On ''So You Think You Can Dance,'' as the final six contestants perform, the judges turn into cheerleaders

By Adam B. Vary
August 09, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Joe Viles/FOX
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”So You Think You Can Dance”: Judges’ night off

There was a point last night — I think it was right after Neil planged over Sabra with the sort of ease most of us might, you know, walk — that my neighbor Eric declared this season’s dancers far and away the most talented So You Think You Can Dance has ever seen. And that’s true. They are. And yet I don’t care nearly as much about this season’s top six as I did about last season’s standouts, Benji, Travis, Heidi, Donyelle, Ivan, and Allison. Heck, even Musa won me over far more in five weeks than Lauren has in eight.

I’d chalk it up just to personal taste if the judges hadn’t gushed over every single routine like grandmas after a grade-school band recital. They really want us to like these dancers, to the point where they’ll, say, overlook Lauren awkwardly throwing down her arm to push herself up during that superdisco floor spin, or rhapsodize over Neil and Sabra’s climactic ”doughnut” drop even though Benji and Heidi pulled off the exact same move last season, and with smoother execution besides.

There’s a point to which I’m willing to chalk up my head-scratching over the judges’ praise to my inexperience with the dancing world. (Though I was heartened to see that neither Nigel nor guest judge Debbie Allen knew what a fall-away slip-pivot double-reverse spin overspin was either.) But then again, to my eye, Danny and Lauren’s Mia Michaels ”alien dance” routine was mostly a lot of fancy running — which Nigel kinda copped to when he told Lauren she was great at…running. I mean, you know you’re stretching for nice things to say when you start raving about the Steadicam operator.

Nigel also brought Lauren’s narrative full circle and declared that she’d finally lived up to her full potential, i.e., dancing filled with small but noticeable stumbles and a face unable to emote anything than other than ”I’m having a great time! Hi, Mom and Dad!” Which means, pretty much by default, that Lacey’s got the second female slot next to Sabra in my final four, even if her hands were still stuck in mannequin mode during her smooth waltz. Actually, Nigel’s pointing out Lacey’s bent wrists was the rare moment of true criticism last night, and I was glad for it, since I’d spent most of that smooth waltz fixated on whether those holes in Lacey’s midriff were real or just nude fabric — I knew for sure they were horrid either way.

Which isn’t to say the show itself was horrid. Far from it. Pasha alone provided endless entertainment, especially with his glorious solo around a woman’s dress form — draped, so claims my friend Garrett, with the same frock once worn by Pasha’s old partner Jessi. It takes a man of rare skill to push a solo from merely wrong-headed — I know, I’ll use a headless, armless, legless dummy to represent my partner! — to something so deeply awful it approaches the realm of high camp. (Next time you choose to wear a tux jacket bare-chested, Pasha, might I suggest waxing first? Your pecs looked, um, dirty.) Also, I’ve now decided Pasha is a not-so-distant relative of Mary Murphy. Either that or he’s trying to emulate her here’s all my teeth! smile, and I’d just as soon go with the former if that’s all the same to you.

Copycat final stunt aside, the most consistently good couple was Sabra and Neil, who devoured their Mandy Moore jazz routine and managed to take on their solos without thrusting their jiggly bits into the camera lens. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Lacey.) In fact, Neil was so good, and Pasha so uneven, that I’m going to contradict myself and trade the two for my final four. Though I don’t really buy that Neil has any chance of winning the competition — he’s been in way too many bottom threes and fours to take it all the way. Sabra, on the other hand, hasn’t hit the lowest tier since the Top 20 week, and so long as she refrains from ever again wearing outfits that look like an Olympic rhythmic dancer tangled up in her streamer, I’d weigh the odds in her favor going into to next week’s finals.

Danny, meanwhile, is the dancer most deserving of a final-four slot who’s most in danger of losing it. He was saddled with the least appealing routines and partner of the night, and though he’s clearly at home twirling with contemporary, I was kinda surprised none of the judges pulled the macho card on Danny’s, ahem, outlandish gyrations on the disco dance floor. I’m relieved they didn’t, but surprised none the less. I just hope enough voters were paying attention to his solo, which I thought was maybe the best male solo this season, full of playful, varied movement that never once smacked of making-it-up-as-I-go-along-ism.

The biggest burning question for me, however, is whether next Monday’s results show will be live or pretaped. I can’t imagine the producers would give the final four dancers only two days to master their routines before Wednesday’s final performance show, but if it is pretaped, you know someone’s gonna text the results directly from the studio audience to some SYTYCD fan site, and all the suspense will be ruined. Tomorrow, I shall investigate further and report back in PopWatch.

What’s eating you after last night’s show? Was Debbie Allen worth bringing back a second time? Did anyone else notice that many in the usual cast of choreographers sat out this week? Did anyone miss Shane Sparks, Dan Karaty, and Tyce Diorio? Who are your final four picks? And, most important of all, will Cat Deeley ever be able to pull off prints?

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