It happens ever so often: an entire season of a reality show goes by and you only realize it right before the finale. Well surprise – So You Think You Can Dance wraps up its eighth season on Thursday, August 11th. And if you haven’t seen a single pirouette this year yet are planning on tuning in to see who’ll be crowned “America’s Favorite Dancer,” then don’t fret! Here’s your Season 8 Cheat Sheet:
THE TOP FOUR
The 23-year-old Bakersfield, CA native had me head over heals in love with her that first audition – when she broke down this sick Jazz routine with sister Natalia by her side. Together, the two made it through auditions and Las Vegas finals together – though Sasha was ultimately picked over Natalia to advance to the Top 20 (cue shot of Natalia sitting on the sidelines, holding up a poster that says ‘Go Sasha’ with an expression that says ‘Bitter – Party of 1’).
Although I fell in love with Sasha as part of that pair, she quickly proved she could stand out from the rest. Week after week, she delivered some of the best routines and solos by not only by being spot-on technically, but by dancing from her very soul. With every move, Sasha showed us honest emotion, passion, and utter brilliance. She has this ability to dance with total abandon that I simply can’t get enough with. Like she just leaves it all on the floor. I have to turn to last week’s judge, Christina Applegate, who really put it best:
“There have been girls in this competition who can developpe and pitch to the side and do twenty pirouettes and land perfectly. And I don’t care. It’s amazing, they’re amazing technicians; it’s a great trick. You put your finger against a wall and you break my heart. That’s dance.”
Perfect, right? If reality shows go the way they usually go, I’m guessing Sasha won’t win, but will be the runner-up. Looks like she can join Season 4’s tWitch, Season 5’s Brandon Bryant, and Season 6’s Jacob Karr as runner-ups who are way better than their season’s winners.
Her best routine: A Tyce Diorio Contemporary routine from last week with Season 7 runner-up Kent Boyd, to Me’Shell Ndegeocello’s “Fool of Me”
I have no doubt in my mind that 19-year-old Melanie Moore will win So You Think You Can Dance. She’s been everybody’s favorite dancer (including the judge’s) since the beginning. She’s never been in the bottom 2. She’s never gotten a bad criticism. It’d almost be confusing if she didn’t win.
It’s not undeserved either. Melanie is a terrific dancer. She dances with such elegance and poise; such grace and sincerity. It’s hard to believe the Georgia native is so young. She dances well beyond her years. You kind of watch Melanie dance and suddenly the world becomes a better place. Butterfly’s and rainbows shoot across the sky. She’s that good.
But… I don’t know. There’s something about Melanie that just bores me. She feels too safe. I want to see something more from her. Some grittiness. Some pain. Some abandonment. Some of the things that I see in Sasha.
Eh, I suppose I’ll have to deal since I’d bet a million dollars she takes the title. But Sasha will be there right next to her in the Top 2.
Her best routine: “The Statue Dance” – a Contemporary routine with Marko set to Ingrid Michaelson’s “Turn to Stone” and choreographed by Travis Wall.
In any other season, I think Mark Germar could have taken the title. He’s one of the most technically beautiful dancers I’ve ever seen. His lines are just outstanding; his poise, remarkable. I get lost in his movement. In fact, I’d compare him to Alex Wong (though, without the constant injuries).
It helps that he’s super nice. He was always smiling. Always positive. Like, you know when you go somewhere that’s really far away, and you say you feel like you just came from Guam? Yeah, well Marko is actually from Guam. Can you believe that? And he’s super happy to be here! So yeah… just remember that next time you bitch about your commute.
Again, I don’t think Marko has a chance this year. This is a lady’s season, and no matter how hard he tries, he won’t be able to clear Melanie or Sasha. But a very worthy third place finisher.
His best routine: Also a dance with Melanie – a Dee Caspary Contemporary routine choreographed to “Skin & Bones” by David J. Roch.
Tadd is definitely the low man on the Top 4 Totem Pole. But I would put him up there as my favorite B-boy ever to be on the show. He just has an irresistible personality and charm that keeps me routing for him week after week (seriously, I usually find B-Boys to be total assholes. Tadd’s not!).
