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‘SYTYCD’ Top 4 Recap: Pole Positions & Animation Domination

Lyndsey Parker
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Chehon & Cyrus: a battle of opposites

Towards the end of "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 9's final competitive episode on Tuesday, judge/producer Nigel Lythgoe named ballet girl Eliana Girard not only his favorite dancer of this season, but in "SYTYCD" history (sorry, Allison Holker). Then he told inexperienced animator Cyrus Spencer: "I am not going to vote for you tonight, only because I'm a dancer and I know what it means to work all your life to get to this point...I have to support Chehon [Wespi-Tschopp] tonight, for my own personal reasons."

So basically, Nigel openly declared that he thinks Eliana and Chehon should be crowned this season's co-ed winners next week. Wow, I don't always agree with Nigel, but I sure did in this case. Eliana and Chehon for the win, I say.

Of course, one thing I didn't agree with, all season long, was Nigel and his fellow judges' relentless championing of Cyrus--a fabulous dancer in his own unique style, without a doubt, but definitely an amateur compared to everyone else on this show. Cyrus always seemed to get a free pass from the judges, who practically cheered him on simply for showing up and trying. So, after weeks of over-the-top Cyrus-pimping, Nigel's sudden speech in favor of Cyrus's opponent, Chehon (a classically trained ballet technician, the polar opposite of Cyrus in every way), may have been too little, too late.

To be fair, though, Cyrus did have some great moments this Tuesday, including a dynamite closing routine in which he even managed to upstage one of the series' all-time fan favorites, allstar Twitch Boss. But during the nine numbers that preceded that, Eliana and Chehon definitely made the case for why they deserve to win this season.

Yes, that means there were TEN dances total, so let's get to the recapping. Cue music...

DANCES WITH FELLOW CONTESTANTS

Eliana Girard & Cyrus Spencer - Paso Doble

Choreographer Jason Gilkinson came up with the genius idea to switch the traditional gender roles in this classic Latin dance, and make Eliana the bull and Cyrus the cape. This of course allowed Eliana, the stronger or at least more technical dancer of the two, to really shine, as she dominated the proceedings. And shine she did. Nigel called her a "magical combination of performance and technique" and told her, "You have without question secured your place in this industry." Mary Murphy told Eliana she was "on fire!" And the night's guest judge, Chicago director Rob Marshall, raved, "Eliana, what I love is you know how to throw the technique away and tell the story." Cyrus kept up with his old original Season 9 partner, and received praise as well (Nigel assured him, "You deserve to be here!"), but this was definitely Eliana's show. And the fact that she was paso-dobling to Daft Punk only made everything more awesome, of course.

Eliana Girard & Chehon Wespi-Tschopp - Ballet

BALLET!!!!! Finally! Come on, Cyrus could never do this. I don't even know if the other girl left in the competition, Tiffany Maher, could do this, as talented as she is. The fact that these two--two of the very few trained ballet dancers to ever go far on "SYTYCD"--effortlessly and gorgeously pulled off this Nutcracker Suite number (choreographed by ballet legend Marat Daukayev) again proved their worthiness. And the fact that Eliana could take on the male role in a fiery paso doble and then turn around and do something so different like this, only minutes later, was especially impressive. "I can't believe your versatility. That really separates the men from the boys," said Rob. "I never thought we'd see two ballet dancers on a 'So You Think You Can Dance' finale. I'm thrilled," gushed a proud Nigel. "This is a triumph for the show and a triumph for the world of ballet," proclaimed Mary. We'll soon see if it leads to a triumph for Eliana and Chehon, but in my opinion, it should.

Tiffany Maher & Cyrus Spencer - Lyrical Hip-Hop

This Tessandra Chavez number, depicting Cyrus as an errant boyfriend unsuccessfully trying to win back his angry ex-girlfriend, was a good showcase for Cyrus--he proved he actually has some acting skills, and his total commitment to his character compensated for any of his technical shortcomings. However, Tiffany was a revelation in this routine. "Tiffany, you were a little beast up there! I have never seen you hit it as hard as you did tonight," screeched Mary. "You both have something I love in dancers, and that's abandon," added Rob. "You've both shown why you've never been in the bottom two or three: You're so good at emotional routines. I think you're both incredible," said Nigel. I had to concur. Both dancers really threw themselves into this one.

Tiffany Maher & Eliana Girard - Burlesque

What's one way to get heterosexual regular dudes to watch "SYTYCD"? Tell them that there will be pole-dancing. Yes, pole-dancing...but the classiest pole-dancing ever, of course. This Chicago-inspired Ray Leeper routine had both of these lovely ladies working the pole in way you'd never see at Scores, although Eliana, a former Cirque du Soleil cast member, was obviously more in her element and was therefore assigned ALL of the more advanced moves. My eyes were on her the entire time. As for Nigel's eyes, they were popping right out his pervy skull, and I was afraid he was going to suffer another heart attack. Dramatically dabbing his perspiring face with a hanky, he sighed, "It's hard to say anything that won't get me into trouble. The last time I saw something like that, I was with Randy Jackson. But I won't go into that." (Please don't, Nigel. Thanks.) Rob was also rendered pretty much speechless. "There's no sense on the panel right now," laughed Mary, who called this routine, "fun," "sassy," "magnificent" and "crazy-great."

