photo: FoxOther ballet dancers, like Season 3's Danny Tidwell, Season 5's Melissa Sandvig, and Season 7's Alex Wong, went far on "So You Think You Can Dance"--but it was Season 9's Eliana Girard and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp who were the first to pirouette all the way to the "SYTYCD" winners' circle, when the two talented ballet specialists were historically crowned co-ed champions on Tuesday's finale. This was not only a victory for Eliana and Chehon, but also for the art form of ballet, which rarely receives such mainstream TV exposure, and also for "SYTYCD," which struggled through a season of unfortunate format changes and hiatuses this year, but ultimately emerged with two franchise-boosting winners of which Fox and judge/producer Nigel Lythgoe can be extremely proud.
Eliana--a cheeky Cirque du Soleil veteran who perfectly combined sass and class, chic and geek, technicality and personality--was a fan favorite from practically the beginning (aside from one fluke night early in the season, when she was inexplicably in the bottom three girls), and Nigel had actually gone so far as to declare her his favorite "SYTYCD" contestant of all time. So even though Eliana's female opponent, the also-excellent Tiffany Maher, had never been in the bottom before, Eliana's victory was not exactly a surprise.
photo: FoxChehon's triumph, however, definitely was a shocker, and anyone who'd placed a bet on Tuesday's outcome (although "SYTYCD" doesn't really seem like a gambler's type of program) probably lost a mint this week. Not only had Chehon been in the bottom three more than once, and was in fact only still on the show because the judges had saved him, but his male opponent, animator/popper Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer, was a standout from day one. Although Cyrus didn't possess Chehon's technical skill or classical background, he had the outsized personality that the more reserved and serious Chehon lacked, and on a series when likable, outgoing types like Benji Schwimmer and Russell Ferguson have beat out the likes of Travis Wall and Jakob Karr to become "America's Favorite Dancer," Cyrus (who'd never been up for elimination all season) seemed like a shoo-in.
Viewers clearly loved Cyrus's story arc, as he evolved from an untrained street dancer who couldn't even easily pick up choreography to a near-pro fearlessly and joyfully dancing a paso doble while wearing a "skirt." But eventually Chehon's own transformation--from stiff technician who couldn't emotionally connect to the silent screamer in Tyce Diorio's astounding holocaust-inspired contemporary piece--resonated with viewers even more. And so, Chehon prevailed. I suspect Cyrus may end up being the bigger star out of all this, and that he'll go on to a Twitch Boss-like career, but I think America made the right choice by voting for Chehon. He deserved this win, as did Eliana, and I am thrilled for them both. Ballet rules!
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