‘World of Dance’ The Duels 1 recap: The battles got underway as the season’s best dancers finally went head to head [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

World of Dance” aired eight weeks of “Qualifiers” in which contestants tried to impress judges Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough and Ne-Yo enough to earn an average score of 80 or more. Most of the contestants we saw take the stage achieved just that, sometimes far more. But just one night after the eighth qualifying round on July 24 it was time for the first “Duels” on July 25. So who survived their epic gladiatorial battles, and who got the boot? Find out below in our live blog with all the developments as they happen.

“The Duels” is the second round of this elite global competition, and it will cut the field in half. The dancers are now grouped by their divisions: Upper (age 18 and over with up to 4 members), Upper Team (18 and over with more than 4 members), Junior (under 18 with up to 4 members), and Junior Team (under 18 with more than 4 members).

Each qualifying performer competes head-to-head against another performer in their division. The contestant with the higher score moves to the next round, while the contestant with the lower score is eliminated. It’s as simple as that. So just one misstep could cost you any chance at the million-dollar grand prize at the end of the season.

The dancers who survive “The Duels” will move on to “The Cut,” where the divisions will be further reduced. The “Division Finals” will decide which contestant will represent each of the four divisions at the “World Final” for the million-dollar grand prize. So which dueling dancers were up to the challenge, and who choked under the pressure? Find out below in our live blog starting at 8:00pm. (All times listed are Eastern.)

8:00pm — Time for “The Duels”! “It’s the biggest, toughest, most intense round of the competition yet,” says the announcer. Well, it’s certainly the most intense round until the next one.

8:01pm — The highest scoring acts from “The Qualifiers” chose who they wanted to face from each division. I wonder if some 90-pointers decided to face off against some 80.3 scorers.

UPPER DIVISION: Karen v Ricardo vs. Luka and Jenalyn

8:03pmKaren y Ricardo vs. Luka and Jenalyn: Two cabaret ballroom acts, but Karen y Ricardo got nearly a perfect 99.7 in the first round the highest score ever recorded. Poor Luka and Jenalyn have their work cut out for them. But at least Karen y Ricardo decided to compete against a similar style so it won’t be apples and oranges.

8:05pm — Jenalyn will be in a straitjacket for their routine, which will certainly up the difficulty level. High risk, high reward?

8:07pm — Wow, the tricks Karen y Ricardo are throwing out are remarkable. And every move shows such perfect control, centering, and ease. Luka and Jenalyn look scared, because the judges gave three standing ovations.

8:09pm — The judges locked in their scores, but didn’t reveal them before introducing Luka and Jenalyn. Probably for the best that this couple doesn’t know the exact number they have to beat.

8:10pm — A fantastic performance by Luka and Jenalyn to try to follow Karen y Ricardo. A lot of fight and fire to the music of The White Stripes, but they didn’t look quite as smooth as their exceptional competitors. Ne-Yo thought this was the best they had seen the couple, and Lopez thought they really stepped up. But I don’t think they beat Karen y Ricardo with that routine.

Scores for Luka and Jenalyn: 90 (Ne-Yo), 92 (Lopez), 95 (Hough) = 92.3

Scores for Karen y Ricardo: 97 (Ne-Yo), 99 (Lopez), 99 (Hough) = 98.3

8:14pm — Poor Luka and Jenalyn. It was just bad luck that they’re eliminated so soon. Karen y Ricardo probably would have knocked out anyone they went up against.

JUNIOR TEAM DIVISION: Untouchables vs. Expressionz

8:19pm — Latin dance team versus a contemporary team, and they both scored pretty evenly in “The Qualifiers,” so whichever way this goes it probably won’t be a blowout like the first duel was.

8:21pm — Jenna Dewan is excited for the emotionality of the Expressionz team. their routine will be inspired by the subject of suicide, while the Untouchables look like gladiators — are you not entertained?

8:22pm — I’m loving the intensity of this Untouchables performance. Their qualifying performance was very celebratory, but this one could have been directed by Zach Snyder — but in a good way. Ne-Yo thought there was a lot of clarity of style. Derek Hough felt the choreography was a little too simple when you take away the costumes and props. Jennifer Lopez defended them, but I definitely see Derek’s point.

8:26pm — Expressionz brought a very different tone and style to their performance, more lyrical and emotional, and they got a standing ovation from the judges. Not looking good for the Untouchables. They might have just gotten touched. Jennifer had goosebumps. Derek thought they were “second to none” with perfectly synchronized turns. It sounds like this actually is going to be a blowout. But we’ll have to wait until after the commercial break.

