The Upper Division proves the rankings coming into "The Duels" mean nothing as they bring stunning upset after upset after upset. It's incredible!
It's time for the most intense and exciting round of "World of Dance" with the beginning of "The Duels."
And this season, they've added a new twist: The Redemption Duel. The two highest-scoring acts in each division who got eliminated will get the chance to battle one another for a second chance to get back into the competition.
Considering that two high-scoring acts can face off against one another, this is a great addition to the competition, as it's possible to be the second best act in your division and still lose your duel and find yourself eliminated.
With that second chance looming, the acts turned around and gave viewers the craziest round of "Duels" yet. The rankings coming into this round meant virtually nothing as we watched upset after upset after upset. Everyone upped their game, but there was a hungriness at the bottom of the rankings that was almost scary.
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.
(Upper) As a dig to their opponents, Tobias & the EZ Twins actually worked some tap into their own routine. The Brothers tried to slip a flip into their routine, but an injury during practice derailed that plan. T&EZ really brought a lot of flair to their routine, and their synchronicity through rapid movements remained just awesome to watch. The (fake) tap element was definitely, but it's not like they were amazing. The problem is they make exciting and interesting pictures, which is hard to do in tap. But D'Angelo really came out and put on a helluva show; they even had their arms almost in synch. The artistry and difficulty of their tap was on full display and because of the obvious complexity, they really did manage to shine without the big flashy moves ... or that flip. There were some synch issues, but only minor compared to the overall difficulty. But will the judges ever reward tap over anything else?
Tobias & The EZTwins Judges Scores: 87.3
Tobias & The EZTwins My Score: 18 (Performance), 16 (Technique), 17 (Choreography), 17 (Creativity), 17 (Presentation) = 85
(Upper) Honestly, we weren't sure Jonathan y Jorge would be able to compete, but they really upped their game. And in going first, they threw down one huge gauntlet. Some of those lifts were like nothing we've seen before, and they worked genuine salsa into it as well. The advantages of two men in lifts was evident as there was more strength from both sides in some of those amazing tricks. As for Denise & Josh, they were actually not as good this week as their last audition. Denise stepped up her intensity, but the routine didn't elevate itself. There were better lifts and moves throughout the last time we saw them. This time, it was just all a but okay. And it's a damned shame, because they were one of our favorite acts after the Qualifiers.
(Upper) DD came out first and they didn't go with emotional contemporary as much as lyrical hip-hop. They brought their stank to the floor and some killer lifts and moves. The ankle lift alone was worth the price of admission. I loved the staccato of their movements and the grit in their faces throughout. They came to battle, they came to win. But John came to show why he is a legend. This was leaps and bounds above his last performance and it was just stank on top of stank on top of stank. There were some absolutely sick moves in there, just damn. These routines were very different, but in what he does, he is untouchable.
Poppin John My Score: 19 (Performance), 19 (Technique), 19 (Choreography), 18 (Creativity), 19 (Presentation) = 94
Derek Piquette (3) vs Derion & Madison (5)
(Upper) D&M went first and they really brought out their big guns throughout this routine. The big high-flying stunt, though, was ultimately underwhelming. Even worse, Derion looked like he was laboring getting Madison into position. But the first quarter of the dance, before Madison was ever upright on her feet on the floor was some of the coolest dancing we've seen yet. Derek wasn't quite as strong as his last performance, but it was very close to the caliber of what D&M was doing. His extensions and power and body control continue to impress, but this one didn't make us feel anything and lacked in the wow moments he gave us during the Qualifiers.
(Upper) All Ready kicked things off with their trademark fun and it was a routine you couldn't help but smile all the way through. Things started off very tight with some cool imagery, but it never really escalated to a wow moment. Instead, it just stayed about the same throughout and then kind of came to an end, which isn't how you win a duel. Briar's routine was an exercise in barely contained restraint -- battling her own epilepsy -- and she told the story beautifully. The rage bubbling underneath the surface of her every moment, creeping out at times, was palpable. This was definitely a battleworthy routine showcasing her incredible body control, athleticism and performance strength.
All Ready Judges Scores: 92.3
All Ready My Score: 18 (Performance), 17 (Technique), 18 (Choreography), 18 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 89
(Upper) This one is just unfair as both of these are incredible performers. Briar is athletically leaps and bounds above D&J, but they have a chemistry and emotional connection that's unparalleled. Denise & Josh went first and they were a little out of synch on more than one occasion. They also barely did any of their signature partnering little tricks, leaving a lackluster performance on the stage. Then Brian came out and showed that gymnastics can be dance. That was just an incredible showcase of power, strength and in-your-face-I-ain't-going-nowhere. Yeah, this wasn't even close in the end.