E: Yep, that went how I thought it would, so that’s good and bad. There was a veritable banquet of dance to enjoy, however, so I . You know what I’m thinking of, though, right? Was Nigel just joking around about Season 13, or is it a done deal?
Oh well. Let’s get to that unfinished business from Season 12, shall we?
For the first time I can remember, there’s no new piece featuring the top twenty dancers — just a Nick Florez and RJ Durell mythological jazz for the top ten and the All Stars. It’s good, but I remember the costumes (metallics, animal tokens like horns and cat ears and feathers, Ken doll hair pieces and straps) more than the dance itself. In another break from tradition, there’s no obvious distinction for the finalists. Except for the end, that is, when all the dancers lift one girl high and raise their hands to her; with the camera’s distance and the blazing lights, we can’t see who she is.
Cat’s wearing what else but a minidress with three quarter sleeves; this one is bronze and copper, reflecting as she moves. Though Nigel’s only wearing a snazzy blue suit, Jason’s gone full tuxedo and Paula’s wearing an intricate 60s-inspired gown, all white swirls to the floor with a bow tied around her neck. Very Audrey Hepburn, Cat approves. We have some good news about my babies, Cat tells us, and no, that doesn’t mean she’s having twins. (What? I can’t be the only one to think that for the first millisecond.) This past week at the Creative Emmys the lighting and costume teams won their respective categories. Hurrah! They’re amazing and that’s well deserved. Then they tell us that friends of the show Derek & Julianne Hough and Tessandra Chavez won the Emmy for choreography (for a terrific routine set to “Elastic Heart”), and I’m bummed that Derek took the award again — but guess what? They tied! With TRAVIS! Aw. I kind of can’t believe he was nominated five times before winning (it’s hard to imagine him not taking home the statuette for “Wicked Games,” for example) but I’m really glad he finally got there even if I’m somewhat bemused last season was the one to get him there. Apparently Cat presented the category, and when she opened the envelope she simply said “I have chills” and sitting in the audience with his mom and his boyfriend, Travis just knew. That’s almost funny, because he wasn’t the only SYT choreographer nominated, but he would definitely have the strongest relationship with Cat. (Ha ha, show, he mentioned his boyfriend! Love it.)
For the night, Cat tells us, we’re going to reprise the best routines of the season, and we’re also going to see random fun moments. First up, Jason gets to pick a routine to see again, and he chooses one that’s stuck in his mind since the finale, Virgil and All Star Joshua’s “Let’s Go” from Phoenix and Pharside. No surprise there! It might be even better than the first time. After we see some clips of Ladia Yates and her dance team babies. Paula gets to pick next, and she goes for a bit of a dark horse, Talia Flava’s excellent “You There” for Megz and Edson. #1: I love this routine. #2: I heard that song a billion times yesterday while researching tv show trailers on Youtube, because there’s a commercial that plays in front of a lot of videos that uses it, and I had to listen every time because it is such a cool song. #3: I cannot get over the names “Megz and Edson” together. It’s a weirdly cute combination of unusual names and I like the sound and the feeling of saying it. Love them, love seeing both of them get to dance in the finale, love the routine.
Somewhat to my surprise, Paula picks a second number in a row, and it’s another dark horse, “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” for Jaja and All Star Ricky, the Al Blackstone Broadway routine which made Jaja’s mother feel like she could float up to heaven. Aw! Just for that, I’m really glad the routine replayed, although I might have preferred to see her princess Bollywood routine (“Naacho Re”). As usual, Cat takes a pick for herself and chooses to show us a group routine (rebroadcast rather than reprised), the thrilling “Ready or Not, Here I Come” choreographed by NappyTabs for the full street team. I could not love that any more.
Next we get a little montage of the finalists talking about the process. Jaja felt like this was her year; she was ready at the audition and she can do anything now that she’s come through the show. Gaby felt like her hip hop Geisha/Ninja routine was a breakthrough. Hailee felt like she was ready for Vegas and is proud of how much she’s pushed herself and amazed at the comments she’s gotten from the judges about how she’s radiant and eye catching. It’s true, Hailee! Believe it, because it’s totally true. For his part, the lone man in the top four muses on being compared to Sammy Davis Jr, and hopes he’s made the audience feel something. Mostly laughter, but at the end of the day, anything.
