Last week, the incredible runs of Caitlynn and Ricky came to an end, in what was probably the biggest foregone conclusion of the season. And thus, the four dancers that I had pegged as my #1, #3, #4 and #5 dancers on my Week One recap have now made it to the season finale. Not that I’m gloating or anything, but it does feel good to be right, and not to have the biggest talent undermined by the vagaries and inconsistencies of viewer voting.

This whole season, I’ve been combining both the performance show and the results show into one recap. But since this week will feature the last versions of both, I’m going to split it up into two recaps, because this has been a whale of a season, and there’s a lot to talk about before things are wrapped up until next summer.

This week’s All-Stars are:
Joshua Allen, Season Four (winner). (1st appearance)
Mark Kanemura, Season Four (Top 6). (1st appearance)
Lauren Froderman, Season Seven (winner). (2nd appearance)
Robert Roldan, Season Seven (3rd place). (2nd appearance)

This week’s guest judges were director Kenny Ortega, who was also the lead choreographer for films like Dirty Dancing, Newsies, and all three High School Musical films, as well as Katie Holmes, best known for her role on Dawson’s Creek as well as being Tom Cruise’s significant other. She’s also a huge dance fan, having co-founded, along with Nigel Lythgoe and DWTS dance maven Carrie Ann Inaba, a scholarship program called the Dizzy Feet Foundation. That’s a very good thing, folks, because God knows the arts really need our support.

After nine weeks of competition, here are my rankings:

1. Melanie Moore – performed a disco routine (with Marko) choreographed by Doriana Sanchez, a contemporary routine (with Robert) choreographed by Stacey Tookey, a jazz routine choreographed by Ray Leeper, and a contemporary routine (with Sasha) choreographed by Stacey Tookey.

Good to see Melanie back together again with the partner that she cruised into the Top Ten with. And with Doriana at the helm, you just know there are going to be lifts out the wazoo. With disco, you expect it to be fairly cheesy, and it was, complete with sparkly mirrorball effects. Melanie’s short hair made her look kind of incongruous with the dance, but she pulled it off nicely. It wasn’t her best routine ever, and the judges agreed, but in a genre that’s really not that relevant any more (just sayin’…), it was good enough.

Stacey Tookey’s routine was right in Melanie’s wheelhouse, as it involved contemporary dancing and a love connection, with partner Robert not returning the affection that Melanie craves from him. To the truly beautiful “Sacrifice” by Sinead O’Connor, Melanie gives another epic performance. She’s gotten criticism for being lucky enough to get contemporary so many times, but to her credit, she’s been perfect nearly every time. Her body language and facial expressions are dead on, and you can’t fault her for that. The jazz routine was kind of a departure for her, because she had to put on her angry face having just caught partner Tadd in an act of infidelity. It should come as no surprise that she can get her vamp on with the best of them. Her last routine of the show, a duet with Sasha, had them playing repressed 1950’s housewives, clinging to each other for support, and it was as gorgeous and moving as you expect any routine involving the two best dancers of the season to be.

2. Sasha Mallory – performed a jazz routine (with Mark) choreographed by, a Broadway routine (with Marko) choreographed by Spencer Life, a cha-cha-cha (with Tadd) choreographed by Mark Ballas, and a contemporary routine (with Melanie) choreographed by Stacey Tookey.

Sonya crafted the jazz routine with precisely Sasha in mind, making the routine a symbol of Sasha’s struggle to overcome the many obstacles in her life, with Mark representing those obstacles. And dancing with Mark, who was sporting a fauxhawk very similar to Sasha’s, was a pleasure to watch. It was less playful than Mark’s fantastic routine “The Garden”, but it was just as electric. The Broadway routine, set to “Whatever Lola Wants”, was just okay, with Sasha playing a patron at a swanky restaurant with designs on the waiter, played by Marko. I’m just not a fan of the Broadway genre, because they seem to rely on the nostalgia factor. The cha-cha-cha was a fun little number, as it allowed Sasha to put on her ballroom duds again, but the routine itself was more style than substance, and Mary pointed out that the connection between Sasha and Tadd just wasn’t there. Stacey Tookey’s contemporary routine was the icing on a beautiful cake, as she and Melanie went all Revolutionary Road on the stage. It was so moving, and it made me realize all over again what a great show this is, to bring together two consummate professionals at the dawn of fabulous new careers, who are so different yet so eerily similar, who would never have even met each other otherwise, let alone performed with them. This is why, to me, Dancing With the Stars will ALWAYS be the second-best dance-centric show on television.