8:28pm — Assuming the Untouchables really are going home as it looks like they will be, I’m disappointed for them. Their team leader returned to the show after being eliminated last season, and he was determined to pull out all the stops for this exact moment. Unfortunately, the relative simplicity of their choreography might be their downfall.

Scores for Untouchables: 89 (Ne-Yo), 89 (Lopez), 90 (Hough) = 89.3

Scores for Expressionz: 93 (Ne-Yo), 95 (Lopez), 94 (Hough) = 94

8:33pm — A decisive victory for Expressionz, though Hough scored the Unotuchables higher than I expected given his critiques.

UPPER DIVISION: BDash Konkrete vs. Pasha and Daniella

8:34pm — This is going to be interesting: a hip-hop duo going up against ballroom dancers. Ne-Yo wasn’t actually a fan of Pasha and Daniella’s qualifying performance, so they might be at a disadvantage from the start.

8:36pm — BDash and Konkrete are giving a performance inspired by the fear of impending fatherhood. They chose ballroom dancers as their rivals because they wanted face someone who brought something different. Apples and oranges it is!

8:40pm — Pasha and Daniella up first. they’re planning to take more risks than they did in the first round. I’m impressed by how smooth their lifts are despite their complexity. Their more traditional ballroom movements were also very crisp and precise, though it didn’t have as much wow factor as their acrobatic tricks. Ne-Yo still thinks they needed to bring more to the table, and even Jennifer was a bit underwhelmed even though she admired their performance overall. That’s good news for BDash and Konkrete.

8:41pm — BDash and Konkrete talked about their inspiration being the fear of fatherhood, but from the looks of their costumes it looks more like the fear of Pennywise.

8:45pm — This BDash and Konkrete performance is highly innovative. Great use of movement to tell a creepy visual story. The judges gave standing ovations. Derek thought the narrative storytelling paid off. Jennifer also thought it was highly effective. Ne-Yo admired their unusual narrative take on krumping also. Looks like it’ll be a win for the hip-hop dancers.

Scores for Pasha and Daniella: 85 (Ne-Yo), 89 (Lopez), 91 (Hough) = 88.3

Scores for BDash and Konkrete: 95 (Ne-Yo), 94 (Lopez), 94 (Hough) = 94.3

8:48pm –The scores have been remarkable in this round so far. It’s a testament to the level of competition that the lowest score of the night so far was the 88.3 for Pasha and Daniella.

JUNIOR TEAM DIVISION: Fabulous Sisters vs. Rascals

8:53pm — The Fabulous Sisters from Fukushima vs. the hip-hop Rascals from Hawaii. Another clash of very different performance styles.

8:56pm — Rascals are up first. Great synchronization from the team. No totally showstopping moves from this group for me, though. Jennifer loved their swagger. Ne-Yo was impressed by their unison. And Derek praised the knee-drops. Sounds like it’s going to be a high score, but how high?

9:02pm — The Fabulous Sisters brought such unexpected intensity to their routine. Their qualifying performance was delicate, and they charged out with an intensely dramatic, routine to Lindsey Stirling’s “Shatter Me.” Derek gave them a standing ovation, and compliments them for their power and their work ethic. It sounds like the Fabulous Sisters have this in the bag, and I’d have to agree.

Scores for Fabulous Sisters: 95 (Ne-Yo), 96 (Lopez), 96 (Hough) = 95.7

Scores for Rascals: 97 (Ne-Yo), 94 (Lopez), 92 (Hough) = 94.3

9:06pm — I was right about the win for the Fabulous Sisters, but those Rascals scores were higher than I expected, and Ne-Yo even gave the Rascals the higher score. That was a close one! It’s a shame those Hawaiian hip-hop tykes won’t be back for more, especially after we learned they can only afford to travel to one competition per year.

UPPER DIVISION: Michael Dameski vs. Angyil

9:12pm — Classically trained Dameski competing against hip-hop dancer Angyil. Dameski is going out of his comfort zone with his routine, but host Jenna Dewan wants him to increase the complexity of his performance. Dameski picked Angyil not because of her style but because she’s the only other soloist in their division.

