SYTYCD: Grand final

Bigger than Ben Hur, faster than a speeding bullet, hotter than the Samba. It’s hard to believe the first series of So You Think You Can Dance is actually over, but we have now crowned Australia’s Favourite Dancer. And the winner is….. Jack!

Trim, taunt and terrific. No, we’re not talking about bronzed babes on overpriced exercise bikes in late night infomercials, we’re talking about your Top 20! The opening routine was something of a family reunion – well, if your family was made up of the sassiest, slinkiest, shiniest dancers produced by this big brown land of us. Decked out in killer suits, which not only riffed on a 1920s gangster of the Chicago kind but reflected their individual genres as well, we catch up with Courtney, Khaly, Kassy, Hilton, Steph, Marco, Laura, Suri, Camilla, J.D., Jemma, Anthony, Henry, Rhiannon, Graeme and Vanessa were all introduced in turn, reminding us of why they were chosen to be part of this incredible competition in the first place. The Matt Lee choreographed extravaganza to Rianna’s trademark track, ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ showed off the strengths of all the Top 20. With Ballroom, Hip Hop, Jazz and Contemporary all thrown into the mix, the routine even bought all three judges and choreographers Jason Gilkison, Nacho Pop and Kelley Abbey to the stage! “It was fun – kinda weird actually!” says Kelley in regards to her chance to strut her stuff onstage. “It was weird because you’re used to putting them up there and all of a sudden, you’re up. But the whole thing was good fun – a less pressured, more relaxed atmosphere.”

With trips down memory lane cut into the whole show, taking us right back to the very beginning of the audition process, tonight’s performance is shot with sweet nostalgia as we remember the characters we’ve met along the way and the dancers we’ve grown to love… but the question of everyone’s lips was the same – who would walk away with the cash and the kudos?

But before we get to that, we’re treated to a style we haven’t been able to feature on the show because of the rehearsal time required: tap! Industrial, masculine and pulsing with a strong staccato rhythm, Dean Perry and the tip-tapping Tap Dogs made sure we were sitting up and paying attention! Complete with a chorus of drummers and Tap Pups so cute you wanna collect the whole set, and the Grand Final was well and truly off and racing!

Awww yeah!! It’s time for the Hip Hop kids to do their thang. The futuristic routine created by Sydneysiders Simon and Shannon from Project Moda sees b-boy Khaly cast as a hero robot, amongst a handful of other familiar faces from Top 100 week, including Demi’s little brother Carlo and Hilton’s girlfriend Jess. “The story is based on robots in a bar – like the cantina scene from Star Wars, crossed with Futurama,” explain the forward thinking boys. “They’re bagging out humans, taking the piss and having a laugh, then bar scene escalates into a dance routine. It’s always fun working with Khaly – we’ve worked him before. He keeps it professional. It’s hard teaching a group of breakdancers – they’ve all got ADD.”

The Billy Elliot boys took to the stage with all the wow-factor of Charles Dickens on Broadway! In school uniforms and tap shoes, the seven lads from the theatre production currently running showcased their young talent – hopefully we’ll see some of these lads back on the stage for future series of So You Think You Can Dance!

To Lena Horne’s funk-flavoured ‘I Got Rhythm’, the Top 10 group routine took some risks in combining a handful diametrically opposed dance styles, including Funk, Tap, Hip Hop and Broadway. “Honestly, I really think that the combination of Classical styles and Hip Hop worked so well for this forum,” says choreographer Nacho Pop. “For people who don’t know Hip Hop so well, it made it digestible and easy for them to see. It worked a treat,”

“It was challenging working with the Top 10 at this stage in the competition,” adds co-choreographer Jet, “their energy and focus was definitely different, but I kept them in line!’

