Was the final performance show choreographed to make one person rise above the rest? Gee, Nigel, Joshua didn't need the lift
Joshua Allen

I went into last night’s final So You Think You Can Dance performance show thinking it was Joshua’s to lose, and I came out pretty much feeling the same way. Judge Mandy Moore said it best in her final comments of the night: This former football player from Fort Worth, Tex., may be listed as a freestyling popper, but he really is an ”everything” dancer, able to somehow adapt himself to every style thrown at him. By that standard, of course, Katee’s also an ”everything” dancer, but since she’s had formal training, I guess that makes her accomplishments on the show just slightly less impressive to the judges. Then again, I’m not sure how Nigel thought he could get away with saying that Joshua, in contrast, has had no training, when we all saw a picture of him, as a kid, standing at a ballet bar. But I take his larger point about how keenly impressive Joshua’s been on this show, given the circumstances of his upbringing and cobbled-together dance classes.

Okay, hold up. Sorry. I’m…I’m just a wee bit winded after writing that opening paragraph, and I haven’t even gotten to Cat going crazy with the flatiron and bronzer, or how Mary should consider applying lipstick with the lights on…Whoa…Uh, getting just a smidge light-headed here…Need to catch my breath…Phew…Okay.

So, now: Expressing appreciation for Joshua’s dancing mastery in the face of his (relative) lack of dancing experience is great. Making subtle allusions that it would be really nice for the show and ”Americer” if a (relatively) untrained street dancer took home the SYTYCD gold is totally awesome, and I’m right there with them on that point. Rigging the dancing order and genres to place Joshua in the most flattering, vote-enticing light possible, though, is just plain obnoxious. I mean, how else are we to interpret the stark contrast between Twitch and Courtney’s fun, sloppily danced NapTab routine about a fighting couple that breaks up and Katee and Joshua’s breathtaking, impeccably danced Wade Robson (!!!) routine about a fighting couple that reconciles? Or the fact that Cat’s getting-to-know-you chats started with the dancer who weathered the most criticism last night and freely admitted, ”I’m not the best dancer” — Courtney — and ended with Joshua getting adorably joshed by Cat for crying so much? Or that Katee, the dancer with the best chance of beating Joshua, had her getting-to-know-you segment hijacked by her foot-in-mouth moment during Vegas week, at the expense of any information at all about her upbringing or home life? Nigel, this kid has got it going on in all kinds of ways, from his natural talent to his killer smile to his superhuman hang time; he doesn’t need your help convincing us he’s good enough to win.

NEXT PAGE: Sherbet-colored toilet paper

Pant pant pant…One sec…Pant pant pant…Let me just get a sip of water here…Pant pant pant.

My conspiracy-happy cynicism could have also cocked an eyebrow at Tyce ”I’ve choreographed 43,027 SYTYCD routines in the last six hours” Diorio’s ”Broadway” number for Katee and Courtney. It was so inconsequential, the only things I remember about it are: (1) It was to the ”The Trolley Song” segment of the opening orchestral music on Rufus Wainwright’s tribute album to Judy Garland’s Carnegie Hall concert, and (2) the ladies’ costumes made them look like they were dragging ten rolls of sherbet-colored toilet paper out of their bums. The first was a letdown, ’cause I kept waiting to hear Rufus sing; the second was an amusing (if unfortunate) distraction, and, like I said, it would have made me suspect sabotage, but the ladies’ dance in the finals has pretty much always been a goofy, costumed shrug. Maybe that’s why Tyce looked like he was near tears at the end?

The guys’ number also started off on shaky ground, because, I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t quite realized that the only way to settle a feud between two African-American street dancers from the South is with a Russian trepak by choreographer Youri Nelzine (and his assistant, the Ukrainian Peter Sellers). I really cringed, though, after the behind-the-scenes segment took an unexpected and unpleasant turn when Twitch, during a stretch of otherwise good-natured trash talking, called Joshua a ”pansy” for not being able to pull off the knee-heavy floor work. Even if I give Twitch the benefit of the doubt here, other than the popular flower, that word really only has one meaning — i.e., a swishy, weak gay man — so the guy just should’ve known better, plain and simple. (And, while we’re at it, Nigel & Co. should’ve known better than to air it.) I am not, by the way, attempting to imply anything about Joshua, beyond the fact that he was able to talk trash without needing to call Twitch any derogatory names, intentionally or otherwise.