Then tWitch gets called up to pick something, and he goes for a routine that wasn’t even on my radar, partly because it came from the week I was on vacation and my cable was out; Stacey Tookey’s civil rights inspired “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” for Neptune and Gaby. Yes – not by accident, he’s picked a stage routine, because in his words the competition is over. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but again, I’m super happy to see Neptune dancing in the finale even if I’d have rather seen him with Kate in “Promise.”
It seems that Nigel’s imported a few acts from the Dizzy Feet Foundation Gala, and one is an animation duet between All Star Cyrus and a 10 year old blonde in a fierce pony hawk (bun hawk?) who goes by the stage name Little Phoenix. It’s cool, but not revolutionary. The show recruited Asaf to sit poolside and talk about hotness and let the water glisten over his abs. Snort. They play a ton of clips of “hot moments” from the show, and segue rather awkwardly into Hailee’s pick for her favorite routine of her own — her Nick and RJ jazz duet with All Star Robert, “Haunted.” Why? So she gets to kiss Robert again, obviously. Snort. If I could pick for her, I’d have gone with “Don’t Hang Your Head,” last week’s stunning contemporary piece, but this is a worthy one in her style. After she gets to plant Death’s final kiss on Robert, Cat tiptoes over to her. “Slightly longer than necessary,” she laughs.
We see the story of Special Olympian Cody Colson in clips, and then Travis is asked for his favorite routine; like tWitch, he picks a piece from the other team, Pharside and Phoenix’s “I’m Really Hot” which shows off Gaby’s impressive hip hop skills alongside All Star Joshua. It’s a good night for Joshua, huh? And P & P. After the Geisha v. Ninja battle ends, we see the American Ballet Theater principal dancer Herman Cornejo, who is wonderful but … but … I’d rather be seeing Jim solo. Is that crazy? Herman dances in gold pants and a headband, which Cat claims belongs to Jason.
And speaking of Jason, he spends his next pick on the Ghostlight routine (“Beautiful People” for the top eight stage minus the injured Derek). Hurrah! My two favorite group pieces! I’m thrilled, even if Jason can’t remember the name of the theatrical legend and calls it the umbrella lamp number. It’s not live — how could they cover everyone in powder? — but I don’t care.
We waste a little time with the Mr. Hollywood audition, and then Virgil gets to make his pick, which is to do the infamous Robot number (“Runnin'”) with Hailee. Aw! That’s great. It fits in with his performance aesthetic (making people laugh and feel something) and it’s great. This time, oddly enough, it’s Virgil’s little heart light that goes out; Cat tickles him, but he won’t break character.
After the break, Nigel tells us that they created a routine for the finale because so many fans wanted to see two particular dancers work together who hadn’t. The audience roads, and Cat pleads with them not to ruin the surprise; Travis has choreographed a piece about a father trying to worm his way back into the life of the son he abandoned, and he’s done it for Jim and All Star Alex.
First off, Jim has absolutely no trouble connecting with Alex, not in the way that he was constantly dumped on for failing to connect with his partners. But Alex doesn’t make much headway trying to force a relationship with his “son.” Both men are shirtless, Alex wearing khakis and Jim in jeans, and you can see the push and pull between them as they dance to Max Richter’s “November.” In the end, Alex forces Jim to shake his hand, and the son cringes and crumples and runs away. That felt like a telenovela, Nigel enthuses; we’ll have to get the sequel in Season 13. Please, please please let that mean that there ‘s going to be a Season 13!
Anyway, it was terrific. It’s a little weird that the show/fans keep pushing a connection between the two because they happen to be Asian ballet dancers, but on the other hand, they’re both outstanding, and I won’t look a gift Travis routine in the mouth.
