The kids are taking over

By Kelly Connolly
August 30, 2016 at 04:37 AM EDT

So You Think You Can Dance, you don’t look a day over 249.

We’ve arrived at the 250th episode of the little dance show that could, and to celebrate the big occasion, the kids get to stay up past their bedtimes and perform routines they choreographed all by themselves. Don’t cue up the sad power ballad just yet — they’re actually really good. Is this how parents feel when their kids learn to bike without training wheels? We’ll never be needed again!

Let’s get to it, before Cat embarrasses herself* in front of Savion Glover.

*Just kidding; could you imagine?

Tate and All-Star Kathryn

Choreographer: Stacey Tookey, Contemporary

Song: “This Gift (Bonus Track)” by Glen Hansard

You already know how this goes. I don’t need to tell you. Stacey Tookey is choreographing. Tate and Kathryn are acting out the story of their real-life friendship to the tune of Glen Hansard. They’re wearing yellow dresses. You already know they both emerge from this piece like pure little rays of sunlight. I still think Tate suffers from the occasional case of Maddie Ziegler Performance Face, but she’s technically unparalleled and her relationship with Kathryn makes me want a sister. There’s no better time for Jason to drop the line he’s been rehearsing for weeks now: “I’m looking at not one, but two All-Stars on that stage.”

The funniest part of this segment is when Tate worries this could be her last night in the competition.

Kida and All-Star Fik-Shun

Choreographers: Phoenix and Pharside, Krump

Song: “All the Way Up” by Fat Joe & Remy Ma feat. French Montana & Infared

The funniest part of this segment is Maddie’s face when she tries to compliment Kida. Maddie has no idea how to talk about hip-hop, and I think it’s my favorite thing about her tenure on this show. (It’s either that or her side braids.) I mean that genuinely: Maddie is the honest face of this show’s weird issue with “street” dance, which even last season’s stage vs. street shake-up couldn’t fix. Nigel flat-out admits he has no business critiquing a krump routine — right before he critiques this krump routine. So let’s throw it to Jason: This was “buck.” Kida has such great energy; it wavers toward the end of the number, when it feels like he isn’t hitting as hard as Fik-Shun, but he’s always fun to watch. He’s also the perfect size for Fik-Shun to backflip over. Who could ask for more than that?

Emma and All-Star Gaby

Choreographer: Savion Glover, Tap

Song: “On the Sunny Side of the Street” by Ella Fitzgerald & Count Basie

Savion Glover’s in the house tonight to show the mortals how it’s done; this number puts Gaby and Emma through the wringer, but he doesn’t break a sweat. I feel like it’s probably his bedtime cool-down routine. Savion Glover plays the jazz flute and then does this dance and immediately drifts off to sleep in a mountain of throw pillows while his dogs lay out his outfit for the next day. That’s the world I want to live in.

Emma’s routines this season have been difficult mostly because they’ve been fast, but Glover offers a whole new way to look at tap: It’s musical and intricate, but it’s slow. It lets Gaby and Emma’s feet do the talking. I especially love when their ankles fold in on themselves but somehow don’t give in. All of the judges are excited to report Emma “sat in the groove” tonight, but Paula’s critique is my favorite, only because her eyes are basically hearts the whole time. When Paula Abdul is this proud of your tapping, you’ve done something right.

J.T. and All-Star Robert

Choreographer: Stacey Tookey, Contemporary

Song: “I’ll Keep You Safe” by Sleeping At Last

How does a SYTYCD judge describe J.T.? Let me count the ways: “Our pocket prodigy,” “Picasso in a teeny frame,” “The perfect marriage between maturity and innocence.” The people love J.T. It sounds like Jason has put a lot of thought into why that is, and he has a point: J.T.’s innocence is endearing. I’ve put just as much thought into wondering why J.T. doesn’t really click with me, but I’m calling a truce. He’s still here, and I might as well just give in to it, à la Nigel — who actually follows up the suggestion that J.T. should maybe work on pointing his toes, which is only the first thing you learn in ballet, with, “Not that anyone cares! They’re too busy looking at your cute little face!” At least he’s honest about it?

