That's it. The Qualifiers are over, and it's time for those acts who made it through to battle head to head in the dance world's toughest televised competition. The Duels is what stands between these acts and the next round, The Cut. To give them a bit of an edge (maybe) the top-scoring acts in the Qualifiers were able to choose their opponents. Would they go for a challenge, or what they perceived as an easy win?
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. This time around, it's simply a matter of outscoring your opponent. Categories include performance, technique, choreography, creativity, presentation.
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.
Fik-Shun (#2) vs Nick Daniels (#4) [Upper]
Two completely different dance styles, so this is going to be a tough battle and one that's hard to predict. Fik-Shun came out and really impressed with the popping and locking. He's one of the best in the biz in this, and it was definitely smart to work the breakdown into his number to showcase how quickly he could hit those moments. It was a departure from his emotional Qualifier, which was smart as well. Nick Daniels, on the other hand, lost himself in that piece. It came across as more frantic than contemporary. He was too focused on showing his flexibility and lost a lot of the fluidity that made him mesmerizing to watch in the first round. Also, the first dance had something to say, and this one just felt empty. I found myself really disappointed.
Miami All Stars went with a swing routine to mix things up as they didn't think they could compete with Swing Latino in Latin, which is true. Both troupes pushed one another to add more tricks and make their performances bigger and bolder. I was surprised to see Swing Latino lose some of their tightness as they upped the tempo considerably from their first dance. Nevertheless, they continue to impress with energy and high-flying tricks. But there was some unsteadiness and they definitely left the door open for Miami All Stars. And they came out and kicked it in hard. While it wasn't as fast, the All Stars showed more dynamic moments and excitement, spotlighting several tricks throughout. It was a great swing dance with some elements of jazz and hip-hop thrown in for good measure. What an impressive showcase of their diversity and ability. I would have called this an upset, but maybe their first performances gave Swing the edge for the judges.
The underdog went first, and while they're not as technically sound as Eva Igo, KynTay definitely bring the party when they dance. You feel good watching them, and they've got a lot of energy. I thought the choreography could have used an injection of creativity and challenge as this is a competition, but I can't fault that they brought it with attitude. These girls know how to entertain for sure. But Eva took herself to the next level with this performance. Her attitude was on point as she sold the story of her song choice. She was girly and fierce and fragile and tough alternating beautifully both facially and in her movements. She had a few more physical tricks as well, showcasing amazing strength and control of her body. I'm sorry, but for me this was a clear winner.
Eva Igo Judges Scores: 89Eva Igo My Score: 18 (Pe.), 19 (Te.), 19 (Ch.), 18 (Cr.), 18 (Pr.) = 92
Quick Style took on their former teachers in this round, but not by design. They were simply the last two acts that hadn't been paired yet in their division. So it was going to be a bittersweet result after a tough challenge. The married couple came out first and it was absolutely beautiful. Their storytelling is top notch, and the way they danced and connected while disconnected during the cell phone portion was mesmerizing. It was an uplifting and beautiful piece choreographed and presented to perfection. Then, Quick Style brought something completely different but every bit as technically brilliant. What they lacked in storytelling they more than made up for in tightness and musicality. These guys dance like one and it's a beautiful thing to watch. For me, it was an almost impossible choice, and the tightness of my scores reflected that. I'm pleased with my winner, though, as that is who I'm more excited to see what else they have to offer.
The Duels continue next week, but I am already excited about the dancers that have advanced. And is it too early to ask for a two hour show next season, NBC? I'm feeling J.Lo when she says, “I want MORE!”