With the voting lines now closed, Australia has decided who will be representing us overseas, but don’t think you’re gonna find out just yet! You’ve been waiting for them, and now they’re here, performing together for the very last time. Amid eardrum bursting applause, your sizzling Top 4 strut onstage to nail a fusion of 1930s Jazz Funk, to Xtina Aguilera’s ‘Ain’t No Other Man’. Demi said this was one of her favourite routines, because she got to work with the one and only Ms Kelley Abbey. “She’s just an unbelievable choreographer,” says the Top 4 contender. “I admire how she presses me on to achieve the best of my abilities in her choreography”. The first half of the routine are solos that allow the dancers to show off their sweet moves, and the second half sees them come together and have let loose. “They’re all really excited to be in the Top 4 but they’re all really, really tired,” explains Kelley. “It’s the pointy end of the competition so everything’s a very, very, very big challenge.”

An awesome routine by four hot dancers, but now it was time to reveal your Top 3. In order of being safe, they were: Jack, then Kate, then Rhys. The dancer announced as no longer in the running to be Australia’s Favourite Dancer was therefore Demi. Nat said she had taken this country by storm, while Jason said she was one of the most joyous people he’s ever met in his entire life.

They were born to hand jive and they’re back to prove it! Those wacky funksters of mirth, Steph and Marco, burnt up the stage with their punky Jive to The Veronicas’ ‘Untouched’. “I feels more natural now to do it,” says Steph. “It was my favourite routine of my time on the show and the first one, so it’s bringing back so many memories. Jason says we’re dancing it better now, because he can see me my and personality, rather than ‘Stage Steph’. So I’m leaving on a fun note, like I started.”

“Having the opportunity to work with Jason again is such a huge privilege,” adds Marco. “Me and Steph had so much fun with this routine, and it is one of the biggest highlights of my experience on this show.”

Camilla and Sermsah were eager to get back up on the d-floor for another Project Moda choreographed routine, their powerful, poetic martial arts routine. “It’s really nice to revisit the routine a second time,” Camilla says. “It’s in the body more, and we’re not panicking about getting the choreography; getting it right, getting judged. Sermsah and I have found an even stronger connection than last time so I’m excited.”

“This is one of my favourite pieces that I did with Camilla,” adds Sermsah, “It’s a joy to be able to redo a piece that we really connected with.”

Golden couple Laura and Anthony head back to the time of big hair and tiny shorts with their famous Disco routine, choreographed by Aleeta Blackburn, which saw them channeling the spirit of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, circa Saturday Night Fever. “Going back to disco! Jeez,” Laura laughs. “I have mixed feelings actually – it’s exciting to be back with everyone but sad that everything will finally be over.”

“I’m excited to reignite my passion for flares,” Anthony adds with a grin. “I wish my ass looked that good in all my pants! And w ho doesn’t love ‘Boogie Wonderland’?”

Next, Jemma and Rhys revisit that first Jason Gilkison masterpiece, the flowing, romantic Waltz to Celine Dion’s ‘A New Day’. “For me it was quite moving to have that relationship back together,” says Jason. “I remember they were so nervous that first week, the first dance they had to do embarking on this journey, and they nailed it. So to see this sweet couple I’d met in the very first week do the routine they’d become so well known for – it was quite overwhelming. The Waltz is the ultimate dance of love – the Waltz is always the dance that can move me.”

“Yeah, in the first run through we did, we made Jason cry,” Jemma continues. “We feel more connected now than we did the first week and the impact showed. It was so beautiful to dance with Rhys again.”

Revisiting one of the more dramatic moments of the year, Rhiannon and J.D. step out onstage to fulfill the choreography of the sultry, sensual Tango. “It was an opportunity to pick up the ball after ‘dropping the ball’,” says JD.

“It’s such an honour to get to do the Tango again and work with J.D.,” adds Rhiannon. “It’s looking hotter than ever and it’s good to dance on that stage without any pressure.”

One of the shock exits from the competition, Hilton, was more than happy to rock back to Carriageworks to revisit his classy Foxtrot with Top 4 chica Kate. “It feels awesome being back,” says Hilton, “Just hanging backstage with Top 20, and some others too – all the breakers, getting our freak on. The Green Room’s changed – there’s a laptop we can use. Dancing with Kate feels amazing. Dancing with her now, she’s grown, she’s way more better as a dancer, and it’s great to work with Jason Gilkison again too.”

