It's a good thing so much of the dancing was great on the latest episode of "World of Dance," because teenaged Derek Hough's romantic moves were awful.
After one 16-year-old contemporary performer revealed her routine was in response to her first heartbreak, Hough shared the ridiculous lengths he went to woo a lover abroad through correspondence. "It was front and back, three pages long," he told his fellow judges. "And I was like, 'As my tears fall from my face onto thy page,' I was dropping water droplets on it."
Jennifer Lopez and Ne-Yo were appropriately horrified at how lame he was, though Hough never revealed if it worked or not. Maybe there's game in those fake tears.
At least the dancers brought their A-games, including a contemporary group of young dancers from Las Vegas who used their platform to pay tribute to the lives lost in the shooting massacre there last year. It was something that touched their young lives deeply, just as their routine touched everyone's heart.
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.
(Upper) After a fall in the Duels last season, DNA returned to be stronger and cleaner this season. This ballroom couple was always tight, but this was probably the most intense and dramatic they've ever been. The music may have been part of it, but this was the msot dramatic and powerful paso doble I think I've ever seen. It was a stunning combination of grace and power by a partnership working with total confidence and in perfect sync.
(Upper Team) Incorporating a hockey theme, this troupe from Canada was one of the most lyrical and creative hip-hop crews we've seen yet. There was a playfulness to the storytelling that puts a smile on your face, but then underneath that they were so tight and so technically sound. It was even more impressive than it looked if you broke down just how sharp they are performing as a unit.
(Junior) While I appreciated the passion in her performance, there was a little too much reliance on being able to stick that right leg up by her ear. She did this through nearly half the dance, and yet the left leg never seemed to go more than parallel to the ground. This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine as contemporary dancers often rely on their flexibility in exchange for an actual move. Vivian had some good moments in this, and I could see the passion as she processed her first heartbreak through dance, but there was nothing really groundbreaking or innovative. She needs to mature as a choreographer and take more chances in her performances to compete on this stage.
(Junior Team) This Latin dance group has lots of energy and the choreography was where it needed to be, with lots of tricks, surprising capoeira and visual delights. The problem is that the team couldn't execute them well enough. Every time they five guys had to perform a stunt together, they were painfully not together. It wasn't even close. This looked like a routine that was still about two months from being performed life as it needed to be tightened up everywhere. Maybe they ran out of time?
(Upper) I enjoyed everything they brought to the stage, but this is a competition. That was like the soft opening of a stage production, just teasing us for greatness to come. That said, I adored the vaudeville influence mixing with their hip-hop style, as well as their cheeky performance style. There's something really special and unique about this group, but they're going to need to up the complexity and add some wow factor if they want to take down some of their competitors on this show.
(Upper) They've worked with a lot of big names, and recently both danced with Derek Hough, even. He must have been super proud of what they brought, because that was one of the most exciting contemporary duo performances I've ever seen. They created lifts I've never seen before, and Ashley's poise and control through everything is mesmerizing. On top of that, she moved so quickly and yet with such control through the lifts, and when solo. Zach was there for her at every point. All in all, this is a duo to watch.
(Junior Team) Even if you don't know that they're performing in tribute to Las Vegas, that was one of the most beautifully and powerfully choreographed routines of the season. It was so smart, with elements of chaos, terror, fear, anguish, love, harmony, unity and community. It was all there, and performed with incredible poise and grace by these young dancers. You could tell that they were feeling the emotions of the song and the message of their dance.