Cyrus Spencer & Chehon Wespi-Tschopp - Contemporary

This Sonya Tayeh routine about both very different dancers' "SYTYCD" struggles was solid, but Cyrus lacked Chehon's power and grace--he may get that in time, but Chehon has YEARS and YEARS of training that Cyrus simply does not, and that imbalance showed here. Nigel said, in what could be interpreted as a backhanded compliment/insult to both dancers: "Cyrus, you have improved so much as a dancer on the show, and it's fantastic to see. I'm so proud of you. I've supported you throughout this, and I think you are a remarkable person. You are my favorite person on this show. But Chehon, you are my favorite dancer." However, I got what Nigel was saying. Cyrus has the charm and likability; the more reserved Chehon has the skills. If only these two could be Frankensteined together in some way, Nigel could build the perfect dance beast.

Tiffany Maher & Chehon Wespi-Tschopp - Rumba

This dance by "SYTYCD" alum Dmitry Chaplin, set to Adam Levy & Norah Jones's "Love Me Tender," was more romantic and tender than red-hot, flat-out sexy, but I thought it was lovely and that both dancers did a superb job. Surprisingly, Mary was "not 100 percent convinced" by the pair's onstage chemistry, but she appreciated that Chehon seemed to finally master some form of Latin dancing (after struggling with other Latin genres like the cha cha and samba), and she called Tiffany a "little Latin dancer!" Rob and Nigel liked this more, with Rob saying, "I thought it was really sexy and that you guys had some connection that was quite beautiful," and Nigel saying, "The pole dance was great fun--but this was so much sexier." Gee, I wonder if Randy Jackson would agree...

DANCES WITH ALLSTARS

Tiffany Maher with allstar Will Wingfield - Contemporary

Another Sonya Tayeh piece inspired by a contestant's real-life journey, this dance was supposed to be all about joy (as opposed to, you know, the usual demonic stuff Sonya goes for), but it wasn't quite joyous enough for me. It felt a little stagnant, and I'd expected more. This was more the fault of Sonya, who probably should stick to her usual dark arts; Tiffany and Will danced it as beautifully as they could. "You are the epitome of a fabulous dancer...you are a superstar tonight," Mary told Tiffany. "You have such expression and such extension and fearlessness," added Rob. And Nigel raved: "You're such a little person, yet we don't know that because your lines are so strong. I've undersold you by calling you the 'girl next door'--there was never anyone as wonderful as you who lived next door to me!"

Chehon Wespi-Tschopp with allstar Allison Holker - Contemporary

This routine, by "nommy-emminated" choreographer Stacey Tookey (Mary's not always so good at speaking), was all about a boyfriend letting his girlfriend go, so that she can follow her dreams. Set to "Leave" from the Once soundtrack, this was just amazing, from Chehon's Hulk-strength, one-armed lift to his very believably passionate kiss with Allison at the end. Remember when we all used to think Chehon was so cold and clinical? Clearly, those days are over. "You were so free throughout this whole piece," Mary rightly said, although she may have gone too far by awkwardly quoting Martin Luther King Jr. and shouting, "Free at last!" (Oh, Mary...) Said Nigel, a little more lucidly, "With that partner, you really came alive, because sometimes [in the past] you found it hard to show emotion. Not tonight! Wow, young man!" Wow, indeed.

Eliana Girard with allstar Alex Wong - Contemporary

This Travis Wall-choreographed, Harry Nilsson-soundtracked stunner found these two dancers extremely well-matched. The chemistry was passionate and perfect. Mary praised Eliana for the "extraordinary passion that you just ooze from that body." Said Rob, "That was just poetry. Eliana, there's nothing you can't do." And Nigel announced, "That was my favorite of the night, and Eliana, you are my favorite of all time on this series"--as a shocked Eliana burst into tears of joy. You know, I almost cried with her.

Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer with allstar Twitch Boss - Animation

Finally, the long-awaited pairing of Twitch and Glitch! And it was worth the wait. This Christopher Scott routine--the first animation routine in "SYTYCD" history--depicted Twitch and Glitch as "genetically altered specimens," and it was the role Cyrus was born to play, since the way he moved didn't even seem natural, or human. "That was crazy! You guys are two superstars up there," declared Rob. Nigel called Cyrus "world-class," and after giving his above-mentioned speech about why he felt compelled to root for Chehon, he did add: "I will totally understand why America might vote for you, Cyrus, because you are inspirational." With a number like this closing the show and therefore uppermost in voters' minds, I too will understand if Cyrus wins.

And we will soon find out, on next Tuesday's big finale! As I said before, I am hoping for an Eliana/Chehon victory, but I know whatever happens, it's going to be an amazing celebration of dance.

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