“World of Dance” aired its fourth and final episode of The Duels on Wednesday night, August 15. This head-to-head round brought together the top qualifying competitors from all four divisions for a series of single-elimination match-ups that ultimately sent home half of the field. The next round is The Cut, which starts on August 22. So who made The Cut and who got cut? Find out below in our live blog with all of the night’s developments as they happen.
In the first three weeks of The Duels, five Junior Division competitors (under age 18 with up to four members) advanced to The Cut. All of them are American, and four of them are duos: perfect-scoring Charity and Andres, Avery and Marcus, Jonas and Ruby, and Sean and Kaycee. The only soloist to advance so far is contemporary dancer Jaxon Willard, who had one of the highest scores recorded during The Duels so far, so maybe he’ll have an advantage in The Cut when the judges are comparing him to a field full of duets.
In the Junior Team Division (under age 18 with more than four members), four groups have advanced up to this point with American troupes Expressenz and The Lab going up against Canadian hip-hoppers Flip and the Japanese Fabulous Sisters.
The Upper Division (18 and over with up to four members) put through five competitors so far: Californian duos BDash and Konkrete and MarInspired, plus Chilean cabaret sensations Karen y Ricardo, Australian soloist Michael Dameski and Alisa and Joseph from Estonia/Greece.
And we’ve seen six groups from the Upper Team Division (18 and over with more than four members) advance to The Cut: The Bradas from New Zealand, Connection from Mexico, Desi Hoppers from India, Lock ‘N LOL Crew from South Korea, The Ruggeds from the Netherlands and Poreotics from the US. So far that’s the most diverse lineup when it comes to truly representing the entire world of dance.
So which of tonight’s dueling contestants joined them in The Cut. Find out below starting at 9:00pm (all times listed are Eastern).
9:00pm — “The Duels brings out the best,” says Derek Hough about how this round of the competition inspires the contestants to up their game.
Junior Division: Victoria Caban vs. Daniel and Mishella
9:02pm — I’m very excited to see Caban back on the show. There’s not much flamenco on this show, and she’s up against a pair of ballroom dancers. There are a lot of ballroom dancers in the competition, so they’ll need to be even better to stand out.
9:04pm — Host Jenna Dewan calls this a competition between a mini-Jennifer Lopez and a mini-Derek Hough. It’ll be interesting to see who those judges are inclined to vote for.
9:05pm — Victoria is up first, and she’s working with a risky prop: a fan, which she was dropping during rehearsals. No such problems during this routine. I liked it even better than her qualifying performance. This was dynamic and energetic and the fan really enhanced the routine. Jennifer thinks she “killed it.” Derek thought it was “fantastic.” Ne-Yo appreciates how she fused her flamenco specialty with a lot of other stylistic flavors. That’s going to be tough to beat.
9:09pm — I thought Daniel and Mishella would completely adorable and poised beyond their years. But I did slightly prefer Victoria. Jennifer thought it was like watching two adults perform. Derek thinks they need to work on their connection, but he loved how they incorporated a move they learned from him (they know their audience). Ne-Yo thought they were “fantastic” too, but I don’t think the judges were quite as enthusiastic about these two.
Scores for Victoria Caban: Ne-Yo (94), Jennifer (96), Derek (92) — Average: 94
Scores for Daniel and Mishella: Ne-Yo (86), Jennifer (87), Derek (88) — Average: 87
9:12pm — “You have a long career ahead of you,” says Jennifer to Daniel and Mishella, but they took their loss in stride. They know that since they’re only 10 they can keep coming back to the show “20 more times.”
Upper Team Division: S-Rank vs. Thamost
9:17pm — Hip-hop vs. hip-hop in this battle, and according to the teams they’re well acquainted with each other. Many of them have danced with each other before and a friends across teams. Thamost is definitely the underdog given their scores in the first round. S-Rank had the second highest qualifying score in the entire division.
9:19pm — Thamost is planning to increase their chances by increasing the level of their tricks. but Jennifer thinks S-Rank emerged as superstars in the making in their first-round performance. Then again, that means expectations are going to be higher for S-Rank.
9:21pm — S-Rank up first. They don’t have any big show-stopping moments in their routine, but their timing, their control, their coordination with each other, and the precision of their subtle movements made up for it. And they got a standing ovation from the judges. Ne-Yo thinks the choreography was so good it seemed to actually remix the song (“Drop It Like It’s Hot”). Jennifer could feel the intensity “from beginning to end.” Derek called it a “clinic of musicality.”
9:24pm — Thamost have their work cut out for them. At the end of this Duel they might have to change their name to Thaleast.
