So You Think You Can Dance recap: Finale Part 1: Top 4 Perform
It’s 90 degrees outside, but everyone’s talking about pumpkin spice, and you know what that means: It’s time for the So You Think You Can Dance finale, which is as confused about its own identity as we are about the seasons. The judges keep touting the fact that there’s no more divide between Stage and Street — they’re all just dancers now, and may the best one win. If they’re so excited for this novel concept of everyone Just Being Dancers, shouldn’t they maybe have stuck with it from the start?
That’s a question for another time. The top four have four duets and one solo apiece tonight, so there’s no time to waste. Also: Cat’s pregnant! She’s having a baby, and she still looks like she’s wearing Adele’s Skyfall theme in the form of a dress. Some things never change.
Jaja and Hailee
Choreographers: Nick Bass and Misha Gabriel, Hip-Hop
Song: “Put It in the Bag” by Kalenna feat. B. Simm
Put away your chaps, kids: This may be an “outlaw” routine, and it may involve bandanas, but it’s not set in the wild, wild West. And that’s a good thing — we don’t need anyone trying to top tWitch and Lauren Froderman. Jaja and Hailee are less outlaws than bandits (is it cool to argue semantics with a choreographer? I’m doing it), popping, locking, and climbing down walls in their all-black leather ensembles. They’ve got, as Paula would say, swagger. I miss Jim (SO MUCH), but Hailee is by far the best street dancer on Team Stage; she and Jaja are so evenly matched that you can’t tell who’s on which team, and it renders Nigel speechless. His critique? “I’ve gotta say, I’m not sure you were really authentic robbers in this.” Should they have actually stolen something? Please advise.
Virgil and Gaby
Choreographer: Phillip Chbeeb, Lyrical hip-hop
Song: “Slip” by Elliot Moss
Great news, all — it’s time to bring up Virgil’s height again! I’m sure Virgil loves this! So let’s settle it once and for all: He’s 5’3″ (“on his license”). But he’s strong enough to lift like he’s twice that height, so it’s kind of a non-issue. Phillip hands Gaby and Virgil an inventive, artsy routine about releasing memories and moving forward, not that you need that context to appreciate the dancing. This is some complex partnering. Gaby does a body roll in Virgil’s arms — but for my money, the most impressive element of this whole piece is that she’s dancing it in socks.
Jaja and Gaby
Choreographer: Nick Florez and RJ Durell, Jazz
Song: “Woman (Oh Mama)” by Joy Williams
A Spanish-influenced jazz routine about the duality of the human experience? I can work with that. (Also, do you ever feel unworthy to watch this show?) The skirts might not show off their leg work as much as I’d like, but they complete the look, so I’m not arguing. Jaja and Gaby are fierce — and this is a way better image of female strength than Amazonian jungle ladies or bondage or whatever else we’ve seen this year. Now if only someone could explain that to Jason. If he marvels one more time at the fact that they somehow, surprisingly, didn’t need a guy “at all,” I’m personally dragging him out of that chair. Jason, what’s good?
Jaja and Virgil
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey, Contemporary
Song: “I Love You (Acoustic)” by Woodkid
I’m confused as to why the last two members of Team Street didn’t get a Street routine, since Team Stage got Stage, but we’re all “Team Strage” now and nothing makes sense, so let’s go with it. Who am I to complain about more Stacey Tookey anyway? Stacey doesn’t go easy on our Street dancers in this routine about a relationship that’s lost its spark. It’s all very atmospheric — Jaja’s dress makes her look like a figure on a Grecian urn, swimming through the clouds — and she sells her desire to find her way back to Virgil. Our girl can act. The judges point out a few flaws in technique here and there, and it’s not the most exciting routine of the night, but it’s solid.
Virgil and Hailee
Choreographer: Joshua Bergasse, Broadway
Song: “Billy-a-Dick” by Bette Midler
Virgil should always have Broadway routines, but Virgil should especially always have Broadway routines in white T-shirts with sleeves cuffed, yes? He and Hailee take on a number with a fun ’40s flair that casts Hailee as the quiet city girl and Virgil as her loud upstairs neighbor with a drum set. It seems like an ideal fit, and they never drop those drumsticks, but I don’t think this is Hailee’s best routine. Is she tired? Her leg work seems a bit shakier than usual; her smile’s a little less bright. Jason questions whether she really found the character, but Paula points out that sometimes people smile when they’re annoyed. Paula’s doing it right now.
