“It’s about my feelings towards my birth mom and how I was angry and felt abandoned by her,” said teenager Jaxon Willard about what inspired his contemporary solo routine during The Duels on “World of Dance.” The black competitor, who was adopted into a white family, has struggled with his feelings about the family he came from and how to express those feelings to the family he now has, but he channeled those feelings into the highest scoring performance of the night.
What did you think of his dance? Watch his emotional routine above, and see what the judges had to say about it below.
Ne-Yo: “I’m looking around at the crowd — you got people in here crying, brother … [Jaxon’s adoptive mother] should be so proud of this guy. I understand the concept of being humble, and I can tell you’re so humble and there’s so much humility in you. But I need you to walk with your chest out and your back straight, brother. There is so much power in you. Listen, I’ll get into the performance now. You are the epitome of power and vulnerability. It’s like you jump in the air and you float. It’s like an effortless thing for you. You are amazing at what you do. I need you to walk in that.”
Jennifer Lopez: “For me, God gives us a set of circumstances in life. Everybody has their story, but then he gives you so much. He gave you so much talent. Honestly he gave you the ability to fly. He gave you wings on your back by giving you your mom, by giving you your family, by giving you this talent, and without your story you wouldn’t be able to be the artist that you are today. There is an elegance to the way you dance, and it is just an honor to watch it.”
Derek Hough: “Jaxon, you are a master storyteller. Your ability to own a moment in stillness is unbelievable. You are in tune with yourself, and when you’re in tune with yourself you can create magic, and that’s exactly what you did on this stage. Thank you so much for that performance.”
Willard was up against skilled tap dancer Lucas Marinetto, but it was no contest. Willard scored 97 from Ne-Yo, 98 from Lopez and 93 from Hough, giving him a winning average of 96, which was eight points higher than Marinetto received. But it was just bad luck for Marinetto, who score of 88 was better than a couple other competitors who actually won their Duels. Perhaps he’ll have better luck next year, but for now Willard is the one moving on to The Cut.