Two dancers are headed home for summer vacation
I’m calling malarkey. Do you hear me, America? I’m calling A BUNCH OF MALARKEY. While all of the other dancers got to wear frilly tutus and sweet doll outfits in the opening number, Jordan was stuck in a shapeless bear suit, and she didn’t let that stop her. She still broke it down. That bear suit is a metaphor for the entire competition.
Welcome to double-elimination night.
Emma and All-Star Gaby
Choreographer: Anthony Morigerato, Tap
Song: “Walk Like an Egyptian” by The Puppini Sisters
It’s time for Anthony Morigerato to give Gaby a break. She’s tapped across boxes and slid down ramps for him, and she deserves to spend a week with two feet on the floor — if she doesn’t burn a hole through it. This piece is quick. It’s also a good showcase for Emma’s personality, especially because the partners get so much time side by side; whenever Emma starts to get too cute, she looks over at Gaby and finds her spunk. Paula says Emma is made for TV, while Maddie coos, “You are such a good little tapper!” Remember when being three years older than someone felt like a lifetime?
Tahani and All-Star Comfort
Choreographers: Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo, Hip-Hop
Song: “I’m Going Down” by Rose Royce
NappyTabs loves a good wall. In the first of the night’s big emotional numbers, Comfort and Tahani are a mother and daughter left to pick up the pieces when Tahani’s father walks out. They spend most of the routine on opposite sides of a wall, and even though they both do a solid job (Tahani especially) acting out their own grief, the piece really clicks when Comfort joins Tahani in her room. Not to sound like Maddie, but Tahani is a good little actress! Maddie, heartbreakingly, notes that she can relate. Nigel creeps it up for her: “Don’t worry girls, I’m coming home.” Then he marvels at how Tabitha and Napoleon always “somehow manage to get emotion into hip-hop,” because we all know it’s empty and soulless the rest of the time.
Ruby and All-Star Paul
Choreographer: Jean Marc Genereux, Paso Doble
Song: “Echelon” by Jack Trammell
Sponsored by Lenny Kravitz’s gold eyeliner, it’s the 76th annual Hunger Games! From her side braid to her red leather bodysuit, Ruby is channeling Katniss this week, and it’s working for her. It’s good to see a paso that doesn’t rely on the swoopy skirt. With all of that fabric out of the picture, Ruby and Paul’s lines are razor-sharp and their lifts are clean. The judges love it, so there’s no need for Ruby to fire an arrow at their feast. Next week, maybe.
Jordan and Jake
Choreographers: Pharside and Phoenix, Hip-Hop
Song: “Bad Man” by Missy Elliot feat. Vybez Cartel & M.I.A.
A story: My favorite high-school hip-hop routine I ever witnessed was set to a medley from Drumline. Those girls were my heroes. I thought somehow their spirits might be smiling on Jordan and Jake this week, but I miscalculated (probably because they’re all still, hopefully, alive). Anyway, I’m upset. This drumline-themed battle uncovers a few of Jake’s weaknesses — he doesn’t get down as much as he could — but Jordan gets down. She gets down in SHAPELESS BEAR SUITS; band uniforms are nothing. Nigel, who’s glad to see Jordan’s “personality” emerging, gives Jake a few tips before asking if he understands what “hype” means. Cat, my hero, keeps it real: “Do you?”
Tahani and J.T.
Choreographers: Emma Slater and Sasha Farber, Cha-Cha
Song: “Bom Bom (Radio Edit)” by Sam and the Womp
Tahani and J.T. are models on the runway this week — but are they ambi-turners? Not so fast. They’re both way out of their element, and Nigel isn’t convinced they’ve nailed the “cha-cha” part of this dance. I’m not even sure they’ve nailed the “model” part, but that’s the costume more than anything else. (What should we call it? ‘Rainbow Steel?’) Tahani, at least, injects her usual personality into the piece; J.T. doesn’t quite get there. Nigel offers him a few real critiques, but it still seems like the judges are going easy on the little one, promising he’ll get there if he keeps practicing. This isn’t So You Think You’ll Be Able to Dance Eventually.
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Jordan and All-Star Sasha
Choreographer: Sean Cheesman, Contemporary
Song: “Amazing Grace (Premier Video Appearance)” by Harlem Gospel Choir
In short? Wow. It’s like the whole show stopped to breathe at once. Sean Cheesman choreographed this number for his father, who’s currently struggling in the hospital. “I have a dance dad,” Cheesman says. “He loves dance. I hope he can see this.” Set only to a single vocalist singing “Amazing Grace” without instrumentation, the piece is stripped down and bathed in light; when wind machines breeze through the dancers’ white dresses, it feels like we’re in the clouds. With different choreography and lesser dancers, the effect could be too sweet, but it’s raw instead: Jordan and Sasha are all energy as they run across the stage and ride each other’s shoulders. I actually gasped when Sasha took Jordan’s face. When the piece ended, I wrote in my notes, “TOO SHORT. MORE PLEASE.” We’re not getting any more. But what we got was special.
