Two dance troupes spent their time in the holding room crushing on each other while everyone else sweated the presence of an international "World of Dance" champion.
It was the final night of Qualifiers Sunday night on "World of Dance," and they definitely saved some of the best for last.
The judges were fired up this round, getting excited about some of the more impressive routines of the night, though there were others that left them divided. One group was put in the awkward position of standing there while Jennifer Lopez and Derek Hough argued over them.
It wasn't the only awkward moment of the night, either, as two different teams had major drops right at the beginning of their routines, which can absolutely derail and destroy a routine. On top of that, the contestants felt the intimidation having an international "World of Dance" champion in their midst, knowing they'd have to compete against them.
Interestingly, some of last season's favorites returned, but not as we last saw them. A contemporary duo came back as part of a whole contemporary group and a flamenco soloist joined a hip-hop crew.
Elsewhere in the show we got to witness one of the most adorable burgeoning crushes as an all-male dance group and an all-female dance crew started crushing hardcore on one another. It was one giant mess of teenage gushiness, though we're not sure they even got to the point of picking out individual members from each crew; it was just mutual overall crush.
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 Team) This is a very clean high school hip-hop crew, and especially for a school team, but their routine was lacking a wow moment to really bring it home. They're very disciplined and they work very well together, but they only presented a few nice formations and movements, and a couple of less-than-impressive flips. They need to push themselves because the raw talent and commitment is clearly there. And thanks to the judges, they'll get the chance.
(Upper) This was a really interesting contemporary piece, more staccato than lyrical in movement, but it fit the motif of what they were trying to present. There was a raw anger in some of the movements, and while the choreography could have been a little clearer in its storytelling, it did not stop their incredibly talent from shining through. This is a couple that dance as a single unit, and their partnering work is brilliant. The few lifts we did get were creative and interesting to watch, and their intricate arm work together was a thing of beauty. If it was just more cohesive overall, it could have been transcendent.
(Upper Team) It got a little out of sync in the middle, but this piece had so much stank on it, we're ready to just watch them walk down the street together. That is swag to the hilt, and Main Guys brought down the house with it. The beauty in being able to have so much swagger and sway in such simple movements is it keeps the audience's eyes riveted right on you because they don't want to miss even the slightest movement. Maybe nerves got to them a bit in that sloppier middle, but these guys are the real deal for sure.
(Junior Team) Well this crew needs to marinade a lot longer to compete on this stage. It's cool that our flamenco dancer returned, but she was definitely lost in the shuffle here. Their formations were a mess, there was no sync, everybody was performing at different levels and they didn't even use their music well. Honestly, this was kind of a mess from start to finish. Pictures were not great, and even the choreography was kind of boring and rote.
(Upper Team) Ashley & Zack were standouts last season, so this time they brought their friends to create a massive contemporary crew. There were elements of hip-hop synchronicity and sharpness of movements, but with that beautiful heart that contemporary puts on display. For as larger as this group was, they were incredibly tight, and with very intricate moves to lift and extend exactly the same is just mesmerizing to watch. This is a very exciting group.
(Junior Team) This crew and the next were crushing hard on one another backstage, and it might have rattled them at the top as they dropped their first big trick. They kept going though -- the mark of a pro -- and really pulled off some solid b-boy work. They could have been a little tighter in places, but they almost fully redeemed themselves with a handless slo-mo headspin to close off the routine, which was just wild to watch. It's hard to stand out with b-boy, and this isn't the best crew we've seen on this show, but they definitely represented the style well.
(Junior Team) This team and the previous were crushing hard on one another backstage, so maybe the good news of the Droids making it through really fired them up, because Intention had the best audition of the night so far. Their musicality, costuming, athleticism and just everything was so beautiful and so perfect. The way they opened and closed the piece, with perfectly timed ripple movements was just flawless. They created moments that will be remembered for years to come in that routine. And now we'll get to see this young team romance continue.
(Upper) At 21 years old, Derek is looking at a double hip replacement, so this is really his last chance to fly. And he just soared. Some of those flips have never before graced this stage, or many others. And his athleticism! Derek is one of the physically strongest contemporary dancers ever on that stage, too, while we're setting him apart. And he should be raised up, because what quality of movement he has, what musicality and what complexity of choreography.
(Junior) It wasn't krump so much as hard-hitting hip-hop, but it was very tight and very clean hip-hop. They definitely had fierce down. This is a very strong partnership, and you can see how hard they've worked in just how in synch they were throughout that routine, and how well they managed the partnering elements. They really brought some cool pictures to life throughout this piece and could definitely be a fun pair to watch progress.
(Junior) These girls did it right, they had intention with their arm movement throughout this lyrical tap piece. That additional choreography elevates the entire form to the next level and is where tap dancers tend to falter, because so much attention is paid to the feet. On top of that, their tap was pretty solid, too. There is more complexity that could be done with their feet, and the story itself they told was rather simplified, but the fact they told a story is what made this different and special.
(Upper) Already champions of "World of Dance Thailand," this duo was very intimidating to the other contestants. They're probably right to be as this is a very strong contemporary duo. Some of the lifts seemed to go on forever, and when they were dancing in tandem, she was hitting exactly as hard as him and they were perfectly aligned. There was one flip mishap and it was a minor hiccup on an otherwise nearly flawless performance. The intensity, intricate movement and unique exploration of the music made this one mesmerizing to watch from start to finish.
(Upper Team) The pieces are there, but this one hasn't completely come together just yet. It's hard to say if the fall right at the top rattled the rest of the performance, but there were timing issues, and synchronicity issues throughout. That said, this is a very cool group to watch, with some nice swagger and good quality of movement. The visuals they create are really cool, but they just need to be cleaner than what we got here. And their stunts are a little rudimentary (assisted back walkover, really?). If you're going to say you hit as hard as the men, then bring it and prove it.
(Upper Team) So this is the first time all 13 members of this contemporary team have performed together on stage, which is crazy! And you would have never known it based on what they poured onto the stage. There were a few very minor sync issues, but mostly they moved like a well-oiled, well-trained and well-seasoned machine. There was some real beauty in their movement and they slipped a couple of cool tricks and lifts, though the piece could have used more of those wow moments to keep viewers engaged. J.Lo argued that the piece needed a story to move her, while Derek took the other side. Sometimes dance is just a showcase of skill and talent, but J.Lo wants to be moved and feel something. But is being in awe enough? With the right musicality, we'd argue you can feel something simply by how amazing a piece is. But it was a fun debate to watch.