That being said, there are worse ways to spend two minutes than watching this little one swing around in Robert’s arms. Forget the father-and-son story; the thesis statement of every one of J.T and Robert’s routines is “THROW J.T. IN THE AIR LIKE A PILLOW,” and I’m okay with it. And the mutual hair ruffling at the end? Precious.

NEXT: Grease is the word

Tahani and All-Star Comfort

Choreographer: Dave Scott, Tribal Hip-Hop

Song: “WTF (Where They From)” by Missy Elliott feat. Pharrell Williams

I’m recording Tahani’s, “Wow, you just did that!” and setting it as my text alert. I’ll miss that firecracker. Dave Scott’s African-infused piece might expose a few of Tahani’s weaknesses — next to Comfort, she just isn’t as sharp — but it also shows off her big personality. This dance is just fun. Paula scolds Scott for exhausting his dancers, then tells Tahani how impressed she is, adding that she needs to work on completing every movement. Nigel starts his critique with “hakuna matata,” and I stop listening.

Tate and All-Star Kathryn

Choreographer: Tate, Contemporary

Song: “Footprints” by Jeff Grace

Travis Wall: The Next Generation. Tate is the first of the contestants to show off her choreography, and she sets a high bar with this piece about the masks we wear when we want to look perfect. Masks are never my favorite dance accessory (show me your face), but this works: Tate is smart enough to get the masks off early, paving the way for a subdued but gorgeous routine that obviously means a lot to her. And she didn’t just think about the theme; she also thought about the persona she’s crafted on the show. Tate went out of her way to play against type by not including a single développé. I’m almost as proud as Paula is.

Kida and All-Star Fik-Shun

Choreographer: Kida, Hip-Hop

Song: “I Can Make Ya” by Fingazz

Kida obviously had more fun in his puppet makeup than I had looking at his puppet makeup, because this routine is heavy on the face paint — but it’s so good I’ll forgive him. Kida casts himself as a robot teaching another robot how to get funky, and he, to quote Tahani, does that. This routine is a blast. They spin on the ground at one point like they’re on little Roombas. How do they do it?! Nigel praises the humor in the piece, while Maddie admits Kida is a good choreographer and then stares into the middle distance. She’s so confused.

J.T. and All-Star Robert

Choreographer: J.T., Contemporary

Song: “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars

I only just entered this new, enlightened phase of existence as a J.T. stan, and I’m already happy here. This routine is good! I said it! J.T. knows how to choreograph for himself, which is to say he knows he needs to be thrown in the air. He cannot, however, dress himself. The plaid pants say pajamas; the bow ties say something else entirely. Here’s Jason on the pants: “I wouldn’t be picking those up.” I’ve never identified with Jason more.

Tahani and All-Star Comfort

Choreographer: Tahani, Hip-Hop

Song: “No Flex Zone” by Rae Sremmurd

While everyone else was busy choreographing routines about friendship, Tahani was over here crafting a whole Grease narrative about a popular girl and a geek. I miss her already. This piece is a much better showcase for her talents than the last, and I’m glad she at least gets to go out on such a fun, showstopping number. She lets her personality shine and Paula is glad to see her paving her own way. “To make Comfort Fedoke a nerd is once in a lifetime,” Tahani says, proving she understands both Grease and life better than the rest of us.

Emma and All-Star Gaby

Choreographer: Emma, Tap

Song: “Rather Be” by Pentatonix

It’s no hand jive, but this ode to Emma and Gaby’s relationship is adorable. The final counts are my favorite ending to any routine we’ve seen tonight: Emma and Gaby fall into a hug, then tap a few seconds more, like their feet are just shaking it out. I love it. Even the pre-dance segment is cute: an exhausted Gaby sighs, “Emma’s teaching style is drill sergeant.” Let these kids choreograph more. I’m all for it.

PAUSE for Travis and Maddie to dance. Stop hurting him, Maddie.


She might have been the most popular girl in Grease, but Tahani won’t be moving on to the next round. At least she goes out in style, wrapped in Comfort’s arms. I’d lose any competition for the privilege of a few words of encouragement from Cat Deeley.

Until next week, America.

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