Last night's finale, in which weeks of preparation, competition, fall-flats and comebacks were supposed to culminate in one gloriously loud, flashy and tacky farewell, was kind of a letdown. The incredibly talented Sasha was little more than a prop in her cha-cha routine with Tadd, Melanie and Marko's disco routine was downright ridiculous and we were introduced to Keep Your Shirt Off, Tadd. Furthermore, if Sasha was a prop, guest judge Katie Holmes was downright mannequin-ish. Her reaction on the aforesaid disco routine? Marko and Tadd's Lil' C hip-hop routine? Loved it. Her opinion of the dancers? "I love you guys."
That was as deep as it got on Katie's end; fortunately, choreographer and director Kenny Ortega was there to provide some greater perspective.
The all-star performances: Sasha teamed up with all-star Mark for a Sonya Tayeh routine that Tayeh described as "an ode to Sasha," in which Mark represented the obstacles that Sasha's had to overcome. Sasha represented, well, Sasha. I was wary, because the last few Tayeh routines have all been, well, not good. She was the one who choreographed the chandelier routine. But she brought her A-game to this one, and Sasha and Mark writhed gracefully together on stage, Sasha eventually throwing him down and stepping over his lifeless body. Still, I thought the music was weird and didn't connect well to the choreography. Katie, guess what, loved it, Mary thought Sasha looked every bit as seasoned as Mark and Nigel said Sasha had just thrown down the gauntlet to the other three dancers.
Tadd and all-star Joshua got to work with Lil' C on a hip-hop routine that bore the gracefully clunky marks of its choreographer (by the way, how many pairs of glasses does Lil' C own, anyway? Just wondering). Mary said Tadd had finally lost his "sweetie pie" factor for a hard-hitting style, Nigel liked it, but it still wasn't as strong as he would like, and Katie loved the performance, Tadd's red shoes, his sweetness and his smile.
Melanie got to dance with all-star Robert for a Stacey Tookey contemporary routine, and she was very much in her element here. Her signature extensions, flowing assisted lifts and beautiful armwork probably made it the best routine of the night. Nigel said she had just slapped Sasha in the face with the gauntlet, Kenny said he'd push himself to the front of the line to work with her (and comes damn near offering her a part in his newly announced Dirty Dancing remake), Katie said she was blown away and Mary said she was in a class of her own.
Marko was very much in his element with the contemporary routine he danced with all-star Lauren. He was characteristically strong and graceful. Mary commended Marko for staying in the moment and said, "You've been given this second chance at life, and you're not going to waste it." Keep in mind, Marko's the one who got shot. It was a nice moment.
Solos: Who cares? It's the same 30-second snippet you see every week. They were all respectable.
The evening opened with a disco performance by Melanie and Marko. They did what they could, but disco's still disco, and last I looked, disco was still dead. Kenny called it "fun, electric, sizzling, great." But Nigel and Mary thought it went in-and-out of the style too much and Katie said they made her want to dance.
Sasha and Marko were incredibly entertaining with a Spencer Liff Broadway routine, in which Marko surprised everyone by playing a geeky waiter trying to survive the advances of sexy Sasha. All the judges complimented Marko's character development, and it was well deserved. He even timed his onstage fumbles to coincide with the music. Katie compared Sasha to Cyd Charisse. And somewhere, Cyd Charisse is piiiiiiiisssssed.
Tadd and Sasha. What to say about Tadd and Sasha? The choreography wasn't right, the connection wasn't there, their movements seemed confined by the style. Even Katie couldn't bring herself to say she loved it. But Kenny gave the pair the best piece of advice probably all season: "Walk off, turn back around and blow us away."
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Tadd and Melanie (poor Melanie, that high-waisted Spandex just doesn't look good on anyone) killed it with their sexy Broadway routine. The judges complimented Melanie's character development here, too." You had the character well before you started dancing," Nigel said. Kenny thought Tadd had redeemed himself.
Sasha and Melanie's routine as repressed 1950s housewives started off slow and unexciting and had the potential to disappoint; but it's Sasha and Melanie, so obviously they made it an effective, heart-wrenching routine. Nigel encouraged them to join dance companies when they finish with the show.
Tadd and Marko closed out the night with a step routine that was well executed but failed to connect. Maybe it was the ridiculous miners' outfits (I realize that's how step started, but since when do we have to be so literal?), but there was a reason Nigel had encouraged the girls to join a company and was silent on the matter when it came to the guys.
Tonight: We find out who America's favorite dancer. Art Attack will live-tweet the show, so be sure to follow us on Twitter @artattackhp.