So You Think You Can Dance Australia‘s second season has been quite possibly the best single season of any SYTYCD in any country, anywhere; the level of dance on this season has been absolutely phenomenal, easily outstripping not just the second season of the American version (still the best of the four American seasons so far) but even the first season of the Canadian version (which was even better). Australia’s young dancers seem to have decided en masse to start fusing their styles at a pace well ahead of the Canucks or Americans or indeed anywhere else; if there has been one style of dancer to dominate this season, it has been lyrical hip-hop (a style that I think the various Dance shows have popularized more than any other, as street dancers have been encouraged by the show to learn technique and modern-trained dancers have been encouraged to pick up some harder-hitting skills). And the result has been truly intense, fantastic routines; the failures on this show have been so few in number that they seem all the more dramatic as a result.
Of the four finalists, Talia was probably the dark horse of the four contestants early on because she started out paired with Emmanuel, an untrained but enthusiastic B-boy whose general lack of training meant that Talia’s ability didn’t shine as much as possible. Once Emmanuel was eliminated, though, Talia really got to show off when paired with stronger partners such as Laredo (whom she didn’t have to carry). It didn’t hurt that the week of top 6, she was given two of her strongest routines so far: this hilarious beach-blanket-bingo jazz routine (her facial expressions are priceless – the Youtube quality doesn’t quite do it justice), and a Napoleon and Tabitha lyrical hip-hop which avoided a lot of their frequent sloppiness and managed to tell a story without being wimpy.1
Amy’s inclusion in the top four is one reason I love this show; she’s got natural comedienne looks (which isn’t to say she isn’t pretty; she is, but she is classic “funny face” pretty) and just great all-around skills and she is solidly dependable at everything without being dramatic and she still made top four without having any drama or a dead lover or anything like that. This hip-hop routine (at about 6:00) is one of my favorites from this season for just being straight-up fun hip-hop with no obvious huge stunts and great tutting, and her other contemporary routine (at about 6:45) with BJ the same week was just flawless. She’s got great range and sadly has probably no shot at winning the whole thing, but she’s just great regardless.
Ben is hard to pin down because he’s been so consistently excellent in a not-showoffy way; BJ and Charlie and Timomatic all had much stronger individual moments on the show, but Ben was simply a damn good partner throughout the show in a way that tended to showcase his partners more than him, despite his obvious and clear ability. I think the best example of showing why Ben made it through to top four is this foxtrot (@ 1:40); where BJ and Charlie were competing for the “lovable dork” vote, Ben went through on simply being a strong masculine presence. He’s got a shot at winning, but I don’t think he’ll pull out…
…because in the end, I think the clear favourite is Charlie, the appealing young dork from Dubbo, which is a small town in New South Wales which I am led to understand is just to the right of the middle of nowhere. Charlie’s gawky charm and clear enthusiasm have made him popular with the voters, but what’s kept him in the game beyond that is a level of natural ability that is just stunning; he picks up styles with seemingly next to no effort, and his relatively low level of training (one year of jazz and a lot of hip-hop that’s mostly self-taught) makes this all the more impressive. (Of course, in his element he’s fantastic: consider this animation-style hip-hop with Gianne.) The only negative comments he’s ever received are minor ones about keeping steps in unison, and that’s not a failure of adaptation of style but more a reflection of lack of practice time. Look at this quickstep he performed with Talia; the quickstep is widely and rightly known as one of SYTYCD’s toughest challenges and he makes it look absolutely fucking simple and joyful. He honestly reminds me of nothing so much as a very young and green Fred Astaire, and I don’t say that lightly.
So, yeah – to wrap up a ridiculously good season, the Aussies have four really good finalists. Charlie will probably win (although Talia has an outside chance, I bet). They set the bar really high for the rest of the dance world, and kudos to them.
- I secretly love how certain snarkers have taken to calling them “Nap-oleo and Tab-ofay.” [↩]