

I mean, seriously.  Can you imagine how fun it would be to have Cat Deeley as your mother?  Can you imagine the clothes that kid will wear?  That’s the most awesome thing I’ve heard in weeks.

Hailee gets her double next; she’s paired with Gaby for “an emotional Travis Wall contemporary routine.”  The piece, the Stage captain tells us, is about the fear of not being accepted; Gaby’s struggling with self-acceptance, and Hailee’s coaching her toward being more comfortable. If we can help even one person accept themselves, Hailee says, then we’ve done it right.  The routine involves creating a feeling of intimate connection through touch.  What we’re talking about, Travis tells the girls, is the fact that love has no boundaries, and if you do your jobs, then the audience should feel that.

I’m pleased with the costuming here; as often has happened this season, we have one dancer in green tones and the other in red (which, yes, is a little silly if you think of it in terms of stop lights) and the dresses themselves seem to be composed of raggedy cloth ropes pieced over the dancers’ bodies which look stunning as they twist and arch.  I’m also a new fan of Elizabeth & the Catapult’s “Do Not Hang Your Head,” and if you check out the lyrics, the singer basically apologizes in case she ever lets her lover down in the future, acknowledging that relationships are a huge risk and leap.  On stage, the two girls embrace, then Gaby steps away, hesitating.  As Travis has promised, the two twine together intimately, beautifully, once linking their fingers and smiling; their connection feels deep and solid and real.  You can see Hailee alternately pushing and guiding Gaby toward something; you can see them breathing and moving as one.  It’s quite incredible.  In the end, Gaby crawls onto Hailee’s back and lets the other girl carry her, then slides off.  Hailee takes Gaby’s face in her hands and nods, and Gaby collapses onto her lap, comforted.

Backstage, Travis looks very proud.  In the audience, Hailee’s dad cries. The girls embrace, and when they pull back, Gaby gives Hailee a looks full of confidence. Yeah.  We just did that.

I’m going to come right out and say it. If the routine is about Gaby’s character not being able publicly admit she’s a lesbian, is there any reason we can’t just say that?  Is the audience for this show really so fusty that they couldn’t handle it?  I mean, this is the network of Empire and Glee, so we know the brass can handle it.   Does Travis prefer there be more flexibility in the concept, leaving us all to make up our own minds?  I’m not sure I buy that. Is it Nigel and the other producers?  Don’t think we didn’t notice that you were the only judge not standing, Mr. Lithgoe. This show is so weird about gay issues; this season it’s felt like they’ve made less of an effort than usual to butch up their male dancers (Jim-time, Edson asking if he could be Jaja’s flower girl, the male ballet duet, etc), though we haven’t exactly seen anyone come out on stage either.  Anyway.  Even if that would be too much, what the bleep would be so hard about having one little understated lesbian relationship story?  It feels weirdly and unnecessarily coy that the show would hint so clearly at this but not say it out loud.

I love watching these little movies Travis makes, Jason tells them.  He nails it every single time.  Of course it takes great dancers to fulfill his vision. Everyone makes fun of me for saying this, he blushes, but you two seem like you’ve been dancing together for years, and I’d pay good money to see that.  How much, Cat wonders.  Two or three hundred dollars, Jason smiles; that was expensive.  I don’t think it even matters what we say about this, Nigel says, it just matters that we see what you felt.  Cop out! He says quickly that it speaks to the philosophy behind Travis’s choreography. As Paula praises the simple dignity in movement that shone through the beautiful, honest routine, Nigel can’t help putting his foot in his mouth.  Proving it does in fact matter what the judges say, he wonders stupidly why two men can’t dance together in such a tender and beautiful way.  Who says they can’t, Cat challenges him, bringing up Neil and Kent’s famous Travis piece, which is intimate but in an aggressive way.  The Tucker/Robert routine fits better into what he’s saying. Sigh.  If you can’t admit what this piece likely was, Nigel, or even stand up to clap for it, then how can you even ask the question? Men can be tender with other men, but you don’t really want to see it. He tries to shake it off by hugging Jason, but its just an unfortunate detour.