Sure, he’s not the best choreographer (his solos left a lot to be desired). And he doesn’t have the range of any of the contemporary dancers. But I was impressed how quickly Tadd adapted to the different styles asked of him on the show, without ever backing down. His first week he was stuck with a Sean Cheesman African Jazz routine which put him in the Bottom 3. But he kept fighting. And though Viennese Waltz’s and Broadway routines, he always stayed strong. I’m sure he’ll be the first to go home on Thursday’s finale. But when you think of all the more accomplished dancers that got the boot before him this season, you’ll be able to see just how talented he is.
His best routine: A Jazz routine with Season 7 winner Lauren Froderman choreographed by Mandy Moore to (surprise) Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”
SYTYCD has never quite stuck to a pattern with its judging panel. For the first few seasons, we had Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe and Ballroom expert Mary Murphy, joined by a rotating cast of the show’s other choreographers. A few seasons ago, Hairspray Director and Choreographer Adam Shankman joined Lythgoe and Murphy on the panel as a permanent judge, and last season, Murphy was replaced by Emmy-winning Choreographer and SYTYCD fave Mia Michaels. But this season, Shankman and Michaels were out, and Murphy was back in (cue the “Hot Tamale Train” and cover your ears). And that third spot? Why, SYTYCD filled it with celebrity guest judges!
From to Will & Grace star Megan Mullally to Oscar-winning Director Rob Marshall, film legend Debbie Reynolds to Baywatch legend Carmen Electra, Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth to music icon Lady Gaga – the guest judge spot has been pretty diverse this season. Some were impressive (Christina Applegate, who knew you were so up on your dance terms). Others left a lot to be desired (I love you Jesse Tyler Ferguson, but you were annoying as fuck). Oh and don’t worry – Neil Patrick Harris showed up, because he’s contractually obligated to host or judge at least six things a year. For the finale, we’ll be graced with Kenny Ortega and (groan) Katie Holmes.
THE OTHER CONTESTANTS
Honestly, it’s been a kind of tepid season overall. Without a doubt, these were the most talented Top 20 we’ve seen in ages. But overall, this season added up to a lot of phenomenal technical dancers with boring personalities.
Perhaps it was the fact that the more interesting dancers with the bigger personalities went out earlier. We lost 19-year-old Wisconsin Tap-dancer Nick Young during the first week of eliminations – the most shocking elimination all season if you ask me. With him also went 24-year old B-boy Wadi Jones – another standout who I would have liked to see hang around.
Or it could be that there wasn’t really diversity in the dancers to begin with. Of the Top 20, we had two Hip-Hop dancers (both men, both gone by the Top 12), two B-Boys (the aforementioned Wadi, who went in the first week of eliminations, and Tadd, who’s made it to the finale), and one Ballroom dancer (A female, Iveta Lukosiute, who has the most Ballroom titles in the world right now but couldn’t get past the first week of eliminations because she was too old and not hot enough [I’m guessing]). Conversely, I count eight Contemporary Dancers and four Jazz Dancers. Kind of wack.
But really – it’s the people who did stick around who were the problem. They were boring as hell! Quick – if you watched the show – tell me one thing about Ashley Rich. Caitlynn Lawson? Surely you must know something about Mitchell Kelly or Ricky Jamie? Yeah, me either. These contestants were all great dancers, but never really had anything else to hold on to. The ones that did have notable personalities were awful in their own ways. Ryan Ramirez spent a whole pre-dance package talking about her friendship with Mia Michaels and her guest-starring role on House. Jess LeProtto (by far my least favorite in all eight seasons) smiled approximately three times the entire season. And we get it Jordan Casanova – you like to dance sexy. You don’t have to do it allll the time though!
Yeah. Boring people = bad season.
No matter how boring the contestants were this season, things did seem to pick up once we hit the Top 10, and the SYTYCD All-Stars came out to play. Each week, our contestants would be paired with an All-Star, who would stick around for a second or two in judging before Cat would shoo them away.
