It all comes down to this, with the season finale of "World of Dance." For the first time, the dancers will be competing across categories, as each of the finalists has already beaten everyone in their group.
After the smoke cleared, it comes down to dance group Swing Latino, hip-hop brothers Les Twins, and the contemporary ingenue Eva Igo. Only one will emerge victorious as the first-ever million dollar winner of “World of Dance.” With stakes this high and only three acts, each must perform twice in this final hour of the season.
Each act is judged 0-20 points in each of five categories for a possible total of 100 points. Dancers are broken into Team, Junior and Upper divisions. 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.
J.Lo got to pick one of their performance songs and she chose “Stole the Show” by Kygo because she wanted to see some emotion from them. They certainly stepped up to the challenge with the opening number of the show, with nary a glimpse of the ankle injury that left one of them in a wheelchair last week. The piece was tight, and perhaps my only criticism was that it took place almost entirely on a small rotating disk in the center of the stage. I was actually excited when they separated for a moment just because it meant they were going to use more of the stage. I don't mind them together, but it's more dynamic when they move around.
Les Twins Dance 1 Judges Scores: 93
Les Twins Dance 1 My Score: 18 (Performance), 18 (Technique), 17 (Choreography), 17 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 88
When Les Twins got the final slot of the night, it set them up to take the competition. They came in as the favorites and killed it every week -- with really only me disappointed last week in how they handled their injury. The competition has basically been theirs to lose. And yet, this performance was a little sloppier than we've seen them to this point. They weren't on point together as we've usually seen, and it was as if they couldn't quite channel their nervous energy properly into the dance. In prior performances, even when performing differently, there was a sense of unity in their movements, but that was somehow missing through most of this piece. Les Twins are amazing, but I'm not sure that was a million-dollar dance. But I'm sure the energy in the room elevated it live, so they may yet win.
Les Twins Dance 2 Judges Scores: 94.7
Les Twins Dance 2 My Score: 17 (Performance), 18 (Technique), 18 (Choreography), 19 (Creativity), 19 (Presentation) = 91
Derek Hough chose Gloria Estefan's “Conga” for their opening piece. One of their members, Steven, suffered a broken ankle, and so they had to carry on without him. With lopsided numbers for partnering, the group had to get creative with their choreography, and they absolutely did. This was the best they've ever performed, and they won me over with this first dance. There were still some synchronicity issues during some of the footwork moments -- particularly during the segment with just the men -- and that footwork was a little sloppy in places, but those weaknesses were more than made up for with mind-blowing stunts and tricks that were genuinely scary to watch. That's how you thrill and audience and keep them on the edges of their seats.
This second performance didn't quite impress as much as it seemed they were too focused on their tables-and-chairs props. You could see the stunts being set up and it distracted from what was supposed to be the performance. Once again, the stunts outshined the actual dance steps, which is not the strong suit of this troupe. But as the judges have always loved them more than me, I expect we shall return to our usual of them getting much lower scores from me than the other judges.
Ne-Yo wanted to see Eva channel more emotion with “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. She took on a cover of the song, but she really didn't connect with it at all. You could tell she was uncomfortable in the song choice as she just showcased her standard repertoire of moves rather than tell a story within the confines of the song. It was a disappointing opening performance from Eva, who still remains immensely talented. I just lacked that connection she usually has to bring the performance home.
Eva Igo Dance 1 Judges Scores: 91
Eva Igo Dance 1 My Score: 17 (Performance), 18 (Technique), 17 (Choreography), 18 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 88
For some reason, Eva's performances were shown back-to-back, but at least this time she was able to tell her story in her own way. And she totally redeemed that first performance with one that was more invigorated, more challenging and absolutely stunning to behold. Eva is an artist in a tiny package with an amazing future in front of her. She deserves her spot here, and proved it. Hers is the story of the underdog finding her courage and confidence and breaking through the walls she'd built around herself. Tonight, she told that story and it was triumphant and beautiful to witness.
Eva Igo Dance 2 Judges Scores: 96.3
Eva Igo Dance 2 My Score: 19 (Performance), 19 (Technique), 20 (Choreography), 19 (Creativity), 19 (Presentation) = 96
And The World Final Winner Is...
Les Twins Judges Average: 93.8
Eva Igo Judges Average: 93.6
Swing Latino Judges Average: 93.2
Eva Igo My Average: 92
Les Twins My Average: 89.5
Swing Latino My Average: 89
And just like that, we disagree on the winner, but the judges' scores were incredibly close for all three final acts. Eva had the biggest growth throughout the competition, and she really killed it with her final performance. I think Les Twins have been stronger in earlier rounds, but there's no denying that they are incredible and absolutely worthy of the championship title.
I don't have a million dollars to give Eva, but she can carry my “Fifth Judge Winner” title with pride. “World of Dance” will return next summer, and hopefully they'll get an expanded schedule with more and longer episodes so we can see every bit of these wonderful dance performances. I'll see you then!