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Thursday, August 16, 2007


So You Think You Can Dance Blog: The Finals

So it's come down to this: the final four, who I'll cheekishly call the Ballet Star, the Newbie, the Ballroom Queen, and the Blond Guy Who Really Shouldn't Be Here. Was that snarky? Sure it was. Was it mean? Fine. Was it true? Absolutely.

As we entered the final performance episode last night, I found myself weighing my options for tonight's finals. Sure, it would make my heart glad if Sabra pulled out an upset, but I just don't see it happening. I could live (albeit grumpily) with a victory by Danny; I disagree with SYTYCD Guru Tiffany that he's been unfairly typecast as a snob (if the pump fits, dearie), but he's an extraordinary dancer and talent has its place, even in reality television. I think I can even handle a Lacey win, although I'd be surprised....she's the weakest of the four remaining, but she's sweet as sugar and I can't hate her.

But if Neil wins, I may go postal.

Why? Because he's really a jumper, not a dancer. Because he has a lazy attitude. Because he coasts on his looks and athletic ability, bypassing the technique and nuance required in some of the styles...and gets away with it. Because Hok, Pasha, and Dominic were all more interesting. Because white, blue-eyed heterosexual men from rich families never have to work as hard to be viable in this culture, and he's up against people who want it more, need it more, and deserve it more.

The opening group number -- a cartoonish twirl on "Mein Herr" (from Cabaret) by the increasingly dull choreographer Tyce Diorio -- laid out the competition's lingering questions perfectly. Do you prefer Neil (who jumps higher) or Danny (who has more grace)? Does Sabra's extension and power surpass Lacey's stylishness and technique? Are you looking for a great ability, great style, or great marketability? The answers to these questions are what we're looking for.

Moving into pair work, Danny and Lacey took on the very difficult Viennese Waltz...and it was arguably the best the show's ever seen in this style. Danny has a natural fluidity and elegance that translates well to the waltz, and Lacey is learning to quell her showbizzy flourishes. Despite their success, they bobbled the post-dance interview -- Danny called Lacey a liar about her hand position work, and she didn't take it well -- but they are the best in the competition. When it comes to traditional dance, that is.

A more interesting pairing came from the girl-on-girl action of Lacey and Sabra, who were paired together in a disappointingly non-erotic duets about cartoon kabuki foxes or something. (Choreographer Wade Robson has issues with sex....work it out, Wade.) The dance had a hypnotically odd set of images, but there wasn't much to it, and the judges were completely befuddled by it. The dancers, for their part, were great in it. I'll compare it to movies...it's like watching Judi Dench in The Chronicles of Riddick. The actress is amazing, but Jesus, what a stinky pile of dookie she's in.

I should mention that between the partner routines, the dancers had a solo dance and were interviewed by host Cat Deeley...a rather transparent last-minute attempt to humanize the finalists. They weren't especially interesting, but at this point Danny was interviewed, and Cat pinned him to the mat by asking about his perceived arrogance. He pawned it off on being shy and misunderstood....and then danced a stellar 30-second solo that included a seemingly endless spin. A standing ovation followed, and it was clear: if talent is kind, Danny should win. Any other choice requires the audience to select a sub-par dancer.

It was the boys' turn: Neil and Danny danced together, which was a perfect opportunity for gay-dance porn. Mia Michaels didn't disappoint; she choreographed an athletically bitchy war of two fey kings (with thrones, 'natch) sword-fighting and tossing each other around the stage. (Sword-fight. Dr. Freud, please pick up the white courtesy phone.) It was fun, and they seemed well-matched. But what was missing was the opportunity to tell who was who, and who was better. Ultimately, it was too theatrical, and not dance-heavy enough to judge the pairing.

If there was a moment where I felt the wheat really separated from the chaff, it was in Neil and Lacey's partner routine, a shaggy and energetic lindy hop. In a style that required serious footwork and style, Neil looked like a clumsy retarded ox. Leaden and off-the-beat, his weakness and lack of detail was exposed. But did the judges criticize it? Nope. They all chalked it up to being tired and exhausted (oh, you poor things...like Danny and Sabra aren't tired????), and half-heartedly mentioned Neil's sloppy work.

The final performance of the night was a cha-cha from Sabra and Danny...and if it wasn't clear before who the #1 and #2 should be, it was then. Sensational is the word that comes to mind...Sabra was dazzling and schooled Lacey on style, while Danny was as loose and entertaining as he's ever been (well, at least since the samba with Lacey a few weeks ago, which I think was the best routine of the season). And the judges? No "they're just tired" excuses for them. They attacked the technique and left everyone sour. Someone should bitchslap Mary Murphy...hell, I'd pay for the privilege.

So how is it all going to go down? I think the teenage girls and gay men who watch this show will give it to Neil...he's so terribly telegenic, and he leaps high, and he's a bit stupid (which many people won't admit is hot, but it is). But for me, I'll be praying to the dance gods that Sabra or Danny take it...preferably Sabra. Good luck, one and all.



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