The So You Think You Can Dance 2016 finale was nothing if not full of surprises. As usually happens on a SYTYCD finale, judges Nigel Lythgoe, Maddie Ziegler, Jason Derulo, and Paula Abdul had the chance to see the contestants perform some of their favorite pieces one more time before announcing this season’s winner. In addition to that, though, the kids had the chance to choose their favorite solos, Sergei Polunin made an epic guest appearance, and the So You Think You Can Dance all-stars even had the chance to rehash their favorite moments from season 13. The biggest surprise, though, was the announcement of this season’s winner. Was it J.T. Church, Tate McRae, Emma Hellenkamp, or Kida Burns? You’ll have to check out the recap to find out, but here’s a spoiler alert to tide you over: My prediction was way off.
Since there wasn’t a lot in the way of new material on the SYTYCD finale, you’d hope that what little bit was provided would have been special — finale-worthy, if you will. Unfortunately, hope isn’t always reality. Case in point: the opening group number. While it was nice seeing all of the So You Think You Can Dance season 13 contestants and all-stars back up on stage with the top 4, I could have done without pretty much everything from this piece. The kids jumped on some beds; Emma Hellenkamp and J.T. Church wreaked havoc at the judges’ table; and the judges themselves even got involved in the weirdness of it all when they waved their colored hankies around or whatever.
Props to Maddie Ziegler for not looking remotely enthused during the bit with the hankies. Even Abby Lee Miller wouldn’t have put her through that.
After the So You Think You Can Dance finale’s opening number was (thankfully) over, it was time to reintroduce this season’s top 10 dancers, make mention of the judges, and get down to business. Everyone from Cat Deeley to the all-stars had the chance to relive their favorite moments from the season, but the judges were special enough to get to choose two pieces to celebrate. Rather than list everything in exact order, let’s just get the judges’ picks out of the way first, shall we? We shall.
As his first pick, Nigel Lythgoe chose Kida Burns’ hip hop from SYTYCD‘s 250th episode. He was impressed with the choreography “by a twelve year old.”
Nigel? Boss man? Kida’s fourteen, not twelve. Please try again.
Anyway, as far as the actual dancing went, watching Fik-shun and Mini Fik-shun doing their thing was a great way to start out the show; but I’m still not here for those Darth Vader helmets. Later in the episode, Nigel chose J.T. and Robert’s Broadway piece, which was choreographed by Al Blackstone. For thoughts on the original performance of that duet, check out the recap.
Maddie Ziegler came up with an interesting couple of favorite dances to be highlighted on tonight’s SYTYCD 2016 finale. I say that because neither of them was in a style that Maddie’s exactly known for. Maddie even called attention to this little detail at one point, saying she knew the audience probably expected her to pick a contemporary number.
I, for one, was hoping she’d pick one of Emma and Gaby’s tap dances, purely so I would have had an excuse to go on a Youtube search for glorious things like this:
Oh, let’s be real: I didn’t need an excuse.
Maddie chose Tate McRae and Jonathan Platero’s salsa from last week’s episode, as well as Tate and Kida’s awkward Farmer’s Only inspired hip hop. Notice that the commonality here was Tate — particularly Tate doing things outside of her comfort zone. Now, for some reason or another, Maddie Ziegler looked to be in tears when it was time for her to present her second choice. I’m going to guess, based on her obvious love for Tate, that she was mourning the death of dancing following the announcement of Tate’s third place finish…kind of like a lot of the rest of us.
Social media was a blast after that bombshell, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
Side note: I was kind of disappointed that Maddie didn’t choose, say, Maddie Ziegler and Travis Wall’s contemporary.
Paula Abdul was the only judge to ask Jordan Wandick and Sasha Mallory to provide us with an encore. Luckily, the piece that she chose was a particularly strong one: “The Light That Never Fails.”
As good as that original performance was, Sasha and Jordan took it to a whole new level on the So You Think You Can Dance finale. Such is the beauty of getting to dance for the sake of dancing. There was absolutely no pressure, nothing left to lose, and no reason to hold back. So these ladies didn’t. At all.
For Paula’s next
trick selection, she showcased yet another dancer who hadn’t made the SYTYCD top 4: Ruby Castro. Her Argentine tango with Paul Karmiryan had the same sort of freedom about it that Jordan and Sasha’s contemporary did. Gotta love finales.
Jason Derulo talked a lot before selecting Emma Hellenkamp and Gaby Diaz’s “Salute,” but nothing was more awkward than his description of Tahani Anderson and Comfort Fedoke’s Nappytabs duet. I don’t think Jason Derulo knows what “sensual” means.
No. Just stop talking. Please. Also, it would really be nice to actually get to see that “I’m Going Down” hip hop in its entirety, rather than with camera work that completely cuts half of the dancing out…I guess that’s a dream that will never be realized, though.
Random things. In addition to all of the “top” performances, the SYTYCD finale featured:
- A So You Think You Can Dance yearbook segment, full of fake superlatives and acceptance speeches. It was basically your typical season-in-review package, only with tons of sharp cheddar aimed at engaging the youths. I didn’t like yearbooks when I was in school, so I definitely could have lived without this one now.
- Duets from the top 10 and the SYTYCD all-stars that didn’t make the cut. Read as: reality tv’s version of participation trophies.
- Replays of the finalists’ auditions.
- An all-stars group piece that was supposedly Cat Deeley’s favorite bit of dancing from the entire season. Really, Cat? Honestly? No.
- Something about how “entertaining” this season has been, complete with that time Tahani threw up on Paula. Because that dead horse hasn’t been bludgeoned enough.
