We saw some stunning performances in the season premiere of the world's best dance competition, and "World of Dance" upped the ante for their second week out, with some gut-wrenchingly beautiful performances.
We witnessed the return of a fan-favorite group from last season that improved so much in a year, they're almost unrecognizable. One couple redefined ballroom for a new generation, while another duo brought choreography to krump, one of the most singularly expressive and defiant dance styles on the street. This show isn't just bringing us the best of dance, it's shaping its future.
Dancers are divided into four categories: Junior (17 & Under, 1-4 Dancers) and Upper (18 & Older, 1-4 Dancers). First up it's the Qualifiers, a free-for-all round, with no head-to-head competitions. But acts need to score 80 points out of a possible 100 to advance to the next round. Each act is judged 0-20 points in each of five categories for a possible total of 100 points.
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.
(Junior Team) Returning after missing the mark last season, this group of 15 youngsters certainly had the drive and energy to compete. I'm gonna tell you right now, these kids went home and worked! This was almost a whole new crew this season, tight and full of precision. There was attitude and personality, and even the youngest members were right in there. They incorporated a few well-executed stunts, but their strength was in the tightness of their performance. That's how you step up your game and don't let rejection get you down!
(Upper) It's almost like this couple was doing isolations in ballroom, creating a unique fusion of contemporary, ballroom and elements even of street dancing. I loved how hard they hit their poses, but how precise their movements were between them. It was a perfect choice of music, the choreography was on point and so watchable. This is a couple to watch, so long as they don't always dance just like that. It was so marvelous and so very special, but it could get repetitive if it starts to look like this is all they have in their wheelhouse. But damn!
(Upper Team) This hip-hop crew from Mexico. There was a definite playfulness in their performance, and they are tight in their choreography. That said, it was a lot of moving around largely in the same formations. I wanted to see some more diversity of movement, and a few more tricks than just the one. I see the potential within them to bring something really special to the stage, but the visuals were lacking. The strength of the troupe is their sense of humor and charm, along with that synchronicity, but I want them to push themselves more creatively.
(Junior) This young contemporary duo brought partner work to a style that's often presented solo. It is unbelievable that these are teenagers, watching their synchronicity and command of their bodies and partnership. There were some formations I've never seen before, as well as stellar lifts and throws. Truly, their bodies were the brushes and that dance floor the canvas, bringing us one of the most unique and brilliantly executed contemporary routines yet seen on this show. This is a duo to be reckoned with for sure. That choreography was sick, and the execution of it was even better, creating a genuinely emotional experience.
(Upper) These two dads brought choreography to the aggressive street style of krump, which is rare to see. Krump is as much about attitude and power as it is about technique. These guys were a little more about the technique than hitting hard, but they also gave us so many different styles of hip-hop through that routine, from locking and breaking to formations and isolations. Krump might be at the root of what they do -- and it was definitely in there -- but this is a duo that can bring it all.Their was a playfulness in their partnership that only added to the enjoyment factor. They even brought some hat tricks. No, literally with a hat.
(Junior Team) Growing up in the wake of the Fukushima earthquake and aftermath, these girls found each other through dance. They were like mad orchestra conductors to start, but then they took to their feet and managed to keep up that frantic pace while bringing such impressive precision and energy throughout. The music screamed Russian ballet, but the performance was over the top and beautifully theatrical. It was so tightly choreographed and performed to near perfection. The girls weren't always completely together, but this was easily the fastest and most complex choreo we've seen yet (and that just covers the arm movements). The amount of practice that must have taken. Get it girls!