You're never too young to try new things

By Kelly Connolly
July 19, 2016 at 04:52 AM EDT
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Credit: Fox

Welcome back to So You Think You Can Dance! Huge thanks to Keertana for covering the top 10’s stage debut last week; I tripped down a flight of stairs and broke my laptop, and that’s why my childhood dance career never went anywhere.

We learned a lot from last week’s show. Jordan is a bona fide star. Maddie is the new Jason. Jason is the new man bun. But none of that matters anymore. The real work begins now, as the dancers pair up and leave their styles, which is why it’s time for a shakeup at the judges’ table. Jason is on a plane (convenient), and tWitch has taken his place. Are there squatters’ rights for reality-competition judges? Can tWitch just stay in that seat? Replacing Jason with tWitch is like replacing one sad male Ghostbusters fan with 400 Kate McKinnons.

Let’s get to it. tWitch has wisdom to share.

Jordan and Ruby

Choreographer: Sean Cheesman, African Jazz

Song: “Breath Connect Us All” by Professor Trace and The Energizers

To get the bad news out of the way first, this song is not doing it for me. The beat is there, but the voiceover is more suited to Jordan’s dream show (So You Think You Can Sleep) than this one. It’s too slow for such sharp choreography, and it doesn’t do justice to the hard work these girls are doing. Now for the good news: everything else. Jordan and Ruby are fierce. Jordan brings a little bit more soul to the dance than Ruby does, but they both attack it. I’d hire them to breathe for me any day. To quote tWitch, “Y’all did that.”

Emma and J.T.

Choreographers: Nappytabs, Hip-Hop

Song: “Dessert (Remix)” by Dawin feat. Silento

Cat would like to remind you that this routine is based on “brand-new characters!” and any resemblance to other fictional chocolatiers named Willy is purely coincidental. That said, Emma wants a golden ticket. I had a feeling, based on last week’s group number, that she could handle herself in hip-hop, and she mostly proves that this week. Her arms are a little bit stiff sometimes, but she hits hard, and she’s fun to watch. J.T. can’t break out of his own cuteness, but he’s still a lot sharper than I expected him to be; Nigel says watching him is “slightly uncomfortable,” but I think he’s just referring to that terrifyingly sparkly top hat. Swag on, Swagtarts.

Tahani and Jake

Choreographer: Bonnie Story, Contemporary

Song: “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Cokey

This week’s Meaningful Contemporary Routine is about breaking free from bullies, and for two non-contemporary dancers, Tahani and Jake really do it justice. They’ve already mastered this show’s favorite contemporary dance lesson, stolen from Center Stage: Forget the steps; just dance the [sorry, this show is for kids!] out of it. They don’t, for the record, forget the steps, but they give off the vibe that they care more about feeling this piece than they do about nailing every technical element perfectly, which is how it should be. Tahani is feeling it so much that she’s almost in tears by the end. Paula offers some wisdom: “There’s never a right way to do the wrong thing, and there’s never a wrong way to do the right thing.” Maddie backs her up: “Bullying is not cool.” Think on that.

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Daniela and Sheaden

Choreographer: Umario Diallo, Cha-Cha

Song: “I Love It” by Icona Pop feat. Charlie XCX

The rehearsal package shows Daniela struggling to pick up the choreography, which gets her down, because she’s supposed to be in her element. We’ve all been there, am I right? Daniela bounces back and nails this number about a girl trying to catch the attention of the coolest guy in school, even though this dance is living in too many decades at once. When are we? The costumes say Grease, but the song literally says, “You’re from the ‘70s, but I’m a ‘90s chick.” PICK ONE! Maybe it’s the rip in the fabric of time that shakes Maddie to life, but she actually offers critiques here, and they’re solid: She tells Sheaden to watch his posture and Daniela to keep the energy on her face. Paula, forced to fill the role of least-helpful judge for once, delivers: “Remember the f-word: Fun.” Noooo.