3. Marko Germar – performed a disco routine (with Melanie) choreographed by Doriana Sanchez, a Broadway routine (with Sasha) choreographed by Spencer Liff, a contemporary routine (with Lauren) choreographed by Tessandra Chavez, and a hip-hop routine (with Tadd) choreographed by Chuck Maldonado.

Strikingly, cheesily handsome in his white disco outfit, Marko spent most of the first routine twirling Melanie around on his shoulders and around his waist, and coolly struck the Travolta pose at the very end. Nigel praised him for his lifting ability, which must have taken some sheer arm strength. The Broadway routine turned out to be the most forgettable of the night for me. The contemporary routine was a step up, though I was a little baffled why they would bring in an unfamiliar choreographer for the finale. Still, Tessandra Chavez knew full well the gravity of this routine, and decided to crank the emotion up to 11.

Marko and sweet Lauren danced with truly pained expressions the whole routine, clutching at each other and flinging themselves about like their lives depended on it. It was beautiful. The final routine of the night was, ironically, the very first time that Marko and Tadd had ever been paired up, and though I fully expected Tadd to outshine Marko in a hip-hop routine, it didn’t happen. Because this was no ordinary hip-hop routine; Chuck Maldonado called it “gumboot stepping”, which was a new one on me. Apparently it originated as a means of communication between South African gold miners, and it was the inspiration for modern-day stepping dances. Huh. And so, to Outkast’s “B.O.B”, the two gentlemen, clad in gold-mining gear, proceeded to bring a very entertaining end to the show.

4. Tadd Gadduang – performed a hip-hop routine (with Joshua) choreographed by Lil’ C, a cha-cha-cha (with Sasha) choreographed by Mark Ballas, a jazz routine (with Melanie) choreographed by Ray Leeper, and a hip-hop routine (with Marko) choreographed by Chuck Maldonado.

Maybe it’s because I still had images of the Twitch/Alex Wong routine rolling around my head, that I expected perfection in the team-up of badass hip-hopper Joshua and Tadd, with the whole black guy/Asian guy symbiosis going on. The routine lacked the ferocity of Nappytabs’ best work, but it was still damn good. The one concern was that Tadd, who has a reputation for being a nice guy, couldn’t really be gangsta enough, and the judges pointed that out. It was cool to see Mark Ballas on FOX for a change, and the cha-cha-cha he drew up was very playful, even going so far as letting Tadd give Sasha a booty-slap. Trouble is, Tadd is actually quite short (he’s Filipino), and was practically dwarfed by Sasha in heels.

Ballroom dances have been Tadd’s Achilles heel, because he tends to concentrate more on his steps than his chemistry, and this was no exception. Still, when you consider they had to learn FOUR routines for this show (plus a solo), one bad one is probably to be expected. The jazz routine was a lot better, though it was hard to focus on Tadd instead of Melanie… that is, until Melanie stripped Tadd of all his clothes save some heart-covered boxers. Wow, that was naughty! Finally, the stepping routine with Marko was a lot of fun, and the coolness of it made up for the few moments when he and Tadd’s synchronicity slipped. They had a ball with the wheelbarrow they were given as a prop. The judges, probably not wanting to end the night with some sour criticism, declined to give any.

So that’s it. A season of truly amazing performances comes to an end on Thursday night, and a winner will be crowned. And, for maybe the first time ever, I can’t call it. Hardcore watchers of the show are probably either in Sasha’s camp or Melanie’s, and honestly, either one would be a worthy champion. They have been as near to flawless the whole season, and it must be noted that they couldn’t be more different in their styles. Yes, they are both capable of supreme moments of elegance and vulnerability, but… on the one hand, Melanie is grace personified. She’s sweet, soft, willowy, with a brilliant smile and adorable elfin features, and just radiates genuineness and professionalism from every pore. There is not one ounce of diva inside her. Sasha, on the other hand, wears a lifetime of struggle and hardship on her sleeve, and she has attacked every routine she’s been given with the fierceness of an Amazon warrior. She was also able to survive five weeks with a less-than-worthy partner, and that says a lot about her ability.

Not to take anything away from Tadd or Marko, who have been about as good as one could possibly ask of them, but if you’ve been watching the whole season, you’d remember that the girls of Season Seven were christened “the beasts” right from the get-go, and it’s been nearly impossible for me to imagine even the possibility of one of the guys sneaking in an stealing it.

All four dancers have been true professionals this season. Like most seasons, they have bonded with each other, and with every partner and choreographer they’ve been assigned to. They have all shown tremendous growth and maturity, and I have zero doubt that their dancing careers will be long, prosperous and happy. But the gods of reality TV have decreed that one of them be crowned the official winner, and that will happen tomorrow.

Melanie or Sasha? Sasha or Melanie? I just can’t call it. Come back tomorrow and I will.

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