It was the final round of the Duels, and "World of Dance" saved the best (and worst) for last.
Some of the season's strongest and most impactful performers hit the stage tonight, including one routine that brought Jennifer Lopez to her feet. "I've always been in love with dance and this just makes me fall in love over and over and over again. It's so good," she said after being blown away by this Junior division act. "That was like when dance becomes a movie."
There were plenty of gorgeous visuals on the night, as well as a few that producers kind of rushed through on television, packaging three duels into one quick-shot segment. We've got the full performances below, including a contemporary piece Ne-Yo compared to last season's runner up, Eva Igo, that deserves to be seen in its entirety.
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) Victoria was fierce and beautiful in taking flamenco to the next level. I loved her use of the prop, and some of the modern elements she put in to make it more visually exciting. This girl can strike poses and put stank on her face to terrify grown adults. Fortunately for her, she was squaring off against a pair of ten year olds. Daniel & Mishella came on a little strong, if a bit frantic at parts. When Daniel ages into being able to do lifts, if they're still together they could be a powerhouse duo as their lines and marks are beautifully hit. They were just outclassed here.
Victoria Caban Judges Scores: 94
Victoria Caban My Score: 17 (Performance), 18 (Technique), 17 (Choreography), 18 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 88
Daniel & Mishella Judges Scores: 87
Daniel & Mishella My Score: 16 (Performance), 17 (Technique), 18 (Choreography), 16 (Creativity), 17 (Presentation) = 84
S-Rank vs. ThaMOST
(Upper Team) Man, S-Rank killed this performance, bringing their A-game from the first note. Their formations and synchronicity is so tight it genuinely looks like one mind moving all those bodies. They paint beautiful pictures with their bodies and choreography, I could watch them groove like that for hours. ThaMOST came out to fight, though, and what they lacked in precision, they made up for in infectious joy Unfortunately, there was a pretty notable mishap on a stunt that didn't come off right at all, and when you're already outmatched, you've got to be perfect.
(Junior) Coming out fighting, Second to None gave the strongest tap performance yet seen on this show, with plenty of content, charm and personality. They even added a flip element, bringing it current with a hint of hip-hop flair. Fusion is the way to bring tap to the modern era, and these guys may be on to the formula. Unfortunately, Josh & Taylor brought some next level dancing to the stage right after, telling a powerful story of love and loss through impeccable body language. This was one of those moments were dance transcends language and it's all you need to understand completely, as J.Lo did when she compared this to a movie and gave them a standing ovation.
Josh & Taylor Judges Scores: 92.3
Josh & Taylor My Score: 20 (Performance), 19 (Technique), 19 (Choreography), 19 (Creativity), 19 (Presentation) = 96
Second to None Judges Scores: 86.3
Second to None My Score: 18 (Performance), 19 (Technique), 18 (Choreography), 19 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 92
(Upper) L&J took a little bit to really settle into the groove of their dance, and I think part of that was poor music choice, but when they got into it we got some death-defying stunts and some mesmerizing body work between them. The electric chemistry from the Qualifiers wasn't quite as strong, but there's no denying they're great dancers. DNA was seeking redemption from a stumble last season in this round and the earned it. They were at an 11 from the first note, and while it would have been better toned down to at least a 10, they still brought a fantastic routine filled with impressive lifts, stunts, flips and a very cool slide beneath her leg. This was a good duel, and a tragedy that only one could advance.
DNA My Score: 18 (Performance), 17 (Technique), 18 (Choreography), 18 (Creativity), 17 (Presentation) = 88
GirlCool vs. Quad Squad
(Junior Team) Short-changed on television, it was probably because GirlCool was kind of sloppy in their full performance. Their routine was kind of boring on top of that, lacking in any real dynamism or wow moments. Meanwhile, Quad Squad relied a bit too heavily on those leg extensions, while the breakdown of "Shout" was lacking in a cool factor. Otherwise, though, they came out strong with some great musicality and fierce choreography.
(Junior) Madison gave what could only be described as a ferocious contemporary performance in another short-changed duel. Her movements were so fierce, almost animalistic at times, and it created a new and exciting dynamic to contemporary. She was staccato rather than fluid, and her flexibility is inhuman. It's mesmerizing to watch her do what she does, and Ne-Yo was right in comparing her to last season's runner-up powerhouse Eva Igo. And honestly, it wasn't even close. Elektro Elite looked like rank amateurs compared to everyone else who has performed on the night. They're just not ready to compete at this level.
Madison Brown Judges Scores: 86.3
Madison Brown My Score: 17 (Performance), 17 (Technique), 18 (Choreography), 19 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 89
(Junior Team) Tribe feels like a crew moving in the right direction, but they're not quite there yet. Their ideas are solid, but they are a little underdeveloped in execution. You can see them setting up stunts and moving into position too much for this level of competition. Meanwhile, Rock needs to work on the tightness of their moves, but I loved some of the creativity and musicality of their choreography They are very talented at a very young age, so this could be a group to keep an eye on.
The Rock Company My Score: 16 (Performance), 17 (Technique), 18 (Choreography), 19 (Creativity), 17 (Presentation) = 87
Iowa Girlz vs. The Pulse
(Junior Team) Too much of the first third of Iowa Girlz' routine looked like a group of gymnasts trying to make a dance routine out of their gymnastics stunts. It wasn't until they hit their groove that their tightness and musicality began to shine through. These girls dance powerfully together, but they need to make sure they're dancing the whole time. And then The Pusle wasn't as tight as they shoudl have been, either. But even worse, they didn't really bring enough excitement in their Latin ballroom style to stand out from other ballroom dancers, and with eight of them, we should have gotten some wow lifts or moments somewhere.
The Pulse My Score: 17 (Performance), 18 (Technique), 16 (Choreography), 17 (Creativity), 16 (Presentation) = 84
Ashley & Zack vs. Morning of Owl
(Upper) Ashley & Zack really upped their game from the first time we saw them, adding beautiful musicality and storytelling to their contemporary piece. It was mesmerizing to watch their relationship struggles play out, and they made a very strong case for their place in this competition. And once again, Morning of Owl blows our minds away with some of the most bizarrely entertaining breakdancing ever seen. I love that they were doing lifts with each other of these breakdance moves, adding entirely new visual elements to some of the classic street moves. This is one of the most innovative crews on the planet.
(Upper) Embodiment just killed the game with that routine, bringing passion and strength in a way you almost never see. This contemporary group hit formations and created visuals like a hip-hop crew. This was a powerful opening salvo in a brutal duel. Brotherhood came out in fine form, killing it with tight formations and even a nod to their contemporary foes mixed into their tight hip-hop style. They hit harder and more creatively than their first time out, making this another matchup where we'd rather see both acts advance.