So You Think You Can Dance season finale recap: All the Right Moves
The season's star takes home the prize as America's Favorite Dancer on a night when Adam Lambert, Jennifer Lopez, Mary J. Blige and others perform
In the end, it was the hard-hitting krumper, ”unpolished diamond,” and all-around sunny delight Russell Ferguson who successfully out-bucked his competition and was officially announced America’s Favorite Dancer. And rightfully so: This guy has been a clear fan favorite since he first arrived all rough and tumble at the Boston auditions so many eons ago, and as the season progressed we’ve seen him grow by leaps and bounds and get all but slobbered on with the judges’ constant praise. Maybe Nigel was smart to put him in the bottom four in that first week of Top 20 competition. It seems as though the viewers have been hot to keep this gem on their direct dial ever since — enough so to vote him all the way to the coveted SYTYCD season 6 title. So in the words of Cat Deeley, let’s hear it for him, it’s Russell! Buck yeah!
As much as I was fully expecting a Russell win (and props to Kate Ward for calling it after Tuesday’s performances), I would have been okay with either him or fellow top-3 finalists Jakob or Kathryn taking the coveted prize. Clearly the ebullient krumper’s megawatt smile and matching personality won out over Jakob and Kathryn’s technical superiority. Though if there is any justice in this world, this won’t be the last we’ll see of any of these stellar dancers.
But man, Russell is a man of surprises. Not only can he do a down and dirty hip-hop number one minute and a delicate lyrical jazz routine the next, but he can also spring back from an injury and whip off his shirt faster than you can say Dance Spirit centerfold. Impressive! Not quite as impressive as Megan Mullally belting ”no hydrogenated oils” in a supermarket song and dance number for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, but still. The leg injury that hampered him early on in the program was suddenly a distant memory. No doubt it was the adrenaline surging, but was anyone else a little surprised by his heavy lean on Jakob one second, and then his bounce amidst the flurry of confetti the next?
But no matter. Russell’s coronation as America’s next top Dance Spirit Magazine cover model marked the end of a very uneven season, as well as another strange results show. Wednesday night’s fits and starts seemed to encapsulate the fits and starts of the whole season. There were the technical microphone difficulties. Then there was the parade of judges who came back to introduce their favorite dances — but that also seemed unusual, given that they were absent the entire voting season. And even the usually unflappable Cat appeared to be tongue-tied and out of sorts.
And then there was Russell’s sudden, tearful injury. Not that I blame Russell — obviously he couldn’t help getting hurt (though what happened is a mystery. Did he land awkwardly during the hip-hop routine? Was he clubbed with a crowbar by a fellow competitor?). But I was a little bummed to have to watch taped dances, particularly when these repeat performances are usually the highlight of the filler-heavy program. If I wanted to watch taped performances again, I would go back to my DVR or YouTube, not tune into this program. And no doubt Noelle would have liked the chance to perform the African Jazz number live one more time, if just to have another shot at strutting her stuff in front of a national audience.
NEXT: Leona Lewis and her performance armor
Despite the positive outcome and the obvious talent of the dancers, these little glitches seemed to compound the fact that season 6 has been somewhat of a mish-mashed letdown. A weird, autumnal stepchild of the summer show we love. The one who acts just a little bit peculiar and out of character when trotted around different circles. The one to which you just want to smack upside the head and yell ”snap out of it!” And no amount of Cat’s insistence that ”It really really really is a great season!” could convince me otherwise.
Certainly this two-hour results show could have been pared down. Of course, I, like many of you, would have preferred this extra hour to have gone to Tuesday night’s competition performances rather than Wednesday night’s filler-heavy salt bloat, because I missed seeing the rehearsal footage, as well as the individual solos (and particularly because Jeanine’s win from last season seemed to hinge so much on that solo performance). And because we certainly didn’t need all four of the Wednesday’s musical numbers.