And now it’s time for results. Instead of bringing out all four dancers, Cat calls only Hailee and Gaby out to the stage; I can see why they chose to narrow each Team down to one member, but I’m super curious how the voting totals actually shook out. Also, this would have been much more dramatic if they had put the finalists’ selections all in the first hour; Gaby hasn’t gone yet, and they wouldn’t make her dance and air her hopeful video after eliminating her, would they? It’d disrupt the flow of the show. And the dancers have had to know the order they’re appearing in at least for the length of the show if not since the dress rehearsal. Of course it would have been a huge shock for Hailee to beat Gaby, but it’s obvious that the jazz dancer knows she’s going. While we wait for this non-news we get a package about Team Stage. We see great auditions and tough times in Vegas – Guillermo, Mary Kate, the ball-less ballroom dancer, the male ballet dancer from Boston, Edson, Marissa, Alexia, Brandon, Kate, Kelly McCoy getting married. We essentially interrupt the montage to give the results. Take it in, Cat says as the audience claps and claps. They’re cheering for you. You’ll remember this moment forever. Hailee stares at Gaby, grinning and wiggling her eyebrows. She knows. It’s Gaby.
And then Gaby gets hustled off and Hailee gets her own montage. Jason telling her he’d pay money to see her on Broadway. Derek saying that her happiness gets the other dancers through the day. Gaby calling her a sister. Alexia talking about her attitude and work ethic. Jim calling her a beautiful soul. Whatever you want your dreams to be, Cat consoles her, it’s up to you, because anything can come true for you, and you know, I think she’s right. I definitely hope so; I don’t think you can praise her enough. “Where’s Robert?” Cat wonders, thinking it might be time for a consolation kiss. “Let’s go find him!”
From that emotional moment to the next, Nigel finally chooses a routine, and it’s one of my favorites, Jaja and Alex doing Tessandra Chavez’s early on-set Alzheimer’s piece “Youth.” Glorious. Also fabulous, the Academy of Villains performs a creepy hard hitting mime routine (dressed as very French looking mimes in striped shirts and white faces, not acting like them) to Noahpplause’s “Crunk” and it’s fierce and awesome, definitely my favorite of the non-SYT routines we’ve seen. This continues to be the case when Travis and Jenna Dewan Tatum perform a very sexy contemporary routine which is good but not revolutionary. They dance to Alabama Shakes “Gimme All Your Love,” and between the costuming and the sultry southern lilt to the singer’s voice it has a very Tennessee Williams vibe — Jenna’s in a slinky red dress with wet hair, and Travis has on a white tank under suspenders.
Cat calls out Virgil and Jaja for their results, and I’m thrilled because she’s wearing the floral top and jeans of her first animation routine on the show. Again, Virgil has gotten his special video package and montage and Jaja hasn’t — what are the chances that he’s not the one getting the heave-ho? Unlike Hailee, however, he’s clearly hopeful. We watch a montage of the many street styles covered by the show — breaking, juking, jitting, krump. Then we see individual dancers; Neptune, Hurricane (Hurricane! Weep!), Asaf (grr) and his horn, Megz, Stephen (?) who wanted to prove that nerds can get down, JJ, Lil’ something with his silly black and white clown hat, Virgil, the krumper Roydell Shannon with his tiny adorable son, B-Dash, Sam-I-Am, Standing Ovation, Lily, Ariana, Burim and Paula telling us how much she appreciates his package. No one is worried about the future of street dance with these strong, charming superstars to represent it. Jaja, of course, is proclaimed the top member of Team Street.
In a montage of Virgil’s finest moments, we hear Paula declare at his audition that he’s exactly what they’re looking for. Neptune says he’s like a brother, Megz says he’s funny all the time, Jaja calls him the clown of Team Street, Yorelis says he reminds her it’s okay to have fun, which shows us a side of Yorelis we never got to see. The So You Think stage is home to me, he says in the montage, and in real time he’s crying. I hate to see him lose, Mr. E tells me, he’s just so good. I feel the same about all four of these dancers, actually. Any one of them would be a worthy winner.
As indicated by her costume, Jaja’s chosen to dance to Christopher Scott’s animation routine for her and Jim, “No Woman No Cry,” because she feels like it really does represent her struggles as a woman. I love this routine and I would have been really bummed if they’d left it off; it just makes me happy.
Weirdly, they decide to replay tape of the opening number from Christopher Scott and Jessica Lee Keller, presumably because it sets up the whole Street versus Stage thing. (I suppose this is only weird because I was underwhelmed by it; maybe it’s really popular with people other than me?) Then we get this goofy twitter war where the top twenty stand on a roof top and taunt each other with unflattering tweets from viewers in battle form. Stage dancers shake like they’re having a seizure when they perform! (We see a clip of the particular routine this refers to.) Street dancers just grab their crotches. (Film; they do.) The Stage girls are better at hip hop than the Street ones! (Hailee, Gaby, Alexia dance.) The street guys are hotter! (Asaf’s abs. I can’t decide if this is just all about Asaf or about the Street guys being more straight.)
