We were treated to some very cool and original fusions, including a Latin/hip-hop female duo that were a real treat to watch, as well as a contemporary trio that really knew how to utilize their unique physical makeup.
We saw some of the cleanest and most in sync hip-hop routines we've ever witnessed before, and two different routines spotlighted incredible athleticism, as well as musicality. At this rate, we could be on our way to the best roster of talent this show has ever seen -- and this is a show that's already crowned Les Twins & The Lab.
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. This season, acts need to score 85 points out of a possible 100 to advance to the next round (it was 80 in previous seasons). 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) Kayla wanted to prove something with her contemporary ballet routine and she absolutely did. The addition of pointe shoes added a whole new element to what visuals she could present through contemporary, and the inclusion of traditional pointe and ballet moves only added another layer to the piece. Her athleticism was incredible, her passion palpable. This was a great showcase of how dance continues to evolve and grow in new and exciting ways.
(Upper Team) Boy, Fuego brought the party. These guys were so tight and so precise in their movements, it was as if there was one mind working five bodies. Very few crews can pull it together so well, and because of it, these guys were able to paint some very cool visuals on that dance floor. We'd like to see some more complexity and innovation in their movements, though they did have some unique moments. Still, with this kind of unity in performance, they could really push themselves and blow all our minds away.
(Upper Team) Short-changed on TV, this crew brought plenty of stank and sass, but they lacked a bit overall. There were some synch issues and there was an inconsistent visual throughout the crew suggesting they're at different experience levels. The swagger of the crew is undeniable, as is their love for what they do, but they just don't have the polish yet to compete at this level. Nevertheless, they squeaked by and will get a chance to show they can improve.
(Junior Team) It seems like the motif of this crew is to show that they are badass fearless femme fatales, and that certainly came through, but there was a lack of total vision for the piece. Instead, it felt like a lot of disconnected fearless femme fatales taking turns showing off their various skills in lifting their legs and doing the splits. None of the tricks were all that mind-blowing, and some of them were downright underwhelming. Honestly, it just feels like these girls still need to figure out what they're trying to be about. The talent is there, the clarity of vision and cohesion is still lacking.
(Junior) What he lacks in polish, Aydin makes up for in passion and conviction. He sells the emotion and the meaning of his performance and that goes a long way to overcome some technical deficiencies that will likely come with time. The same with his choreography, which could use some bolstering to showcase more of what he's doing and maybe fewer of those pesky contemporary leg extensions that can become a crutch. There's no denying this kid is special, though, and deserving of the chance to continue growing and expressing himself through music.
(Upper) Everything about this Latin/hip-hop fusion duo was just pure magic from the get-go. The fact that it's two women taking on the traditional Latin flair only made it feel that much more empowering as there's such a masculine element to the format. They managed to be strong and powerful in that way while never losing their femininity. And then the hip-hop elements just brought it to a whole new level. They could stand to tighten up a but, but you can't take your eyes off of them when they're performing, and that's saying something.
(Upper Team) Driven by their faith, these guys are a positive influence in life and they really brought that positive energy to a fierce performance. In the smallest moments, they were so tight and working singularly to create beautiful imagery and very cool effects through movement. This is a fun crew to watch with some athletic moments, but we're still needing that wow factor to really help them be above and beyond all the other very good dance crews out there.
(Upper) That was one of the most exciting and frantic contemporary routines to ever grace any reality stage. Briar was a tour de force of movement and every bit of it so controlled and calculated. There was barely time to gasp or shout in excitement for one move before she was moving onto the next, and yet it never felt rushed or out of her reach. Easily one of the most exciting dancers to watch yet this season -- or any season for that matter -- Briar brings an incredible athleticism to her work without losing any of her grace and impeccable musicality.
(Junior Team) These kids were so tight you barely realized there were something like 400 of them up on that stage. They were that good and it was that great. The routine had plenty of swagger but it was their synchronicity throughout that really held it together. The acrobatic moments weren't really all that mind-blowing, and in fact were disappointing at one point when the two girls came up front. But this is a polished and professional dance crew that knows where their strengths lie (for the most part). Hopefully they're not done growing as it could be really exciting to see what they could do as they progress.
(Upper) Well that was a show-stopping performance for sure. They kicked it off with perfect sync throughout some great hip-hop popping before making their way into some innovative partner work the likes of which we've never seen. The strength it takes to pull off some of those moves is just mind-boggling, and that goes for both performers. It's incredible that they've only been dancing together a year because they are so in tune with one another. It's the season's first performance that demands a rewatch ... and then maybe another.
(Junior Team) This contemporary foursome really has the potential to create some exciting and interesting moves with four guys up there, and they had glimpse of what they could be. Unfortunately, it wasn't nearly polished enough from the glimpses we got of their full routine to say that they're ready for the world stage. This is definitely a group to watch, though, and thanks to the generosity of the judges, we'll get that chance this season.
(Junior Team) These girls came to compete and they brought it to the dance floor. There was so much fringe flipping around it was easy to get overwhelmed by it, but underneath all that visual noise was a really tight group that mixed hip-hop with Latin flair really well, creating some interesting dynamics along the way. They were mostly in sync with one another, though there were moments when their coordinated movements faltered, breaking that picture just a bit. They were high-energy and fun, sharing that energy with the audience as well, and just a joy to watch.
(Upper) What they lacked in mindblowing stunts was more than made up for in how incredibly tight they were throughout that routine. This was one mind performing through three bodies better than anyone else we've seen yet, and we've seen some damned tight synchronicity already. They also brought some stank and a unique Western swagger to the routine without dipping into line dance. This was something wholly unique, totally memorable and so sickeningly smooth to watch.
(Junior) This is the most excited we've ever been about a group that is so unpolished. These three are very exciting dancers, even as they are barely above amateur level at times. The creative choices they're making as a contemporary trio are just brilliant, creating mesmerizing movement and moments between the three of them. It's just that at times the vision is a little too big for them, creating a lack of polish. But these kids are still young and this is already on its way to being absolutely amazing. That potential alone makes them deserving of the chance to grow right here.