Unlike most competition shows, "World of Dance" thinks of itself more like the Olympics of dance. If you didn't win the gold last time, come back and try again, So one contestant did just that.
Eva Igo blew us away last year with her frenetic contemporary performances, but had to settle for winning her Junior division and taking second to Les Twins. This time around, though, she's all of 15 years old and ready to take that title.
She's going to be facing some tough competition, as a former "America's Best Dance Crew" winner entered the competition, and one crew's athleticism impressed Jennifer Lopez so much she felt the need to call out LeBron James. The way things are shaping up, this is going to be a better, stronger, and tighter competition than last year, and we're not even through the Qualifiers yet.
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) I loved how sharp they hit their holds and positions. The framework was excellent and there was some great musicality to how they choreographed this routine. It was ballroom, but hip and current at the same time. I would have liked to see more lifts, but at least the one we got was awe-inspiring -- she's so flexible! You can see their youth a bit in how they perform, but they bring a great edge and attitude to the stage. It turns out last season's ballroom couple, who underwhelmed in the second round, included Ruby's brother.
(Upper Team) I would have been impressed with the tight choreography and performance of this group without a prop, but they gave us a duffel bag, and they made that damned bag a piece of art. The creative ways they used it throughout the routine, coupled with the tightness of their performance, the storytelling elements and the playfulness of the whole routine make it instantly one of the most memorable on the season so far. These guys came all the way from New Zealand and they are not playing around. The guys' strength and athleticism was so impressive throughout, it sent Lopez into a rant about how dance is every bit as much a sport as any other. "LeBron James can't do what y'all do," she told them.
(Junior) As a tap dancer, I can appreciate how difficult it is to stand out and really sell the performance up against hip-hop and contemporary and ballroom. So much of it is done in small movements with the feet, it's the showcase that's often lacking. Lucas did what he could with some creative upper body movement, and he really brought it with some dynamic and challenging tapwork below the waist. There's usually a slow swagger to the classic tappers, but Lucas brought a fresher vibe. Lopez challenged him to find his signature style, and she's right. He has to sell more than tap to excel, and he had a cool hip-hop vibe at parts that would be good to lean into.
(Junior Team) This contemporary group said their leg twirls were their strength, and they weren't kidding. Eight girls in perfect sync as they spun around and around, it was an absolute joy to watch. The discipline and work that goes into perfecting that move from rotation to extension to leg height, it's just astonishing, and it says so much about the character of the group. On top of that, their storytelling was beautiful and they really managed to create an emotional connection with the audience.
(Upper Team) These former "America's Best Dance Crew" winners came to hit it hard. This is one of the tightest locking crews on the dance scene, and they can make even the slightest movement pull you right to the edge of your seat. You never know what you'll see next. On top of great technique, awesome visuals and some incredibly tight movements, the boys brought so much fun and personality to this routine. You can tell they are polished, but they're really going to have to up the difficulty and creativity from what we saw here if they want to beat some of this competition.
(Junior) Last season's runner-up was one of the most beautiful dancers to ever grace the stage. She took contemporary to a jagged new level that was mesmerizing, body-twisting, unpredictably brilliant. There was a frantic, barely restrained energy to this performance, like she was so close to just breaking out in rage or madness or possibly insanity. From graceful fluid movements to hard-hitting stops, Eva continues to mold this traditional dance style into her own form of self expression, and she remains utterly mesmerizing.