I can't believe we're already at the finale. Some of those scenes from the season recap that they showed at the beginning of last night's show -- like Alex's injury -- seemed like they just happened.
So, first on: a Nakul Dev Mahajan Bollywood routine for Kent and Lauren (the all-star Lauren). This dance was a lot of fun, really high energy and Kent definitely delivered. He really camped it up, which was appropriate here. But what I felt was lacking was his styling. He didn't pay much attention to his hands, to the shapes he was making and the way he was ending his lines, so it didn't have that complete Bollywood look to me. Lauren did much better in that regard. At the end, for the ending pose, Kent did have the perfect shaping with his hands, with the splayed fingers and the bent wrists. I just wish he'd have had that throughout. Also, those spins -- both single-footed and on the knees -- didn't quite look that polished. The judges loved him though and had no criticisms whatsoever.
Next on were Lauren and Twitch dancing a Tabitha and Napoleon hip hop. Cute concept! They're both politicians starting out at podiums as if making speeches, and then they come out from behind them and have their little battle. As for the dancing, I thought he outshone her, which is to be expected since this is his style. His movement was just so much more solid. It also could be that he had better choreography, though. He had some slides and some fast fancy footwork to that drum segment. The choreographers didn't give her all that. They gave her a gymnastic flip sequence instead. Which was fine, but as far as hip hop goes, he was just the better mover here.
Next on were Robert and Mark dancing a Tyce Diorio jazz routine, to Devo's "Whip It." I used to love that song! Wow, Robert really comes to life with jazz! I loved this dance for him -- thus far it was my favorite of the night. He really outshone Mark. He just really had the funk down, really rocked it, was very rhythmic, and he really danced with so much more expansiveness than Mark -- some of those jumps were huge. Even his steps, his side-to-side movement, his deep plies -- his movement just had far more breadth than Mark's. Mark did his typical, intriguingly bizarre schtick, which worked well with the Devo music, but wow, I just thought Robert moved so well.
The first solo was by Kent. I thought it was pretty good, but not perfect. He seemed almost to lose balance on his pirouettes, and his form wasn't always perfect -- his feet didn't appear to be perfectly pointed in his jump, and one leg seemed higher than the other. I feel like I'm being very nit-picky though!
Next, Lauren and Robert danced a Dee Caspary contemporary routine. This routine was nice, but as a whole was a bit too spastic to me; there were no slow moments, and I think there needed to be some here. Anyway, very good dancing. I still like Robert better in jazz routines though. He moves well in contemporary but his body just looks better doing jazz. To me, I think he's just always going to look like he's sticking his rump out in contemporary for some reason. There's certainly nothing wrong with being a natural jazz dancer though. He can totally have a career on Broadway. Lauren danced beautifully. I love how much expression she can make with her body. I loved when he pulled her up from a pretty deep back arch, and she came up so fluidly, like her spine straightened vertebra by vertebra. I wish that would have been a bit slower; I feel like that would have been so much more stunning, seeing her move that slowly.
Next were Kent and Lauren dancing a Mandy Moore jazz routine. Hmmm. The routine itself didn't impress me much. The choreography wasn't all that interesting, or, as Nigel put it, challenging. They did fine with it though. It was cute and fun. They did what was expected of them. It just wasn't anything near earth-shattering as a dance. Sometimes I feel for the dance-makers. They're expected to come up with dance upon dance in a short amount of time, and they're artists. Sometimes they probably just can't find the inspiration.
The second solo is Robert's, which I found very impressive. It was kind of a modern dance with a few hip hop elements thrown in here and there, like the isolations. I think he knows what works well for him. He's not a lyrical modern dancer, but excels more at jazz, or jazz funk.
Next on were Kent and Allison dancing a contemporary Stacey Tookey routine. I thought this was Kent's best performance of the night. All of the problems I saw earlier were completely gone. He had great form throughout -- the jumps, the turns, the kicks, even on the floor when he was on his back, and he pulled himself up from his center, out of that deep backbend. And he was emotionally so on in that piece. I really believed he was beleaguered by Allison's character. He really took me with him into that character's world. And the judges were right: That's what a true artist does.
