From the haunting violin strings of Remo Giazotto’s, Adagio in G Minor, to the raunchy dubstep styling of District 78’s, Like a Criminal, the artistic musicality that threads itself through Fox’s weekly competitive dance darling, So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD), is never on short supply. As the weeks progress throughout the competition we see fewer and fewer contestants, as each one is voted off by its television audience, sometimes four at a time. That is, of course, if they’re unlucky enough to dance “for their lives” in a fashion unable to dazzle the panel of judges sitting pretty, ready to save them. Season 9’s performance finale this week, no trend breaker to the eclectic musical tendencies of the past 8 seasons, also brought with it a vivacious concoction of choreographed drama tempered with comedy, and a precise declaration of what it means to set the bar higher.
The physical expressions of all that seems good in the musical world, those of which the seasoned contestants make look easy, came to a close this week with a thunderous bang and a brow wiping gasp, the likes of which was brought on by the night’s burlesque-style pole dancing number. Was the season capped as successfully as it began? If ever there were a resounding yes to be had in showbiz, this would be the question that deserved it.
From the Tyce Diorio number choreographed to showcase the four remaining contestants coming alive from a sheet of music, twisting, turning and pirouetting to every nuanced beat like the good little musical notes they were dressed to be, to the inspired hip hop number performed by one-legged, non-contestant, John Sok, the bar steadily rose. Even Cyrus, the self-taught, dubstep animator who people either love to love, or love to hate, appeared to hold his own dancing alongside the season’s classically trained male ballet aficionado, Chehon. Both dancers displayed not only a strong commitment to partnering but with it an unwavering dedication to staying in character during the relentless jazz number they performed together.
Of course, as many people will complain, Cyrus, who did not spend his life toiling away at dance class after dance class, like the majority of SYTYCD contestants do, left some things to be desired, such as cart wheels with straight legs, and leaps that leave the floor. What Cyrus lacked in technique, however, he more than made up for in stage presence, as evidenced by the sheer intensity of the penetrating gaze he let fall on his Paso Doble partner, fan favorite, Eliana. During their number together where becoming a raging bull trying to subdue his pompadour left Cyrus supporting his partner every step of the way, there was not for an instant any question on character or strength. In keeping with this consistency, Cyrus continued to show unyielding presence during his and resident hip hop dance star, Twitch’s metamorphosis from human incarnate to dubstep robot. This number began by both dancers smashing through a thick glass door and continued on by owning the beat and demanding attention through clean and finely synchronized animation.
The highly emotional ribbon tying itself through the choreography of the entire episode gave each dancer a moment to shine. After an emotive Sonya Teyah jazz routine set to the backdrop of Moloko’s haunting and slightly quirky, “The Time is Now,” Tiffany, the tiniest dancer in the competition, was praised for displaying lines so long she lent the illusion of being a woman twice her own height. This much deserved and graciously accepted compliment was given by Nigel Lythgoe, one of the show’s resident judges and executive producers, also known by most as the show’s toughest critic.
SYTYCD, unlike its singing counterpart, American Idol strives to build contestants up rather than break them down through a system of constructive critique rather than through blatant insult. Viewers of SYTYCD often feel uplifted by the artistic expression exuded in not only the choreography and dance but also through the meticulous set designs and elaborate costume choices. This is in sharp contrast to American Idol,which easily leaves audience members feeling ravaged from harsh judgments from panel judges. Tonight’s performance finale of SYTYCD however left nothing more intact than the utmost respect for each contestant’s sense of self, and for the audience’s desire to be emotionally tapped. From the lighthearted pole dancing number to a triumphant and first ever ballet number in a SYTYCD finale, performed by Eliana and Chehon, the judges remained supportive, honest and constructive. The contestants, all four of them, capped the season off just right – artistic and strong, bringing their absolute best to every single performance.
By: Sass Linneken