NEXT PAGE: Going for the gold

That said, I almost completely forgot about the whole thing once Twitch and Joshua took to the stage. Their trepak wasn’t so much a cohesive routine, per se, as much as a kind of staged dance-off, with Joshua staking claim to the air and Twitch keeping low to the ground. With the Olympics just around the corner, it made me ponder whether any of the men’s gymnastics floor routines will be even a fraction as fun as this number, which, for the record, and for all my ballyhooing about Joshua’s subatomic awesomeness, Twitch clearly won, hands down. I also wondered, however, whether a trepak would have even been possible had Mark made the final four instead of Twitch, and how far in advance the producers had hired Youri and the Ukrainian Peter Sellers to do the job. Just wondering. Juuuust wondering. Juuuuuuuuust…WhooofGaspCough…Just gotta…Puff puff puff…Just gotta towel off the sweat here for a second…Puff puff puffShoosh…Man. What’s next now?

Ah, that’s right, how the cool and collected foxtrot and the hyperactive jive are in any way equivalent tests of a dancer’s abilities. This is where my the-deck’s-stacked-for-Joshua theory begins to fall apart, since, aside from deadlifting Katee at the end, Twitch had the far less grueling task of looking good in a tux, keeping his carriage, and not getting in his partner’s way, and all Katee had to do was step well and spin elegantly. Joshua and Courtney, meanwhile, had to lift, toss, high-step, jump, kick, and crouch — all to a driving, high-energy beat.

Like many of you, I had read about Mary Murphy’s comments over the weekend that two of the final four dancers had to be hospitalized overnight for dehydration. I wasn’t too surprised that the show never mentioned this event — lest it unfairly court sympathy for those two dancers and thereby sway the voting — and after witnessing what the second half of the show demanded of the final four, I’m none too shocked that a trip to Cedars-Sinai was in order for any of them. Joshua looked especially peaked while rehearsing Mia Michaels’ group number, and why wouldn’t he be? Over the course of a single weekend, he’d vaulted with Twitch in the trepak, thrown Courtney around like a sack of yams in the jive, and bounded from one end of the stage to the other with the other three dancers in Mia’s Scottish-highlands-meets-Caesars-Palace group number. Yeah, dancers work incredibly hard; yeah, sometimes they face down physical exhaustion; and yeah, theatergoers are hard-hearted fascists who don’t care if a dancer spontaneously combusts off stage so long as they get their money’s worth while the dancer is on stage. But when Mary started complaining that Joshua hadn’t lifted Courtney as high as Twitch lifted Katee during the group routine because Twitch and Katee hadn’t just finished dancing a jive, I began to feel like I was watching the dancing equivalent of The Running Man — ”Tune in to see which dancers make it…alive!”

NEXT: The hot-tamale train

The fatigue carried over into all four solos, none of which were as strong as they could’ve been — an issue I think Joshua tried to cover when he hustled over to the judges’ platform to finish out his solo. That may have been the move that won him the competition, although, really, I wouldn’t be all that shocked if Katee walked away with the crown instead, or all that disappointed, either. I just wish the judges had wasted far less time talking about how each of these dancers deserved to be there, and spent far more elaborating on technique, like Mandy’s insight to Katee about working on her knees and feet, or Nigel’s to Courtney and Joshua about learning to breathe within a routine. One of the reasons I first fell in love with this show was the time the judges took to actually, intelligently critique the dancers; all the incessant cheerleading in this episode (and this season) reminds me far too much of two of the three judges on SYTYCD‘s sister show. Which is to say, Mary, it’s time to bring the hot-tamale train into the station, douse the engine’s fires, and roll it into storage.

Were you happy with this year’s finale, dear readers, or did it exhaust you too? Who do you think will, and should, win? Did you actually vote for someone? Was it more endearing when Katee called Joshua her ”boo,” or when Twitch adopted a credible British accent to ”audition” for James Bond? Should Nigel lock down Wade Robson for season 5 right now, or do you think part of what made his number so special is that he’d not been exhausting his ideas for single/couple, 90-second dance all season?

And, finally, if you haven’t already, please do check out our list of the Top 15 couples routines in SYTYCD history, and then feel free to take us to task in the boards below for all the numbers we snubbed — like the Neil/Danny season 3 finale, which has already got some staffers grumbling — or praise us endlessly for everything we got perfectly right.

Episode Recaps

So You Think You Can Dance

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

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