E: Okay. This is getting harder and harder. Oh, I like the kids dancing in kid on kid partnerships better, but that ending? No matter how they tried to slice it, the cut was still emotionally devastating to a vulnerable child. Awful.
Here’s a quick rundown of the five partnerships and what they did:
Jordan and Ruby:
*Sean Cheesman African jazz about spirits who animate whatever they touch, set to “Breath Connect Us All” by Professor Trance and the Energizers. The package was funny (an exhausted Jordan quipped about being on So You Think You Can Sleep), the routine was high energy, and the lighting and make up and hair and African patterned bodysuits were awesome. Cat was less manic than last week, commenting on the hairy shoulders on their outfits.
*Dee Casparary contemporary about Ruby devastated dealing with her parents messing marriage and Jordan supporting her, all while they clean Ruby’s room to the sounds of Whittaker’s “My Own.” Like the flowy costumes and thought the dancing was lovely even if I think this time Dee’s sweet concept wasn’t made clear by the actual dance.
Jordan dances a duo with Sasha to Pure4Sure’s “Sunless 47” in crazy cool black and gold. Ruby continues to look nearly grown up in a green backless ballroom dress, dancing with Paul to Johnny Good’s “Muchacho.” I quite like these mini partner dances – it’s a better proportion of use for the All Stars, who’re coaching their charges through the main pieces.
J.T. and Emma
*Nappy Tabs routine about Willy Wonka in which J.T. is Willy and Emma is Charlie. We don’t see an actual ticket, and the black and white costumes are pretty far from either the classic or the Burton re-imagining, but you can see the inspiration from the song “Dessert (Remix)” by Dawin featuring Silento. I don’t remotely understand the balls falling down from the ceiling, either (couldn’t they find something that looked more like candy?), so I wish Nappy Tabs had been a little tighter in their interpretation. Cat steals the contemporary dancer’s top hat, which looks like a fascinator on her, and Nigel calls J.T. out on his flappy arms, and guest judge tWitch (who stepped in when Jason Derulo got stuck on an airplane) calls them Swag Tarts. I … okay tWitch. Whatever you want.
*Spencer Liff take on West Side Story (Nigel’s favorite ever show) set in an alley with boxes to jump off of, to Dave Grusin’s version of “The Jet Song.” Emma looks great and era appropriate, but why does J.T. look like a newsy? Seriously, who thinks that West Side Story took place some time from 1880-1935? Because those clothes? He looks like an adorable street urchin, but it really bugs me that they put him in a newsy cap and short plaid pants (and obviously another bow tie). These two pint sized dynamos bring personality and a sweet hopefulness to whatever they do, but this routine itself didn’t excite me. I can’t help imagining it with full-sized performers, leaping that much higher.
Emmy and Gaby dance to K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s immortal “Boogie Shoes” and it’s just as wonder as you’d guess. I mean, how can you tap wrong to that song? J.T. and Robert perform to Son Lux’s “Change is Everything.”
Tahani and Jake
*Bonnie Story routine about bullying, set to Danny Gokey’s “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.” It’s clearly hugely emotional for both kids (Jake has been bullied as a male dancer), and they’re individually extraordinary and terrific (Tahani is a particularly splendid contemporary dancer), but I’m bummed out that their unison isn’t on point. The judges don’t notice, but if they’d been an adult pair they’d have been ripped into tiny shreds.
*Emma Slater and Sasha Farber from Dancing With The Stars devise a jive for these two as a high energy pair of excons celebrating their release from prison with J. Lew and the Crew’s version of “Jailhouse Rock.” The tricks are awesome, the classic black and white strips feel very Elvis inspired and adorable, and the routine draws a standing O. Nigel calls it personality plus; the judges give lip service to the fact that Tahani couldn’t do the flicks, but their banter with each other and with the judges is just so adorable that nobody cares. That was Emma and Sasha’s first time choreographing for this show, Nigel notes, but it won’t be the last.
Jake and Jenna dance to J.Lo’s “Ain’t Your Mama,” which is a little too on the nose. She doesn’t look like anyone’s mama in that jump suit with the plunging neckline, but that’s the weirdness of it, too, right? Tahani and Comfort dance to Missy Elliot’s “Pep Rally” and it’s one of my favorites; they’re both great at getting down but with an incredible, joyful spirit.
