America loves the classics. That’s the headline from Season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance, as a show that had never had even one champion from the world of ballet crowned two of them a few minutes apart on Wednesday.
To no one’s surprise, Eliana Girard was named female winner, edging out fellow Floridian Tiffany Maher. Considered a favorite from the time of her audition, which memorably featured her demonstrating the aerial pole moves that were part of her work for Cirque du Soliel, the 21-year-old had won constant praise from judges and choreographers for her ability to adapt to all styles, and she survived one trip to the bottom six early in the season.
The male champ is 23-year-old Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, who was in the bottom six the very first week of the finals but was saved while another ballet dancer went home. The native of Switzerland built strength throughout, and even though he never did master Latin ballroom, he had what it took in the end to sneak by Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer, who had seemed to be the viewer favorite all along.
The viewers made the right call in both instances. Regarding Cyrus, who had never placed in the bottom group, the thinking seemed to be that it was fine to reward him for his personality and eagerness to learn so long as the title wasn’t at stake, but there was a higher bar to cross for him to be considered “America’s favorite dancer.”
If anything, it was more surprising that the voters didn’t hold Nigel Lythgoe’s vocal support of Chehon against him. Many found the head judge telling Cyrus to his face last week that he wouldn’t be voting for him to be in bad taste at best, especially because in recent weeks, Nigel had seemed to be preparing the viewers for a Cyrus victory and making the case that it wouldn’t be unjustified. He tried to make it up to Glitch on Tuesday, telling him “you stole the season.”
Like most two-hour finales, Tuesday’s show had a lot of filler, even though it was good to see the top 20 one more time. The six at the judging table (Nigel and Mary Murphy joined by Lil’ C, Debbie Allen, Adam Shankman, and choreographer Tyce Diorio) each asked to see a favorite routine from the season again, but most of them were only slightly memorable the first time around.
The four finalists also picked their own choices for a repeat dance, giving us a chance to see the Cyrus/Twitch “mad scientist” glass-breaking frenzy from last week one more time. Eliana’s choice allowed her to collaborate again with Alex Wong, until now the best-ever SYTYCD ballet dancer. This was the pairing that really allowed her to shine apart from her original partner, Cyrus.
Several memorable (if ultimately unsuccessful) auditions from the season were also remembered, with the top choice being the back-to-back-to-back performances by Dragon House, the crew whose only Vegas survivor was Cyrus. The guys were brought back to dance live, though Cyrus sat out the bit.
Some people can take or leave the group routines, but since no one had anything to rehearse this week that was being judged, the kids seemed to really sparkle on them this time. The all-stars joined the top 10 from Season 9 on a frenetic hip-hop dance with a Lion King theme. The top 20 dance that began the night featured a wind machine that really added to the illusion that the dancers were being swept along against their wills.
Oh yeah, almost forgot: Carly Rae Jepsen debuted her lousy new single, which may as well have been titled “14 Minutes and 59 Seconds.”
So it’s a satisfactory ending to the SYTYCD season, but hopefully not the end of the road for the show, which was trimmed to one night a week this summer and has not yet been renewed for 2013. Let’s hope Fox does the right thing. Cat Deeley is too good to be left with nothing but The Choice.