The Cut continues, hacking each division from five acts to just two. Last week, the Junior Division narrowed it down to two soloists: Diana Pombo and Eva Igo. We saw Swing Latino and Super Cr3w take the stage in the Team Division, with the rest to follow in this episode. Then the Upper Division will cut itself down to two acts as well. At least they get some mentoring from the judges this round before performing.
American Ballet Theater principal dancer Misty Copeland joined the panel for this round, bringing yet another unique perspective. Each act is judged 0-20 points in each of five categories for a possible total of 100 points. I'll be breaking my scores down by division as well to see if my top two acts match the judges.
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. In each category, I'll be ranking them from worst to first, revealing my top two acts at the end.
Since this category was begun last week, I've decided to leave my reviews of Swing Latino and Super Cr3w in this week as well so that it gives a complete picture of the round. Ne-Yo mentored this division.
Chapkis Dance Family
We only got to see a little bit of this, but from what we saw it was a bit of a mess. The guy they had at the center for much of the piece wasn't clean, and the Britney Spears dude bit just didn't work. I can see why we glossed over this, because whatever made the judges fall in love with them the first time around just wasn't there. My scores are based on what I saw, which admittedly wasn't the whole thing.
Once again, this group at times looks like just chaos on the stage. But when they're together, it is a thing of beauty, and they can stick stunts like nobody's business. I'm of mixed feelings, as I thought they shouldn't have even made it this far, but I can't fault the talent that they possess. With a group this big, though, they need to find a way to make it look always clean and tight so that we don't get visual overload and can actually appreciate all that they're doing. The technique I saw was strong, and the partnering is fantastic, it's just a lot to take in.
After taking out the Jabbawockeez, the pressure was on for Ian Eastwood and his boys. He put some emotional and heart into a personal story in the piece, and it was well performed and very smooth and fun to watch. But at this point it was a question of if this was good enough to boot Swing Latino from the top rankings and join Kinjaz in the next round. It's hard to say. I appreciate the artistry of what this group gave us, and they've improved tremendously just in the time we've seen them. But is this their year?
This was a little jarring at times because as Ne-Yo pointed out, b-boy style and emotion don't really work well together. So it was no surprise that there were some elements of this routine that didn't really work at mixing the two together. But at other times, they absolutely nailed it in a way I've not seen from a b-boy crew. Seeing this tender side of them, but still hitting hard with those hard moves on their heads and hands, once again proved that this crew is fighting hard to win this competition, taking risks, and leaving it all out there. The final spin stunt was a little awkward and seemed superfluous.
The plan was to show something different, but they don't want to go too far with it. There is no one in this competition doing formations like these guys. They remind me of how Jabbawockeez blew us away on the first season of “America's Best Dance Crew.” They are at the top of their game. And they added an element of smoothness that didn't contradict what they've become known for. I can't heap enough praise on their feet for that one.
This group got the short straw on the edit, but it was because they didn't really bring anything exciting to the stage. The footwork I saw didn't look quite on point, and overall it looked like it was a lackluster execution. As usual, my scores are based on the small portion I was able to see.
Derek very smartly worked with them on putting more dance and chemistry into their trick-heavy performances. I thought it was still a little stunt heavy, but nevertheless they are so very watchable. With the slower tempo, you could see a few shaky moments as Luka struggled a bit here and there, but for the most part it was just one amazing lift and stunt and shift after another. Still, I would like to see some actual dance moves on their feet partnering classic ballroom style … just gimme a few bars!
As the only solo act in the category, Fik-shun was feeling the pressure, so he added props to his routine to continue pushing himself. He poured his heart into “7 Years” with a dance about getting older and not wanting to just rush through life. You could feel that this was something he was thinking about personally, and it came through in a beautifully realized piece of artistry and poetry of motion. Fik-shun has always been able to capture emotion in hip-hop, but he's truly elevated even his own impressive talents during his time on this show. I guess the judges saw something much less impressive than I did.
These guys are a dance institution, and no one can do what they do. I seriously think they're using their twin minds to know where and what the other is doing at all times. That said, I've seen them be more dynamic and exciting than this. Certainly they were more on fire in the Duel round. The music was slower and they were giving us more of a jam than a battle, but I didn't have moments that were making me go “Damn!” like I have every other time they've hit the stage.
These brilliant artists used a prop better than anyone yet on the series. Once again, they are storytellers in their choreography and it is never short of stunning. This time, there was anger and raw frustration as they told the story of the struggles of marriage. It was totally believable, and palpable. On top of that, some of the visual things they did with the band connecting their ankles was just awe-inspiring. Choreographers rightfully look at these two for the heart in hip-hop because no one does it better.
And that leaves us with only six acts in the competition. Next week, the two acts in each division go head to head, leaving us with only one from each to go into the finale. Every act remaining is incredibly talented, so from here on out, the show is “World of Great Dance.”
“World of Dance” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.