Growing up, I had a music teacher who rewrote the lyrics to popular songs for students to sing at all-school events. I met a lot of classics that way. I’d never even heard Sinatra’s “New York, New York” before a group of pre-kindergartners stood before me on the last day of school and warbled their way through lyrics like, “Start spreading the news/ We’re leaving Pre-K.”
I thought a lot about that song when the dance kids flocked to New York tonight.
R.J., 11, and Jake, 12, Hip-Hop: It’s never really a great sign when a pre-teen boy’s mom (or possibly dance coach) tells him, “You are the heartthrob America is waiting for.” Don’t tell Clooney, I guess? This routine is Magic Mike themed, and honestly, I’d trade it for those 10 seconds we got last year where tWitch teased his role in Magic Mike XXL. It’s a fine performance — Paula praises their attitude — but I can’t help thinking that it looks more impressive because they’re dancing together. Also, it prompts Nigel to say “stank face,” and now we can’t unhear that. We can never go back. R.J. and Jake are going to the Academy.
ASIDE: If you fast-forward through Cat Deeley, do you even deserve SYTYCD? Age is no excuse here.
Ruby, 12, Latin Ballroom: Ruby is tall enough to dance with the All-Stars, and that’s a valuable commodity this year. Also, she’s the reigning United States Junior Champion in Latin Ballroom. Do we even need to see her dance at this point? We could just wave her through and use the extra time to get a snack. But dance she does, and she’s good at it. Her hairography is on point, even with Nigel over here loudly commenting on how awkward it is to watch her dance without a partner. (Nigel, she doesn’t need a partner; she has a ponytail.) Our distinguished judge invites Ruby’s father, who is also her dance teacher, to join her onstage, and they entertain the crowd with a fierce kick (from Ruby) and a fun lift (from both of them). Who will lift Ruby when she goes to the Academy?
Tate, 12, Contemporary: Tate’s interview package includes footage of the snow-capped mountains in her hometown of Calgary, which makes me regret not being So You Think You Can Dance’s resident travel photographer. The rest of the segment just makes me regret not living my life better. Tate keeps long hours balancing school and dance, and I think it’s safe to say that they’ve paid off. She’s incredible. She’s really feeling this routine, but I think Paula’s feeling it even more; I want a little inset of Paula’s face in the corner of the screen at all times. Our mesmerized middle judge compares Tate to a ripple in a lake, adding, “You are a gift from God.” None of the other judges are going to top that. They’re back-walkover-ing all over themselves to give Tate a ticket to the Academy.
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Valeriya, 10, and Alex, 11, Ballroom: Look at these dynamos go. Valeriya and Alex are showy, but they aren’t over the top — there’s a confidence and a maturity to their performance that sets them apart. I’m very into their matching black turtleneck aesthetic; it’s mysterious and vague, and I can’t tell if they want to help me paint a set or hide a body. I fully believe that they’d excel at either. Valeriya and Alex are going to the Academy.
ASIDE: If you thought these kids would at least have the courtesy to only make you feel inadequate in one arena, think again. One of them can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute. Another can do one-handed push-ups. Sure. Fine. Whatever.
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