Performance Finale: So You Think You Can Dance Season Four

“Performance Finale”

August 6th, 2008

I haven’t blogged about what I deemed the summer’s guilty pleasure all those weeks ago, thus riling up a sizable segment of the show’s fanbase who viewed the term was disaffectionate. Well, needless to say, it was not intended as such – sitting around and watching So You Think You Can Dance has become a weekly ritual, first with some friends and then eventually with my parents as I’ve been spending a few weeks visiting at home.

It’s a show that you grow into more than perhaps any other reality program – there is a combination of personal achievement and massive variety that is unparalleled, and the limited audience involvement in selecting candidates keeps the dead weight out. This is a show where people are brought on for talent: not for how they play to the audience, not for their condescending attitude, but for their ability to dance.

And that means that, even with some surprises along the way, you get a finale of four strong dancers who offer up a great deal of entertainment and where all of the intense nepotism and laudatory comments usually dominating finales seems justified and deserved. I won’t pretend to know everything about dancing, but I have been watching enough to know where things might shake down for the impending final results.

First and foremost, I have to commend the producers for being very smart and allowing Cat to do the various interviews with the contestants. She is this show’s secret weapon, not just able to host the show but to both participate in and facilitate the camaraderie that really makes the show stand out. The interviews with each contestant were never going to be high class journalism (Although I was surprised that they broached the Courtney/Gev question in the guise of romantic involvement), so to make it seem more like a frank conversation than a clear producer-influenced clip package is extremely smart. She has a great rapport with all of them, and both in the clips and the episode herself you can tell that she doesn’t just view this as a job.

As for the other non-dancers, I’m a bit disappointed that we get Mandy Moore in the judges’ chair – I find her choreography uneven, but as a personality I don’t really find she has that much to add. After having Shankman last week, it’s just tough to go back to someone who seems less honest. She did offer some decent suggestions (about leg extensions and all of those things), but I guess I wanted someone more enthusiastic (But not as enthusiastic as Mary, who still needs to learn to self edit). I’m surprised they didn’t try to get Debbie Allen to come back considering that Will is now out of the competition, but maybe she’s still annoyed at America and would have spent the whole time yelling directly into the camera.

But then we have the dancing, which was all about memorability more than any sort of real technical skill. At this point we presume that they can do this, as we have four dancers who have been able to do everything they have thrown at them. So this is the perfect time to bring back Wade Robson, who gave some strong life to a routine for Joshua and Katee, and Mia Michaels handling the group number was the no brainer of the night. I felt that the Michaels routine was solid if unspectacular, kind of unorganized most of the time even though there was no doubt some powerful work from the Top 4, but it is still something that creates an impression.

The most clear example was the anticipated showdown between Twitch and Joshua, although it strangely took the form of a Russian Typytych routine as opposed to a hip hop routine. It doesn’t really get to showcase what they do, but there was some great footwork for Twitch and yet more stunning leaps from Joshua. This is the routine that may have been the most memorable, and Joshua and Twitch were given all sorts of compliments throughout the entire finale.

And it wasn’t all compliments for the dancers, which is the way it should be: while for the most part the dances were well-performed, Courtney in particular got called out on something in almost every dance. She was criticized for not finishing her moves, for missing some choreography in the Jive, for disappointing Mary in the group number, and just generally it was clear that her appeal is more in her energy and character than in her technical skill. Joshua and Twitch got mostly compliments, but even they were given some criticisms about falling things every now and then.

But none of it was said about Katee, which could either be her curse or her blessing.  There is no question that she and Will were the strongest technical dancers in their respective genders, but she has made a stronger connection with the audience and her partnership with Joshua has been the season’s most memorable. And on this night, she was getting compliments left and right: when Courtney was tired, Katee was flawless. Everyone got one difficult number, either the Jive or the Foxtrot, but Katee weathered the latter with her usual professionalism. While being “perfect” sunk Will with viewers, at this stage her standout quality could be her ability, and she appears to be the frontrunner to win it all (I’d say Joshua is her competition).

And that’s that – another season of performances done and over with. It will be interesting to see what the show picks out as the year’s best performances, and I might spend some time tomorrow revisiting some of them on YouTube to see just if their superlatives were justified when talking about the season as a whole.

Cultural Observations

  • Mary’s screaming was at least moderately in check, but the Mute button still came out. I just don’t understand the point of it all, I won’t lie.
  • I really liked Nigel’s near beat down of Joshua and Courtney – it was so refreshing for him to be willing to say “You guys are better than that tired routine,” because even I noticed that it seemed like a struggle for both of them. I don’t blame them, preparing four routines a tough one like that is going to break them down, but at least the show didn’t hide that fact.

Fox Trot? Really?

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2 Comments

Filed under So You Think You Can Dance

2 responses to “Performance Finale: So You Think You Can Dance Season Four

  1. I looked forward to SYTYKD every week and I hardly missed a show this season. I’m glad it’s re-run in this area. I think they had some of the best dancers that have been on the show so far.

    I really didn’t call this season right at all. Some of the strong technical dancers were voted off early. Connection with the audience was really key this season. I was sure that Katee and Will were going to be the 2 favourite dancers. Frankly, I thought it was two close to call between the two of them. They nailed every routine that was given to them.

    Last season the judges picked Hok (one of my personal favourites) over Twitch. Hok excelled in his style, did an amazing hummingbird routine but struggled with some of the work with partners. Twitch really rose the the challenge.

    I do love Joshua and Twitch and I think the reason that they did well is that people gave them well deserved props because they were consistent and they were able to master most (in the case of Twitch) and almost all (in the case of Joshua) of the routines. Frankly, I don’t know how they did it because some of the choreography was really complex. I guess it was talent combined with determination and sheer hard work. Joshua was unbelievable. When someone without formal training can compete in the same league as dancers who have been training for years, it says a lot about them. I am glad that this show gives exposure to dancers who would have had a hard time breaking in through other routes.

    Anyway, congratulations to the top four dancers. I know that they will go on to have great careers. I look forward to seeing SYTYCD Canada when it starts in a few weeks.

  2. I’m impressed on how this season’s SYTYCD really tried to implement other type of dance from different countries. Like Bollywood, for instance. It’s nice to watch something else other than ballroom or swing or the like.

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