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‘So You Think You Can Dance’: The Fantastic Four

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Wednesday night's "So You Think You Can Dance" episode, featuring the final four on the floor, marked the last competitive round before next week's big finale--but, it should be noted, in past "SYTYCD" seasons, this would have been the finale. See, past finales consisted of a top four, and last season, it consisted of a top six. But with the usual top 20 slimmed down to a top 11 this season, and with the contestants dancing alongside past-season allstars, the stakes have been much higher throughout Season 7--so of course that's also the case with this season's August 11 finale, on which only three contestants will battle for the title of "America's Favorite Dancer."

On top of all that, this week, for the first time this season, the judges won't have any say in who stays and who goes. It's all up to America now, and considering that America put Lauren Froderman and Billy Bell in the bottom three last week, I'm a little worried that the wrong dancers will end up on the finale next week.

The contestants didn't perform solos or dance with each other on Wednesday, so I'm breaking them down below by grouping their two allstar routines. No matter what happens on Thursday's nail-biting results show, voters will certainly have a tough decision ahead of them, as this week the top four all hoofed pretty impressively, starting with guest judge Tyce Diorio's show-opening Broadway group routine.

Here's how everyone did...



Disco with allstar Courtney - Recent high school grad Kent, who's basically 18 going on 12, was of course not even alive when disco was in its polyester-suited heyday, and he freely admitted he is unfamiliar with the retro style. A crash-course browse for old "Soul Train" or "Saturday Night Fever" clips on YouTube may have solved all that, but instead Kent just winged it, reference-free. Choreographer Doriana Sanchez, known for her punishing, whiplash-speed routines, therefore seemed to go easy (maybe too easy) on Kent, setting this routine to a modern track (David Guetta & Kelly Rowland's "When Love Takes Over") instead of a '70s classic, and incorporating a minimum number of lifts. ("I'm just not big," Kent later explained in his typical adorable, boisterous fashion.) Kent danced this well, particularly when he did one incredible spinning lift with Courtney hoisted up on his narrow shoulders, but something was just missing here--the oomph, the Manero-esque machismo, that old-school booty-shaking energy. Judge Nigel Lythgoe praised Kent for keeping his problematic "Hungry Jazz Face" expressions under control to minimize the cheese factor, but I personally missed Kent's mugging--I mean, shouldn't a disco routine be a little cheesy? Tyce was a less impressed than Nigel, merely telling Kent he did a "very good [i.e., not great] job" and gently chastising Kent for not doing more disco research. Mia Michaels told Kent, "That was a little rough for me," called his dancing "childlike, bouncy, short, and squashy," and even declared this his worst dance of the season. Adam Shankman told Kent he needed "more Blue Steel, more Rico Suave" in his attitude. (Hey, that's cheesy, isn't it?) This wasn't bad, not at all, but as Tyce said, "It was just good"--and Kent's set the bar pretty high for himself all season long, so "just good" just wasn't good enough.

Contemporary with allstar Neil - Whatever underwhelmed reaction Kent's disco received, this routine (definitely the best of the night, and one of the best of the season) made up for that. Of course, the conspiracy theorist in me wondered if this had been orchestrated to all but guarantee that golden boy Kent would make to the finale. First, this number was choreographed by the amazing Travis Wall, and pretty much any contestant lucky enough to get a Travis routine is going to have a TV "moment." Second, Kent was reunited with Neil Haskell, with whom he had such a great moment several weeks ago with that "Damn Yankees" Broadway routine. And finally, this was the last routine of the night, in the coveted "pimp spot." But whether this was calculated or coincidental, the bottom line is, it was magical. Dancing with raw emotion to DeVotchka's poignant "How It Ends," Kent and Neil almost seemed to be reprising their "Damn Yankees" little brother/big brother roles as they played former friends parting ways--it was like a sad, years-after sequel to that cute, light Broadway routine. Some viewers probably found it homoerotic, since this was not unlike many archetypal "SYTYCD" routines portraying warring romantic couples, and it did sort of look like a depiction of a bad breakup. (Rumor has it was Travis's actual lovelife woes that inspired this piece.) But that didn't matter--it was really interesting, and in fact groundbreaking, to see two men dance this way on network television (on the day California's Prop 8 was overturned, yet). And no one could ever call these dancers effeminate--they performed with incredible strength, and it was impossible not to be moved by what they did. Nigel called this routine "inspirational" and "absolutely chilling," and told Kent, "You just booked a place on the finale." Tyce just kept shouting, repeatedly, "Are you kidding me?" Mia, a woman usually never at a loss for words (who in fact likes to make up words, like "murderation"), said through tears: "This is the first time that I can't find words." Eventually she did find them, though, saying this dance was "so real and so uncomfortably awful, and that is what true, true genius in an artist is. The combination of the three of you was perfect." And Adam echoed and one-upped Nigel's prediction by saying, "If this were the finale, you would have just won the show." There's no way we won't be seeing Kent on the finale, after this. And we all BETTER be seeing this routine on the "SYTYCD" tour this fall.



