The final three contenders -- Russell, Jakob, and Kathryn -- all had the chops to be worthy of the title of America's Favorite Dancer (lamest title ever), but from the beginning of this season, it was Russell who really gave me major jazz hands. Is there anyone who doesn't love an underdog story? Here's a truly dear-seeming guy with little technical training who was the first krump dancer to ever make the top 20. So it was mind-blowing when he was able to pick up every style that was thrown at him, week in and week out, from pasodoble to lyrical jazz to Bollywood to samba. Plus, his ginormous smile has become one of my favorite sights ever; the guy has joy literally oozing out of his pores (and not in a scary-plastic Ashleigh and Ryan Di Lello kind of way). Plus I was just so floored by the grace with which he handled having to dance with a last-minute replacement partner for not one, not two, but three separate routines over the course of the season. Lord knows I will always cherish the profoundly awkward sight of him fox-trotting with Melanie Lapatin early in the season after his partner Noelle was sidelined with a knee injury. At the time, I remember starting to feel that familiar, rumbling wave of secondhand-embarrassment/pity/uncontrollable giggle meltdown approaching. I mean, it was just too ludicrous, the two of them dancing together -- it looked like Russell was dancing with his white friend's mom. BUT, when I saw the way Russell was pulling off the performance with such poise and class, my inner snark was immediately squelched. No giggles.
So, yeah, above all, I'm thrilled with Russell's win. Yet I'm also weirded out by last night's whole totally bizarre, crazypants broadcast. The two-hour finale extravaganza was like the beloved SYTYCD I know and love, yet slightly tweaked. Here are a few of the things I could have done without:
1) The Tappers -- I'm sure tap-dancing is very challenging blah blah blah, and perhaps it is even enjoyable to watch if you are 80 years old, but come on already. Nigel only invited the three hoofers into the top 20 in the first place so he could pat himself on the back and say "Hey, we brought in tappers, look how diverse SYTYCD is!" If you need any evidence of this, just look at how quickly all three were sent packing -- by the very judges who invited them on board with so much ado. Anyway, since these three had no right being in the top 20 in the first place, seeing them again last night was like adding insult to injury. Salt to a wound. Whathaveyou. Their Lawrence Welk-esque routine felt more out of place than ever because of the way it so starkly contrasted with the other competitors' eye-popping, dynamic, dangerous performances of late (Hi, I'm Legacy. I do front somersaults over tables). The tappers just looked more geriatric than ever. And don't even get me started on that creepy face they make when they dance, that face that seems to say, Hey, what am I doing on this stage? Hey, whoa, there goes my foot, what's my foot doing? Wuuuut.
2) Technical Difficulties -- I found myself so terribly anxious when the sound went out and the dancers were momentarily MIA, leaving poor Cat alone on the stage. I've never once seen the unflappable Miss Deeley at a loss, so it was disconcerting to have her thrown for a loop, even for a second. Because I adore her so, I associate with her heavily -- as if we are BFFs in real life and not just in my head -- and so when the glitch happened, I seriously felt a wave of panic. "Cat!" I wanted to shout. "Cat! Don't worry, I'm right here!"
3) "Turn the Tub Around" -- You know, Megan Mullally's commercial for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter? Um. OK.
4) Jennifer Lopez -- Wait, first of all, is she no longer J Lo? Second of all, I've always considered J Lo a talented performer and a tres beautiful lady, but somehow, last night her performance struck me as profoundly unsexy. I'm trying to put my finger on just why this was. Perhaps between the phone call to Santa (grown women wishing for things from Santa makes me squirm!), the massive Louboutin high heel, and the male backup dancers, which only served to give me flashbacks of Paula Abdul making her "comeback" last year on Idol when she fake-sang and got whisked around by all sorts of male dancer/butlers -- oh, and the furry lady Rockette dancers were funny! -- I think the whole spectacle of the performance just struck me as too over-produced. J Lo is lovely without all the bells and whistles.
Anyhoo, in the end, I think horny old uncle Nigel said it best: that the show's true winners are "this program, dance, and America." What a perfectly fitting way to end the season -- with a completely grand, nonsensical, sweeping, self-congratulatory, and yet patriotic statement. From a Brit. So -- hooray America. And hooray, of course, to Russell Ferguson, America's Favorite Dancer.
|Meredith Hoffa's first-person writing has appeared in The New York Times, Boston Globe Magazine, Fit Pregnancy, Business Traveler, and the new anthology, "Rejected" (Villard/Random House, 2009). She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.|