"I think that Zeus himself would invite you to come dance on Mount Olympus," judge Lil' C told early standout Melanie Moore, when she first memorably auditioned in Atlanta on "So You Think Can Dance's" premiere episode back in May. Melanie remained a frontrunner and the Lythgoe-appointed "Beast" of Season 8 from that moment on, earning the raves of main judge Nigel Lythgoe and guest judge Lady Gaga, both of whom openly declared Melanie their favorite. So I'm sure Gaga, and maybe even Zeus himself, were thrilled when an emotionally sobbing Melanie was voted America's favorite dancer on this Thursday's big "SYTYCD" finale, after receiving FORTY-SEVEN PERCENT of the entire vote and a $250,000 cash prize.
This is hardly the biggest upset in "SYTYCD" history. It is in fact the most predictable finale result ever. Nigel had predicted all season long that a female would win this year (and, some conspiracy theorists might claim, orchestrated the competition to get the result he wanted), and for much of the season it seemed that the only contestant who had a real chance of beating "The Beast" was Nigel's other favorite, "Warrior Princess" Sasha Mallory. Sasha, warrior that she is, put up a good fight, placing a very respectable second this week and getting THIRTY-TWO PERCENT of the vote. (Melanie and Sasha both totally blew away the male finalists, Melanie's former partner Marko Germar and B-boy Tadd Gadduang, who respectively came in third and fourth and split the remaining 21 percent.) But it seemed nothing and no one could derail Melanie's practically pre-ordained victory.
Then again, on this show, a search for "America's Favorite Dancer," the most skilled technician rarely wins, so this was a surprise in its own weird way. (Please note that Travis Wall once lost to the likably goofy Benji Schwimmer, and Jakob Karr was beat out by affable krumper Russell Ferguson.) Additionally, a huge amount of gushing praise from the "SYTYCD" judges usually turns off viewers, who then vote for the underdog. (Best example of this: Will Wingfield in Season 4.) Voters usually go for someone like Tadd, an untrained, diamond-in-the-rough street dancer who demonstrated amazing growth throughout the season, or Marko, a contestant with multiple sob stories (a long-suffering mother in Guam, a bullet still lodged in his arm from an armed robbery incident). But this year, Melanie's ascendance was a rare case of "favorite" and "best" coming together in one tiny little muscular package. It's not hyperbole to say that Melanie is the best winner the series has ever had.
Yes, this year, the season-long hype was actually justified. The very first time Melanie competed, in Travis Wall's now-famous "Turn To Stone" statue routine with Marko, they earned the only standing ovation of the night, and Nigel told her, "I do not believe we have had a better girl dancer on the show." Her chances of making the "SYTYCD" finale certainly seemed, well, set in stone.
After that, Melanie and Marko soon became the "power couple" and "couple to beat," winning over voters and judges week after week (neither were ever in the bottom three). They even inspired the judges to scandalously make out with each other, after they kissed onstage during a romantic lyrical hip-hop routine. Once the couple was split up, M&M remained popular on their own and individually danced their way to the finale, but that was when Melanie really began to shine. Her Sonya Tayeh-choreographed dance with her biggest opponent, Sasha, was so excellent that guest judge Gaga threw her red platform shoe at them in enthusiasm. And when Melanie did a solo the week before the finale, Nigel declared it one of the best in "SYTYCD" history.
Of course, all is not lost for those who lost this week. So many past contestants who didn't win--Travis Wall, Twitch Boss, Lacey Schwimmer, Dmitri Chaplin, Kathryn McCormick, Dominic Sandoval, to name just a few--have gone on to great things after "SYTYCD," and there's little doubt in my mind that Sasha, Marko, and Tadd can and will do the same. And I am so glad Nigel Lythgoe apologized for his rude Wednesday night remarks to Tadd and Marko, telling them, "I just want to say I was extremely insensitive to you guys dismissing your chances of winning, and the hard work you put into this season. I publicly I want to apologize to both of you for that."
All is forgiven, Nigel. Because Melanie, a beast and a beauty, definitely deserved this victory. The girl actually might want to look in her inbox for that Olympus invitation very soon.