WORLD OF DANCE Recap: Into The (Young) Lions’ Den

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The latest episode of NBC’s WORLD OF DANCE featured the last batch of duels before the remaining contestants would have to take on the next round’s challenges. After the second set of head-to-head competitions was a major win for both the series and dance lovers alike, this third and final series of pairings was lackluster at best. Many dancers simply didn’t bring their best work, making costly rookie mistakes and even bringing some of the weakest choreography on the series to date. It wasn’t until the final performers of the night took the stage that the series lived up to the reputation for amazing talent it’s earned thus far. Luckily, though, those last dancers brought enough to WORLD OF DANCE to keep the series’ reputation intact.

Check out our recap to see where it all went wrong before it finally, somewhat surprisingly, went incredibly right.

The first duel of the night was between Kinjaz and Stroll Groove — the first and tenth place teams, respectively.

Before it was time to get into the groove, so to speak, Jennifer Lopez reminded viewers that “Kinjaz is one of the most exciting teams to watch in the competition.” She also described Stroll Groove, calling them “a big surprise” before weighing in on an age-old discussion: “It’s not always about technique. Sometimes, it’s just about the passion of it.”

(Ok, Martha Graham.)

Kinjaz danced first, getting off to a somewhat slow start that faltered in its excessive use of theatrics. During rehearsals, Jenna Dewan Tatum had warned the dancers not to let their use of panels to create a more performance-based number take away from their clean work. While there wasn’t exactly a failure to take that note, the piece wasn’t exactly an epic success either — at least not until the team really got going. The actual dance content was amazing; there just needed to be a bit less…whatever else.

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Stroll Groove’s number was fun, if confusing. They were introduced as a step team; but they danced to upbeat, popular music in a way that just didn’t feel like step at all. The elements were there…somewhere, I guess? I don’t know. I honestly don’t at this point.

Judges’ comments: Ne-Yo was full of praise for Kinjaz, telling the team, “this, to me, is how you win a competition.” J-Lo was appreciative of how the dancers used their groove “in a very calculated way,” and Derek Hough mentioned the advantage of having a theme and identity.

(Important: Derek and Jennifer also wanted Kinjaz jackets…but Derek wasn’t here for adding to his fellow judge’s wardrobe.)

When it was time to discuss Stroll Groove’s performance, both Derek and Ne-Yo said they would’ve liked to have seen more stepping. Ne-Yo even went so far as to have one of the dancers do a quick demonstration with no music, and he said the quick, unprepared steps were more dynamic than the actual performance. Finally, J-Lo reminded Stroll Groove how this whole Duels round was supposed to work: “When you’re battling somebody, you’re going into the lion’s den. And you have to go for blood.”

Scores: With a score of 91.3, Kinjaz buried Stroll Groove’s 81.3 and advanced to the next round.

Next up, cabaret dancers Luka and Jenalyn took on DNA, a more “traditional” ballroom couple.

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According to Jenna Dewan Tatum, this duel was going to be a situation where, “one group is bringing ‘wow’ dancing, and the other is bringing ‘wow’ tricks.” Or, at least, that was what happened in the Qualifiers.

As it turned out during the Duels, Luka and Jenalyn brought a single “wow”– ok, more like “OMGWOWWW,” credit where credit is due —  trick, haphazardly thrown together with a collection of other gimmicks and very few half-hearted attempts at actual dancing. DNA, on the other hand, opened their performance with a “wow” mistake and never fully recovered. Even some of the transitions out of their lifts were clunky.

And in that moment, we were all Derek Hough’s unimpressed face.

Judges’ comments: Derek admitted that he’d initially wondered whether Luka and Jenalyn had more to give after their initial audition, but they definitely proved themselves here. At the same time, even with their mistakes, he felt like DNA had a better quality of dance and a better grasp on the in-between moments.

When it was his turn to speak, Ne-Yo was all about the tricks — for both teams. He told Luka and Jenalyn that planned on trying their big trick at home (please don’t, WORLD OF DANCE viewers), even though it would probably land both himself and his wife in the hospital. After the second performance, he reminded DNA that they needed to work harder on making their tricks look easier.

J-Lo thought DNA’s piece was beautiful but called out their “hiccup” at the beginning. Why they tried to play it off like it never happened, even when directly called out, is completely beyond me. But here we are.

While she liked the cabaret dancers’ piece well enough and even complimented them on bringing their dancing to “a different level,” J-Lo also had strong words for Luka and Jenalyn: “You’re not acrobats. You’re dancers, so don’t forget that. Make sure you’re dancing the whole time.”

