After over a year, season four of World of Dance premiered Tuesday, May 26, on NBC as a summer show. The beloved series stars judges Derek Hough, Ne-Yo and Jennifer Lopez and host Scott Evans. For those who are unfamiliar with the premise, World of Dance is split into four rounds: “The Qualifiers,” “The Duels,” “The Cut,” “Divisional Final” and “World Final.” Those who compete in the four rounds include four sets of divisions competing for the $1 million cash prize: Upper, upper team, junior and junior team. In previous years, the first round of qualifiers required contestants to receive a minimum average score of 80 to advance to the duels; however, this year’s setup is quite different. 

Instead of first performing in front of the judges on stage with a live audience, the dancers are now expected to showcase their talent just feet away from the judges in a warehouse. Also vastly different is the scoring method. Rather than receiving a composite, numeral score, participants now must receive two out of three yeses from the judges in order to progress. The whole approach seems very American Idol-like and is ultimately less exciting, but many viewers are suspecting it may be due to the coronavirus outbreak, despite wrapping up filming Friday, March 13, right when quarantine began. Undeniably it is more interesting to be able to see the exact score the judges award to each act in order to better gauge if the act has just barely made it through or passed with flying colors. Only time will tell if dancers will return to the striking, vibrant, blue stage for “The Duels.”  

After becoming acclimated to the new arrangement, the first act the judges and viewers had the chance to see was upper Hispanic salsa duo Jefferson and Adrianita, who are such huge fans of Hough that they went as far to name their son Derek, after the world-renowned dancer. The two were more than thrilled to be performing in front of their idol as they danced to “Dos Jueyes” by Alex Torress. Hough stood up for the two following the performance. It was “slick, tight, and I know I can’t do what you just did, and I feel like I can do it. You made it look absolutely effortless,” praised Ne-Yo. As for J-Lo, Jefferson and Adrianita needed to surpass the former salsa duo from season two, Karen and Ricardo, if they planned to remain competitive in the competition. She claimed they needed more improvement and faster footwork if they dream of taking home the grand prize. With that being said, the ballroom dancers received three yeses and advanced to “The Duels.” 

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Next to impress the judges was junior team GRVMNT from Vancouver, Canada. The leader of the group, who is the “trickster” and “dare-devil,” shared his emotional story about his father passing away and turning to his teammates during times of adversity. The group came across as a family. He described the group as “sharp” and “high-energy.” Unfortunately, the judges did not necessarily agree and were not 100% sold on their performance of “Dum Dum” by Tedashii featuring Lecrae. Hough said there “was a moment [he] felt his energy dip,” and Ne-Yo also said a moment “fell flat” for him as well. J-Lo described them as “80 percent there,” yet gave them a yes. As for Hough and Ne-Yo, the two gave them a never-before-used callback for them to redeem themselves before the next round. Hopefully, the team comes back stronger and less predictable. 

Upper contemporary duo Jake and Chau, AKA “jakenchau,” performed to “Bruises” by Lewis Capaldi and wowed the judges with their beautiful, fluid transitions and trust within one another. The tricks utilized were anything but flashy and, instead, effective. Ne-Yo pointed out that “should [they] miss, somebody’s gonna get hurt” and that their connection was “genuine.” “I think you guys seem pretty special,” Lopez said. Obviously, the duo received three yeses and will be moving forward. 

Four brothers, known as “The Williams Fam,” are more commonly known as social media influencers rather than professional dancers. They described it as “different than what (they) do right now.” Sadly, their goal to “take what (they) do on social media and translate it to a competition stage,” failed during their routine to Dopebwoy featuring Chivv and Jroby’s “Cartier.” The routine was a bit elementary with no standout qualities to pose as a threat to other acts. Although Hough loved the humor present in the routine, he noted, “In this arena, there is a different level of like dancing, of attack, of choreography.” Ne-Yo and J-Lo both agreed with Hough that though enjoyable, “The Williams Fam” would not be advancing. 

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Junior hip-hop duo Bailey and Kida are no stranger to performing under pressure and in the spotlight. The two have danced individually with stars such as Janet Jackson, Jason Derulo, Megan Trainor, K CAMP, Will Smith, J. Cole, Usher and Kendrick Lamar. However, the two have only been dancing as a duo for a couple weeks and will have to sell their on-stage chemistry to the judges. Luckily, the duo’s isolation, fluidity and agility made up for not possessing as strong of a connection in their performance to Da Baby’s “Off the Rip.” J-Lo said the good news was that they were both great dancers, and the bad was that she could tell they hadn’t been dancing together for long, “but they were both so exceptional. There was a lot of potential.” They easily received three yeses and are already a current intimidating force to be reckoned with in the junior division.

Lastly, junior jazz dancer Savannah Manzel dazzled the judges with her superior talent for a 9-year-old. Not only was she adorable, Manzel was incredibly flexible, talented and crisp in every movement. Her toes were never not pointed, and her face was never not smiling. After judging her performance to Celine Dion’s rendition “River Deep Mountain High,” Lopez exclaimed that she “looked like she had been rehearsing for that for 15 years.” The judges described her as “strong, athletic, flexible, beautiful face that lights up the room.” “The bar has been raised, I have no words.” “Your skill level is way above your years on this planet,” Ne-Yo said. Clearly the most evident choice of the night, Manzel went home with three yeses. 

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@emmadollenmayer

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