That brings us to the second hour of the show, where we’ll see solos and those All Star match ups.  Gaby starts us off with a solo to celebrate her journey and a little interview, this time with Travis instead of Cat, as was customary.  Of course they talk about her first failed audition and her determination to go to both remaining cities if necessary to get herself to Vegas. Once there, her favorite moment was Trav’s choreography round, because she got to show off what she could do.  I’m proud of myself, she says, because I’m tougher than I thought I was.  If she wins, she wants to pay her doting parents back for all their investment in her dancing. Aw!  After some words from her proud parents, she dances to Sergio Mendes’s “Magalenha” in a striped top and pants with a sparkly tuxedo stripe down the sides, and it’s the best solo she’s done since her audition.  It’s awesome enough that when the judges give her a standing ovation, it feels earned.

Virgil gets the first All Star routine, a Pharside and Phoenix piece with Joshua which they conceive as the answer to Jasmine and Comfort’s classic girl power duet.  Boy power?  How revolutionary!  I’ve never heard of such a thing! But, okay, whatever, I’m sure it will be fun.  We’re promised a lot of raw strength, and enthusiasm and I don’t mind seeing either of those things.

When the lights come up, the stage blinds in its whiteness. Both guys wear urban, edgy clothes – black jeans, black vests, Joshua in a stupidly puffy, bulbous knit cap and Virgil in a similarly silly bandanna. The music is “Let’s Go” by Trick Daddy featuring Lil Jon and Twista, and the whole style’s very high energy and very rough. Virgil actually runs up Joshua’s back at one point (I never thought of Joshua as particularly big before, but he looks like a giant next to Virgil), which is incredibly cool, and the unison section toward the end is ridiculously great.  I don’t love it as much as the judges and the audience; for me, it lacks a little finesse, and the ending pose made me laugh because Virgil does not have a stank face at all.  In fact, the kerchief makes him look more like a fifties housewife than a gangsta.  But none of that can take away from the fact that it’s straight out dancing instead of just posturing, which I greatly appreciate, or from the crazy tricks they do, which are just nuts. The most notable of these involves Virgil with his hands on the ground wrapping his legs around Joshua’s waist before Joshua performs a series of cartwheels.  You have to see that to believe it.  It’s insane.

The judges aren’t simply standing at this point, they’re  bouncing and leaping. Nigel has officially lost his mind; he desperately wishes he was young enough to try the routine.  I loved it to death, he says.  (Notably, he does not revoke his desire for either Jaja or Gaby to win; looks like neither Hailee nor Virgil can change the judges minds tonight.)  That was the best routine you’ve done all season, Paula tells Pharside and Phoenix, which I might agree with; I’m a big fan of their Geisha vs. Ninja piece (maybe Joshua’s just a great fit for them?) but this is right up there with it. “Speaking of you, little one,” she says, telling us that it’s okay for her to call Virgil that since she’s a tiny dancer herself.  She thought the piece was heroic and powerful, and thought the handstand cartwheel (how precise!  good phrase, Paula) was outstanding.

All Jason can do is stand up and clap again.

I’m not sure why, but they make Virgil do his solo next.  tWitch talks to him about his long journey from attempting to make the cast in Season 8, to trying out again this year because of the Stage/Street concept, and then making it through Vegas, highlighting his Party of Five group round piece with Ariana, Lily and JJ.  Like Gaby, he was certain this was his time, and like Gaby he’s never been in the bottom.  He’s had to fight hard to be good enough to stay, though — Tyce’s piece was the hardest for him.  My goal is to make you smile, he says.  Then we see him on stage in a slim-fitting blue suit, skinny black tie and Harry Potter glasses, dancing to Mad Men theme song “A Beautiful Mine” by RJD2, with a lot of shuffling around and side gliding.  It’s cool, and inspires Mr. E and I to wonder why contemporary dancers (a group this year’s top ten was very short on and this may be the first finale to totally lack) don’t ever do routines with character or humor yet the best street soloists often do.  Maybe it’s that a lot of street performers actually, you know, perform on the street, and so need to win an audience immediately.  I think the best soloists on this show manage to evoke emotion with their choreography (Jim, for example, gave us solos that all had different styles that fit with the tone of his music) but I can’t think of any stage dancer who’d give us something as fun as what we just saw.