Daniela and Sheaden
*Umario Diallo cha cha to Icona Pop’s “I Love It” featuring Charlie XCX. My cynical side rises up here; there is no way these two underdogs got paired together by fate (Nigel claims they pick each other’s names out of a hat or what have you) instead of by producer manipulation. Like they just happened to draw Latin ballroom, right? Sheaden has scads of personality, but the dancing is absolutely carried by a brilliant Daniela. He doesn’t have the posture down at all, but the Umario thoughtfully gives him a bunch of flips to do, and lets him stand around a lot while Daniela (who freaks out a lot during the rehearsal because she’s a perfectionist who likes to get things right immediately) shimmies around him. The judges praise Daniela and gently mention but generally skate past Sheaden’s troubles. This, it seems, is what Cat referred to at the beginning of the show as “tough love.”
*Spencer Liff Broadway piece that assumes Bob Fosse choreographed for very hip royals in the 60s. The kids love the big black throne (thankfully not made of iron swords) and pop around to “Rich Man’s Frag” from Sweet Charity. It’s very cute, with Daniela rocking a mod mini-swing dress and Sheaden looking tiny and hilarious in highwaters. You have legs like Cyd Charisse, tWitch tells Daniela; Nigel grouches when he finds out only Sheaden researched Fosse on youtube.
Daniela and Jonathan dance to “Marchina” by DJ DLVG and the tricks are insane. Completely insane. Sheaden and Marko, on the other hand, started the duos to Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” and are adorable.
Tate and Kida
*NappyTabs routine about farmers. Everyone eats raw turnips during rehearsal. Did anyone think a raw turnip would be a good idea? The dance is choreographed to Trip Lee’s “Manolo” which contains the phrase “I do it for the turn up”; love NappyTabs, but damn they’re so literal! This pairing, it probably need not be said, is the opposite of underdogs. They’re the tip top on the producers list, and what do you know, they ended up doing Kida’s own style. Tate kind of eats it alive, despite one of the judges nonsensically claiming she wasn’t far enough down in the pocket.
*Nick and R.J. jazz to Ellie Goulding’s “I Do What I Love.” And, what do you know, they ended up almost in Tate’s style, too! They end up, as Maddie Zeigler points out, dressed up like highlighter pens in neon pink and yellow, Kida with a big yellow stripe in his hair. It’s fun with a lot of hip hop influences and even a Middle Eastern feel; there are also lots of sections that feel like slow motion. Unusual. Adorably, Kida confesses to taking some ballet classes to prepare for the show, and the judges make much of his dance fluency. This kid should be in a dance school like Tate or at least a performing arts high school; he’s got so much potential.
Kida and Fik-shun receive a standing ovation for their dance to TRNDSTTR’s “Black Coast” remix; it’s a lot of animation, which reminds us of Kida’s range. Tate and Kathryn wear beautiful floaty dresses to Clairity’s “Don’t Panic.”
Finally, I should report that the show opened to an absolutely fabulous Nakul Dev Mahajan number to “Let’s Nacho” by Kapour and Sons, which might just be one of my favorite Bollywood pieces the show has ever done; during the middle of the show, the All Stars danced to a Nick and RJ piece in which Robert and Sasha are Romeo and Juliet. The music is Sia’s “Move Your Body.” There are crowns, which don’t actually fit the alleged inspiration, but whatever, since it looked cool.
And finally finally, just as I expected, Sheaden and Daniela were announced as the bottom two. Of course the two paper thin little kids were terrified. Nigel tried to be diplomatic, saying that they tried out 5,000 kids (seriously?) and announcing the ejectee as the 10th best child dancer in America, but his care was in vain; Daniela collapsed into tears before her goodbye package even started playing. The judges have likely chosen to save Sheaden because there are only four boys to begin with, but I’m sure Daniela won’t see it that way. When we returned to the stage, the contestants and All Stars are huddled together, and driven, perfectionist, passionate Daniela is no where to be seen. Jonathan tried to pick up the pieces, saying that he doesn’t regret choosing Daniela because she’s so terrific (she is, though highlighting his lack of regret seems less than tactful to me), but her absence remains conspicuous and painful. It made me feel guilty for mostly enjoying the show. In short, it felt even worse seeing a child suffer through such a high stakes disappointment than I thought it would, and my expectations were already pretty grim.