It's a good thing the show is double-dipping with two episodes next week, because eight weeks for the initial round is incredibly long for a summer show. Don't get me wrong, there are some amazing dancers and sometimes I feel like I could watch Qualifiers forever, but there is an end goal here.
Maybe J.Lo is lobbying to get a fall or winter bow for her show by showing the network just how much great dance there is out there. Or if they want to keep her on in the summer, shift her to a night of her own and give her two-hour auditions like "America's Got Talent" currently enjoys. That would move things along.
This week, "Dance" broke new ground with a male contemporary duo that really redefined the potential of that dance format, and made a powerful statement about why representation matters in the arts. You're missing out on a whole new vision and beauty by being exclusionary! On top of that, a returning duo upped the ante with their mind-blowing stunts while another group really wants to make tap cool again.
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.
About Our "5th Judge"
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) Like a herd of adorableness, this tiny crew has the hip-hop attitude and swagger down perfectly, but they're almost more performance than consistency in technique. There's a lot of potential for these girls to grow into a force to be reckoned with, but their sync was a little off a lot of the time. I loved some of their flips and stunts. I'm gonna give it up for little mama snapping her own neck to go from a partial split to a full split, though. That was dope as hell! They're almost there, but I don't think it's their time yet.
(Upper) Last season, they blew us away with some mind-blowing stunts, but they lacked in actual dance content. Boy, they really upped their game. The dancing itself was smooth and sensual and they eased us into their amazing stunts. There were some really nice lift and flip tricks in this, and perhaps none more successful than the final pose, which was flawlessly executed and visually striking.
(Upper Team) Trying to bring hip swagger and sexy to tap, it's a real challenge. Tap always struggles in televised competitions, because it's really hard to stand out visually when the true artistry is happening in the feet. I'm not sure why they chose such loud music as tap creates a music of its own. At least give us a breakdown section or something! They really tried, but there have been more exciting and dynamic tap dancers on "So You Think You Can Dance." They just brought more of the same, only in cooler "street" clothes. The technique was strong, but it's not going to win any votes. And I say this as a former tapper who loves the artform. They need to up the ante if they want to really take on this show.
(Upper) This duo is pushing the boundaries of dance just by being "two dudes" who dance contemporary together. There was a whole new energy to their dance style that was at times a little manic and aggressive, and yet so purposeful and well performed. The storytelling was top-notch, and really broke new ground in what is acceptable in the tradition-dominated world of dance. Two guys expressing emotions and feelings together through dance shouldn't be taboo, and as we just saw, it doesn't have to lose any of its masculinity, either. That was just some damned fine dancing.
(Upper) Their musicality was just stupid good, and what a fun and light-hearted exploration of love at first sight. "Stand by Me" was a great choice for a hip-hop routine that's heavily infused with locking and isolations as it has such hard staccato beats with that iconic rhythm. There was a humorous innocence to Joseph trying to woo Alisa, and yet it was mesmerizing watching how in tune they were with one another's bodies. This may be the tightest hip-hop duo of the season, reminiscent of Keone & Mari from Season 1.
(Junior) While they were charming, the dancing was a little frantic and out of control for my tastes. It could be something that comes with experience, but they also didn't settle into the groove at all of their song. It was like they had too much manic energy and they couldn't dig into the dance floor at all and really bring any swag to their routine. This felt very amateurish. This is definitely a charming brother duo, but not one that is ready for the world stage.
(Upper) Animation is an oft-misunderstood street style of dance, but when done well it is absolutely mesmerizing. The problem is that this wasn't done particularly well. They didn't focus enough on the stillness between moments and motion to really accentuate the visual imagery being created in the artform. It was performed like a troupe who is still exploring what animation is.
(Junior team) This squad was tight and strong and created some visually powerful images throughout that routine. I would have liked to see a little more variety in their specific steps, but everything they presented was hit hard and tight and their synchronicity was so on point it was like they were all working from a single mind. That's how you build a successful dance crew, you have to always be aware that you are creating one visual presentation with multiple bodies. These girls have a ton of potential here, and I can't wait to see how they up their game.