NEXT: Eat your hat
Gaby and Hailee
Choreographer: Travis Wall, Contemporary
Song: “Do Not Hang Your Head” by Elizabeth & The Catapult
If Travis Wall could choreograph all of our struggles, I think that there would be no more war. He gifts his two remaining dancers with a gorgeous piece about the fear of being accepted, the need to accept ourselves, and the people who stand by us through it all. In the end, he says, the message is that “love has no boundaries.” It’s a theme that’s especially relevant for people struggling with their sexuality, but Travis doesn’t make it explicit, which I’m hoping is his call and not the network’s. In any case, Jason is here to make it awkward. “It looked like you guys had been doing that for years… dancing,” he stammers in response to their strong performance. Jason, no. Nigel, meanwhile, thinks what matters is how deeply the two felt the routine. He wishes men could partner together with as little self-consciousness, but Cat points out that Kent and Neil already did that. Cat Deeley: Bond woman, future mother of the year, SYTYCD time capsule. Never leave us.
Virgil and All-Star Joshua
Choreographers: Pharside and Phoenix, Hip-Hop
Song: “Let’s Go” by Trick Daddy feat. Twista & Lil Jon
To call this routine an adrenaline rush would be an understatement. To say that the judges are excited about it would be even more of an understatement. They’re hopped up on NutriYum bars, every last one of them. Virgil hops on Joshua’s back at one point (because he’s tiny; don’t forget), and they do some sort of headstand-cartwheel fusion that really gets the crowd going. It’s a tough, strong, fist-pumping routine, but I’m not sure the judges need to stand up yelling incoherently every three minutes. It’s also a little disappointing that Pharside and Phoenix position this as a response to Jasmine and Comfort’s “Run the World” — I understand being inspired by that energy, but it can’t help but feel like they’re trying to take over a strictly, explicitly female work of art. Step back, dudes.
Hailee and All-Star Marko
Choreographer: Ray Leeper, Jazz
Song: “All Nite (Don’t Stop)” by Janet Jackson
If you’re going to give us a routine with no story, this is how you do it: You do the costumes right (denim vest), and you let me imagine a story for myself (they’re out in a club in a ’90s teen drama). Hailee’s sharp legwork is back, and she tears up this dance, even if Jason’s not wowed. Paula thinks Hailee lit the flame, but she didn’t find it challenging enough. Will no one let us enjoy Marko’s denim vest in peace?
ASIDE: Hailee does her solo to “Cold-Hearted.” For real. This is my favorite thing she’s ever done — not because of the dancing, but because it’s sheer genius. It’s bold, hilarious, and it distracts from the fact that her solos aren’t her strongest asset. I fear Hailee a little bit, but I also respect her.
Jaja and All-Star Cyrus
Choreographer: Christopher Scott, Animation
Song: “Kaolo” by Yellow Claw
Just like that, we’ve found our antidote to the whole “men taking over an all-female number” debacle: Chris Scott casts Jaja as tWitch 2.0 in this follow-up to Cyrus and tWitch’s glass-breaking animation routine. Jaja as tWitch? Sign me up. She looks right at home alongside the show’s most legendary animator, breaking beakers and locking him up in the end. I know I should be afraid that the machines are taking over, but if the machines are all Jaja, I kind of welcome it. Nigel throws cold water on the routine for the same reason I love it: the comparison to Cyrus and tWitch. In his eyes, it just didn’t live up to the original. That sounds like a problem with the choreography, Nigel.
ASIDE: Jaja eats her hat in her solo.
Gaby and All-Star Zack
Choreographer: Anthony Morigerato
Song: “Dibidy Dop(Swing Mix)” by Club Des Belugas feat. Brenda Boykin
I got distracted for a minute thinking about how good Gaby would look dancing with tap dancer Aaron, but I’m back now — and as much as I still miss Aaron, I have no complaints. How often do we get a tap duet of any kind, to say nothing of dancing on boxes, to say nothing of a tap duet on boxes? What a show. This routine is smooth and fun and musical, and Paula compliments Gaby’s paradiddles. I’d like Paula to talk about tap forever now, thanks.
And that’s it! There’s no painful elimination tonight, so we can all sleep soundly and take a break from our tears. We’ll make up for that next week, I’m sure.
FINAL COUNT: Still four dancers, six boxes, two drumsticks. See you next week, America.
Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.