Speaking of fun, Ray Leeper has a jazz routine he’s designed to show off Hailee and All Star Marko.  He’s delighted to have this slot because Hailee is a choreographer’s dream.  (Is Ray Leeper a contestant’s dream?  I’m not so sure.)  He’s super enthused that she’s there to represent jazz.

And the piece is just a ton of fun.  They dance to Janet Jackson’s “All Nite (Don’t Stop).”  Marko wears a vest and a knit cap, and Hailee thigh high shiny stockings with a two piece leotard in red and gold patterned stripes and black arm bands, and everything about the number is zesty and sexy and entertaining.  They go full tilt the entire time, including a fantastic throw-leap and a funky assisted split at the end.  She danced off an earring, Cat calls out, and indeed she has.

You dance with ferocity, Paula notes.  Hailee really does have a great and potent stage persona.   Paula questions whether the piece was challenging enough, but says that Hailee was the match that lit the flame.  Okay.  Well, her costume colors are rather flame-like.  Jason doesn’t think the piece or Hailee were quite gritty enough to live up to the legendary song.  (That’s legendary?  How did I miss that, then?)  He praises Hailee and all the contestants for their unbelievable workload this week, and I don’t know. Is it paranoid to wonder if he was asked to be the heavy this week?  The “suppress Hailee’s votes” heavy?  That’s got to be paranoid.  I’m just wondering this because that’s his second senseless critique of her.  You danced beautifully, Nigel says, and you always give 100%, and no one could ask you to do more, baby.  UGH. You cannot take the disco out of the old man, apparently.

Like Virgil, Hailee has to solo right after doing this absolutely exhausting jazz number.  Insanity.   This was her third year trying out, which is funny; I remember her so clearly, but I thought I remember them presenting her as new last year. She’s proud of making it to Vegas three times, and was feeling very Zen going into the green mile, that it would be fine whether or not she made the show this year.  But then when she did get on, she was shocked and stunned.  She’s so thrilled to be here and get the support of her family, at least one member of which has been in the audience every week.  Aw!  Her divorced folks send her their video love messages separately.  The robot dance with Virgil was of course her favorite moment — the kind of moment, she says, that every contestant on the show wants to have, where you can tell everyone is really seeing you. She dances to Paula’s “Cold Hearted” in a cute little two piece black outfit with a jeweled yoke around her neck, and it’s passionate and fun and the judges all stand with great enthusiasm. “I love you!” Paula calls out.

For the penultimate All Star dance, Jaja gets Christopher Scott and Cyrus.  Christopher’s idea is to do a sequel to his staggeringly popular cyborg routine for Cyrus and tWitch during the season 9 performance finale; Cyrus is wandering around and finds Jaja in her cylinder, and releases her.  What happens next?  You’ll have to tune in to find out.

So what does happen next?  Cyrus wanders out in his black jeans and white t, bands around one arm, and looks quizzically at Jaja, who’s wearing a far more high tech jumpsuit with her sunglasses and slicked back hair: silver accents, cut outs at the waist, elbows and thighs, shiny black half gloves.  Kaolo’s “Yellow Claw” sets a martial tone, and indeed, the moment Cyrus frees Jaja you can sense he’s made a mistake.  Is he looking for Frankenstein’s bride, as it were?  He finds a vicious opponent instead.  The rest of the piece is basically a savage fight in which Jaja mops the floor with Cyrus, at some points literally moving his head on her foot as he hops off the floor.  It’s … I don’t know.  I want to love it — I love Jaja, after all — but when she starts smashing beakers against Cyrus to echo the cylinder smashing of the original, it just feels silly.   Yes, it’s cool that she punches out the beaker he tries to defend himself with, but I’m still really surprised and disappointed. I felt like this was going to be a home run, and it just wasn’t.

On the other hand, Jason is speechless and out of his mind.

