Hats off for the top 4

By Kelly Connolly
September 06, 2016 at 12:21 PM EDT
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Adam Rose/Fox

Now that’s a horse of a lot of neon colors.

Technically, tonight’s performance was the dancers’ last chance to fight for your votes, but it felt more like a victory lap. The top four picked their favorite routines of the season. The judges told them all how much they’d grown. Remember feeling like one pirouette (Jeanine) in the last performance round could decide everything? This wasn’t like that. But that’s okay! They’re kids; no need to add to the pressure. And the clothes were great.

I can’t even pretend to start this recap with anything other than a love sonnet dedicated to Paula’s hat. I don’t believe anyone has ever known who she is at her core better than Paula Abdul in this hat. Look at that hat and tell me you don’t understand your own place in the world just a little bit better now. Meanwhile, Cat’s up here in the Emerald City, welcoming us to the end of the yellow brick road. The All-Stars are lumberjacks. Tate has pink leg fringe. This isn’t even a dance competition anymore; it’s just a colorful gala, and if that means we’re going to let these kids split the money evenly and bus them all to Disneyland, I’m all for it.

But we’re probably not going to do that, so let’s get back to the dancing.

Kida and All-Star Sasha

Choreographer: Sean Cheesman, African Jazz

Song: “Din Daa Daa (Radio Edit)” by Kevin Aviance

Look at these sharp little zebras go. Tonight’s first round, a game of All-Star Shuffle, kicks off by pairing Kida with Sasha for a high-energy African jazz number that highlights Kida’s greatest strength, which is EVERYTHING. He’s got personality. He hits hard in his style; he’s versatile and eager to learn outside of it. Later in the show, Fik-Shun takes us on a trip down yellow brick memory lane, which includes a montage from Academy week. Kida kept saying how “confident” he was, but he wasn’t cocky — he just knew how to trick himself into giving a fearless performance. Between Kida and Paula’s hat, I think we’re all unlocking a lot of truths today. He came into this competition determined to prove he was more than a tragic story, and he did it. In a onesie.

KIDA’S PICK: “Winning”

If the song fits, dance it, right?

Tate and All-Star Jonathan

Choreographer: Stephanie Stevenson, Salsa

Song: “Robi-Rob’s Boriqua Anthem” by El General & C+C Music Factory

TATE’S PICK: “She Used to Be Mine”

When Tate choreographed her own routine, she did away with the pretty leg extensions — but there’s nothing wrong with bringing them back when it counts. Tate’s no fool. “She Used to Be Mine” is her most appealing number, and I think her performance this week is even more powerful. Maybe that’s just because I’m not comparing her to Jordon. But Tate’s coronation seems like a done deal at this point, and when she and Kathryn wipe away tears at the end of this piece, it’s hard not to be swept up in their magic.

NEXT: Getting momsy with it

Emma and All-Star Jenna

Choreographer: Jaci Royal, Contemporary

Song: “How Long Will I Love You” by Ellie Goulding

The “hat” out of which these kids “randomly” picked assignments was a smart one this week. It’s like the choreographers are out to disguise everyone’s greatest weakness. Emma, for instance, is too cute (imagine going through life with “too cute” as your greatest weakness), so she’s given an emotional contemporary routine about a mother (Jenna) telling her daughter she was adopted. Forget cute — this week, Emma is sweet, and that’s totally different. But I’m not complaining; it’s still her most sophisticated performance yet, and it gives Nigel a chance to use the word “momsy.”

EMMA’S PICK: “Walk Like an Egyptian”

Our little Paula Abdul strategist has ascended: Paula is falling all over her. “I love your personality!” Paula exclaims from under that hat. “I love your clothes! And I love you!” What a dream. Jason picks Emma for most improved. Maddie thanks her for bringing joy to her face, which is definitely the right place for joy.

J.T. and All-Star Marko

Choreographer: Nakul Dev Mahajan, Bollywood

Song: “Malhari” by Bajirao Mastani (Soundtrack)

Are you picking up the Aladdin vibes this dance is throwing down? Nakul’s fun Bollywood number casts Marko as a new king (and what a benevolent king he’d be) teaching little brother J.T. how to be a prince. The cute concept is also a brilliant one, because it kind of gives J.T. an out; if he isn’t as sharp as Marko, that’s just because he’s learning. J.T. isn’t as sharp as Marko, but this is an exhausting routine with a lot of leg work, and he pulls off all the tricks like they’re nothing. That’s impressive. But it doesn’t mean I want Paula to give the kid her hat. “People keep saying you’re cute. You’re adorable. I disagree,” says Jason, pretending for a second he’s actually going to go against the grain. “I think you’re limitless.”

J.T.’S PICK: “The Mirror”

He made the right choice. This piece is a big lovefest until Nigel gives J.T. a few tips for how to grow up and I remember my own mortality.

That’s all for now. Next week, America crowns its favorite dancer and probably sets one of these kids down a path toward financial self-destruction. See you then!

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