I remember Season 4 as a very strong season. However, in hindsight, it is weaker than I remember it. It was good, but mainly notable for its dancers, not its choreography. In a way, it’s the anti-Season 3. Not only were most of the dancers likeable, but there were a number of great pairings, although they didn’t always get very memorable pieces to dance. There was only one dancer I really didn’t like, and that was Kherington. And I really didn’t like her. For the first few weeks she danced barefoot (this included a Viennese waltz!) and I was convinced she couldn’t dance in heels until she finally donned them in Week 5 for a horrific tango.
And that’s what makes me a bit sad about Season 4: there was very little good ballroom. There were no male ballroom dancers, and Chelsie, who would later go on to Dancing with the Stars, was the only female ballroom specialist. So, while ballroom styles still represented 40% of the dances assigned, many performances were quite abysmal. Most of the dances in the clips below are either contemporary, jazz, or hip hop.
This is not to say that some couples couldn’t take on ballroom styles, the strongest couples did okay with them. For example, Katee & Joshua had a pretty good samba and Chelsie & Mark did quite well with the salsa and tango. But these dances are not what these couples are remembered for.
While I liked many dancers in Season 4, Katee and Joshua were my clear favorites from the first episode, with their interpretation of a lyrical hip hop by new choreographers Tabitha & Napoleon:
Chelsie & Mark also struck gold with a Tabitha & Napoleon lyrical hip hop.
Even though this new lyrical style would soon dominate the hip hop choreography on this show (and I’m not particularly happy about that), more traditional forms were still strongly represented, for example, in this piece featuring the partnership of two contemporary dancers, Jessica & Will.
Will was a really great dancer who didn’t get the attention he should have (and perhaps would have in a season with fewer strong personalities). His pas de deux with Katee later in the season was breathtaking:
One of those strong personalities fighting for attention was Twitch. While Twitch was fantastic in his style, I really felt that he was helped along by the choreographers in order to get him to the final four. A number of pieces seemed to be designed around his limitations, especially two by Mia Michaels, including “Mercy”:
But Twitch was thrilling to watch in hip hop. Here he is with the similarly gifted/limited Comfort in an incredible piece choreographed by Dave Scott:
I think part of why this season looks weaker in hindsight is the sheer volume of dances. Couples started doubling up as early as Week 4, and so by the end of the season there were 83 total “competition” pieces, almost 20 more than in Season 3. It must have been exhausting.
Another clear problem that emerges when watching this season so closely after the others is the camerawork. While they were still on the original, smaller stage (which I much preferred for its intimate feel), the camerawork started getting a bit crazy, with multiple close-ups that sometimes prevented you from seeing everything that was going on stage. This was especially problematic in the filming of the group numbers, which is why I haven’t linked to any here.
However, despite these weaknesses, this season will always stand out for me as a showcase for Katee & Joshua, who are certainly one of the strongest couples to grace the SYTYCD stage. Also, Season 4 featured the debut of one of the show’s most creative choreographers, the lovely Sonya Tayeh. I leave you with “The Garden,” a brilliant piece, seemingly tailor-made for Courtney & Mark.
To be continued…