And then back to the first hand, we have Nigel, who hates sequels (except for Aliens).  Please, please stop taking the sins of the choreographer out on the dancer!  I mean, the dancers do benefit when the choreographer gets it right, and I didn’t love it either, but I hate hearing her criticized for something outside of her control.  Also, I get his point about sequels, and how he’s more disappointed because of the comparison, but that’s not her fault either.  It’s not unique enough for you, who’ve been so great on the show, he finishes. (For the first time, we see a little sass and attitude in her.) I will say this, Paula begins, (like she does at least once an episode) I don’t know any other girl who could have done what you just did.  The crowd roars its approval, and Jason stands again.  You, little one, nail it every time.  You’re a giant in my eyes.

And Jaja gets the last solo.  Awesome — a chance to take out all her aggressions after that downer of a critique!   tWitch talks about the thrill of her L.A. audition, her third for the show.  ( As with Hailee, I forgot or never knew she’d tried out two years ago.)  He’s equally impressed with her attitude; she explains that she decided she would love every routine she got and just do it, no matter what it was.  It also turns out that she got engaged during the run of the show; I didn’t quite get that from the episode where she first talked about it.  In fact, there’s footage of the pivotal question.  I can’t believe there’s a man out there who wants to spend the rest of his life with me, she flutters, which frankly worries me.  Is she kidding?  Does she think so little of herself?  I mean, she’s awesome.  She’s so talented and funny and pretty, and she’s obviously got a phenomenal attitude and work ethic, not to mention courage to spare for leaving her beloved homeland, language and family.

Speaking of her family, we learn that skypes constantly with her mom, whose favorite routine was her Broadway. “If I didn’t have a ceiling,” Mama Vankova texted her daughter upon seeing it, “I would fly to heaven.”  Aw!   Finally, Jaja tells her team captain that she hopes to inspire people.  Even people who aren’t trained can do more they think, she says, and girls can do male dominated styles.  Well, you have my daughters’ hearts, Jaja, if that means anything.  You do inspire them.

And her solo is killer, absolutely killer.  She’s chosen 20 Killz “Street Side,” and it’s hard hitting and ferocious and I can’t even fricking stand how great it was, and it breaks my heart that after an entire season of shining, her star dimmed a little bit tonight.

But there is no dimming for Gaby, who has an Anthony Morigerato routine with new All Star Zack.  Zack is back!  Woohoo!  Love that boy, and love Anthony, and I’m even more jazzed for this than I already was (which was be a lot) because Gaby’s been on fire. Anthony’s got an idea about old Hollywood glamour, and he has these six wooden boxes set up for the rehearsal, and damn but that looks fiendishly difficult.  During rehearsal footage, Zack actually slips between two of the boxes; nice way to break a leg right there!  It’s not as bad as Hailee dropping Gaby directly on her head on one of their roll/lifts, but it’s not good.  They should be getting hazard pay.

When the lights come up on the stage, the boxes are painted black with white tops.  Gaby’s still wearing those sparkly tuxedo pants, as is Zack, and they both have on vests; his comes over a modified button down, while hers is more like a top.They dance to “Dibidy Dop (Swing Mix)” by Club Des Belugas featuring Brenda Boykin, and it’s freaking amazing, smooth and rhythmical, with that beautiful ease .  At several points Zack swoops Gaby down, sort of tap ballroom dancing together, dropping her to the floor and then pulling her back up to the boxes in seamless transition.  It’s magical, and when it ends the judges are all standing.

Like Virgil’s routine, Nigel really wants to be dancing this one.  He’s thrilled with Zack, Anthony and of course Gaby.  He asks her what she learned from the failed audition, and she pants before getting the word out — perseverance. “I knew this was the season I was meant to be on the show,” she tells them.  That was special and beautiful enough for me to keep my fingers crossed for you, Nigel says.  Paula’s impressed by the relentlessness of the routine, transported by the different rhythms, every gesture, every line.  She finishes by giving Anthony his own standing o.  We’re running out of time, Jason rushes, but I want you to know I get how slippery and dangerous that was, how hard,  and then he stands on the judges table for her, because every star deserves a standing ovation.

And that’s going to determine who wins a ton of perks, a potential new job, and a quarter of a million dollars.

