Monday, September 25, 2017

SYTYCD 14 Top 4 Recap: Sophistication Up the Wazoo!

Here we go, Dance Fans! The Performance Finale is here! I really believe it's anyone's title to win at this point. If the kids were a little tired and nervous last week,  I bet this week they are super tired but emotionally FREE! It's just about dancing now. They've gotten as far as they can go and now the votes will be what they will be. So let's hope they have a great time in this penultimate episode of what turned out to be a really great season, shall we? After all, Mia Michaels is in the house. If you're not excited for her return, there's just no pleasing you.

All-Stars and Top 4 Group Performance. Choreographers: NappyTabs! "Mi Gente" by J Balvin & Willie William. NappyTabs is here too?! So many OG choreographers are returning for the live shows this year. Can we get a Sonya group number for the finale next week? Pretty please? This routine has a lot of hide and seek going on for the dancers as they move multiple moving platforms on the stage. Lex gets a stand out solo moment because he's Lex. The audience is waving glow sticks - as are the judges - which is delightful. This number was a lot of fun. NappyTabs did not let us down n their return!

Cat is a vision in light blue, in a dress by Marc Jacobs, shoes by Gian Vitorossi and jewelry by xivkarats. She reminds us that this is the fun episode where everybody dances with everybody and no one goes home! What's not to love? If you voted last week, fear not! Your votes still count. They'll be added to this week's total to determine who wins the cash prize and the title of America's Favorite Dancer 2017!

The judges are here, but they remain powerless! That will try to make up for it by saying extra-insane things that defy logic and grammar! This week, we're getting a Top 4 group number, an all-stars number, the contestants all partnering with each other, "Contestant's Choice" encore numbers and also brief solos. If that sounds like a lot, that's because it is! I'm curious to see what the contestants choose for their encore numbers tonight and what gets saved for the Encores Finale next week. I mean, we're not going to see the same routines 3 times in one season, right? Not with so many stellar routines to choose from. I can't wait to see the whole Top 10 again! SO SOON! But not yet. Let's savor tonight while we can!

Top 4 Group Number. Choreographers: Travis Wall and Chris Scott “Elements” by Nathan Lanier. There are four contestants and four natural elements and two choreographers. I'm assuming the whole routine is pre-taped because the make up on all of them is so intense. The solos are definitely taped, but even when they're all on stage, I'm doubtful this is happening live. No matter. This is cool. Koine is Earth. Lex is Water. Kiki is Fire. Taylor is Wind. Unfortunately, they can't summon Captain Planet without Heart and Vanessa stays seated at the judge's table. Instead, their powers combine to form a great routine. A fun way to start things off for these four!

Kiki and Taylor - Cha-Cha. Choreographer: Anya Garnis, “Don’t Cha (Ralphi’s Hot Freak 12” Vox Mix)” by The Pussycat Dolls. ANYA! They were burying the lede! Nobody told me ANYA! was coming back tonight! OMG. She is the greatest. She and Pasha have been across the pond rocking Strictly Come Dancing. I love when she's able to come back. The dance is strong. Kiki does a great job partnering Taylor, and she seems really confident and in control a solid 95% of the routine. There are a few quick moments that feel a liiiittle wonky, but they are really minor and don't affect the overall performance of the piece. Mary is thrilled that ANYA! is back, as she's the original rider on the Hot Tamale Train. She loved the routine, as did the other judges. They think Kiki is a generous partner and Taylor committed to it and had fun. Great stuff!

Lex and Koine - Broadway. Choreographer: Al Blackstone, Broadway “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole. Lex is a pizza delivery guy and Koine is the amazing dancer who loves him. While I try to avoid hyperbole, I do believe this is the best Broadway number the show has ever produced. The character work is delightful and funny. The dancing is great. It's hilarious at this point in the season to think that Lex was the one who started with "no personality." He brings so much to this routine. But gosh, doesn't Koine just make it all look so effortless?? Can she sing? Get this girl to Broadway as soon as the tour is over.

Kiki and All-Star Jenna Favorite Routine: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Oh this is even better the second time through. The first time was lovely, but I felt like Kiki was a little too much in Ballroom-mode with his partnering. He sheds a lot of that here. His connection with Jenna is fantastic. It's a beautiful moment for them. At the end Jenna is crying and Cat rushes out to see if she's okay as if they had just finished a Doriana Sanchez Disco Number. Jenna is fine, she's just sad that her time dancing with Kiki is almost over. Hey, all good things, Jenna... The judges love this encore. Vanessa literally declares, "It's love!" Here's hoping there's a Season 15 and you come back to us, Vanessa.

Koine and All-Star Marko Favorite Routine: Speaking in Tongues. Come for the headdress. Stay for the shredded body suits. The sequence where they just keep flipping over each other is so impressive. I don't know if it's elevated past the original performance, but that's such a high bar with Koine. Where was there left to go? I have really appreciate the Marko-Koine partnership during the live shows. These two are very special dancers.

