There are only three acts left in each of the four divisions on "World of Dance." But only one from each division will advance to the finals.
In other words, two thirds of tonight's performers will see the dreams dashed before their eyes and a million dollars go up (poof!) in smoke ... at least until they come back and try again next year. But as Eva Igo's early elimination this season after coming in second last year proved, nothing is guaranteed.
To help with these key decisions, the judges were joined by dance legend Misty Copeland and the dancers got mentoring sessions with Ciara, which had to be exciting for the contestants as well. Performers crave feedback, and getting it from a genuine superstar in your field is just icing on that cake.
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.
This world-champion kicked of the show like they'd already won and they were coming back to show off. They do what they do so fast and yet their moves are so intricate and precise. And no one does spins like this couple. Karen simply does not get dizzy. The stunts are fearless, the Latin dancing itself is sharp and on point, and they are just an absolute joy to watch at their craft.
These guys have moved me every time they danced, and it did happen here again, but not as powerfully or effectively as they're capable of. They brought out a long, red sheet as a prop to try and stand out, and while it did create some magical moments, it also hindered their natural chemistry a bit... not to mention they seemed to falter a bit with it a few times, which we've never seen from them. That's probably doom.
Michael added a fusion of martial arts into his usual contemporary style to create something that felt dangerous and fresh. Gone were the fluid moments and tender emotions, replaced with fierce bravado and barely contained chaos. It looked like he was battling his own inner demons, and I'm not sure he won. But he certainly gave one hell of a performance in this round, giving everything he had to try and take down the favorites.
Hands down, that was the best performance of the season. The Lab came to fight and they used desk and backpack props in a routine that was powerful, fun and absolutely brilliant. They closed the routine with a near-definitive statement that they believe they are the winners of this season. After that performance, I might have to agree with them. Damn!
These guys have their work cut out for them in one of the competition's toughest divisions, and they absolutely came out and gave it their all. The piece was angelic and beautiful, and their synchronicity together was mesmerizing to watch. Everything felt inspirational and almost ethereal. But then their technique was very strong as well. There was only one sequence where their legs didn't quite flow together, but it was such as mall moment in a powerful piece.
This piece wasn't quite as effective as their previous performances. In those, they just commanded every moment of the stage, and everything looked so precise. There was a little more chaos, and maybe that's because this was more of a joyful piece than we're used to seeing from them. And while I don't begrudge them their joy, it did take somewhat away from what made them so compelling to watch. Or maybe they just don't know how to sell joy as well.
Once again, this group pushes the boundaries of what b-boy can be, with musicality and now added storytelling. This was like a modern-day, cool "Thriller" video with awesome horror elements, and some very cool light tricks usually saved for those blacklight dance crews on "America's Got Talent." It was innovative and fascinating to watch. They incorporated some very cool and unique stunts and flips and partnered tricks that I hadn't seen before to keep it fresh and exciting.
You know a dance crew is something special when you can recognize their style no matter who is performing it. S-Rank puts a stank and a swag on everything that is so undeniably them, and yet absolutely entrancing to watch. I could honestly watch them dance all day. When they had one member walking up in a semicircle in the air only to skip and reverse it like a damned record I threw my hat on the ground. This group knows how to make visuals you will remember for days, and the tiniest moments so super fly it's sick.
Was that last fall intentional? This routine seemed like it lacked that wow moment that it needs to be pushed over the top. Instead it was just a solid routine and a lot of what Poreotics does well, only in costumes that made it harder to see them fully and really detracted from the intricacies of their smaller signature movements. Honestly, it just wasn't dynamic enough for this stage of the competition.
Charity broke a toe on her dominant foot, meaning she had to change up all of her dance habits for this routine, so just getting through it would be a feat. In the ways that you could tell during the actual performance, it actually added some unique elements, as she would quick switch to her uninjured foot. This is always a pair that is so great to watch and so strong, they move as one unit. I loved the creativity of this piece, the hint of ballroom in there, and how beautifully Andres covered for and protected Charity throughout.
A beautifully realized piece, I found myself waiting for Jaxon to wow me as he's done in the past, or fully move me as he's also done in the past. Neither of those things happened. And so, while I can't fault anything he did technically on that stage, I have to say that it was missing that special quality that made him special before. I love his message about self-realization and self-acceptance, but it got a little muddled in the translation to dance.
What works in this partnership is the trust they have in one another to see this vision through. Sean creates these masterpieces and believes fully that Kaycee will help him realize them, and she never lets him down. We've seen more visually dynamic and exciting "moments" from them before, but everything was crisp and on point, as we've come to expect. I loved the tandem dancing in the rain that closed it out. It didn't quite have the wow of previous rounds, but they remain imminently watchable.
I have to give props to Charity & Andres and Michael Dameski, but a big part of me thinks it's going to come down to the teams. The Lab and S-Rank are in a class of their own when it comes to the creativity and vision they bring to that stage.
That's not a knock on the other two acts, as they were each powerful and wonderful in their own way, but neither of them excited me in quite the way those two teams seem to do every time they hit the stage. Can't wait to see what all four acts bring next week.
"World of Dance" airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.