Lauren is the last soloist, and her solo really made me want her to win. It reminded me of her Aretha Franklin solo earlier in the season, though it wasn't danced to that same music. She has so much soul when she dances her solos. She is like a diva of dance.
Next was a Spencer Liff Broadway routine danced by Robert and Kathryn. Now this dance became my favorite of the night. Robert delivered in my two favorite dances of the night. He hasn't been my favorite throughout the season, but I won't be upset if he wins. The music is "Cool" from West Side Story, although the characters and set-up are different. Robert's character was a businessman trying not to give in to the seductive businesswoman, Kathryn. Robert was just excellent! He is such a Broadway jazz dancer. Every beat he just nailed. I wholly disagree with Mia that he danced it too fast and sharp and it didn't have enough simmer. I loved it danced this way. His movement was sexy sharp. Yet he made it clear how internally torn his character was and how he was trying not to give in to her. He was simmering to me!
Finally, a ballroom routine! Lauren dances a Melanie LaPatin and Tony Meredith-choreographed cha cha with Pasha. She did pretty well with this. I think when she just lets loose and has fun with something, it comes out better than when she tries to play a "man-eater." Pasha still outshone her, but that's to be expected. I think she looked really good with him. At parts it looked a bit hip hop-ish and at parts even kind of stripper-like, like something a pole dancer might do -- with the butt bumps 'n grinds, for example. But it seemed to be the way it was choreographed, and the music wasn't a typical cha cha, so those weren't shortcomings; Lauren did what the choreographers called for.
And the final routine was a dance new to the show -- a "Malevos" for Kent and Robert. A "Malevos," we're told, is a tango-style dance for two men, battle-like, and the way it looked, kind of gangster-ish. This was fun, different. But I can only imagine how much better it would have looked with real tango dancers, or trained ballroom dancers. I felt like Robert and Kent tried as hard as they could with it. But it looked too lyrical, too fluid, too jazzy to me. It wasn't precise and sharp enough. Those gauchos, both wrapping their legs around each others' and crossing one leg over the other -- the legwork in general: The precision just wasn't there, and none of that looked completely right. And the height difference between the two was difficult, particularly for Robert. When he had his hands on Kent's shoulders, he was awkwardly bent over, and then his legwork looked unstable and a bit sloppy, like he was on the verge of falling over. It wasn't something he could help though, because Kent was so much smaller than he and he had to hunch over and lose his posture. Again, I think they did as well as they could.
Overall, that was a fine finale. Not one of the best on this show, but it was good. Kent had a beautiful performance in his contemporary routine, Robert nailed the jazz and Broadway numbers, and Lauren is just the diva of soul with her solos. I usually have a strong favorite, but tonight I'm going to be happy for whoever wins.
There's been a lot of criticism of the show's new format -- I know some of you have said you didn't like it (the pairing of the contestants each week with a returning all-star) - and the show has apparently lost some viewers this season. I'm still not sure what to think. At first I loved the new format because it meant we'd get to see great dancing each week, since at least one half of each duet would be danced by someone who excels in that style. But now I'm seeing what some of you are saying, because I do think very often the returning all-stars outshone their contestant partner. And that often made me so critical of the contestant, which made me not want to root for anyone very strongly. I think it's what made me not feel very invested in any of this season's dancers. Except Alex Wong. Maybe a lot of viewers were exposed to someone of such excellence, they just got depressed when he was injured and then lost interest in the show. Anyway, I don't know what they're planning for next season, but I do think they should at least have all-stars dancers on the results shows. They only did that a couple of times this season; it wasn't consistent. This show is about dance, and there are too many musical performances on the results shows. If they returned to the previous format for competition nights, and then used the results shows to showcase a combination of returning all-stars and star dancers from around the world -- and they did that every week, not just once in a while -- then I think that would make for a better show.