So sadly for the first Wednesday in many months, there is no new episode of So You Think You Can Dance tonight. The series concluded its third season with last Thursday's two hour finale and rightfully crowned Sabra (Johnson) "America's Favorite Dancer." As I mentioned in an earlier post with the exception of Project Runway and the past season of Idol, I tend to avoid reality competion programming. I prefer my TV fictional, thanks. That said, I effing loved this summer's SYTYCD. A large part of that I'm sure relates to my past life as a dancer but I think there's something to be said for dance as an artform (in addition to a competition) being exhibited on primetime. On Idol, regardless of the singers' talent, there will never be performances I'd care about in any other context ie; I will never buy an Idol's music no matter how much I may have been a "fan" at the time.
Not so with So You Think You Can Dance. All of the dancers and nearly all of the choreo in this season reeeeally impressed me. So much so that I totally geeked out and got tickets to see the tour here in L.A. So while I lament my now SYTYCD-free existence, I'll also look back and relish some of my favorite dances and dancers of Season 3.
Top 5 Dancers:
5) Neil- Initially, I was quite meh on Neil when he was kept over my fellow former Paso Roblan, Jesus (Chuy.) Chuy had performed phenomenally in the previous weeks while Neil had only been okay and the conspiracy theorist in me was convinced that Neil was saved solely to appease the tweens for the tour. Neil must've felt the collective disgust radiating from all TWoP viewers because the next week, he really stepped up his game. He continued to improve in performance, technique, and 'reality show persona' appeal and by the time he was left standing in the Top Four, he'd fully won me over. Neil's consistent weakness was a lack of chemistry with his partners but Sara and Sabra loosened him up a bit and his last four solos were nothing short of outstanding.
4) Lauren- Ironic that a contestant with inside connections to the show would become an underdog of sorts but for me, Lauren was just that. I (wisely as it turns out) had avoided the boards for reality show competions so perhaps the Lauren hate was par for the course, but never had I seen so much vitriol and anger directed at a talented nineteen year old on a reality show. People at TWoP HATE Lauren (all caps.) They wished her gruesome, violent ends, flat out accused her of being a slut, and talked at length about how physically hideous and talentless she is. Um... she's not. Any of those things. At first, my Lauren support was a direct reaction to some of the scarier, meaner posters. But as it turns out, Lauren's a really good dancer. Some of her solos were lame, but some were excellent. She had a great chemistry with Danny and the night she left, she absolutely KILLED Wade Robson's opening group piece.
3) Sabra- Yay! Sabra won! I didn't always feel Sabra was the most dynamic dancer, but she was consistently excellent beginning with her solo on the first elimination show. There are two ways to look at Sabra- either she got very lucky throughout OR the show tried to throw her under the bus and she always rose above it. The Dom and Sabra partnership was arguably the most entertaining and sweet on the series, but Sabra's best partner in the competition was contemporary choreography. She excelled at the pieces by Mandy Moore and Wade Robson and always made those dances look effortless and beautiful. She earned the win.
2) Danny (fucking) Tidwell- Danny was best dancer ever on the show. Most everyone is in agreement on this point. Danny's challenge was being an interesting performer and for me, that didn't happen until the Top 8 performances. (Though in retrospect, all of his Top 10 performances are fantastic.) Danny didn't win me over until he gamely sold cheesy hip hop choreo with a goofy smile on his face and for the first time ever, looked like he was having fun. After that, he had me for good. He's a brilliant technician and can be a mesmerizing performer. His 60 second solo in the Top 4 performances is dancing on a level above every one of his competitors. He'll be okay without the win, but he's the only contestant I actually voted for twice and as a viewer, I feel lucky to be given the opportunity to see Danny Tidwell dance.
1) Sara (Von Gillern)- Unfortunately, I didn't really realize Sara was my favorite dancer until about halfway through the competition. Sara adapted to every style effortlessly. She was in more of my favorite dances of the season than any other competitor. More than that though, Sara had an earthy, fun sensibility that came across as very real. She made it through the reality show machine without becoming perceived as a caricature, a villain, a slut, fake, dumb, backstabbing, simpering, needy, or any of the other cartoonish reality archetypes that exist. She was total class the entire competition. To her credit (and my delight,) Sara was featured more than any other dancer in the Thursday finale performing a total of six dances. This bodes very well for her stage time on the tour.
Top 10 Dances:
(Go to YouTube for as many of these as you can. For whatever reason, I can't hyperlink on my Mac. Grrr. Argh.)
10) Danny/Lacey Samba (Top 10)- Admittedly, this piece begins with fantastic music and choreo, but Danny and Lacey dance the hell out of it.
9) Neil/Sara Disco (Top 10)- New partnership and kinda lame choreo but really, really entertaining and fun.
8) You Can't Stop the Beat Group Dance (Top 14)- Choreo by guest judge and Hairspray director/choreographer, Adam Shankman. Infectious music and dancing; near flawless execution.
7) Neil/Lauren Pop Jazz (Top 14)- After a few lackluster weeks, Lauren and Neil finally get it right and own this funky, character driven piece. Roisin Murphy music and Wade choreo help them immensely.
6) Pasha/Sara West Coast Swing (Top 14)- Chuy who? Seriously, Pasha and Sara have some of the best chemistry on the show which becomes hugely apparent in their first performance together, a high energy WCS routine choreographed by last year's SYTYCD winner, Benji Schwimmer. Almost instantly, it becomes a classic performance.
5) Dom/Sabra Contemporary (Top 18)- Beautiful. First appearance of choreographer Mandy Moore who easily made the season for me. Her partner work is so intricate and innovative and Dom and Sabra really, really sold this dance.
4) Neil/Sabra Jazz (Top 6)- Another Mandy Moore piece. Incorporated both dancers's strengths to tell a clever story with a combo of funky and classic choreography. One of the few great dances of the year that succeeds more through the choreo than the performances.
3) The Moment I Said It Group Dance (Top 10)- Mia Michaels's choreo at its best. After a banner year in Season 2, Mia faltered quite a bit but this group number showcases all of her strengths. Great partner work, excellent use of the stage, bonus points for focusing on Danny, this dance warrants multiple viewings. (Tiny detractor: masks make it hard to identify which dancer is which.)
2) 2:19 Group Dance (Top 6)- Tom fucking Waits song and bizarre Wade choreo, but this totally works. Most people hated it but I think it's amazing. Initially, heavy makeup and costumes threatened to overshadow the actual dancing but two things really make this piece work in execution, Neil and Lauren. Lauren particularly, is absolutely captivating to watch in this performance.
1) Pasha/Sara Jazz (Top 12)- I've watched this close to twenty times. Everything succeeds here- Mandy Moore's trademark choreo, the use of Queen's Body Language, the would be cheesy costumes that actually function toward the concept of the piece, Pasha's and Sara's talent, Pasha's and Sara's chemistry. It's weird and unsettling and the complete antithesis of the hip pop-lite Shane Sparks choreo that makes its way down the pike to appease the masses; it's brilliant. Seriously, search pasha sara on YouTube and watch this dance!
I'm not sure any of these will be featured on the tour but through the beauty of the internet, I can watch them over and over again. And I have.