Does this mean Gaby wins?  Obviously she’s been a judge and audience favorite all along (like Jaja and Virgil, she’s never been a bottom vote getter), but I didn’t think she had it in the bag; I figured both Jaja and Virgil had a shot.  Right now, though — I mean, Jaja didn’t really have a stunner of a routine all night, and most of the best pieces — “Dibidy Dop” and “Do Not Hang Your Head” were for Gaby. She has to be the favorite. Of course, there’s Virgil’s “Let’s Go,” which earned perhaps the best response of the night (not necessarily making him a winner – just ask Cyrus or Jasmine) and “Slip,” which starred both Virgil and Gaby.  Does that mean that Virgil has transformed into Gaby’s main competition?  It’d be fun to see a girl winner, or the first tap winner, or the first street girl winner, but Virgil has been great, too.  So, tricky.  And even with all that I’ve just said, I also can’t help rooting for Hailee.  Why can’t they all win????  You know, I might like this episode better in retrospect than I did while I was first watching (and recapping) it.

So tell me. Who did you vote for?  Is that who you thought did the best job last night, or who you like the best?  Who do you think will win?  Are you equally happy with all four finalists?  Did any of the choreographers let you down?  I’d love to know!  I’d love to hear from you, even if it’s just to squeal together in joy for momma-to-be Cat Deeley.  I’ll be back in a couple of days with my predictions for the Finale Repeats, where we get to see encore performances of the season’s best routines.  Ta for now!

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4 comments on “So You Think You Can Dance, Season 12: Performance Finale

  1. Celia says:

    Thank you for your response to Travis’ number with Gaby and Hailee. I found experiencing that number both frustrating and extremely emotionally liberating. Frustrating because it was so coy and exactly as you stated, WHY was it so hard to just say that Gaby’s character was struggling with her sexuality and Hailee’s was helping her through as not just her friend, but her love and companion??? It felt to me like Travis was told he couldn’t say that and so instead was just trying to make it as obvious as possible in the rehearsal package so that everyone got it. At the same time though, to finally see a dance between two romantically involved female characters on the show was so liberating. I’ve been waiting for that validation on this show as an audience member who is both queer and a dancer for 10 years, since before even I was aware I was queer and to finally have it there rather than another dance about sisters or friends or two sides of the same person when so many of the male female paired dances are all about the romance was so freeing. I’m glad to see someone publicly speaking about it somewhere because in all of the recaps and all of the comments I haven’t found one person to validate the way I felt about that number until now.

    • Celia says:

      Also, Travis 100% talked more about the meaning behind the routine in his EW recap here: http://www.ew.com/article/2015/09/08/so-you-think-you-can-dance-mentor-blog-travis-wall-top-4

      • E says:

        Oh, wow. Thanks for sharing that. Do you think it’s remotely possible that Travis himself chose to leave our interpretation open ended? I can’t help being suspicious of that; I feel like its way more likely that the producers gave him the go ahead to do the number but insisted that he not come right out and say what it meant. (Weird and sad that he had to clear it with the producers in the first place.) It certainly did come across without spelling it out (at least to the two of us!), and open-ended isn’t bad, but like you say, almost every boy/girl routine on the show is romantic, and they struggle to figure out how routines for same sex pairings. Do you suppose Travis (or the producers, or both) thought that it could damage the dancers ability to get votes? That conservative viewers would simply not see what they didn’t want to see if he didn’t come right out and say it?

    • E says:

      Hi Celia! I’m kind of surprised it wasn’t more talked about (I try not to read other people’s recaps until after I’ve finished mine) because it was so obviously and unnecessarily coy. I’m glad that you finally have your experiences validated by the show and (in a lesser way) by seeing someone else validate it in print, though! It was SUCH a gorgeous number, so honest and truthful, that it feels absurd that the show decided to be cagey about it.

      I want to say Michael Slezak of TVLine talked about it too, though he was ranting about it in a different way than I did: http://tvline.com/2015/09/07/so-you-think-you-can-dance-recap-gaby-jaja-hailee-virgil-finale/

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