The ”So You Think You Can Dance” season finale
I’d like to be able to start my final So You Think You Can Dance TV Watch of the season with a celebration of Sabra’s victory, or Danny’s subtle yet stunning season-long growth, or even the fact that the real winners last night were arguably Shane Sparks and Sara. But I can’t. Because you and I both know that before we can get to any of it, we have to deal with Cat Deeley’s dress.
If you can call it a dress. My colleague Alynda Wheat said it looked as if Cat had been caught in flagrante delicto with an ostrich. To me, it came off like what Santino Rice made in the Project Runway ”children’s books” episode when he was assigned James and the Giant Peach. (Michael Kors: ”I’d say that’s more screechy than peachy.”) And you’d think that with those 20-some pounds of lace and satin piled layer upon layer into a ballooning caricature of Cat’s hip bones, the sound department could’ve found a slightly less conspicuous spot for Cat’s ungainly mike pack than just clumsily sticking out the back. Really, though, the whole thing’s got me totally flummoxed; it was so over-the-top, so mesmerizing in its multifaceted daffiness that I can’t for the life of me decide whether its wearer is a brilliantly self-aware comedienne willing to go to any and all lengths for our amusement, or an attention-grabbing, epically self-absorbed fame junkie who cannot under any circumstances let anyone shine more brightly than herself. Probably more than a little of both.
Fortunately, though, the spotlight was directed so often at so many far more deserving subjects that the dress ultimately served only as a counterpoint to the dancers’ supreme class and breathtaking talent. And not just the top 20, either. It brought me no end of pleasure to see clogger Brandon Norris and robot pop-locker Brian Gaynor from the Atlanta auditions take to the stage and be celebrated so unabashedly. (Though I do think Brandon needs to take a few more hip-hop lessons before he thrusts out his inner-Beyonce again.)
With no new routines, in fact, Brian and Brandon were the season finale’s only moments of true discovery. It certainly wasn’t Nicole Scherzinger’s entrée into solo-dom — we get it, Nicole, you’re trying to break out of your Pussycat Doll box, but you’re not going to get far from it if you have to bring your wind machine with you everywhere you go. (Also: ”Whatever U Like” is no ”London Bridge” — and that’s not exactly a high bar to reach, either.) And all I can really say about Ryan Cabrera is his appearance inspired a 30-second debate amongst my viewing party about whether he looks better with his hair spiked up or layered down. (For the record, I argued for the latter, and lost.)
But even though the rest of the routines were reruns, their well-earned greatest-hits status (almost) erased the memory of Wednesday night’s comparably low-wattage choreography. My personal favorites: the Lacey-Danny samba from the top 10 week, probably the first week Danny fully won me over (and you better believe Dmitry Chaplin’s coming back next year as a choreographer); Jaimie and Hok’s top 16 hummingbird-and-flower routine, by Wade Robson, which moved me far more than I expected the second time through; Sabra and Neil’s top 6 table-negotiation routine, by Mandy Moore; and the West Coast swing Sara and Pasha learned from Benji Schwimmer in top 14 week.
It was hard not to notice how often Sara was dancing — six times, including the group routines (which I’m 99 percent positive were taped earlier in the day, by the way); only Neil danced as much. I’m super-thrilled Sara got such a fantastic showcase, but I can’t say I’m exactly shocked the judges thought her such a standout this season — 1985-prom-meets-Donald Trump-comb-over bangs notwithstanding. I was quite stunned to discover, however, that Shane Sparks had turned out three pretty great (mostly movie-inspired) routines over the course of the season — and that Mia Michaels could fit him in her handbag. (Didja see how, after the first all-judge standing O, Shane remained seated for the rest of the show?)
NEXT: And the winner is…
But enough about everyone else; let’s talk about our final four. Even though the producers thought ahead this season and made sure each finale elimination had some real suspense to it — remember how last year poor Heidi was anticlimactically dragged out on stage alone just an hour into the finale to be told her fate? — I was still left to wonder how Lacey seemed so sure she was out of the running before Cat had even excavated the first elimination card from the folds of her dress. (Also stuck in there: Grandma’s just-in-case-company-comes goodies tin filled with the oatmeal cookies she baked fresh last week. Oh, and her backup can of Mace. Don’t think she didn’t notice they’re both gone, Cat. Sharp as a tack, Grandma is.)
Lacey came across as honestly sad that her time on the show was over — but not that she’d lost the competition, which is interesting given that on Wednesday night she’d revealed herself to be ambivalent about dancing. (My viewing party’s consensus, meanwhile, on what was running through her brother’s head as he politely clapped and smiled for his little sis: ”Yaaaaaay, I’m the only America’s Favorite Dancer in the family. Yaaaaaay.” Hmm. I tend to watch TV with some exceedingly catty people, huh?) When Neil got the bad news, by contrast, it was kinda riveting to watch him realize that he actually did want to win after all. I just hope he’s also learned to use a comb more often.
Finally, if anyone after last night still thinks Danny is somehow a mere cocky kid who believes he’s above it all, then they weren’t paying attention. It was fascinating, first of all, to watch him dance his routines from this past season with a newfound joy, not to showcase his own talent but for the sheer thrill of the dance itself. His praise at the end for Sabra felt entirely genuine, too, as was his excitement that she’d won.
And though I still feel Danny deserved it more, Sabra earned her title of America’s Favorite Dancer with the kind of ego-less excellence, high-spirited pluck, and uncomplicated warmth that is all too rare these days in any form of popular entertainment, let alone reality television. Now if Sabra can just refrain from buying any more castoff I Dream of Jeannie costumes with her $250,000 prize money, she’ll be set for a very long, rewarding career indeed.
What do you think? Were you happy with the outcome? Which top 20 dancer were you most happy to see return? Are you planning to catch them on the tour, especially now that Hok, Anya, Jesús, and Shauna are joining them? Any routine from this past year you would’ve liked to have seen again (like, say, oh, I don’t know, Lacey and Kameron’s top 20 Mia Michaels number)? And were you as livid with your television set as I was when the much-promised Nigel-and-Cat routine turned out to be a beyond inane cut-and-paste cartoon ”Cucaracha”?
Click here for EW.com’s post-show interview with Sabra.