Tango with allstar Pasha - Lauren started on this show exhibiting a certain plucky, "Bring It On"-style cheerleader/gymnast/girl-next-door charm, but she's often been required to act the part of a sexpot vixen week to week. And that was the case with both of her dances this week. For her sultry Miriam Larichi-choreographed tango with ballroom heartthrob Pasha, set to Astor Pizzola's "Oblivion," she definitely embraced and tackled her seductress role, but ultimately I found this routine to be a bit of a snooze. She and Pasha danced it well, but it just sort of dragged, and there was some awkward leg-lift action midway through. The judges, however, were more hot than bothered over this number. Nigel confessed that his "eyes steamed up," raved about their "passion" and "intensity," and even semi-flirted with Pasha, telling him, "Even I wanted to dance with you!" Tyce grunted a bunch of onomatopoeic syllables in appreciation, seemingly at a Mia-like loss for words. Mia purred, "This whole room was felt very voyeuristic to me, and I liked that!" (Mia,as if presiding over a bat mitzvah, also told Lauren, "You just became a woman," a statement whose impact was kind of lessened by Lauren's girlish giggles that followed.) And Adam dorkily sang-spoke, "To quote Sting...every little thing you do is magic!" This wasn't magic for me, but l luckily I found Lauren's second routine sexier and more impressive...

Jazz with allstar Ade - Lauren upped the sexbomb factor even more in this Sean Cheesman number to Kosheen's forgotten early-2000s drum 'n' bass gem "Hide U," playing a sort of Bond-girl villainess/Catwoman femme fatale wearing little more than a black lace bodysuit and a naughty smirk. She was definitely playing against type, but she was entirely convincing. The deadly black-widow kiss at the end, followed by Lauren (wo)manhandling the beefy Ade and tossing him to the floor, was especially hot. Tyce wanted a little more ferociousness and Mia wanted a little more sexual chemistry for some reason, but overall the judges were pleased. Nigel called Lauren a "strong woman," praising her for dancing a "masculine work in a feminine way." Said Mia: "You're a beast. I love strong female dancers, and you are that." Tyce told her, "I don't think we've had many girls like you on the show." And Adam summed it up with "the only words a dancer ever wants to hear: I want to hire you." So expect to see Lauren on the 2011 Oscars, or in Step-Up 4, whether she wins "SYTYCD" or not.



Viennese waltz with allstar Anya - Usually when a Viennese waltz pops up on this show, I feel the need to chug a Red Bull in order not to doze off in the middle of it. It's just not usually a very exciting genre. This swooningly romantic waltz, however, was different. Much of that had to do with the excellent routine by first-time "SYTYCD" choreographer Jonathan Roberts, and the fantastic music, Anouk's "Lost," but Robert must take a lot of credit here, too. He danced with such finesse and grandeur, and I'm sure many women watching at home wished they could be Anya, waltzing in Robert's brawny arms. (Those brawny arms raised Anya in a straight-arm lift that made her appear as light as one-ply tissue paper, too.) Nigel praised Robert's "beautiful carriage" and told him, "It was superbly danced." Tyce loved that Robert "invested wholeheartedly--it's outside of your style, and you've become that style. You wore it like a suit." Added Mia: "An Armani suit! You're like the prince of this season." And Adam, always a great summer-upper of things, concluded with, "If there is ever a night to be brilliant, it is this one--and you were brilliant. There was absolutely no difference in the movement quality between you and Anya. You're having a little surge here!" Let's hope Robert surges all the way to the finale.