NEXT: Are you ready for some football?
Jake and All-Star Jenna
Choreographer: Jean Marc Genereux, Jive
Song: “Land of 1000 Dances” by Wilson Pickett
After all of those heavy feelings, this football-themed jive is a lighthearted rebound (er — onside kick?). Jake just wants the ball! Jenna puts him through the wringer in a cute number that plays to his strengths and shows off his personality; he even manages to pull off a partner cartwheel with Jenna, despite the fact that she’s at least twice his height. Put him in, coach. (Extra point goes to Nigel’s Deflategate joke about Tom Brady.)
Emma and Tate
Choreographer: Sean Cheesman, Broadway
Song: “Act One: Trouble” from Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller
It’s been a while since I’ve really disagreed with Jason, but the world makes sense again, because I don’t know what he doesn’t see in this fun Broadway number about two troublemakers in detention. Decked out in plaid uniforms and high braids, Tate and Emma are a purer version of Britney’s “…Baby One More Time” video. They really click with their characters; “troublemaking student” is the kind of “bad” even these two squeaky-clean kids can understand, and it gives them an edge in a way that still feels real. “You know how to be naughty girls,” Nigel says, ruining the moment. All moments, really.
Kida and Ruby
Choreographer: Mandy Moore, Contemporary
Song: “Over the Rainbow” by Shawn McDonald
Kida and Ruby make Paula’s day with this contemporary routine about our need to look to each other for acceptance and support. Is this really the first time all season when Paula has watched a routine and forgotten she’s watching two kids? If she insists. It’s a sweet routine that leaves Kida choked up; the judges all praise Ruby’s work and give Kida tips on his technique, but pointed feet or no, I felt Kida’s emotional connection more than Ruby’s. Ruby sometimes stares into the middle distance with a stage smile on her face, but Kida keeps it serious and plays it right to her. Paula is proud of him, and so am I.
J.T. and All-Star Robert
Choreographer: Mandy Moore, Jazz
Song: “Friend Like Me (from ‘Aladdin’)” by Ne-Yo
I’ve figured it out: America likes J.T. because of Robert. I went into this ready to watch J.T. like a hawk, and then Robert started snapping and shaking his hips to a jazzy rendition of a Disney classic. Who could resist? I’m weak for all of that. Robert is making crazy-genie eyes over here, and J.T. is quite literally just riding on his shoulders. He does a fine backflip and keeps up nicely when he has to, but the bulk of the hard work here is Robert’s. I do, however, very much like the idea of J.T. as a kind of pocket genie. He wouldn’t even have to grant wishes. I’d just like to carry him with me and maybe ask his advice.
Kida and All-Star Fik-Shun
Choreographer: Misha Gabriel, Hip-Hop
Song: “The Buzz” by Hermitude feat. Big K.R.I.T., Mataya & Young Tapz
If everyone with a phobia of bees watches this video, I think we could go a long way towards curing that fear. Kida and Fik-Shun are fun as two funky bees with a little “something special” in their honey, even if the routine only exists to give Maddie a chance to work on her bee puns. “That front flip was unbee-lievable,” she says. “You guys are all the buzz.” Nigel goes on to steal both compliments. Poor Maddie. That’s got to sting.
Tate and All-Star Kathryn
Choreographer: Travis Wall, Contemporary
Song: “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles
The night’s big emotional finale (aside from the elimination) doesn’t pull any punches: It’s a Travis Wall original set to Sara Bareilles’ Waitress showstopper, “She Used to Be Mine.” None of us ever stood a chance. If Waitress had taken a different turn, this piece — which casts Kathryn as Tate’s biological mother — could be a kind of sequel. Tate resents Kathryn for not being part of her life; she wants her birth mom to get her act together, but she can’t. Kathryn is crying just explaining the plot of the dance, so you know we’re in for something real here. The choreography, which Travis says is as hard as any he’d hand an 18-year-old contestant, is intense and interdependent: Tate and Kathryn spend most of the number tangled up in each other or pushing each other away. Paula says Tate is the “same gift every week,” but I’m not sure I agree. Tate has been almost too polished before. She’s tapped into something much more real here, and she’s a more interesting dancer because of it. (Shallow aside: There is no way to make Kathryn look matronly.)
Now to the elimination. Because the show is taking a two-week break, the judges can’t save anyone this week. Both dancers in the bottom two are going home.
BOTTOM TWO, ELIMINATED: Jordan and Jake
I don’t want to overlook Jake here; he’s a firecracker, and Jenna adores him so much that she wants her own hypothetical future children to turn out like him. But Jordan, who has never been in the bottom two and whose only flaw, apparently, is not being Tate, is the one I’ll mourn the most. A link to her first solo was the best argument I had in favor of this season. I hope she keeps the bear suit.
See you on the other side of the Olympics, America.