Kassy and Graeme revisit their gorgeous routine to the cover of The Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ by Ray Charles, choreographed by Sarah Boulter. “I just love to dance, so any opportunity I get to consume myself with dance, and work with amazing choreographers is a blessing,” says the sassy Kassy. “It’s a pleasure to work with such a phenomenal team of dancers, such my partner Graeme and everyone else for the group routine. It’s a different feeling this time; there’s no pressure, it’s just fun. No one’s gonna say mean things, you just do it for yourself, your family and your dancing partner.”

“Dancing with Kassy again brings back the feeling of childlike joyousness and innocence,” says Graeme. “It reassures me of how happy and proud I should be of myself, and how far I’ve come in this competition. It makes me know in my heart I have transformed, and found the dancer in me I never knew I had.”

With jungle fever still pumping through their bloodstream, the talented Henry and Vanessa finish up the duo routines with their powerful Jason Gilkison-choreographed African Samba. “I’m really happy I get to perform African Samba again,” says Vanessa. “I love this routine so much, it’s so much fun, and I really enjoy performing it. This time I can be in the moment more rather than think about the process so much. I’m hoping that people watching see little intricacies because they’ve already seen it the first time – there’s a lot to this piece. I feel like I’ve matured as a performer, so I can put everything I’ve learnt into practice – it was even better than last time!”

“To be able to finish off the show from all the duo routines and do ours last is an honour and a privilege in itself,” adds Henry. “To be able to get back on this stage, and do what I love again – the African Samba was my favourite dance in the whole show – is one of the best moments I could ask for. This time round I don’t have to worry about learning other routines, I don’t have to worry about doing group chorey the next day, I don’t have to worry about anything but this routine. I’m hoping be able to show the audience different things now. I want to remind them what sent them crazy back in Week 4, and hopefully send them crazy again. This time I’m doing it not just to survive, but for all my fans and supporters, and my partner Vanessa, and myself.”

Remember Caleb? He was the young dancer from North Queensland whose incredible Contemporary moves had the judges’ jaws dropping during auditions – particularly at the fact he was just 15 years old! Well, the boy is back, and performing more of the same to Australian Idol champ, Damian Leith’s, rendition of the achingly beautiful cover of Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World’. “It’s surreal being here!” enthuses the talented performer. “It’s like a dream. After seeing everyone on TV, it’s like the dancers are celebrities. Everyone’s so nice. I’m moving to Melbourne in June to go to Jason’s new school, and then, I wanna go to Broadway like Jack.”

Three become two, and we say goodbye to Kate. Jason said she is and was and probably will remain the best female performer in this competition while Matt plainly and simply, she’s the number one chick. That leaves Rhys and Jack to battle it out for glory.

Finishing up the all-you-can-eat buffet of entertainment is a performance from the ridiculously successful Leona Lewis, and her 11-piece live band performing her smash hit, ‘Bleeding Love’. Viewers at home will remember the gorgeous Kassy and Graeme dancing to this ballad way back in Week One. Like the song? Take it home and call it your own – her album Spirit is instore now!

Did we say you could stop dancing? Now onstage as the two final two boys left in the competition, Jack and Rhys pull out all the stops in a crowd-pleasing Jason Gilkison-choreographed Beatnik Jive that even sees the pair spring into the audience for a boogie amongst the crowd, who are well and truly PEAKING!

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. It’s been months in the making, it’s taken the support of a nation to make the decision, and it’s finally here. The answer to the question that has been racing round playgrounds, watercoolers and loungerooms the country over has an answer. Australia’s favourite dancer is…. Jack!!

Well, in the immortal words of someone much funnier and cartoonish than we’ll ever be: ‘that’s all folks’. We’ll see y’all next time!!

Georgia Clark

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About Georgia

I'm a young adult novelist with a weakness for hot nerds and cheese platters, not necessarily in that order. I am currently working on my third novel. I'm pretty excited about having just turned 30 because it means I can justify spending a lot of time thinking about homewares.
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