The Junior Teams did not come to play, showing a fierceness and intensity that proves why this division won the whole competition last season.
It was time for the Junior Teams to face "The Duels" on "World of Dance," and these kids look like they're actually ready to throw down.
A Junior Team won this show last season in The Lab, and it's easy to see why when you see how fearlessly they attack these opportunities. There's no room for the kind of self-doubt that plagues older dancers and it can make these youngsters so much more exciting to watch.
On top of that, there was some incredible technique on display. But just like the Upper division last week, some of these lower-ranking groups were not to be underestimated, and there were some major upsets along the way.
And then, there was a moment that touched everyone's hearts and brought J.Lo to tears. One of the very young dancers on The Crazy 8's crew has selective mutism and mostly expresses herself through dance. After their performance tonight, though, she wanted to say "Hi" to J.Lo. It was one word but it melted the room and was a genuinely beautiful moment as J.Lo got her permission to pick her up and give her a big hug.
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.
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) VPeeps came out and laid it down with an incredibly clean routine for a group so large with so many formations. There was one major wobble with a leg extension right up front and center, which definitely hurt their overall performance. Droids gets props for creativity in their routine, but it wasn't quite as clean as their opponents. They did some cool b-boy stunts, but we've seen those better, too, though that chest run was pretty sick.
(Junior Team) Get Down just didn't have that fire through this routine. It was inconsistent in tone and energy and lacked finesse through some of the movements. On top of that, they weren't always in line with one another. Plus, they did a terrible job of hiding the disposal of the outer shirts and you can't do that on a national stage like this. They shouldn't have done that ending, but props to Intention for a little wacking burn into their routine. It was lyrical and quite lovely, and they really do perform with the best musicality together to create singular images. They're innovative and always fun to watch. And yet, the judges thought there was too much going on.
(Junior Team) MKAM lost one of their leaders to a broken foot just days before this performance. You wouldn't even know he was missing, they reblocked that routine beautifully. It was high-intensity, very clean and that horizontal toss toward the end was so cool. They certainly threw down a tough gauntlet, though we'd have loved a little more complexity of movement. Elektro really stepped it up in response, though there were some cleanliness issues and the lift of the main girl didn't go as smoothly as it should have. Loved their clear vision and storytelling, with some fun visual elements throughout.
(Junior Team) The Divas came out very strong with a dramatic performance you couldn't take your eyes off of. The music was powerful and strong and these ladies matched it note for note. It was such a departure from their qualifiers routine, and it was actually stronger overall. But it was no match for JDC, who came out with a clear vision a unique prop in handheld mirrors and just painted beautiful pictures throughout this complex, fast-moving and yet never overwhelming routine. There was one sequence of turns slightly out of synch, but what a minor quibble for a major tour de force performance.
Dancetown Divas Judges Scores: 95
Dancetown Divas My Score: 20 (Performance), 18 (Technique), 18 (Choreography), 19 (Creativity), 19 (Presentation) = 94
(Junior Team) They may be tiny but Crazy 8's are fierce warriors on that dance floor. This was an incredibly intricate routine, even if it felt at times like it relied a little too much on their leg extensions. It's a contemporary trope that they're already falling into the bad habit of over-reliance on. But there's no denying their incredible talent at such an age. Springfield then came out to fight with some nice burns throughout a schizoid routine that was at times brilliant and at other times not quite there. All props to the wide array of dance styles they incorporated throughout this piece; it was a huge step up from their qualifier.
The Crazy 8's Judges Scores: 93.3
The Crazy 8's My Score: 19 (Performance), 19 (Technique), 18 (Choreography), 18 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 92
West Springfield Dance Judges Scores: 89.3
West Springfield Dance My Score: 19 (Performance), 17 (Technique), 17 (Choreography), 19 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 90
Dancetown Divas vs MKAM
(Junior Team) The Divas were a little too excited at times, costing them tightness, but this was a fierce routine designed to showcase their Latin flair, their impressive use of space and how well they can paint pictures with such a massive group. MKAM then came out and suffered some of the same problems, even as they brilliantly burned the Divas' style. They were also messy on the larger synch portions and they also seemed to lack overall in the choreography side of things.
My Choice: Dancetown Divas
Judges Choice: Dancetown Divas
"World of Dance" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.