9:28pm — Oops! Looks like Thamost had a misstep in one of their moves, but even without the mistake it wasn’t quite as innovative as S-Rank’s performance. The choreography wasn’t quite as unique. Ne-Yo thinks it’s a great Duel, but noted the mistake. Jennifer thought it was a “good routine” — damning with faint praise. Derek thought Thamost was very much “on the beat,” while S-Rank was more intricate. Yeah, Thamost are probably toast.
Scores for S-Rank: Ne-Yo (97), Jennifer (92), Derek (94) — Average: 94.3
Scores for Thamost: Ne-Yo (85), Jennifer (85), Derek (85) — Average: 85
9:31pm — This one wasn’t even close. Even without the mistake Thamost wouldn’t have been able to bridge that gap. But the 97 from Ne-Yo was higher than I expected. Give them some room to grow into the next round, man!
Junior Division: Josh and Taylor vs. Second to None
9:37pm — “They have been nothing short of stunning,” says Ne-Yo about hip-hop duo Josh and Taylor’s first-round performance, but he thinks Second to None were the best tap performers in the Qualifiers. And Second to None are also the last chance for tap to make it out of the Duels.
9:39pm — “We just need to make it raw and genuinely emotional,” says Taylor about their routine. Jenna tells them to pump up the emotion even more, especially the judges might be invested in seeing at least one tap act make it to The Cut.
9:40pm — The tappers are going first, so they’re really going to have to throw down the gauntlet. It took a while for Second to None to really get going, but the performance really kicked into gear in the second half with impressive athletic tricks and even a couple of hip-hop-infused moments. “The flip was crazy,” said Jennifer — I agree. Ne-Yo says they did a “great job.” And Derek thinks they “raised their game” with their storytelling and theatricality, but he wanted it to be a little cleaner in the middle.
9:43pm — Ooh, Josh and Taylor brought Alicia Keys to this battle! I love their use of “Fallin’,” their storytelling, and their interpretation of the music. But I think this will actually be a close one because I was expecting a little more from them. But Jennifer thinks they even improved on their Qualifiers performance. “It was amazing,” she says. Ne-Yo loved the “crystal clear story” and the “authentic emotion.” Derek thought the choreography was “intricate and intelligent.” I think Josh and Taylor did enough to win this one.
Scores for Second to None: Ne-Yo (88), Jennifer (83), Derek (8) — Average: 86.3
Scores for Josh and Taylor: Ne-Yo (90), Jennifer (95), Derek (92) — Average: 92.3
9:47pm — Not surprised by this outcome, and it was a well deserved win by the hip-hop duo, but I thought Second to None deserved for it to be closer than it was. I thought Jennifer over-scored Josh and Taylor and under-scored Second to None.
Upper Division: L&J vs. DNA
9:52pm — The judges loved the chemistry between contemporary duo L&J in the first round. They thought they were really a couple, but alas they both have boyfriends at home. DNA, meanwhile, are looking for redemption: they were knocked out of the Duels last year after a mistake during their routine.
9:54pm — “If you’re going to go for the sexy moment, go for it,” says Jenna to L&J since this is going to be a battle of teams with great chemistry. DNA are going to dance a jive since it’s their best style, but “is wanting it so bad going to trip them up again?” Jenna wonders.
9:56pm — L&J are up first. Some amazing death-defying tricks, some really smooth, dynamic movements. I think the door is open, though, since I didn’t think it was as strong between tricks. Jennifer thought it was executed “perfectly.” Derek thought there was a disconnect between the song (“I Like the Way You Move”) and the routine. Ne-Yo also thought there was a “music vs. movement” problem. I think Derek and Ne-Yo might have articulated the issue I was having with the performance. Such amazing physicality, but it didn’t feel like the best marriage between the choreography and the song.
10:03pm — DNA up next — don’t fall!
10:05pm — Wow, DNA are going super hard, maybe a little too hard. It had tons of energy and skill, but felt a little chaotic for me. “I really felt like you were dancing for redemption,” said Derek, and he really liked their technique and difficulty. Jennifer could also sense their passion and how much they want to win. Ne-Yo liked the connection between them too. I actually can’t figure out who will win this. My guess is DNA, but I slightly preferred L&J.
Scores for L&J: Ne-Yo (84), Jennifer (87), Derek (87) — Average: 86
Scores for DNA: Ne-Yo (88), Jennifer (89), Derek (88) — Average: 88.3
10:06pm — DNA got the redemption they were looking for. They didn’t miss a step, really, so I can’t blame the judges for not wanting to rip DNA’s hearts out again
10:13pm — The show is speeding through some of these next Duels, which is kind of disappointing. Upper Team Division Quad Squad beat Girl Cool, and Quad Squad got a score of 93, so it really would have been nice to see that in its entirety.