- And much more!
Speaking of much more…Sergei Polunin made a guest appearance on So You Think You Can Dance, beautifully breezing his way through an excerpt from “La Esmeralda.” If you don’t know who Sergei is, you should. There’s plenty of material out there: Just Google “bad boy of ballet.” In the mainstream, he’s probably best known for the “Take Me to Church” video that blew up the internet last year, but Sergei Polunin is a far, far bigger deal than just that.
…not that I mind a rewatch, though.
More bonus dancing, so to speak, included Maddie Ziegler dancing in the contemporary group dance with the SYTYCD contestants. Aside from her fabulous duet with Travis Wall from a couple of weeks ago, tonight’s group performance was the only time Maddie has danced on So You Think You Can Dance 2016, which is simultaneously a shame and probably a good thing. On the one hand, watching Maddie dance alongside Tate McRae showed off some of Maddie’s technical weaknesses; on the other, seeing her essentially lead the group of this season’s contestants highlighted her certain “it girl” factor when it came to performance quality.
Meanwhile, had Maddie had the opportunity to work with some of these choreographers, rather than playing cheerleader all season, the possibilities for growth would have been endless.
In addition to the contemporary group dance, there were also new hip hop and ballroom numbers for some of the dancers and all-stars. While Luther Brown’s hip hop was a joy to watch, particularly because Tahani Anderson’s infectious personality lit up the stage, the ballroom piece was…not.
That awkward moment when they announce that you’re one of the choreographers, and then you place yourself, your SYTYCD kid, or both…front and center for the entire piece. Looking at you, Jenna.
The solos. On top of everything else they were asked to do, J.T. Church, Tate McRae, Emma Hellenkamp, and Kida Burns performed their favorite solos. J.T. went with “Feeling Good.” While I still need a lot more from that plié in second, the overall improvement was pretty impressive. Emma picked “Expensive,” which had a little bit too much telegraphing of the turn in plié for my liking. It was almost as if she softened her knee up during the “traditional” part of the pirouette in anticipation of the revolutions that were clearly supposed to be in plié. Yes, I had issues with pliés in two different solos.
Next season on So You Think You Can Dance, the gimmick will be “straight vs. bent.” I mean, we’ve already done the “street vs. stage” nonsense and now the kids’ edition, so why not?
Back on topic: Tate chose her “Trophy” solo (I’m still loving that smirk when she lands in a straddle at the end), and Kida Burns decided to give his “Boogie Bruthaz” number another whirl.
The So You Think You Can Dance all-stars’ picks. This finale seriously could have been only an hour long, and I would have been completely fine with that. The problem with having both the judges and the SYTYCD all-stars come up with the “best” dances of the season was that, by the end of the night, 12 pieces had been chosen, most of which involved the finalists. There wasn’t even a chance to include any of the other six dancers in four of those choices, considering Gaby, Robert, Fik-shun, and Kathryn didn’t perform with them.
I mean, I guess there’s a reason why those other six weren’t in last week’s performance finale? But come on. Way too much favoriting for one night.
Kathryn chose “The Gift,” and it was even better this second time around. Here’s the original. Take that and add the same sort of freedom to it that I mentioned with regards to Jordan and Sasha’s encore from above, and that’s basically what happened when Kathryn and Tate took the stage for the So You Think You Can Dance 2016 finale.
Fik-shun decided to go with “The Buzz” for his final performance with Kida, which left me hating everything. I can’t stand that piece, and it’s all because there were so many awful bee puns after its debut. Sorry, Kida and Fik-shun.
Gaby and Emma tapped their way through “We Will Rock You” one last time, and then Robert brought back his “Stand In The Light” duet with J.T.
If that chid would please stretch all the way through his feet and ankles, I would be eternally grateful…
And the winner…what?! Emma Hellenkamp was announced as the fourth place finisher, which was upsetting; but somebody had to wind up in that position. My condolences to Nigel Lythgoe, who will not get to see a tap dancer crowned “America’s favorite dancer” this time around. Don’t be too sad, Nigel: You’ll always have Gaby.
Now, from here things got…well, weird. I was certain that the So You Think You Can Dance 2016 title was going to come down to a battle between Tate McRae and J.T. Church. But instead of that happening, Tate was only in third place. Third. For easily the best dancer on the show. Now, going with SYTYCD‘s history, I shouldn’t have been terribly surprised. Let’s all think about Victor Smalley, Travis Wall, Danny Tidwell, Blake McGrath, and countless others who were some of the best dancers ever on this series…but not their respective seasons’ winners. Of course, the difference with Tate was that she never appeared to be in any kind of danger of going home and was never accused — at least not by the judges — of lacking in performance quality, like some of those others were.
What I’m saying here is third place makes no sense. Second could have been a matter of the viewers’ taste in styles…but third? Is it the Canadian thing? Is it impossible to be America’s favorite dancer when you’re Canadian? I don’t know.
So, with Tate in third place and J.T. the other clear favorite, it seemed like So You Think You Can Cute™ had this thing in the bag.
The So You Think You Can Dance season 13 winner was Kida Burns. I don’t know how it happened; but then again, I also don’t know how nobody at all seemed to have thought it possible. Like Tate, Kida never put a foot wrong on SYTYCD this season. He rocked everything he was asked to do, even when it was far, far away from his style; and he even survived that horribly embarrassing interview about his crush.
So, congratulations to Kida for winning SYTYCD 2016, and we’re sorry we didn’t see it coming.1 of 1