Last year, SYTYCD gave us a full All-Star season – where contestants were paired up with the greats much earlier on. But this compromise felt right – it gave us enough time to both get to know the new contestants and appreciate the All-Stars.
One complaint though: the All-Star dance pool was a little weak. No offense to tWitch, but did we really need to see him each week? Love to Pasha Kovalev, but isn’t there any other Ballroom guy they could have called? And am I the only one who thinks that Season 6 dancers Kathryn McCormick and Ellenore Scott, and Season 7 dancers Lauren Froderman, Kent Boyd, and Robert Roldan were a little too young to be All-Stars? I wanted more of Season 2’s Ivan Koumaev. And Season 2 winner Benji Schwimmer. And where the hell is Season 2 standout Heidi Groskreutz?
Give us more of the old favorites next year, please SYTYCD?
THE DANCES AND CHOREOGRAPHERS
The dances? Yeah, not that good this season. We saw a lot of the same-old, same-old stuff. A weird piece by Sonya Tayeh. A “trying-too-hard” number by Tyce Diorio (barf). Ballroom routines by Jason Gilkison that were completely indistinguishable from one another. A Nappytabs lyrical hip-hop number with a prop. Something by Travis Wall that the judges praised waaay more than they should have. And we all know Mandy Moore has never met an 80s song she didn’t want to choreograph a dance to. It felt like a season full of reruns. The choreographers never really broke out of their own molds.
Missing in action were some of our favorite choreographers too. No routines by Mia Michaels. Nothing from Wade Robson (or Amanda Robson, at that). Not a single dance by Lil C. And yes, I know it’s been years since he’s been on, but I still miss Shane Sparks. I’d trade in Spencer Liff and Jean-Marc Généreux any day to see these guys come back. Heck, I was even hoping we’d see Pussycat Dolls-founder and SYTYCD audition-judge Robin Antin choreograph something (that National Dance Day dance doesn’t count).
Without some of our favorites, we were given a whole slew of new choreographers to meet. But for some reason, we weren’t introduced to them slowly. Instead, we had some weeks (Top 14 week, I’m looking at you) where it was just a bunch of new choreographers providing lukewarm routines. Not well thought out at all.
Like the contestant pool, there wasn’t a lot of diversity in the dances we did get either. Sure, you had your standard mix of Contemporary, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Broadway, and Ballroom. But no Disco routine all season? Only two Bollywood numbers? Two Tangos? One Paso Doble? One African Jazz? Where was the diversity? How many Contemporary routines does one really need?
Still, amongst all the duds, there were some great routines. Tadd and Season 4’s Comfort Fedoke’s “Look at Me Now” Hip-Hop routine. Jordan and Season 5’s runner-up Brandon Bryant’s “Who You Are” Contemporary routine. Melanie and Marko’s “I Got You” Hip-Hop. Melanie and Sasha’s Contemporary “Game On” Sonya routine. And a bunch I’m probably forgetting. All and all, a lot of good stuff for the tour, I’d bet. But only one dance, in my eyes, that’s memorable enough to sit up there with Travis and Heidi’s “Calling You,” Katee and tWitch’s “Mercy,” Chelsea and Mark’s “Bleeding Love,” Kayla and Kapono’s “Gravity,” Allison and Ivan’s “Why,” “Comanche,” and “Ramamalama (Bang Bang):”
Dance of the season: Sasha and Season 4 runner-up tWitch dance a lyrical hip-hop routine choreographed by Christopher Scott to Dorothy Moore’s “Misty Blue.”
Even today, I can’t stop watching it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
All and all, it was a so-so season with a stellar Top 4, a clear favorite, and a format that’s still working eight years in. Even at its worst, SYTYCD delivers some amazing performances. Week after week, I’m still amazed that a show like this actually exists. When you think about how the show has made dance so attainable to such a young audience – you have to give it up for them. Even in a bad season, it’s the best reality competition show on television, hands down.
What do you think of this season? Is there any chance Sasha can beat Melanie? And what do you think of my choice of “Dance of the Season?” Head down to the comments section below!
The SYTYCD Season 8 Top 4 celebrate. From Left: Marko, Sasha, Tadd, and Melanie.