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The spotty seventh season crowns its champ

By Adam B. Vary
Updated August 03, 2020 at 02:01 PM EDT
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So You Think You Can Dance | YOUR NEW CHAMPION Lauren Froderman bested frontrunner Kent Boyd and dark horse Robert Roldan for the SYTYCD title.
Credit: Mathieu Young/Fox
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Alex. Freaking. Wong. As much as I want to enjoy the joy bursting from Lauren Froderman as she was officially crowned the winner of So You Think You Can Dance‘s season 7; as much as she earned her victory from tip to toe with unfailing pluck and consummate skill; as much as the sight of her hoisted up on Dominic and tWitch’s shoulders while doused in her own personalized Gatorade for some reason got me a wee bit misty; I am still stuck on Alex Freaking Wong.

Arguably the best dancer to ever compete on the SYTYCD stage, AFW practically haunted every corner of last night’s finale. There he was, dancing in a chair — and killing it — in the opening group number that vaguely invoked the mind-warping summer blockbuster Inception. There he was, sitting in the audience, taking in two hours of dancing encores, guest performances, and video montage filler as if he was some mere civilian, as if watching others dance on that stage while his lacerated Achilles tendon kept him indefinitely benched wasn’t a kind of psychological torture. There he was, on tape, dancing his first paired routine with All-Star Allison, the Sonya Tayeh contemporary number set to Jeff Buckley’s ”Hallelujah” that first announced just how outrageously talented AFW really was. There he was, standing in the wings, watching Ellen DeGeneres perform a touching homage to his last paired routine on the show, the shamelessly entertaining NapTab ”Outta Your Mind” number. (I’ll return to that moment in a bit.) And there he was, at the end of the show, standing in his crutches, unable to penetrate the swarm of people surrounding Lauren in her triumphant moment as America’s Favorite Dancer. I. Just. Can’t. Get. Over. It.

I know, I know, I really should, if only not to diminish Lauren’s awesome accomplishment, or for that matter, Kent’s and Robert’s. I know some of you were underwhelmed by Wednesday’s performance finale, but I re-watched the routines from that night before last night’s results show, and I was still struck by how flippin’ superb this trio of dancers is. And as last night’s repeat performances made clear, all three of them were central to almost all the most successful routines on the show. Of the reprised numbers (that didn’t involve Alex Freaking Wong, anyway), my favorites are still Robert and Allison’s ”Fix You,” and Kent and Neil’s ”How it Ends” — both choreographed by Travis Wall, both still capable of getting me all with the misty. I was also thrilled to see Billy Bell’s ”Mad World” again, since Stacey Tookey was really the only choreographer who ever managed to do right by the freakishly talented kid.

But my goodness, I had not quite realized just how large an impact Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo have had on this season until last night. The MVP duo had five numbers on the finale, including Lauren’s ”My Chick Bad” hip-hop routine with tWitch, which more-or-less launched her as a real contender. (How awesome was it that she was still in her hip-hop outlaw outfit when she learned that she’d won the show?) Still, I’m at a loss for why we needed to see NapTab’s oddly Arthurian b-boy routine for Jose and Dominic again. I mean, since the producers have been getting so much mileage out of its climactic kiss, why not revisit the prom number with Kent and Lauren? (It certainly makes more sense as a follow-up to that mildly amusing video package about showmances than Kent and Anya’s still-kinda-wobbly ”First Kiss” cha-cha.) Or why not bring back Ashley (remember her?) and All-Star Mark for their lovely Travis Wall routine — just so we could have maybe one other female contestant reprise a performance on the show?

NEXT: Ellen’s amazing ”surprise”

As for the rest of the evening, I thought the guest dancers were all pretty marvelous. I loved the dance crew Quest’s final bow fake-out and their steampunk-meets-urban-speakeasy aesthetic. Russell and Lil C cracked open a massive can of buck krumping all over the SYTYCD stage, a phrase I have no earthly credibility using, I know, but I’m stubborn that way. Both tapping acts — seven-year-old Luke Spring and John and Leo Manzari, who are apparently just 17 and 15, respectively — had style and charm for miles. SYTYCD UK winner Charlie Bruce fearlessly tackled a Mandy Moore routine that was so fluid and nimble that it made me wonder if the choreographer had left all her best ideas across the pond. As for Ellen’s ”surprise” performance of NapTab’s ”Outta Your Mind” routine, I was certain it couldn’t ever live up to Cat’s breathless hyping of it, and I was happily proven wrong. Yeah, she wasn’t anywhere in the same league as Alex Freaking Wong — or tWitch, for that matter — but how could she be? I was just impressed that the 52-year-old actually managed to pull off as much as she did, and it resulted it a truly lovely tribute to AFW, NapTab, the show, and dance itself. And if it also helped wash away any lingering aftertaste of Ellen’s regrettable tenure as a judge on SYTYCD‘s sister show, so much the better.

A few other quick thoughts before I turn the discussion over to y’all:

— It was so great to see Mary Murphy back at the judges’ table, I was kinda shocked that her gonzo genius — like, for example, bestowing Jose of all people with a ticket on the hot tamale train — was limited to about 30 seconds of airtime. Did she kill Nigel’s puppy or something? Why is this woman suddenly the SYTYCD leper?

— Speaking of the judges’ table, was anyone else amused by the sight of the judges constantly having to give a standing ovation to every performance on the stage?

— Is Neil Patrick Harris everywhere? (The answer is yes, yes he is. And he’s a Robert fan.)

— And finally, Cat, my snark demon Smirkelstiltskin is insisting that your dress was an homage to Georgia O’Keefe. Is he right?

How do you feel about last night’s finale? Satisfied with Lauren’s win, or was Kent or Robert robbed of the crown? Were there any routines from this year that you wish you could’ve seen again? How did you feel about Alex Freaking Wong’s omnipresence last night? And will Cat ever get the audience to say ”jidges” with her?

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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