Hip-hop with allstar Dominic - When I first learned that Tabitha & Napoleon had created a hip-hop routine depicting two sad clowns losing their minds after the circus closes down, I expected a trainwreck that would make Jeanine and Phillip's infamous Season 5 Russian folk dance look like something by Sonya Tayeh. But instead, I found this to be awesome, the other big highlight of the night. It was dark, it was twisted, it was soundtracked by Basement Jaxx's "Scars," it probably psychologically scarred millions of kiddie viewers, and it was so cool I was actually surprised that it WASN'T choreographed by Sonya. "Whatever we throw at you, you just do it, and there's nothing better in dance competition than that," said Nigel. "Brilliant!" Tyce concurred: "You really showed up to this piece. That's what people are waiting for. You took it on and made it magic. It was everything and a bag of chips." Said Mia: "You committed to everything; you just hit it hard. You have had an amazing evening tonight." And Adam wrapped it all up by warning Dominic, "Robert just outdanced yo' ass!" Will Robert outdance his fellow competitors' asses next week at the finale? I sure hope so.



African jazz with allstar Lauren - A bouncy, buoyant Sean Cheesman routine about two dancers on "the path to freedom" (with the promised land being next week's finale, as Adechike put it), set to Ralph McDonald's "The Path," this really suited Adechike's boyish, joyful style, allowing him to unleash all his borderline-goofy energy. He really seemed to be having fun, and it was fun to watch. It wasn't the best dance of the night, but as I remembered his similarly bouncy (and roundly criticized) Bollywood number a few weeks ago, I realized how much this guy has grown on this show. But he hasn't grown quite enough, at least not according to the judges. Nigel griped about Adechike's stiff shoulders and back, and Mia was quite tough on Adechike, telling him: "I didn't care for that. It's about the celebration and joy, and because of the tightness in your upper body, you can't expand to the heavens." Adam said, "It's not about using your center, it's about losing your center. I felt conscious of you being in the choreography." (I agree; Adechike did seem a little tentative, a little hesitant.) The one critique I didn't quite understand was Tyce's, when he told Adechike: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. 'Tired' is not in there." Adechike may not have been perfect, but he never seemed tired. The dude had crazy energy, as he always does.

Contemporary with allstar Kathryn - Adechike had the honor of working with role-model choreographer Desmond Richardson (with Dwight Rowden), and Desmond & Dwight certainly weren't soft on their subject. No, they went out of their way to craft an especially challenging routine that encompassed various dance styles. Whether they did this to help orchestrate a big moment for him, or whether they were actually (conspiracy theory alert!) throwing him under the bus by trying to trip him up, we may never know. But Adechike attacked this routine to Melissa Etheridge's "Fearless Love" fearlessly, bringing lots of his trademark fire and energy to the stage. "You really laid it all out there, and I love when you do that. I am just super-proud," gushed Adam. Once again, Adechike wasn't perfect--I do think the routine was a little big for him, and some of his fire and energy waned by the exhausting number's end--but for the most part he rose to the challenge. Tyce said it was "not quite enough," and Mia similarly said, "I wanted more." Nigel even gave a "you've done a wonderful job across this season" speech that pretty much sounded like one long goodbye. But then Adechike gave his own speech about his gratitude for this opportunity, and started Nigel shouldn't be so sure that this was Adechike's last dance, after all. America's loves mushy stuff like that, so if Adechike's dancing didn't seal the deal, his tearful outpouring of emotion just may have clinched it.

So now it is prediction time. Who's going to make it to next week's finale? Well, barring any Alex Wong-like serious injury, I think it's a safe bet that Kent Boyd will be there (and will probably win). As for the other two? That's more of a toss-up. I really don't think Adechike should make it through, but he is popular--among the final four, only he and Kent have escaped the bottom three all season long. So he certainly can't be ruled out. If I had my way, it would come down to Robert, Lauren, and Kent, with Robert winning--but I learned a long time ago in my reality-reviewing career that I often don't get my way. I just hope I get my way Thursday night, and those will be the last three standing. And dancing.

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