The B-boy, the Gentleman, the Warrior Princess, and the Sweetheart left it all on the floor. In the end, America's Favorite Dancer was Melanie Moore

By Lanford Beard
Updated January 14, 2020 at 08:06 PM EST
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For all the hazing I’ve put these kids through, I have to say, I’m really going to miss them. I don’t know if I can say the same about the judges. Except of course Jesse Tyler Ferguson. I can always use some more JTF. Did I mention that he was on the panel? Because he was, and it was awesome. He made fun of the fly circling Lady Gaga’s hat for throughout her night as guest judge (“I thought she was going for a whole, like, larva theme that week”)! He even teased the dancers that, since America had voted, they should be crazy nervous. Not that Melanie needed permission. Less than 10 minutes in, and she was already crying.

Also awesome? All the montages. Sure, not all of them were necessary, but this season often needed distilling to really make the talent show through. The question was never whether the dancers were exceptionally skilled. It was more that they weren’t always given a lot to work with — especially since the variety of choreography was sorely lacking this season. With everything boiled down to a few, high-octane minutes we were able to see their outstanding moments. (Not to mention Nigel in jeans, the toothless stripper, a middle-aged dad doing the splits, and some guy whose body went all Exorcist during his audition.) Though I probably could have done without the package of Nigel being a creepy old perv set to Peaches & Herb’s “Reunited.” There are some things you can’t unsee.

Like Tadd’s opening number costume. It appeared to be made out of the cups from a mega-padded silver bra. Or a painted turtle shell. Who knows with that Sonya? Also in the fashion file: Sonya was wearing a killer acid green tutu dress. Alexander (unwisely) bleached his hair. And Cat liked Tadd’s red shoes so much she made them into a dress!

But in the end, it all came down to a Georgia peach. Like much of this season, the result wasn’t entirely shocking. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t satisfying or earned. So, congratulations, Melanie. You’ve got Travis Wall, Kenny Ortega, and Cat Deeley, among others, on your side. Not a bad place to start.

NEXT: So You Think You Can Redeem Yourself?

Before any of the dancing began, though, Nigel made a public apology. He made penance for being insensitive last night — to the dancers in general, for not sufficiently recognizing their hard work all season, and to the guys especially, whom he dismissed as not having a chance to win after that gumboot routine. Frankly, Nigel, I probably would have said the same thing myself. That thing was a mess — even in the midst of an overwhelmingly messy night. But we were not here to quibble. We were here for some damn good dancing.

The first of two original numbers throughout the night opened the show. Sixteen of the top 20 dancers performed to District 78’s “Wanna Get Hype,” with the final four joining them for the last few eights to wild applause. The “Mad Max at an S&M club” costumes, hand-wringing, and body-banging all suggest Sonya choreographed the piece. It’s a solid addition to the group dance canon, but nothing akin to, say, “Ramalama” (we miss you, Wade, you old weirdo!). That said, I would watch this infinity times if I could erase the memory of last night’s disco from my mind.

The other original piece was, for me, a highlight of the season. Perhaps a highlight of the entire series. So You Think You Can Dance U.K. champion Matt Flint brought his tappin’ shoes and tapped finalists Jess and Nick for a number (to Michael Bublé’s “Can’t Buy Me Love”) in which mugging was entirely appropriate, and entirely wonderful. After a standing ovation from the panel, Nigel deemed their performance “one of the most exciting tap routines I’ve ever seen.” As a long-time tapper, it’s always been a gripe of mine that tap has been the most underutilized dance genre on this show. I get the fact that you can’t pick it up in four hours in the same way a contemporary dancer can translate his/her skills to hip-hop (or vice versa). But that doesn’t make it any less disappointing that someone like Matt Flint hasn’t succeeded in the U.S. That number was ridiculous.

NEXT: And now for the hit parade.

Throughout the night, the judges picked their favorite routines from the season. Sonya seemed to be the popular favorite for most memorable pieces this season. JTF requested Marko and Allison to reprise “I Know It’s Over” because even “the fly on Lady Gaga’s hat was crying” at how beautiful it was. Tyce wanted to see her “Pop Drop & Roll” Geisha piece for the Top 10 Girls again. But perhaps most impressive, Sonya’s numbers opened and closed the show. Nigel tapped Top 2 Melanie and Sasha to perform “Game On” one last time before the winner was announced.

