Genessy. Hannahlei. Jensen. Slavik.
In a week, one of those dancers will be crowned "America's Favorite Dancer" (and, in addition to a cool $250,000 prize and a spot in the upcoming live musical Rent, will also earn Dance Spirit's December cover). But first, let's recap what went down on the final jam-packed night of competition.
Genessy & Slavik
Style: Hip hop
Choreographer: Luther Brown
Song: "Poke It Out" by Playboi Carti
The only original couple to make it to the finale! And what better way to kick off the show than with a Luther Brown hip-hop duet—just like the way these two rang in the competition together a handful of weeks ago. This time, they were clad in day-glo neon sweatsuits, and they seemed significantly more relaxed than in that first week. There was a mid-routine kiss (!!!), a lot of hair tossing from Genessy, and enough confident charisma from Slavik to get him back in the judges' good graces. tWitch called it the perfect way to open the show (RIP tWitch's voice! Poor guy!), Mary called it wonderful, Nigel said it was terrific, and Vanessa said they "fully brought it."
Jensen & Hannahlei
Choreographer: Brian Friedman
Song: "Dem Beats" by Todrick Hall ft. RuPaul
YES HEELS. YES BRIAN FRIEDMAN. And yes for the level of difficulty in this routine. (Seriously, it would've been tough in flats, let alone sky-high heels.) There were moments when both dancers seemed to feel comfortable in the choreography (hello, Hannahlei doing the worm), and others when it definitely seemed to require a little more focus. But ultimately, this routine was heavy on the girl power and sass, and that celebratory post-routine hug was the cutest ever. Vanessa loved the routine, particularly the hair whipping, tWitch appreciated the precision, Mary loved everything about it, and Nigel praised both women for being magnificent.
Genessy & Jonathan
Choreographer: Elena Samodanova
Song: "Watch Out For This" by Major Lazer
Upon learning she'd be portraying a supermodel in this routine, Genessy felt hesitant. Pretty sure she can go ahead and take that feeling back, now. She did an awesome job with most of the fast footwork required of a Samba (alongside a bona fide pro, no less), and that attitude! From the minute she strutted out on the makeshift runway, Genessy commanded the spotlight—and she stayed in it until the final pose. This phenomenal routine earned the evening's first standing ovation from the judges. Mary called Genessy an "unleashed diva" (that's a good thing), Nigel said Genessy reminded him of Jennifer Lopez (NBD), and Vanessa said, "Girl, you were not playin' around." And tWitch reminded Genessy to never doubt herself, because that routine was amazing, and so is she.
Slavik & Melanie
Choreographer: Travis Wall
Song: "Gun" by Mas Ysa
Slavik hit the jackpot with this routine—Travis, Melanie, and an emotionally-charged contemporary routine! Travis knows what works on this show: Keep the costuming and set simple, and let the dancers and the choreography shine. It works every time, and it worked for Slavik. It's hard not to watch Melanie Moore whenever she's onstage, but when we could tear our eyes away from the Season 8 winner, we saw Slavik most definitely holding his own. Nigel reminded Slavik that, win or lose, he deserved to be in this competition, and said he came through with flying colors in this performance. Vanessa called his performance raw and beautiful, tWitch loved the commitment, and Mary said Slavik makes us all feel something.
Hannahlei & Slavik
Style: African jazz
Choreographer: Sean Cheesman
Song: "When Rivers Cry" by Somi
"I really went all-out choreographing this piece," Cheesman explained during rehearsals. He was NOT exaggerating. There were about a billion complicated (and potentially concussion-causing) lifts. There were pirouettes at hyper-speed. There were développés into lifts into jumps. There was enough energy to power New York City during a blackout. Bravo to Hannahlei and Slavik for somehow keeping it all going from start to finish—and for making it through without any concussions. Nigel loved it, Vanessa said it was incredible, tWitch noted the teamwork required for such a physically demanding routine, and Mary enthusiastically said it was well done.
Jensen & Genessy
Choreographer: Travis Wall
Song: "Maybe This Time" by Liza Minnelli
This was "not your typical Broadway routine," Travis told these two dynamos during rehearsals. But it was fun, feisty, and full of character. It was exciting to see these two get to dance together. Their backgrounds may be totally different, but Travis gave them choreography that perfectly suited their personalities. The judges gave it the night's second standing ovation, with Vanessa calling it smart, tWitch saying it was Jensen's best performance of the season, Mary calling them both stars, and Nigel simply agreeing with the rest of the panel (and calling the choreography "genius").
Hannahlei & Fik-Shun
Style: Hip hop
Choreographers: Randi & Hef
Song: "Move Something" by DJ Quik & Problem
It took a few weeks, but Hannahlei finally got to make her hip-hop debut on the live show, and she. killed. it. (Not a surprise, but still fun to watch.) We'd gladly pay double for Fik-Shun and Hannahlei to be our movers in the future, because they actually made packing and stacking boxes look fun! This performance was uncomplicated and high-energy—though, was Hannahlei supposed to fall in the box at the end? The look on her face said maybe not, but kudos to her for being professional enough about it all that we couldn't decide. The judges gave it a standing ovation, which is always a good sign. tWitch said it was incredible, Mary called Hannahlei a special delivery, Nigel said there's nothing Hannahlei can't do brilliantly, and Vanessa said she's been a huge fan of Hannahlei since day one.
Jensen & Robert
Choreographer: Mandy Moore
Song: "Can't Help Falling In Love" by Kina Grannis
Jensen has admitted she's not comfortable being vulnerable. Which, of course, Mandy Moore sees as an opportunity. And who better to be vulnerable with than Robert Roldan? With its simplicity and moments of stillness, this routine was the perfect way to let Jensen tap into her sensitive side. Those slow lifts, the sweet moment when Jensen and Robert joined hands, and the big explosive lifts all came together to make something lovely and memorable. Unsurprisingly, the judges were on their feet yet again. Mary, through tears, said all Jensen's hard work has paid off, Nigel said he fell in love with that performance, Vanessa reminded everyone that vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness, and tWitch told Jensen that all her rejections made it possible for her to get this far in the competition this time. Awwww.
Hannahlei & Genessy
Choreographer: Talia Favia
Song: "Numbers" by Daughter
The idea behind this routine, Talia explained in rehearsals, was that Hannahlei and Genessy (who've been roommates throughout the competition!) have always been able to rely on each other, but now they're competitors. So, basically, it was art imitating life. And ohhhhh, that roommate chemistry! These two moved so well together, with fire and passion in their eyes. It was wonderfully intense, and earned yet another standing ovation from the judges Nigel said it was like watching synchronized swimming without the water, Vanessa said it was insaaaaaane, tWitch loved the warrior spirit, and Mary gave it a Hot Tamale Train-esque scream on behalf of tWitch and his weakening voice.
Jensen & Slavik
Style: Cha cha
Choreographer: Oksana Platero
Song: "Boom" by Tiesto
Jensen was in her element for this one; Slavik, less so—and yet, he owned it. (Jensen did, too, but, obviously.) Slavik's swagger, confidence, and charisma were on full display for this piece, which was a fun, energetic, and super-sparkly way to end the show. Mary said Latin dancing is Slavik's kryptonite, but that she saw some improvement and that he got the job done. Nigel said it looked like Slavik was dancing with an All Star, but praised Slavik for his outstanding progress throughout the competition. Vanessa called Slavik inspiring and Jensen a star, and tWitch thanked both performers for what they bring to the show.
OK, so who'd you vote for? Let us know who you think will take the "America's Favorite Dancer" title next week—and who we'll be putting on our December cover!