The Upper Team division brings the heat as J.Lo and Derek Hough get into it with Ne-Yo over his lifetime lack of "goosies" -- is he emotionally shut down?
The last time an Upper Division battled it out on "World of Dance," the top four contenders coming into the Duels all lost their battles and wound up going home.
This just proves that anything can happen on "World of Dance" when that competitive edge comes out, and with so many hip-hop crews in the Upper Teams division, things were heated from the start as these guys and gals come ready to battle.
And there were some epic showdowns and incredibly close duels on the night. And then one crew came out and did something so mind-blowing they got the first perfect score of the season. And we're not even mad about it.
But perhaps the most intense battle came after Ne-Yo admitted he's never experienced J.Lo's coveted "goosies" -- goosebumps for the uninitiated. We're on Team J.Lo and Derek Hough on this one as we've experienced plenty of "goosie" moments from this and other talent shows.
There's just something about a powerful performance capturing you emotionally and drawing you in. It's like J.Lo argued, they're the best thing and you can't buy them. Someone has to give them to you. Tonight, several acts did just that.
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 Team) Fuego came out on fire with some great formations and a very visually strong presentation. They painted a lot of very cool pictures and used their music brilliantly. There was a swagger throughout, including a few flamenco burns. A few times they slipped out of sync and one guy had to quickly shuffle into position for the wave, but they were minor quibbles for a very successful, engaging and crowd-pleasing routine. Siudy struggled -- especially early on -- with their timing and togetherness, which really hurt their overall presentation. The footwork was a little sloppy in places, too, leaving them outclassed overall, which is a shame because this style is so underrepresented in general on shows like this.
(Upper Team) Unity chose Grace solely based on their position in the ranks, which really got them fired up. And yet, they they revealed they were going to take a risk by doing no tricks in their routine. How is that going to work exactly? And then Unity set a very high bar going first with a hard-hitting, fast and powerful routine from start to finish. The intensity and intention of every move was so palpable, we caught ourselves holding our breath. It was tight, concise and so brilliantly conceived. Style's gambit didn't work at all as the routine never felt like it really got off the ground. They had swag and stank and yet it never really took them anywhere. It was all setup and no payoff.
(Upper Team) Exiles went first and it was contained fury and exuberance. We wish they would have closed the magic trick stunt as cleanly as they opened it to complete the illusion, but this was still an incredibly creative and fun piece. They hit hard and sharp and clean on point, and absolutely brought that battle mentality. Then, Heima came out and hit hard with incredibly musicality for a b-boy routine, not to mention some killer b-boy moves. There were fantastic head tricks and some interesting partnering stunts, though not all of those were quite as exciting. Nevertheless, these guys have elevated b-boy to true dance and that's awesome to see.
The Heima Scores: 96.7
The Heima My Score: 18 (Performance), 19 (Technique), 19 (Choreography), 19 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 93
(Upper Team) Radiance came out first and they brought ferocity to contemporary with a hard-hitting song that had us believing God was a woman. It was powerful and feminine and filled with just the right amount of burn. They were mostly in synch, minus a few legs, but the overall visuals created with such a large group were really well focused and realized. Main ended strong, which was good because it was a bit of a mess in the middle there. The formations were out of sync and the big stunt landed horribly. There were some great ideas at play, but this crew is better when they have a chill swagger than this hard-hitting approach they took here. It may have cost them the competition.
Main Guys Judges Scores: 89.3
Main Guys My Score: 18 (Performance), 16 (Technique), 19 (Choreography), 18 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 89
(Upper Team) Motiv couldn't compete on tricks so their goal was to create an emotional connection. They came in as the underdogs and they performed like they had a huge chip on their shoulders and definitely had something to prove. It was dynamic and fun with lots of attitude but we're not sure it had enough nuance or variety in movement to really stand out enough. And then the Kings did not let up from the first note. They were flying higher than anyone else here, and they were so tight for such a massive crew. It was exciting to watch, and utterly transfixing. You didn't want to miss whatever trick they were going to do next. We've seen cooler and more surprising stunts in other crews, but the precisions and relentlessness of the Kings demands you pay attention at all times.
The Kings Judges Scores: 99.3
The Kings My Score: 20 (Performance), 19 (Technique), 19 (Choreography), 19 (Creativity), 20 (Presentation) = 97
(Upper Team) Motiv came out on a mission and managed to find an emotional connection to the song they both had to perform to. Theirs was an angst-filled passion piece that was compelling as it was hard hitting. Exiles were all fired up before and came out with power and strength and conviction. This was a much closer duel than anticipated, though, with both crews demanding to be noticed for different reasons. Exiles had some nice stunts done beautifully with the music, but Motiv had more of a connection and were a little cleaner.
My Choice: Motiv Crew
Judges Choice: Exiles
"World of Dance" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.