It was a four-way tie for second prettiest girl in the school between Tyce, Mandy Moore, Christopher Scott, and NappyTabs with two routines apiece. Mary picked Tyce’s “Fool of Me” (a.k.a. The Wall Dance) danced by Sasha and Kent led the charge and our beloved Cat even got to pick her own routine and gave shout-out to his Top 8 group number to the score of Water for Elephants. Robin Antin wanted to see Tadd and Lauren Froderman perform “Another One Bites the Dust” again — probably to give Tadd the chance not to lose his hat 15 seconds in this time. And Mary wanted Melanie to leap to her death once more in “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with Neil.

For hip-hop, Nigel yanked tWitch off the set of Step Up 4 to return and perform Christopher Scott’s “Misty Blue” with Sasha. Sonya also gave Chris props for his Adjustment Bureau-esque Top 10 Guys routine “Velocity”. Miranda and Robert performed Tabitha and Napoleon’s “Break Ya Neck” (Lil’ C’s choice), and Marko and Melanie reprised “I Got You” (a.k.a. The Kiss, a.k.a. another chance for Nigel to be skeevy). And, before he even knew he was toast, Marko was weeping at the start of the number. Stop crying, Marko! You’ve already broken my heart a million times! Other than Marko and Allison’s repeat performance of “I Know It’s Over,” this had to be the highlight of the night for me. Whereas some people didn’t seem as strong coming back — or you realized why they’d left in the first place — Marko seemed to show the most growth, technically and emotionally of anyone this season. The openness in his eyes and heart were inspiring. Apparently they also inspired Nigel to sit in JTF’s lap.

Rounding out the “Best of” reel: Lil’ C chose Chris and Ashley’s Spencer Liff routine to “Please, Mr. Jailer,” JTF asked to Caitlynn and Pasha’s Argentine tango again (if only he’d asked to see it with less shirt!), and Mary requested a reprise of Travis Wall’s “Turn to Stone” by Melanie & Marko.

NEXT: All the dancers, save one, took their final bows.

In between all of this, Cat announced how America voted. Predictably, Tadd came in 4th place. As wonderful as his solos were, and no matter how versatile he was “for a B-boy,” he really won just by getting in the finale at all. As the sole non-contemporary/jazz dancer to make it past week 4, the deck was stacked against him. But Tadd isn’t one to get weepy. He told Cat, “I’ve had the time of my life” (translation: cast me, Kenny Ortega!), then made a joke about his height when Cat talked about him rising to the challenges of the show. Always in good humor, that one. I suspect he left the stage to listen to some Gloria Estefan and begin the first of many responses to his fans in the “Keep Off Your Shirt, Tadd” Fan Club.

Third place went to Marko. Hard to say who was more upset, Marko’s family or Melanie. Even though she said she’d miss Ricky the most last night, you could tell she and Marko had grown very close. Maybe it was all that making out. He cheered on Melanie and Sasha, and Cat congratulated him for being the last man standing. The panel rose to applaud him because he’s a class act. I’ve got to say, of all the eliminations, this one got to me the most. He made Lady Gaga cry, y’all.

But after a night of outstanding performances, it was between the cherub and the warrior princess. After all the flack Sasha has taken on the board over the season for her tough-as-nails persona, it was nice to see her open up a little in those very last moments. Whereas Melanie had been on the verge of tears — or even fully submitting to them — all night, Sasha finally allowed herself to show some emotion. They watched as the season passed before them to Hurts’ beautiful “Illuminated.” Then Cat broke down the numbers. The runner-up received 32% of the vote, and the winner received 47%. That winner was Melanie.

Now that you’ve had the chance to sleep on it, how do you feel about the results? Where do you rank Melanie among the show’s past winners? Who from this season would you liked to come back as an all-star next year? Or would you, like many of your fellow readers, be game for an only all-star season? Give us your final verdict in the comments, and thanks for reading.

Episode Recaps

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So You Think You Can Dance

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.
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