Finally, Gaby gets to perform her favorite which as she’s already told us is Mandy Moore’s “Angel” with All Star Robert. How funny that both stage girls chose to dance with Robert again! After they dance, Robert grabs Gaby’s face in both hands and seems to be telling her “you’re gonna win.” Well, the order of dance would indicate that, wouldn’t it? And she totally slayed it in the performance finale. And she’s always gotten more credit from the judges; even with all their praise of Hailee, no one ever said on the show she was likely to win. And with that, it’s time for the final reckoning. This is the match up the producers, or at least Nigel, has wanted forever. And we’ll get a bit of SYTYCD history, too – either a tapper or a street girl will win for the first time.
They bring out Jaja, wearing a cute cream dress with red flowers, and begin a montage about them both. We hear that clip of Nigel saying “you both kill me.” tWitch is proud of Jaja for coming into this season so strong after being rejected in the past. Travis says he knew from day one that Gaby would be walking into the finale. I can’t believe I’ve done so much more than I ever thought I could, Gaby muses. I’m very proud of what we did here as Team Street and Team Stage, Jaja says, and whatever happens it will be great memories. Great attitude, Jaja!
In an explosion of confetti, we learn that Gaby is the winner of Season 12. Crying, Jaja throws her arms around her competitor. Because he knows what this feels like, Ricky rushes the stage and sticks a gold cell phone right in Gaby’s face, recording the experience for her. Travis is there — bragging rights, finally! — and then the rest of the cast, Megz and Robert howling, everyone leaping and bounding with joy, silver confetti storming around them, Cat holding the microphone with long ribbons streaming over her arm, Paula fiercely embracing Gaby and barely giving way in time for the camera to catch Jason’s congratulatory hug as the screen goes dark.
So. There it is; it’s what I thought would happen after last week. I’m really sorry that Jaja couldn’t win, too (my kids are going to be devastated) but hopefully she and Virgil and Hailee will get tons of work anyway, because they’re just amazing. And Jim, and Neptune, and Kate and Yorelis and JJ and Megz and Edson and, damn, I just really liked this cast. Of the routines performed, I’m slightly surprised not to see “Your Day Will Come” (maybe Jamie was unavailable? I couldn’t tell who any of the All Stars girls were except Kayla) and “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” (Hailee’s Broadway with Brandon, who was definitely in attendance). I’m also mildly surprised Nigel didn’t want to see Gaby’s tap routine again, too. Other excluded favorites of mine were “Promise” and “All Is Now Harmed” — no love for Justin Giles, boo! At least we saw them in montages and hey, I know they can’t do them all.
I’ve seen polls online that indicate people really disliked the Stage versus Street theme, and don’t want it to continue. I was a lot happier than I thought I’d be, actually, and wouldn’t be offended by a return with tweaks — they would really need to bring back partnerships, and concentrate more on the contestants than the team captains. Also, ballroom. I know it doesn’t get the votes, but that’s how you know they can really handle working outside their styles, right? Largely, the Street dancers were fantastic and surprising. After so many years of complaining that there were no good street girls to put on the show, the ladies knocked it out of the park. And while I did miss the partnerships that the gender imbalance probably took from us, I did love a lot of the same-gender routines (Hailee/Gaby and Hailee/Megz particularly). It’s nice when the choreographers get stretched that way.
And not to harp, but I really really missed Mary Murphy. Paula was a much better, sharper judge than I expected, but Mary! Sigh.
What about you? How did you feel about this season? Should the show get a renewal, would you be cool with Stage v. Street again, or do you consider it a failed experiment? Though Nigel sounded confident, I looked into it, and there hasn’t been any announcement about SYT continuing next year. Do you feel pretty sure that the show will be renewed, or are you on pins and needles worrying? Are you shocked that Nigel made so little mention of tap tonight? Was Jaja robbed? Was Gaby your winner? Do you think she should dance with Jennifer Lopez, or hoof it over to Broadway? Sound off for the last time this year (but hopefully, hopefully not ever).
And, ugh. Does that mean I have to admit summer’s really over? Noooooooooooo!