WORLD OF DANCE Recap: With These Duels We’re All Winners

duels

With its latest episode, WORLD OF DANCE continued the Duels rounds. Just like in the June 20 showing, qualifiers were paired against one another, and the highest-scoring contestants advanced to the next part of the competition. This second batch of Duels included some early favorites, like Diana Pombo and Les Twins. Because of some of the dancers’ reputations and impressive qualifying scores, every single act had to work harder than ever before in order to even have a chance at moving on. Everybody, even the dancers who were expected to do well, had to make major improvements. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, not a single dancer on this series can be considered a loser; and WORLD OF DANCE viewers certainly get to win as, week after week, we see the sport and art pushed to new heights. All of that aside, what might be the best takeaway from WORLD OF DANCE’s “Duels #2” is the way the series continues to set a positive example for dance competitions everywhere.

The first duel featured Diana Pombo, battling it out against The Posse.

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Jennifer Lopez reminded us that Diana was a “standout” dancer with “technique and performance way beyond her years.” That didn’t mean advancing to the next round was going to be any easier for Diana than it was for anyone else, though: She was very nervous, as a soloist, to be dueling against a large group. As one of the dancers from The Posse mentioned, “people are stronger in numbers.”

The Posse chose to employ the use of a rope in their number, which added a really interesting dynamic and chances for some creative tricks. Adding this new element to the group’s existing ability to create an emotional performance seemed like a brilliant way to best their opponent. The problem, however, was that their opponent happened to be someone capable of creating “wow” moments all on her own — no rope necessary. And Diana’s ability to convey emotions through her dance is second to none.

So, how did the WORLD OF DANCE judges make their final decision? Without seeing the score sheets, it’s impossible to tell. However, I’d be willing to bet Diana Pombo’s technique number was higher than The Posse’s. Quite possibly, it was the defining factor in this Duel. The choreography rating was probably bigger, too: Diana’s solo added a lot of different dynamic levels, rather than just trying to be all about doing the most exciting tricks.

Judges’ comments: Jennifer Lopez said The Posse’s piece gave her “so many feels,” while Diana Pombo was “something incredibly different and special. Ne-Yo called Diana “a warrior princess” and complimented The Posse on their “very, very powerful performance.” Derek Hough loved that The Posse took a big risk with the rope, and he was impressed with the way Diana connected to both her music and her audience.

Scores: 86 for The Posse,  91.3 for Diana Pombo. Diana advanced to the next round.

Next, Super Cr3w chose to battle Royal Flux.

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This pairing may have seemed like a way to force the judges to compare apples to oranges, as b-boys and contemporary dancers don’t generally tend to have a lot in common. However, Ne-Yo pointed out that both groups “have tons of unexpected elements and just pure, raw athleticism,” so they weren’t as different as they might initially seem.

Super Cr3w showcased their tricks, but they didn’t necessarily have a ton of musicality in their performance. My reaction here was basically: “wow, how do these guys do th-…Man, I wish Michael Jackson’s music was used as something other than background noise.” So, despite the crew’s reputation and experience, Royal Flux still had the potential to beat them. But even with great technique and control, Royal Flux’s number still lacked a certain something. By adding in so many (admittedly amazing) lifts, the group essentially turned this entire duel into something of the “tricks versus tricks” variety.

Spoiler alert: That’s not something you want to do with Super Cr3w.

Judges’ comments: After Super Cr3w danced, J-Lo reminded viewers that her series was totally living up to its hype: “When we said that WORLD OF DANCE was the biggest dance competition in the world…we were not playing.” For Royal Flux’s critique, she offered more words of praise, telling them their routine had magic and “pushed the limits of what contemporary is.” Magic also came up when Ne-Yo asked Royal Flux how they did some of their lifts, and they refused to give away their secrets. (For what it’s worth, I highly doubt the group learned anything at Hogwarts or any similar such wizarding school.) Derek Hough complimented Super Cr3w for refining what they did, rather than just freestyling; he congratulated Royal Flux on staying true to who they were, yet knowing their competition.

“Knowing their competition” equals Trickfest 2017, apparently.

Scores: 86.3 for Royal Flux, 89 for Super Cr3w. And that’s one less chance for cracktemporary to steal another competition.

The next duel featured two talented Junior groups: The Lab and Boys of Temecula.

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Trying to choose which of these contestants to root for was next to impossible: Boys of Temecula, as the name suggests, is a group made up entirely of male dancers. Anyone in the dance world will tell you how much we love those precious, yet far-too-few men among us. But then there’s The Lab. A lot of these kids have been through some hardships in life, so they rely on each other and their dancing for support.

Can’t they just all win a million dollars? Surely, there’s enough money backing WORLD OF DANCE for that to happen, right? No? Fine.

The Lab’s hip hop number was ridiculously fun, to the point where they had all of the judges dancing in their seats. (I also know of at least one ballet, modern, and jazz dancer who was inspired to try some moves at home…This is not something anyone ever needs to see. It’s bad.) More importantly, their dancing was solid. It’s amazing to see little kids just hit it like that. The Boys of Temecula were some sharp, jazzy goodness — complete with that awesome pirouetting kid in the center of the group — but it just didn’t have enough true, classical jazz content. There was something very poppy, hip hoppy jazz about it, and it felt like watching a recital.

(Sorry, boys. No, really. I’m honestly sorry to have to say it.)

