Jaxon Willard (‘World of Dance’) came out of his shell just like Eva Igo in this breakthrough performance during The Cut [WATCH]

For such a consistently high-scoring dancer, contemporary soloist Jaxon Willard has been surprisingly insecure this season on “World of Dance.” In that way he reminds me of Eva Igo, who struggled to come out of her shell in season one only to blaze into the final rounds of the competition as one of the show’s biggest fan-favorites. So how did Willard do during the Cut? Watch his performance above, and decide for yourself.

The 16-year-old Willard scored 94 from the judges in the Qualifiers. Then he improved on that during the Duels with his emotional routine inspired by the black teen’s adoption into a white family — that one scored 96. But despite that consistency he was still shy and withdrawn during his mentoring session with Ne-Yo and Mel B. He didn’t even have a finished routine prepared for them. “Do you love the skin you’re in?” Mel B asked, and Willard answered with hunched shoulders.

This segment emphasized Willard’s insecurity so much that I had a feeling it was setting up a blazing, confident, showstopping performance. And I think it was. His athleticism, rhythm and grace were faultless, and he even demonstrated a surprising amount of swagger. “That’s what I mean when I say walk in your great,” said Ne-Yo, who was so inspired he rushed the stage to give Willard a hug. Jennifer Lopez thought it was “a beautiful thing to watch.” And Derek Hough felt the conviction behind every movement and intention in his routine.

After all that praise and encouragement I was surprised by the judges’ somewhat conservative scores: 90s from Ne-Yo and Lopez, and 92 from Hough. That gave him an average of 90.7, which placed him third in the division and sent him through to the Divisional Final. But after the performance he gave I wasn’t expecting this to be his lowest-scoring dance. What about you? Vote in our poll below to let us know who you think should win the Junior Division now that it’s down to the final three.

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