4. This Woman's Work (AKA "The Cancer Dance")
Choreographed by Tyce Diorio
Performed by Melissa and Ade (Season 5)
A disclaimer: I'm not a fan of Tyce, Melissa or Ade. So that should go to show the power of this piece. This routine would not have been possible with a dancer less mature than Melissa, or less strong than Ade, or without Tyce's life experience. It was the perfect melding of artists. Not only is the topic of breast cancer obviously very relevant (and unexplored in dance, as far as I know), but the personal side and the dealing with the disease are rarely talked about. I can't heap enough praise on Melissa here, whom I'd hoped would be voted off the week before. Her performance is breathtaking, aching; she portrays a euphoric balance of hope and hurt. She shows weakness but strength, terror but faith; she is so beautiful to behold, dancing a wonderfully realized routine. And Ade portrays the "male" side of a broken relationship. Put yourself in the situation which he brings to life: your lover has been diagnosed with cancer, and not only do you not know if she will survive but there is little you can do to ease her pain. Beautiful. And that final image of Ade lifting Melissa onto his shoulders as she reaches into the distance is heartbreaking; we cannot go through something like that alone, and it's ultimately the relationships we forge which will bring us through the tough times.
3. Bleeding Love
Choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo
Performed by Chelsie and Mark (Season 4)
Chelsie should have won season 4. She's a ballroom dancer who displayed the widest range of ability that season, and my love affair with her and Mark began with this NappyTabs piece. I love the originality the choreographers first displayed here, which (if you recall) is the first time anyone used the term "lyrical hip hop." They basically invented a new genre, or at the very least demonstrated that hip hop can be more than just sharp movements or fun routines. It can tell a story, even one that we generally wouldn't associate with the typical grittiness of hip hop: a suit loves his job more than his girlfriend/wife, and she wants more of his attention. That's a far cry from the days of Naughty By Nature or even from the other hip hop routine in my top ten (having sex with a mannequin!). And NappyTabs couldn't have hoped for a better duo than Chelsie and Mark, who poured their souls into this routine. When Mark steals her heart and she freaks out, I can't help but be amazed; it's one of my favorite moments in the history of the show. I remember the first time I saw this dance, I had been unimpressed with the night's performances. When this finished, my head was nearly on backwards and I immediately texted a friend with, "What just happened? That was kind of unbelievable." I still get that feeling years later.