"World of Dance" has one of the most difficult and complex judging systems of any reality competition show. With scores in five different categories combining to make a total, a perfect score seemed an impossibility. Until tonight, that is.
It was a night of powerful dance and amazing performances, including one that moved Jennifer Lopez to tears and inspired her to speak out about the power of art and dance and self-expression. But even that powerful moment couldn't prepare her for what came next. "The Duels" are underway, which means it's head-to-head competition with half of the acts going home tonight.
""This is what I love about dancers. They're different. They're made differently than other people," J.Lo said. "They have a certain type of heart. They do it for the love of what they do ... Dancers dance because they love to dance. They need to express themselves. It honestly moves to tears because it's passion, and life is nothing without passion and loving something."
The tragedy of how the duels played out is that the powerful performance that moved J.Lo to tears found itself paired off against the performance that earned the first-ever perfect score in the history of "World of Dance." And it earned every point of that, pushing the very art of dance to another level. Just when you think everything has been done, you find there's a whole new level to explore.
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) Boy, The Lab was not messing around, coming out fiercer and stronger than we've seen from them in two seasons. That was one of the tightest, most powerful performances seen by any group of any age on any show. They had amazing musicality, their formations were on point, everyone was perfectly together. They just threw down the gauntlet to the whole competition. Lil Killaz represented for b-boys, but there's a messiness that is natural to the b-boy style that always hurts them in competition and it struck again here. They just weren't as tightly together, creating a dissonance when it came to appreciating the collective performance.
The Lab Judges Scores: 95
The Lab My Score: 20 (Performance), 19 (Technique), 19 (Choreography), 20 (Creativity), 19 (Presentation) = 97
Lil Killaz Crew Judges Scores: 85.7
Lil Killaz Crew My Score: 16 (Performance), 18 (Technique), 17 (Choreography), 18 (Creativity), 17 (Presentation) = 86
Alisa & Joseph vs. Elektro Botz
(Upper) Sometimes it seems like the Duels bring out the best in the competitors, and that was certainly the case for Alisa & Joseph. They came out ready to battle, incorporating elements of robotics into their own routine to put the Botz on blast. They were tight and their partnering, even in the hip-hop style, is impeccable, Their spatial awareness of one another makes it look like one mind in two bodies. Honestly, the Elektro Botz just didn't bring their best. They were more compelling in the last round, as it seemed like they just weren't that invested in their own performance. There were no wow moments, and while they had some groove, they weren't as tight working together. It wasn't enough for me.
Alisa & Joseph Judges Scores: 87.7
Alisa & Joseph My Score: 19 (Performance), 18 (Technique), 17 (Choreography), 18 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 90
(Upper Team) Opus came out first and gave a nice performance, but it lacked an emotional connection to the story they were trying to convey. On top of that, the story wasn't completely clear. On top of that, they weren't as clean as I know they can be, with some wobbles along the way. They barely eked their way to this round, but it may end here. Especially after Desi came out and put some stank on that dance floor. Their hybrid of Bollywood and hip-hop is so utterly brilliant both styles flourish. They brought some unique visuals, lots of fast-moving stunts and really upped the ante from how they impressed us the first time.
Opus Dance Collective My Score: 16 (Performance), 17 (Technique), 17 (Choreography), 17 (Creativity), 17 (Presentation) = 84
Sean & Kaycee vs. 3 Xtreme
(Junior) 3 Xtreme hit the stage first and they came to fight. Despite coming in with the lower Qualifiers score, this hip-hop trio wasn't afraid to take on the top dog in their division. They brought tight formations, some really fun choreography and an attitude to kill. They were very smart in their visuals and worked in some nice moments, but there were some moments of sloppiness where it looked a little under-rehearsed. And then Sean & Kaycee came out and showed what polish is on a stunning hip-hop routine that had visuals and lifts I've never seen before. They utilized one another's body to express their routine in totally innovative ways, pushing the format forward. That's what dance is about!
(Upper Team) Flux utilizes lifts and throwing their women around in ways that you just don't see in dance crews, creating some really interesting and sustained visual elements. There was one moment that looked a little wobbly, and it was unfortunately very exposed, but they are truly unique in how they tell their stories. And then Lock n lol came out to fight, flawlessly incorporating a fan prop into the routine, and some fiercely tight and fast choreography. They lacked any real wow moments, but there was still a consistency and watchability about their rhythmic movements that pulled viewers in.
Royal Flux Judges Scores: 88.3
Royal Flux My Score: 17 (Performance), 17 (Technique), 18 (Choreography), 18 (Creativity), 17 (Presentation) = 90
Lock n lol Judges Scores: 89.3
Lock n lol My Score: 18 (Performance), 17 (Technique), 18 (Choreography), 17 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 88
marInspired vs. Dragon House
(Upper) While I appreciated the connection between the two men of MarInspired, I didn't think they sold this story as well as their Qualifiers performance. Even worse, they clearly set up two of the floor lifts too much, telegraphing their setup in a distracting way. While I appreciated the chaotic sloppiness in their first routine, for some reason it didn't work as much for me here. And then again, I was underwhelmed by Dragon House, who brought some intricacy but lacked any moments at all. It all felt like setup that wasn't really going anywhere and it absolutely did go nowhere. They're nicely in sync, but everything was just kind of boring.
(Junior) There was a lot of passion in Vivian's performance, which was full of amazing body control and technique. Her flexibilty is through the roof, but (personal pet peeve) I hate when contemporary dancers are always lifting the same leg. Flex that other hip and give us something new! But Vivian's storytelling was on point, the emotion was there and it was a great performance. And then Charity & Andres came out and made a play for winning the whole damned competition right now. They gave some of the most creative, unique and wholly original lifts I've ever seen, and did it with a beautifully presented story of a battle between them. This was sheer perfection, and that choreography is some of the smartest and most powerful of any dance show ... and these are kids! I'm not gonna lie, this was my only re-watch dance of the night, and I could watch it again!
Charity & Andres Judges Scores: 100
Charity & Andres My Score: 10 (Performance), 10 (Technique), 10 (Choreography), 10 (Creativity), 10 (Presentation) = 100