(Translation: on a show called WORLD OF DANCE, you might want to actually try dancing instead of of just slopping a bunch of big stunts together…Shocker.)

Scores: Despite not having much “dance” content, Luka and Jenalyn’s 88.7 defeated DNA’s 80.3. It’s impossible to win a dance competition with glaring mistakes, after all.

Insert montage of a few additional matchups that weren’t quite deemed worthy of being showcased here.

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Immabeast beat Mini Request, while Kings Unite were bested by Pasión. And Rhythmatic lost to Chapkis Dance Family. Make sure to check out the clips of their performances on NBC’s official WORLD OF DANCE page.

The second-to-last televised elimination was, quite frankly, a huge disappointment. D’Angelo and Amanda squared off against the Mihacevich sisters, and everything was awful. 

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It was so awful, in fact, that neither routine was shown in its entirety.

D’Angelo and Amanda, despite coming from a studio that seems to send dancers to every major competition — televised and otherwise — didn’t look terribly competitive in what little bit of their piece was shown. They brought a lot of fire to the table, but we’re at a point where “fire” isn’t going to cut it.

The pair’s latest outing wasn’t even attention-grabbing enough to keep my mind wandering to other things.

The Mihacevich sisters were a big hit (especially with yours truly) during their qualifying performance. Even with the knowledge that they’d done well the first time around, the dancers felt like they were “just three sisters from Cleveland, Ohio,” underdogs, even, when it was time to make their second appearance on WORLD OF DANCE.

Unfortunately, those nerves showed. Even in the short clip that made it to television, there were glaring mistakes. Timing mishaps, legs that needed to be much straighter, a deflated performance quality — you name it.

Judges comments: With the abbreviated dances here, there wasn’t much to be said. Ne-Yo was shown telling D’Angelo and Amanda that they “came in a little under the bar” that they set in their audition. J-Lo was at least moved by the way the Mihacevich sisters were able to dance as one, but she wanted to see them push themselves much harder.

Scores: D’Angelo and Amanda’s 78.7, had they earned it in The Qualifiers, wouldn’t have advanced them to The Duels. And it didn’t best the Mihacevich sisters, either.

With an odd number of teams remaining, the final two eliminations were going to come as the result of a three-way battle between girl group Rouge, the infamous Jabbawockeez, and newcomers Ian Eastwood & The Young Lions.

“Now, we have a dance battle on our hands.”

In order to win, Ne-Yo hoped Ian Eastwood’s team would be “a little less chill” than in their qualifying performance. The hope was that competing against a crew that even Ian himself called “the best dancers on the planet” (ok, but I wouldn’t go that far) would light a fire under them. Meanwhile, Jenna Dewan Tatum teased the upcoming battle by saying Rouge’s strength was their choreography.

Unfortunately, that strength did not come across in this episode of WORLD OF DANCE. Rouge performed something that looked like a caricature from a bad teen movie. There’s only so much booty shaking one can take, folks, especially when there’s…not much else to support it.

The Jabbawockeez, on the other hand, did that thing they do. They came to the battle with an epic head spin, real choreography, and just clean dancing with nice moments of contrast and musicality. Given their reputation and their strong performance, it seemed like this crew had a trip to WORLD OF DANCE’s third round in the bag, but Ian Eastwood & The Young Lions still needed to dance to make it official.

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Ian’s team was the very definition of saving the best for last. After an otherwise kind of “meh” episode of WORLD OF DANCE (at best), The Young Lions’ improvement was a great surprise. Their choreography was easily the best put-together of the night, and every single count and sub-count of their music was loaded with personality.

Can you say “performance quality?”

These guys came out here, giving the distinct impression that they had something to prove. Whatever that something was, they more than proved it.

In any just world, Ian Eastwood & The Young Lions would have pulled off a so-called upset…

Spoiler alert: Justice might be dying thing on a global scale, but it’s alive and well on WORLD OF DANCE.

Scores: (Let’s just skip the commentary because it was more of the same.) Rouge came in third place with a score of 80. And after the kind of melodrama you’d expect from a DWTS elimination, the verdict was in: The Jabbawockeez were going home with a score of 84.7, just a point below Ian Eastwood’s 85.7.

Glory, amen. Any previous complaints about big names who’ve already won other reality competitions getting to come to WORLD OF DANCE can now be put to rest. Previous success guarantees nothing here. You either show up and do what’s necessary on the day, or you’re going home — just like anyone else.

Ready for more WORLD OF DANCE?

Misty Copeland joins the judges on the next episode, where over half of the dancers will need to be cut. So, make sure to tune in to WORLD OF DANCE on Tuesday, July 18 at 10/9c on NBC.

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