Leona Lewis’ version of the theme song from Avatar was one part of an evening-long advertisement for the James Cameron film, though from the uncharacteristic tinniness with which the Brit sang the tune it might have been just as well if someone took a drumstick and clanged on that chain metal-like bodice of hers. Simon Cowell would not have been pleased. Nor would James Cameron, for that matter. No doubt Randy Jackson would have called it pitchy. Plus, all that gathered up black bunting on her skirt looked like it was a cavernous entrance to her netherregions. Yes, ”I See You” — and Mexico, too. And the Renaissance faire squire would like his steel wool forearm warmer back, please.
Adam Lambert sounded great, though I was kind of hoping for a high-octane performance piece, rather than his more muted ”What Do You Want From Me” selection. Also, someone should have taken a dustpan and a broom to the mound of ashes on his right shoulder before he came on stage. Mary J. Blige belted out a rousing version of ”I Am,” accompanied by the dancing ghosts of M.J.B. past. And the very indulgent, very sparkly performance piece that was Jennifer Lopez’s paean to designer heels, ”Louboutins,” was mostly forgiven because she included SYTYCD alums (I spotted Kayla, Karen, and maybe Courtney from season 4?) in the mix.
That being said, I was pretty happy with the way the six finalists were whittled down. Atlas shrugged and Ryan was muscled out first, soon followed by wife Ashleigh. Ryan, while being a fantastic partner, could not hold his own as a solo dancer, and his veiny shoulders were starting to give me Fringe-like heebie-jeebies. And while I can concede that Ashleigh has come a long way from her early audition days, there was no way that she or her husband could be in serious contention with the other four.
Then went Ellenore. Despite whatever quibbles people might have with her technical ability, she gave some damn good performances. No one can deny that she commits 100 percent to her character, as seen when she re-danced the Sonya Tayeh routine with Jakob and grappled with the War of the Roses/Mr. and Mrs. Smith marriage spat over the dinner table with Legacy (so good to see you again!).
NEXT: A reminder of a season full of promise
The other dance performances were somewhat of a hit and miss. Loved the opening number, a lively, upbeat routine that played like a fun glam ’80s throwback choreographed by SYTYCD Australia’s Kelley Abbey. Loved that the judges had Jakob and Kathryn reenact the Alex Keaton-Ellen Reed romance and re-perform their awesome Dwight and Desmond routine of contemporary gorgeousness.
While the Ashleigh/Ryan routine in their own genre might have been a good idea in theory, all the requisite mugging and posturing that went along with their ballroom jive reminded me of everything that turned me off about the couple in the first place, and made me wish that they had left the cheese on the side and performed the lovely and pared down Travis Wall contemporary routine again instead. And I would have gladly given away the Mollee-Nathan Bollywood bit to see Kathryn and Legacy’s caveman hip-hop routine once again. Or Kathryn and Ryan’s cha cha. Or Ellenore and Jakob’s Broadway number from Tuesday night.
And wasn’t it interesting that a fair number of the night’s repeat performances were from that first exhibition night? There was the Kevin-Legacy-Russell hip-hop, the Arianna, Channing (remember them?), Jakob and Nathan contemporary number (which Lil’ C called ”an orgy of majestic contemporary artistry” — oh, C. I’ve missed you). The Bianca, Phillip, and Peter tap routine. And the awesome Wade Robson opening number (though that, too, was taped). While I enjoyed seeing these performances again (well, except the tap routine — sorry, but it just seemed sloppy), it seemed to be a bittersweet reminder of how much promise this season held, and then subsequently how little promise was actually delivered.
As did the season’s taped recaps. The audition footage in particular made me yearn for what might have been. Remember Billy Bell? Paula Van Oppen? Mia Michaels? It seemed like the choreographer’s pointed commentary was heavily used during the recaps, which made me long for her presence this season all the more. Love her or hate her, but she does have singular voice. Not to mention a strong artistic vision: the season and the dancers might have benefited from one (or more) of her routines. And what happened to Wade Robson? He started out as a big presence at the beginning of the season, but dropped out towards the end. Oh, the things that might have been.
What did you think? Did the right dancer win? Did season 6 blow season 5 out of the water like Mia said? Did you also feel something was lost in the taped performances? Which performances would you have wanted to see again? What other SYTYCD alumni did you catch during J.Lo’s performance? Are you excited for season 7?