'World of Dance' Breakdown: Jabbawockeez Impress, But Ballroom Duo Reach New Heights
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They’ve been teased in the background and in promos since the beginning, and finally it was time to see how the Jabbawockeez handled the “World of Dance” stage. Success on prior shows doesn’t mean much, because I stand by my belief that Super Cr3w (who also won “America’s Best Dance Crew”) just didn’t bring enough to this stage to compete. Probably the most well-known dance troupe in the competition, would they own the night? It’s the final round of the Qualifiers Round. I can’t wait to find out.

The competition is broken up into three divisions: Junior (under 18), Upper (up to 4 dancers, 18 and over), and Team (5 or more dancers, 18 and over) -- and each act is judged 0-20 points in each of five categories for a possible total of 100 points. Act need an average of 80 points to advance. Categories include performance, technique, choreography, creativity, presentation. The division champs don’t face off until the final round of the competition.

A quick reminder about me: I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer, all for this moment: armchair judging a dance competition. From a young boy learning a shuffle-ball-change to performing with the St. Louis Ballet Company, I experienced the ups and downs of one of the most difficult physically demanding sports on the planet.

Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Ne-Yo, Jennifer Lopez, and Derek Hough. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.

Jabbawockeez

It surprised me that the show went ahead and started with them. As expected, it was an amazing performance right in line with what they always do. These guys are professionals and modern legends. I would have liked to see more of their amazing isolations and visual tricks, but this was rather a storytelling piece. It was smoother and had more swag than we’ve seen in a troupe that is known for tight pops and precision, and I even saw one member giving smaller moves at a point when the entire group was supposed to be in synch. But these guys showed range with this performance, by presenting yet another side of what they do, and they deserve to continue.

[Team] Hip-Hop

Judges Scores: 85, 89, 86 [86.7]

My Score: 18 (Performance), 17 (Technique), 18 (Choreography), 17 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 88 (Total)

The Mihacevich Sisters

There’s something about family that can really bring a tightness and synchronicity that is almost impossible to match. These young sisters (12, 14 & 16) have that in spades. Trio contemporary is very hard to choreograph, and these three managed to not only make everyone shine individually and collectively, but no one stood out as stronger than any of the others. Yes, one sister was the centerpiece of the story, but all three were equally brilliant. This was a pleasant surprise for me. I figured they’d have to be good to even be on this show, but they were so much better than I expected. To see this level at this age really means exciting things for their future as they mature and grow stronger in their bodies and their movements.

[Junior] Contemporary

Judges Scores: 82, 90, 89 [87]

My Score: 18 (Pe.), 18 (Te.), 17 (Ch.), 16 (Cr.), 17 (Pr.) = 86

Right about here, we got a YouTube tease section sending us to the website to see full performances of several acts that did make it through. The teasers we saw here showcased some very talented dancers I’m certainly looking forward to following in the next round, but it wasn’t enough to give any real critiques based on what we were shown. I’m not gonna lie, this was a pretty brilliant move. The Posse wrapped up the segment with a powerful piece about self-love. Want to see it all? Engage more with the show on its YouTube channel. Marketing genius.

Swing Latino

Like Miami All-Stars last week, this was a large Latin-dancing group, but the difference is that this group was tight and in control of every element of their performance. I was worried that the loudness of the costumes and poofiness of the girls skirts would be problematic to watching their movements, but it really wasn’t so. Their precision in their group pieces was astounding, and the stunts they threw in there were something out of an acrobatic troupe. I didn’t expect to see them, but once I did I wanted to see more of them. People flying through the air and musicality is entertainment for sure. There were a few couples that fell behind the beat in a couple of places, but this is a Latin dance group I’d be excited to watch in the next round.

[Team] Salsa

Judges Scores: 87, 91, 90 [81]

My Score: 18 (Pe.), 17 (Te.), 17 (Ch.), 18 (Cr.), 16 (Pr.) = 86

Ian Eastwood & The Young Lions

From YouTube fame to founding his own dance crew, Ian Eastwood has been at this for a long time. He took a risk competing with his makeshift brothers, but it paid off. He was clearly the star of the piece, but these guys were tight. The locking was tight and smooth at the same time. He definitely captured a bit of that Bruno Mars vibe to go with his song choice, and entertained from beginning to end. I didn’t see anything really challenging in the choreography, which I would have liked to see from him as we know he can bring more than this. Maybe he was playing it a little safe for the Young Lions, but I need to see more if he wants to compete with some of the other dancers we’ve seen already.

[Team] Hip-Hop

Judges Scores: 81, 86, 84 [83.7]

My Score: 17 (Pe.), 16 (Te.), 15 (Ch.), 17 (Cr.), 17 (Pr.) = 82

DNA

For some reason, I didn’t think I would like this duo, but by damn if they didn’t prove me completely wrong. This performance elevated classic ballroom to new heights. For a moment, I thought they were over-exaggerating their arms and carriage out of nerves, but then I realized this was intentional. They were bringing an excitement and a modern flair to one of the most classic styles of dance there is. On a show like this, it’s not enough to be very good at what you do, but elevating it into something fresh and exciting? Well, that’s enough to take you very far. The athleticism and technique on display were out of this world. This is one of the most polished groups we’ve yet seen.

[Upper] Ballroom

Judges Scores: 82, 88, 88 [86]

My Score: 17 (Pe.), 19 (Te.), 18 (Ch.), 17 (Cr.), 18 (Pr.) = 89

Eva Igo

This young dancer relied a little too heavily on the fact she could lift her right leg to her ear, but that’s something that can be trained out of her. It’s just one facet of an otherwise very interesting performance piece that had elements of anguish and playfulness and yet everything made sense together. Her technique was solid, and the dance definitely got better as it progressed. The first several measures felt like what you might see in a contemporary dance class, which definitely isn’t enough to win a competition like this, but then she emerged into her own and found her body’s voice. She’s still got a ways to go as a dancer, but she’s at a pretty incredible place already. There was genuine emotion in the piece, and solid technique

[Junior] Contemporary

Judges Scores: 85, 89, 90 [88]

My Score: 17 (Pe.), 16 (Te.), 16 (Ch.), 16 (Cr.), 18 (Pr.) = 83

And that’s it. Now the acts have to battle head-to-head in the Duels Round starting next week, which could be very interesting. I’d assume they’ll put like styles facing off against one another to create the most diverse finals possible, but maybe not. I’m looking forward to seeing these performers again, but I’m going to need them all to raise the bar if they want to continue to impress me. Join me again next week to see if they can deliver, won’t you?

“World of Dance” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

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