Sunday, August 14, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Unsurprisingly, Melanie walked away with the title of "America's Favorite Dancer" (or, more accurately this season, "Nigel Lythgoe's Favorite Dancer") after beating Sasha (runner-up), Marko (third), and Tadd (fourth). Nothing about the way this finale played out was shocking or interesting. Melanie was the favorite from week one, and she won. It was expected, but it was the proper outcome as well. Melanie was the strongest dancer of the competition, though I (and many others) took issue with how much she was challenged to show adaptability and/or range. But she was the best of the final four, so she rightfully deserves her title.

I have to comment on the judges' picks for their favorite routines of the season. Some I agreed with (Ashley & Chris's Broadway, Melanie & Sasha's jazz, Melanie & Neil's contemporary, Caitlynn & Pasha's Argentine Tango), but some were just ridiculous: Sonya's Geisha girls? Miranda & Robert's woodpecker hip hop? Melanie & Marko's lyrical hip hop? And no one chose what was easily the season's best choreography and performance in Melanie & Marko's Dee Caspary contemporary piece with the light bulb? What a joke.

Then there was yet another Sonya routine with the entire top twenty performing. It was certainly more visually interesting than her couples routines have been lately, but it's still too much of the same. Especially in an episode where her choreography was showcased three other times.

By far the best performance of the entire episode was Matt Flint's tap number with Nick and Jess. Matt was the most recent winner of the show's UK incarnation, and after seeing him perform the US version should be ashamed of some of their past winners... because they've got nothing on this guy's talent and charisma. Matt was utterly charming, and the tapping was fantastic. It was so nice to finally see a tap routine on the show that used the music instead of fighting it, that added those elements of camp inherent in tap while still making it look timely and fresh and (of course) entertaining. Nick was especially impressive, considering how early he went home; I would've much preferred he traded spots with Jess in the competition. I mean, Nick has no training other than in tap and he was doing more consecutive turns than Jess and with just as strong a center. Craziness.

All in all, this was by far the most disappointing season of the show. I know there are people out there who think it was the best ever, but I strongly disagree. The range of genres was so limited that by the time the top ten were selected I was totally bored with the show. I don't like that the judges continued picking who would go home up until the finale (once it was top ten, the dancer with the lowest votes usually went home... hence "America's Favorite Dancer," in that America was supposed to be choosing). And I didn't like the lack of diversity among the dancers chosen for the twenty slots. There was one tapper, one ballroom dancer (both of whom were eliminated in the second week), and one Broadway dancer; the other seventeen were hip hop, jazz or contemporary. And the choreography has become stilted as well. The show lost its greatest choreographer, Mia Michaels, and overused the choreographer they hoped could take her place, Sonya Tayeh. There are plenty of working choreographers out there who would kill to have their work featured on the show; seek them out! Stop using the same ones over and over, creating the same effect and emotion week in and week out. Change it up.

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