Six contestants, three dances, but only one man bun

By Maggie Fremont
August 23, 2016 at 04:05 AM EDT
Credit: Adam Rose/Fox

Finally, after two weeks of feeling inferior while watching talented adults do incredible things, the Olympics is over. Now it’s time to get back to feeling inferior while watching talented children do incredible things. That’s right, So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation is back.

Still reeling from the loss of Jordan before the break? You’re not alone. Instead of reliving that national nightmare, let’s move forward. The Top 6 are each performing once alongside their all-star in their genre of dance, once partnered together in a new genre, and on top of that, a solo. That’s a lot of dancing. Here’s how they did:

Kida and All-Star Fik-Shun

Choreographer: Luther Brown, Hip-Hop

Song: “Blow A Cheek” by Zoey Dollaz

Kida echoes all of our feelings when he tells Cat he’s happy to be back. He almost immediately changes his mind as Cat grills him on which girl in the competition Kida’s currently crushing on. What are our guesses? Tate? Tahani? Figure it out, Cat. America is counting on you. Kida isn’t so bashful when it comes to his hip-hop routine this week, a motorcycle-themed dance from Luther Brown. Fik-Shun calls his contestant the King of Swag, and really, when has Fik-Shun ever been wrong? The routine is smooth, cool, and as Nigel points out, Kida’s personality really shines through. Jason explains that hip-hop is all about a “vibe” now, which, sure? If that means Kida did a great job, I’m totally on board with that assessment.

Tate and All-Star Kathryn

Choreographer: Mandy Moore, Contemporary

Song: “Rise Up” by Andra Day

Well, this is a recipe for tears: Tate and Kathryn dancing a Mandy Moore contemporary routine about sisterhood set to Andra Day’s “Rise Up.” The routine begins and we’re all just puddles on the floor. From the beginning of the season, Kathryn and Tate have felt like true sisters, and now they get a chance to show off that chemistry. As the music speeds up, the lines the ladies find and the power they demonstrate is just untouchable. Paula is continually blown away by their grace and fluidity of movement, to which I say, um, duh. It’s been a dynamite partnership since the beginning, and although it’ll be hard to beat their Travis Wall routine from two weeks ago, this is another knockout. Nigel’s only critique is for Tate to work on pulling out more of her emotions. If that happens, I fear for America’s tear ducts.

Emma and J.T.

Choreographer: Travis Wall, Contemporary

Song: “I Will Not Forget You” by Max Richter


Ruby and All-Star Paul

Choreographer: Mark Ballas, Jive

Song: “Rip It Up” by Little Richard

Are your man-buns tingling? Mark Ballas is in the building, you guys. He’s glorious and he’s been missed while Dancing With the Stars has been on hiatus. The Ballas puts together a no-frills jive meant to show off Ruby and Paul’s personalities. It’s fun, fast, and if nothing else, reveals that Ruby possibly arrived here directly from the 1950s. It’s a marathon of a dance, and by the end, Ruby seems a little winded. That over-the-head-under-the-legs lift isn’t as clean as it could be. Nevertheless, the judges enjoy it and applaud Ruby’s magnetic personality. Paula asks Ruby if she ever gets sad, which seems pretty intense for a children’s dance competition. Leave it to Paula to ask the hard questions.

NEXT: A second Ballas sighting

Kida and Tate

Choreographer: Mark Ballas, Paso Doble

Song: “Diablo Rojo” by Rodrigo y Gabriela

So Kida’s crush is definitely Tate, right? When the Ballas asks them to do some “mature” moves, like Tate caressing Kida’s face, those awkward giggles are truth-tellers. I’m convinced. I’m also convinced these two kids need to be the last two standing. They’re great partners and both have shown the ability to take on any genre. Also, Tate’s legs. The second half of the routine (of course Mark Ballas gives them a Rodrigo y Gabriela song) is stronger than the first, and the fast footwork in the end was a showstopper. Nigel is impressed with how well Kida performed outside of his comfort zone. Just when you think Kida can’t get any more endearing, he tells us he knows sign language. Can we give Kida all the awards?

Ruby and Tahani

Choreographer: Al Blackstone, Broadway

Song: “Stand By Me” by Joseph Leo Bwarie

Al Blackstone gives the two smiliest contestants a fun Broadway number about best friends moving away from each other. Tahani thinks it’ll be easy to get into character, since she and Ruby have become such good friends throughout their journey together. Maybe I’m swayed by Tahani’s use of the word “journey” here, but I end up liking this routine much more than the judges. It’s executed well, but both Nigel and Jason find it forgettable, and Nigel even goes so far as to blame Al Blackstone for not pushing the girls hard enough. Nigel’s very sassy tonight.

Emma and All-Star Gaby

Choreographer: Nick Young, Tap

Song: “We Will Rock You” by Queen

Emma tells Cat she’s been gluten-free for one day, so we owe it to this girl to let her dance out her struggle. She’ll do so with an epic tap number to “We Will Rock You.” But before you think Emma’s getting it easy, it won’t just be all boom-boom-clap. Nick Young choreographs an intricate routine, full of rhythms over the song’s iconic beat. Jason points out that Emma held her own with Gaby, and applauds the focus on just tapping, rather than gimmicks. It’s fine, but truth be told, I would rather a full Emma-Gaby routine in the vein of the Rodrigo y Gabriela song from Emma’s solo tonight. Think about it.

J.T. and All-Star Robert

Choreographer: Al Blackstone, Broadway

Song: “Mr. Bojangles” by Robbie Williams

Al Blackstone’s second routine of the evening tells the story of a mentor passing the torch over to a young fan — the next generation, if you will (get it?). Or it could be about a man named Mr. Bojangles who is super into headwear. Either interpretation is valid. Once again, the judges all praise J.T. and Robert for their magical partnership. Jason calls them the most consistent pair of the competition, suggesting he closes his eyes every time Tate and Kathryn perform. Nigel goes on to say that if this show was about the best partnership, they’d win hands down, but it’s not — implying that J.T. probably won’t win. You were warned about Nigel’s sass levels.

Tahani and All-Star Comfort

Choreographer: Jamal Sims, Hip-Hop

Song: “Banji” by Sharaya J

“Banji” stands for “Be Authentic Never Jeopardize Individuality.” I’m new to this term, but I assume calling myself banji means I am most definitely not banji. You know who is very banji, though? Tahani and Comfort. The hip-hop gals put on another fun, high-energy routine, complete with the use of baseball bats. As Maddie points out, it’s tough working with props, but Tahani and Comfort do so with ease. Jason thinks Tahani “came out swinging” tonight. Derulo’s got jokes, people. Is that banji? And now I think I’ve hit my quota for using the word banji tonight. Wait, one more thing: banji.

Cat tries to soften the blow of the imminent elimination by informing us that to celebrate the show’s 250th episode next week, Travis Wall and Maddie Ziegler will be performing together. If that isn’t enticing enough, she also reveals the kids will be choreographing their own routines. Yes. Yes. Always this.

Unfortunately, the kiddos can’t run from elimination forever, and there’s not even a bottom two to help one of them ease into it.


Ruby attempts to smile through the tears, and the whole thing really adds some unforeseen depth to Paula’s earlier line of questioning. It’s been said before and it’ll be said again: These eliminations are rough stuff.

Episode Recaps

So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation

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