The Duels have proven to be a difficult round to watch, as two amazing acts go up against one another. Sometimes it's such a tight competition, you don't even know who's going to go home as you're scoring them until you see the final result. Even worse, in almost every act, you're sad to see someone go. Still, it's great seeing what they bring as they lay it all on the floor.
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.
The Posse gave us one of the most emotional acts in the Qualifiers Round, while Diana is one of the most polished dancers on the show. It's an interesting challenge but this is more even than it may look on paper based on their rankings. The Posse added a rope prop which created some interesting visual elements, but the piece lacked heart and enough story for me. Weirdly, just as it ended it felt like it was finally about to start, which is problematic for sure. Technically, they didn't bring anything powerful or super impressive to compete. Diana's piece felt more like a fully realized performance, and her technique, flexibility and body control and just beyond ridiculous. But she didn't use her flexibility as a crutch, instead enhancing otherwise technically sound movements, or putting an exclamation point on a moment. She's really something to watch, and has no problem filling that stage with her singular presence.
The Posse Judges' Scores: 86
The Posse My Score: 16 (Performance), 17 (Technique), 16 (Choreography), 18 (Creativity), 17 (Presentation) = 84 (Total)
I didn't put Super Cr3w through after their first performance, so they really needed to bring it if they were going to impress me. Royal Flux, on the other hand, we didn't get to see before tonight. So really it's a fresh start for both of them. Flux used props in contemporary to create an athletic and challenging performance. From what we saw, it looked pretty exciting. Super Cr3w absolutely brought it this time with a Michael Jackson-inspired piece. Unfortunately, I couldn't track down the performance video online, but take my word for it: They nailed his moves and plenty of their own, including the slide under the entire crew we've been seeing since episode one. The energy was through the roof, the tricks were inspired, and a headspin on your own elbow… what?! This was the best and tightest I've seen them (including their entire run on “ABDC”). Royal Flux looked just a little rattled, as they missed a few spots of pure synchronicity, and even lost control of their propped girl a couple of times. I love the ambition and the idea of this contemporary team, and there were some truly impressive momnts. They looked like they were working at times, which pulls the audience out of the story they were trying to tell. Technically, it was very solid, but in overall performance, they lost me a bit.
Super Cr3w Judges Scores: 89
Super Cr3w My Score: 18 (Pe.), 19 (Te.), 19 (Ch.), 18 (Cr.), 17 (Pr.) = 91
Royal Flux Judges Scores: 86.3
Royal Flux My Score: 16 (Pe.), 17 (Te.), 18 (Ch.), 18 (Cr.), 17 (Pr.) = 86
The Lab (#1) vs. Boys of Temecula (#9) [Junior]
Well, this looks on the surface like The Lab was going for an easy victory. The Boys is a massive troupe with more people on stage than any other. We didn't see their qualifiers, but they looked clean in the bits we got. The Lab took a boxing theme to the battle, and they were fierce and fearless. What a fun piece with lots of energy and cleverness throughout, as they had the boxing match happen in the dance, with a surprise winner! This group is a treat to watch, with tricks and cleanliness beyond their years, and they are so tight, too. Comparatively, the Boys were lacking something. They weren't as tight, and their choreography wasn't as ambitiuos. They pushed to add some street elements into their jazz style, but none of it really blew me away. They are a solid group, but not a spectacular group that I'm going to remember past tonight, honestly. Some of the visual elements didn't really work, and this time it did feel at times like there were too many of them on the stage, or that some of them were waiting in the background for their turn.
The Lab Judges Scores: 89.7
The Lab My Score: 18 (Pe.), 17 (Te.), 18 (Ch.), 18 (Cr.), 17 (Pr.) = 88
Boys of Temecula Judges Scores: 84.7
Boys of Temecula My Score: 16 (Pe.), 17 (Te.), 16 (Ch.), 17 (Cr.), 16 (Pr.) = 82
Les Twins (#1) vs. Kyle Van Newkirk (#9) [Upper]
Again, this looks easy on paper, but tap can surprise you. Tap was my area of expertise, and I can tell you from experience it's very hard to make tap look dynamic and exciting. Especially as a solo performer. He has a world champion pedigree, but outside of the tap world, he has his work cut out for him. He added a cane as a prop to add another dimension to what he does. Kyle brought it about as good as you can with tap, and the addition of the prop, well utilized, added another dynamic element. He elevated tap to song-and-dance (minus the song) like Fred Astaire or Dick Van Dyke even. Les Twins did it again with amazing synchronicity and technique, and then they called Kyle out in the closing moments in a jaw-dropping moment. What did we just watch? They were better even than the first time, even without the emotional elements they'd added. They are two bodies with one mind. Their isolations individually are amazing, but together they are a work of art. Unbelievable performance.
Kyle Van Newkirk Judges Scores: 86
Kyle Van Newkirk My Score: 18 (Pe.), 20 (Te.), 19 (Ch.), 18 (Cr.), 18 (Pr.) = 93
Les Twins Judges Scores: 92
Les Twins My Score: 18 (Pe.), 19 (Te.), 19 (Ch.), 20 (Cr.), 19 (Pr.) = 95
“World of Dance” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.