On Monday, August 22, the long-running reality-competition show So You Think You Can Dance aired its latest live episode after its two week break for the Rio Olympics. This season, which is titled the Next Generation and features the top child dancers across America, has sifted through its competitors until only six dancers remained. It was clear to all watching that the still- standing dancers deserved their place. This week’s routines received almost entirely positive marks from the judges: Nigel Lythgoe, Paula Abdul, Maddie Ziegler, and Jason Derulo.
The night opened up with a contemporary group routine set to ‘What the World Needs Now’ by Will Young, choreographed by Travis Wall. The routine was the perfect opening number, highlighting the song’s themes of helping people instead of fighting with each other. The dancers took turns stumbling and falling to the stage floor while a few of the others would scramble to help pick them up again. The routine was particularly powerful airing after the conclusion of the Rio Summer Olympics, where countries around the world try to put aside their conflicts to crown the best athletes in the world. This theme was especially evident when the dancers stood in two separate lines facing each other, then JT, one of the youngest competitors this season, walked between the lines and joined the hands across the empty barrier. Though it was not a number that the judges could comment on, this routine certainly stood out among the rest.
The first young dancer to take the stage was Kida, a hip hop dancer partnered with season 11 winner Fik-Shun. The pair performed a hip hop number set to ‘Blow a Check’ by Zoe Dollaz and choreographed by Luther Brown. Nigel commended Kida for his performance, saying, “It’s [Kida’s personality] shining…” This exhibits how much Kida has grown in his abilities as a dancer since the start of the show, when he would get critiques to loosen up and smile more while dancing. He later performed a pasodoble with fellow competitor Tate where they played a pair of gypsies in need of some fun. While they got some technical critiques from Paula, Nigel made sure to tell Kida that he was “shocked” by his performance and that, “He [Kida’s dad] is going to be so proud of you, young man.”
Tate, who is actually from Canada, also had a good night. She performed a contemporary routine with all-star Kathryn in a number choreographed by Mandy Moore that was centered around the theme of sisterhood. Paula highly praised the two dancers for their “beautiful fluidity and grace.” Maddie Ziegler, the guest judge for this season, commended Tate for her growth, saying, “You’re becoming a phenomenal performer.” While Nigel did agree with his fellow judges, he made sure to tell Tate that she needs to “keep digging down for the emotion” for these more dramatic pieces.
Next up to the stage were JT and Emma, who performed a more joyful contemporary routine by Travis Wall set to ‘I Will Not Forget You’ by Max Richter. The dance had both dancers decked out in black and white clothes and makeup, passing around a bright red rose. The Tim Burton-esque number was supposed to be inspired by two children’s first love. Though the two got high compliments for how they worked well together, Nigel believed the routine was too cute for his taste and did not live up to his expectations. He told the two, “Coming after Tate and Kathryn, this showed your shortcomings.”
Later, when they danced with their respective allstars, they received differing marks. Emma did a number with season 12 winner Gabby in their natural genre of tap set to the classic rock song ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen. The two had fun during rehearsals; Emma received a lot of teasing from her partner for how she claimed to know the song but would immediately forget what it was called. Jason told the pair, “It’s a difficult song, and you guys nailed it to a T.” However, Nigel made sure to tell the girls that they were “a bit ahead of the beat” and to be more careful of that in the future. JT and his all-star Robert did a jazz routine set to ‘Mr. Bojangles’ by Robbie Williams which was choreographed by Al Blackstone. The number received positive comments across the judging panel. Jason said that the duo was “the most consistent pair on the show” and Paula said, “The two of you are a gift to each other.”
After JT and Emma’s routine came Ruby, the young Latin ballroom champion, and her all star Robert’s jive choreographed by Mark Ballas. The number featured 1950’s style clothes–including a suit, a full skirted dress, and victory rolls in Ruby’s hair. Ruby’s performance seemed to bounce back entirely from her last show two weeks ago, and Jason said, “We’re seeing a new dancer, starting today.” Paula seemed to agree with, “You get a stage, and you light up the entire studio.” Ruby ended her night with a Broadway number by Al Blackstone with hip hop dancer Tahani. The girls got many compliments on how realistic their friendship was on stage, though Maddie was sure that they weren’t acting. However, Jason thought that “It was very enjoyable, but it just did not stand out.”
Tahani ended the night with a hip hop routine with her all star Comfort. Jamal Sims choreographed routine was set to the song ‘BANJI’ by Sharaya J. The girls wore costumes similar to that of Harley Quinn in the new Suicide Squad movie with colorful hair extensions and bright make up–they each even carried a baseball bat. Maddie commended the dancers for their ability to work with props while dancing, something she said was not very easy to do in her own experience. All that Paula had to say was: “The two of you are fierce.”
The night ended with two announcements about next week’s episode, which will be special because it will be the series’s 250th episode. The first is that choreographer Travis Wall and guest judge Maddie Ziegler will dance for the show. The second is that the young dancers will actually choreograph their own routines. One can only imagine what they will come up with until the next episode. The show closed with Ruby coming in sixth place and leaving the show. The dancers and host of the show, Cat Deeley, made it clear just how much they would miss not only Ruby’s dancing, but also her laughter.