Dance Fever: Who's Going to Win?
Danny performs a routine on So You Think You Can Dance by Kelsey McNeal/Fox
Don't ask me. I would have been OK if any of this week's six finalists had won Fox's
So You Think You Can Dance
, including the two who were ejected Monday night in what felt like a very unsatisfying vacuum of dead air (more on that later). They're all terrific, and it was as painful as I expected to see any of them go.
has been my favorite reality-competition show of the summer. If you've been watching that hokey excuse for a variety show over on NBC and wondering if America really does have talent,
answers that question in the affirmative, and then some. These young dancers are each so versatile and expressively engaging it's a revelation each week to see them in action. And along the way, the show has made minor celebrities of recurring choreographers like Wade Robson (tell me you didn't know those were his insane "Thriller"-style moves at the start of Monday's show), hip-hop master Shane Sparks, and especially the queen of contemporary movement, Mia Michaels, whose dances burst forth with emotional surprise.
The studio audience sometimes erupts in cheers before they even know who's dancing, just by hearing who's staged the next dance. Now that's what I call a dance revolution.
Monday night Lauren was the first to be ejected, and it wasn't a surprise, though it was a disappointment. She had come on very strong in recent weeks but had still spent more than her share of time on the bottom rung, dancing "for her life" many weeks. As Nigel Lythgoe suggested, she may have peaked too late in the game to earn the mass audience vote. (Although isn't it smart to peak at the end, not the start, of the competition?)
Cutting Pasha was more of a surprise, and I'm sure judge Mary Murphy wasn't the only one fighting back tears as this charismatic ballroom dancer was brought down to earth. He may have been disadvantaged by being given a waltz for his final number - a specialty of his, to be sure, but probably not the sort of thing to energize the audience voting from home.
Honestly, though, at this stage of the contest, it's hard to imagine what separates one dancer from the other in the public's eyes. They're all awesome, but only one can win. That's the game. Although this year, I find myself wishing this show would change the rules so a male and a female dancer could be named cowinners.
So You Think You Can Dance
is overdue a female champion, and while Sabra (a raw and awesomely natural talent - she's my pick) and Lacey (sexy and talented but too calculated for my taste) are both more than viable, I worry a bit that all-American heartthrob Neil will win the young girls' vote and take the title. Or perhaps the actual best dancer will win, and that means Danny, who in these last weeks has finally found a way to project his incredible technical gifts through personality.
Unlike last year, when Lacey's brother Benji ran away with the popular vote, I really don't see a slam-dunk front-runner here. Each of the remaining dancers has a distinctive look and style, and maybe it actually will all come down to how they do in their pairs and solos on the final night of competition Wednesday. (And is Fox padding the finale by scheduling two hours on both Wednesday and Thursday? Well, duh, it's Fox. What did you expect?)
Let's just hope the payoff is more satisfying than what we sat through Monday night, when Lauren and Pasha were denied their deserved final ovations for logistical reasons that earn Fox a big jeer from this corner. Because Thursday's elimination show couldn't be shown live (because of a preseason NFL football commitment in prime time), the producers cleared the studio, going into "lockdown" (as poor host Cat Deeley awkwardly put it), to keep the elimination results sealed while allowing the remaining contestants maximum rehearsal time for this week's finale. (They couldn't have waited until Monday for the actual elimination for obvious reasons.) When Lauren and Pasha were let down, it was a letdown for them and the TV audience alike, because they took their final bows with only the tepid applause of the judges echoing through the empty studio. As their clip reels were shown, they didn't get to take solace in the roar of the adoring crowd that had cheered them on every step of the way, and that was a shame. Let's hope the producers remedy this injustice by inviting both of them back this week to get their public due.
And then, on to crown a winner. Who'll win? I don't know. Who do you think? They're all winners to me.