NEXT: Gettin’ down on the farm

Kida and Tate

Choreographer: Nappytabs, Hip-hop

Song: “Manolo” by Trip Lee feat. Lecrae

YES. I love this hip-hop routine about farmers who are literally wooing each other with turnips. I love their little tractors. I love the play on “turn up.” I love how the stage looks like the set of NBC’s live production of The Wiz. And I love these two together — Kida is obviously the hip-hop tornado tearing up Kansas, and Tate came to play. She could get a little looser, as Paula points out, but she keeps up with her partner the whole time. Nigel declares they’re two of the best dancers on the show and then mispronounces Kida’s name. Then he says, “Turnip the base,” and tWitch literally has to look away.

Emma and J.T.

Choreographer: Spencer Liff, Broadway

Song: “The Jet Song” by Dave Grusin

Not to sound like one of those judges who treat Broadway like banishment, but J.T. actually would be good on Broadway. He’s a tiny showman. This West Side Story number (complete with Newsies costumes, but okay) might not be as “tough” as Spencer wants it to be, but it plays like a cool treat on a hot summer night. It even satisfies Nigel, and West Side Story is his favorite musical. As he points out, Emma and J.T. could work on connecting with each other more, but they connect with the audience just fine. tWitch even gives them a one-judge standing ovation. Imagine seeing that across a crowded gym.

Jordan and Ruby

Choreographer: Dee Caspary, Contemporary

Song: “My Own” by Whitaker

This is the story of a girl named Ruby. Her parents are fighting, so her friend (Jordan) shows up to help her pick up the pieces — and in this case, the pieces are articles of clothing. The girls have to dance without falling on shirts strewn around the stage as they pack them away in drawers, and despite a few slips in rehearsals, they make it look easy when it counts. Ruby is so graceful! Nigel brings down the mood: “If you don’t become dancers, I think you can make a fortune going around people’s houses and tidying them up.” Truly the highest compliment of the night.

Kida and Tate

Choreographers: Nick Florez and RJ Durell, Jazz

Song: “I Do What I Love” by Ellie Goulding

Bring out the dancing highlighters! Tate and Kida take the stage for a pop-infused number about… Tate’s ponytail? An ‘80s rave? No one knows or cares. They’re having fun. Technically, Tate has always been on another level, but I think she needed these routines to bring out her personality. This week is the most engaging she’s ever been. As for Kida, he’s sharp and confident, and he keeps up with Tate, which is its own victory. Maybe Nigel will learn how to pronounce his name soon.

Daniela and Sheaden

Choreographer: Spencer Liff, Broadway

Song: “Rich Man’s Frug” from Sweet Charity (New Broadway Cast)

Fosse, Fosse, Fosse. This number about a bored prince and princess manages to honor the iconic choreographer without just recreating his steps, and Daniela and Sheaden look like they’re having fun bringing their characters to life. Sheaden puts so much joy and quirk into his movements that I yelled his name at one point. A translation from tWitch: “You’re cooler than a polar bear’s toenails, bro.” He also says Daniela has the legs of Cyd Charisse, and have I mentioned tWitch needs to stay?

Tahani and Jake

Choreographers: Emma Slater and Sasha Farber, Jive

Song: “Jailhouse Rock” by J-Lew and the Crew

Setting a routine about jailbirds to “Jailhouse Rock”? In summer? Groundbreaking. The basic song choice and equally basic costumes add up to a sort of paint-by-numbers competition routine, but Tahani and Jake give it life anyway. Tahani is all personality. She’s so full of personality that she makes the judges want to give up critiquing entirely: Nigel yells that he didn’t care about technique just seconds after giving technical advice, and Paula warns Tahani to watch her flick kicks before adding, “but whatever.” Everyone is going to learn and grow so much from this rigorous competition!

But the competition isn’t just one big snap-cup session: Someone still has to go home. Daniela and Sheaden are in the bottom two; after talking it over, the judges decide to save Sheaden.

ELIMINATED: Daniela

Between the two, I think they made the right call, but you have to wonder what did Daniela in. Was it because she didn’t research Fosse? Always research Fosse.

And with that, we’re down to nine already. See you next week, America. tWitch, see you especially. Don’t go anywhere.

Episode Recaps

So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation

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