The boys weren’t bad; they just weren’t exactly what WORLD OF DANCE seems to be looking for.

Judges’ comments: Ne-Yo had some constructive criticism for both groups. He thought Boys of Temecula’s piece “started feeling a little chorus line” (or was it A CHORUS LINE?) in some places (he’s right either way); and he felt like The Lab’s “gimmick” took away from their performance. The bit with the two fighting kids was too much — it wasn’t necessary to include.

See also: If you’re good enough without adding anything extra, don’t be Extra.

J-Lo loved The Lab so much she was that tap dancing under the table. (Wait for the next contestant to tap, Jennifer. Ugh!) Not only did she disagree with Ne-Yo when it came to the gimmick (she liked it); but she was also very into the flavor of the piece, saying the dancers were “just super, super grindy and in it.” Derek highlighted the Boys’ fun interpretation of their music. For The Lab, Derek was…Well…He had this to say: “No pun intended, but you guys didn’t pull any punches.”

Derek, Honey, no. No shade intended, but…Ok, actually, shade intended.

Scores: Boys of Temecula 84.7, The Lab 89.7.

The final duel of the night: Les Twins vs. Kyle Van Newkirk

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Why did Les Twins choose Kyle as their opponent? The answer might surprise you — it had nothing to do with scores or thinking they could easily beat the solo dancer. These two already famous dancers believed Kyle to be the best of the best.

Dancers supporting dancers. Yes.

Kyle Van Newkirk went into this duel knowing that whatever shot he may have was slim. After all, Les Twins were internationally famous, and he was just…from Nebraska. (His words, paraphrased — not my own. Your boy’s a world championship tapper! No, seriously, check out his bio on The House of Tap Project.)

Did Kyle dance like someone who knew he’d lost? Absolutely not. He took the judges’ initial criticism from his audition to heart and found a way to make a better connection with his audience. And just to put bookends on the evening, our last “underdog” of the night even brought along a prop, which helped him create more complex rhythms.

Honestly, Kyle needs to make a visit to SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE. Nigel Lythgoe’s tap fanboy rating would be at all new levels for this guy. I’d almost be willing to bet he’d cry — privately and with the cameras off, of course.

Up next, Les Twins did that thing they do. I like to call it something along the lines of “omghow.” One of the best parts of their performance was the way they’d tease viewers by bringing this drawn out, slow movement into their dancing, just before absolutely exploding. It was a trick, so to speak, that they used the whole time they were on stage; but there was nothing gimmicky about it. The contrast worked every single time.

Judges’ comments: Jennifer Lopez was basically losing her you-know-what after she saw Les Twins compete. Once she calmed down enough to find words, she told the brothers that they “just showed everybody how The Duels should be.” But she didn’t want anybody to count Kyle Van Newkirk out, either. Derek admitted that he had once chosen not to use a prop because of the risk it posed, so he was extra dazzled by the way Kyle incorporated his own. He tried to make some kind of judgement on Les Twins’ “borderline off-putting” confidence, but J-Lo shut him down.

Ne-Yo reminded WORLD OF DANCE viewers (and Kyle) of the way tap has seemed to struggle on the series since the beginning, and he asked Les Twins why they chose Kyle as their opponent. More on their answer in the next section.

Scores: Kyle Van Newkirk 86, Les Twins 92. Expected, yet not remotely “fixed” or unjust. Besides, with WORLD OF DANCE, we’re basically all winners here.

And now a word from our sponsors writer.

With this latest collection of Duels, WORLD OF DANCE has succeeded in doing something that goes beyond just showcasing phenomenal dancers. The series has shown the positive side of competitive dancing, which is — thanks to things like DANCE MOMS and its former “star” Maddie Ziegler’s constant negativity on the subject — vitally important to do. A dance competition can be friendly and supportive; and getting a chance to battle the best dancers in the world can have positive, lasting effects on a dancer’s career.

As Ne-Yo put it when the Boys of Temecula were upset about coming up short in their duel with The Lab: “Lift the head because this is not a loss. You win, or you learn. You never lose. If you were not incredible, you wouldn’t be here. Keep your heads high. Do not stop doing what you’re doing.”

So, to all you little dancers out there, worried about the “stress” of going to competitions or feeling like you should just give up if you’re not always first place overall? Don’t listen to that negative message that you might have heard from overly competitive studio heads or bad reality tv. Listen to Ne-Yo. And to all you non-dance people, who thought competitions were about catty fights and winning at all costs? Look no further than the excellent sportsmanship shown by the likes of Les Twins and Kyle Van Newkirk. Despite being rivals on WORLD OF DANCE, those dancers openly embraced one another on stage — and more than once at that. Not to mention, for two guys with the resumes of Les Twins to say what they did about Kyle is beyond heartwarming. They didn’t need to do it in order to bribe the judges, and there were no audience members to woo since WORLD OF DANCE isn’t a show that’s based on votes. But Les Twins saw something in Kyle that inspired them and pointed it out, calling the tapper “the only man that dances with his heart on his feet. He’s better than everybody in this room”

That’s the dance world we all need to see a lot more of because it’s out there, no matter how often pop culture asserts otherwise. And it’s the only support system for many young people. Let’s not destroy that for the next generation by painting all of this in a bad light, ok? Ok.

Make sure to watch the next all-new episode of WORLD OF DANCE on Tuesday, July 11, at 10/9c on NBC.

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