All-Stars Group Performance. Choreographers: Keone and Mari Madrid. "DNA." by Kendrick Lamar. The formations in this number are really cool. The All-Star numbers always seem really complicated to me. I'm always so impressed by what they do. This routine is a little like Return of the King with it's multiple fake out endings. The dancing and music stops and the crowd starts cheering and then they keep going. It happens twice and it makes me chuckle both times.

Koine and Taylor - Jazz. Choreographer: Mandy Moore, “Black and Gold” by Brenna Whitaker. Yes! Here's to the Ladies who jazz! I'll drink to that. Koine and Taylor are so fierce. They are entirely true to their own energies (Taylor's center brings her higher, and Koine is more grounded - so I guess Earth was a good element for her!) but they both bring an equal sense of power to the choreography. In judging, Mary says they have, “Sophistication up the wazoo.” That has to be my favorite comment of the season, if not the entire series.

Lex and Kiki - Hip-Hop. Choreographer: Luther Brown, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” by Missy Elliott. This routine is a lot of fun. Kiki and Lex have an easy chemistry together. I'm so glad Kiki avoided being the hip-hop disaster in the live shows that he was during Academy Week. They do Luther Brown proud, which is a nice present since it's his birthday! In judging, Nigel brings up how Lex was not good at Samba and then shows footage of Kiki sucking at Hip-Hop. Both guys are like, "what gives?"  I guess that means Nigel is truly Team Koine? I'm cool with that.

Taylor and All-Star Robert Favorite Routine: Change Is Everything. Oh WOW. I thought this one was top notch the first time through, but it goes to another level this time. Taylor just completely lets go and it's incredible. I don't really understand how she can move so effortlessly in the air, making shapes around her partner. Wind was definitely the right choice for her in the Element Dance. The emotion is flowing out of her. If she wins next week, the foundation was laid with this routine in Top 10 week and solidified again tonight.

Lex and All-Star Gaby Favorite Routine: More (Tappa Tappa Tappa). Lex picks tap for his favorite routine. I guess this means we'll get their awesome hip-hop routine next week! Following the trend of the night, this routine is better than when we saw it in Week 1. Lex is much more relaxed. He has an easy confidence about him. His arms have a better flow. Obviously, he always knew how to do this kind of routine, but now he's figured out how to do this show and the routine is that much better for it. Lex is great.

Kiki and Koine - Contemporary. Choreographer: Travis Wall, “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell. In this number, we get the beginning and the end of a relationship. The transition between the two points involves a reversible black and white dress and Koine selling the hell out of yet another routine. She seems more mature and angrier at the end of the piece than she does at the beginning. And the routine is like 90 seconds long. Nigel shouts out the costume department in the judging for the fantastic work they've done all season, and they truly do deserve an Emmy nomination for this season. There hasn't been a week when I didn't note how amazing the costumes have been. Nigel is happy to see Kiki do contemporary yet again tonight and believes that the show has given a lot to Kiki and that Kiki has given a lot to the show. Aww!

Lex and Taylor - Contemporary. Choreographer: Mia Michaels, "You Matter to Me” Sara Bareilles feat. Jason Mraz. Okay, so MIA IS BACK and she brought the Waitress album with her! This is a routine about deep love. Do either Lex or Taylor know about being in love? It turns out they do, because they are IN LOVE WITH EACH OTHER! My mind is blown. I can barely take in the routine the first time through as my brain is still trying to process this info. LexandTaylor4eva!!! There's one move where they slide into each other on the floor and connect in a kiss, the force of which looks like it should break both their faces and spray blood all over the stage. That doesn't happen, though. How does that not happen? Upon a second viewing, the piece is quite lovely and there is a great care that's evident between them and the dance is very lovely and involves LONG kisses, which might have been awkward if she got two dancers who didn't actually love each other. The judges wish them the best both in and out of the competition. What else can they say? That's a wrap for the competitive routines of Season 14!

Cat tells the dancers she thinks this is one of the best performance finales the show has ever done and I have to agree. The live shows this season were definitely among the best ever (I maintain that only airing for an hour a week for the first half of the season really dragged out the audition process). It's time to vote! I'm putting all my voting power behind Koine, who has been my favorite performer all season. I still feel that the title will go to one of the lovebirds - Lex or Taylor - as I originally predicted (but I called Taylor, "Ashley" until my Sweet Boy Josh pointed out my error.) But I think you could make a solid case for any of the four winning. No matter who wins the title, the result will be satisfying.

Tonight's non-encore routines in order of my preference:

1. Lex and Koine - Broadway
2. Kiki and Koine - Contemporary
3. Koine and Taylor - Jazz
4. Lex and Kiki - Hip-Hop
5. Lex and Taylor - Contemporary
6. Kiki and Taylor - Cha-Cha

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