10:14pm — Contemporary soloist Madison Brown beat Elektro Elite for a spot in the Junior Division Cut. Ne-Yo thought Madison reminded him of Eva Igo, which he said was a huge compliment from him.
10:15pm — The Rock Company beat Tribe Unleashed in the Junior Team Division, but it was a very low-scoring Duel, and the judges didn’t love either routine wholeheartedly.
10:16pm — Ballrom dance team The Pulse beat Iowa Girlz but one-third of a point, but it was another low-scoring battle.
10:19pm — The show didn’t devote much time to any of these battles, which might tell us not to worry too much about these winners in The Cut, or else the editors might have showcased them more fully in this episode.
Upper Division: Ashley and Zack vs. Morning of Owl
10:22pm — No one chose these two acts to battle against, so by default they’re competing against each other. It’s kind of like being picked last in gym class, though in this case it could work in their favor since no high-scoring team picked them to try to take down an easy target. They don’t have much in common stylistically, and they scored a point apart in the Qualifiers, so this could go either way.
10:23pm — Zach says their strategy is to emphasize their emotional connection, which I think is always a good bet on this show, especially going against an innovative hip-hop group like Morning of Owl who have the potential to show the judges something they haven’t seen before.
10:24pm –I loved Ashley and Zack’s performance. There was so much going on. It was jam-packed with movement and difficulty. It could have easily been hectic or messy, but it was so finely controlled and with such a strong sense of narrative. Jennifer thought they had a number of movements that really blew her away. Ne-Yo also thought it was a step up from their Qualifiers performance, and they made it look effortless. Derek thought it was an “incredible job” too, so I have a feeling that’s going to be the winning routine.
10:32pm — Morning of Owl up next. A lot of great innovation, and it was certainly one of the most entertaining routines of the night, but if I say it was all over the place I’m describing the routine’s greatest strength and biggest problem. Jennifer loved their innovative moves and sense of fun. Ne-Yo admired them especially for their originality. Derek thought it was “amazing.” I still think Ashley and Zack have an edge here. Ne-Yo calls this Duel “the best possible apples vs. the best possible oranges.”
Scores for Ashley and Zack: Ne-Yo (91), Jennifer (92), Derek (93) — Average: 92
Scores for Morning of Owl: Ne-Yo (94), Jennifer (90), Derek (91) — Average: 91.7
10:36pm — Ashley and Zack won, which I think was the right result, though it was a lot closer than I thought it would be. I think Ne-Yo’s score for Morning of Owl was too high, but I think if they come back next year with a little bit more cohesion to go along with their peerless innovation, then they could be unstoppable.
Upper Team Division: Embodiment vs. Brotherhood
10:41pm — Another Duel between teams no one else picked. An all-male contemporary team going up against a veteran hip-hop team who are used to competing. Embodiment are “going for the heartstrings,” notes Jenna. Again, bringing the emotion is a big advantage on this show. Their routine is inspired by one member whose father suffered a heart attack.
10:44pm — Brotherhood were humbled by their low first-round score (they barely qualified with 80.3), so they’re even more determined to push the limits.
10:45pm — Embodiment are up first. It had great musicality and vulnerability. Not the most innovative choreography, but I thought it was delivered with incredible timing and sincerity. Jennifer was deeply moved by it and she couldn’t even explain why. Derek thought it was technically “effortless” and “graceful.” Ne-Yo loved how the elegance didn’t take away from their masculinity. He usually has a problem with male contemporary groups who aren’t masculine enough, and I’m really not sure what to do with that problematic critique.
10:52pm — Brotherhood are up next. They’re a hip-hop group, and they’re wearing army fatigues, so I’m sure it’ll be manly enough for Ne-Yo. It was a very solid performance, and it even included a moment that kind of mocked their contemporary rivals’ graceful style — not sure how I feel about that. It’s the Duels, so I hope it was in good fun, but I still have issues with this whole false dichotomy between elegance and manliness. Ne-Yo hates having to choose between the two groups. Derek also thinks it will be difficult between two teams that are so different from each other. I’d vote for Embodiment myself.
Scores for Embodiment: Ne-Yo (94), Jennifer (93), Derek (93) — Average: 93.3
Scores for Brotherhood: Ne-Yo (94), Jennifer (91), Derek (93) — Average: 92.7
10:57pm — Ne-Yo and Derek sat on the fence, giving both teams the exact same score. It came down to Jennifer to make the call, giving Embodiment the edge by two points. Emotion is the name of the game, and that’s probably what made the difference for her.
10:59pm — That’s a wrap for The Duels! The Cut round is next, and only three teams from each division will move on from there to the Division Final.