9:14pm — Dameski is up first. He has also decided to go with a darker, more emotional second round dance. It was beautifully fluid but intensely athletic. Standing ovations from all the judges. Ne-Yo admired his “softness” and “power.” Jennifer was on an “emotional rollercoaster.” Derek thought he looked like he was dancing in water. That’s going to be tough to beat.

9:17pm — I love Angyil’s performance too. Just as precise as Dameski, but in completely different ways. There’s a kind of country-western-meets-hip-hop feel, and with her popping it looks like she’s vibrating like a guitar string. excellent work.

9:18pm — Ne-Yo thought she was spot-on, though he thinks she doesn’t give her moves time to breathe. Jennifer admits it will be difficult to choose between two dancers who are so good at such different styles. Derek thought the moves needed more room to breath, and Angyil admitted that the entire performance was freestyle. To me that makes it even more impressive. But I have a feeling Dameski is going to win this one

Scores for Michael Dameski: 95 (Ne-Yo), 94 (Lopez), 95 (Hough) = 94.7

Scores for Angyil: 90 (Ne-Yo), 87 (Lopez), 88 (Hough) = 88.3

9:21pm — A well-deserved win by Dameski, though I don’t think he should have won by that wide a margin. Angyil was underscored, especially since she improvised her entire performance on the spot.

UPPER TEAM DIVISION: The Bradas vs. The Jam Project

9:26pm — A battle of hip-hop vs. tap. Hip-hop dance lends itself to bigger, showier, more action-packed routines, so I’m wondering how much wow factor the Jam Project will be able to bring to the subtle art of tap.

9:28pm — The Bradas dance first. Lots of innovative moves and surprising, precise prop work by the Bradas. Derek thought the props especially paid off given how much could have gone wrong. Ne-Yo loved that they increased the amount of dancing compared to the tricks — and they upped their game with their tricks too. I don’t think it will be easy for the Jam Project to compete with that.

9:35pm — Dynamite routine by the Jam Project, which brought as much energy and drama as they could possibly have mustered. Derek thought they were “crisp, clean, and together.” Ne-Yo was skeptical about how whether tap dancers could compete on the world stage against other styles. I wonder if they’ll give the win to the Jam Project to keep a tap act in the running.

Scores for The Bradas: 90 (Ne-Yo), 90 (Lopez), 89 (Hough) = 89.7

Scores for The Jam Project: 86 (Ne-Yo), 88 (Lopez), 91 (Hough) = 88.3

9:38pm — I’m a little surprised that neither team scored over 90 for their routines. But interesting that it was such a close call and another split decision. Derek actually picked the tappers over the hip-hop troupe.

JUNIOR DIVISION: Eva Igo vs. Avery and Marcus

9:43pm — Time for more Eva Igo, last season’s runner-up! She’s going to be tough to beat, and Avery and Marcus struggled with some of their transitions during the qualifying round. Just given her track record I give the edge to Eva. But Jenna Dewan thinks she took a risk by choosing to go up against a duo whose skills are similar to her own.

9:46pm — Eva Igo is going first, so she might be able to psych out her competitors. And she’s performing to Kesha‘s “Praying,” which is such a good fit to her level of emotionality. Indeed, Derek loved her connection to the music, though he wanted the routine to be more structured with better transitions between movements. Ne-Yo also thinks she needs to step it up even more because they’ve seen this kind of performance from her before. Jennifer was riveted by her emotions too. I think the judges are right, though, that it was a dimension of Eva that we’ve seen before, and she needs to reach an even higher level. It sounds like Eva is vulnerable, but I’d still be surprised if they cut her so soon.

9:53pm — Excellent acrobatic ballet routine by Avery and Marcus. Not as emotional as Eva’s performance, but with more structure and specificity in their choreography. Derek thinks they greatly improved from their qualifying performance, adding much more innovation. Ne-Yo liked how the routine allowed them both to shine, and he and Jennifer think their round-one nerves were completely gone. This might be surprisingly close. An upset in the making?

Scores for Avery and Marcus: 95 (Ne-Yo), 93 (Lopez), 92 (Hough) = 93.3

Scores for Eva Igo: 94 (Ne-Yo), 91 (Lopez), 91 (Hough) = 92

9:58pm — Wow, huge upset! But Jennifer lets them know that they have a lot to live up to since they “knocked out a giant.” I don’t blame the judges for their decision, though. Avery and Marcus were incredibly innovative, and their choreography was more complex. But still shocking that the reigning Junior Division champion just got knocked out in round two, and by a unanimous decision. Even the judges weren’t expecting that to happen.

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