Contemporary soloist Briar Nolet wasn’t one of the highest-scoring performers during the “World of Dance” Qualifiers, and I think the judges lowballed her. So what happened when she came to the Duels and went head to head against the Latin/street fusion duo All Ready? Watch her routine above to find out.
Nolet explained to the judges that this routine was inspired by her struggle with epilepsy, which she was diagnosed with just a year ago after suffering through debilitating seizures. Jennifer Lopez praised her for her “emotional and psychological strength” and told her she was “unforgettable.” Derek Hough thought she was “powerful.” And Ne-Yo called her “phenomenal.” But when the rubber met the road and it was time to give her her scores, they still undervalued her. Especially Ne-Yo, whose reasoning I don’t quite understand. See what the judges had to say about her routine below.
Derek Hough — “That was so athletic. Just the acrobatics in that felt like an Olympic floor routine. It really did. And it was just so powerful, so strong … I felt it rush through my body, and that’s the power of intention. That’s the power of what dance is and what you’re doing up there.”
Jennifer Lopez — “Some of those drops to your shoulders and things like that were things I hadn’t seen. Really, it was super impressive … You are such an incredible, strong, athletic dancer. That takes an emotional and psychological strength, mental strength that is beyond anything that you could do physically. I don’t know how it’s going to play out, but I know that what you left out on that stage was something unforgettable.”
Ne-Yo — “You are a phenomenal dancer. I need you to know that win, lose or draw on this stage, you are a survivor. The only thing that worked against you — it was a piece and it was beautiful, but it wasn’t a Duel piece, it was a showcase piece. This is the Duel. I need you to be dueling.”
I think Ne-Yo’s critique boils down to the idea that Nolet should have been actively baiting or taunting her opponents with her choreography. All Ready did a playful job of that in their own routine, as did many other performers during the Duels. But this isn’t a rap battle. It’s not about the best burns, it’s about the best dancing, and Nolet was outstanding — again. Hough gave her a 94 and Lopez gave her a 90, but Ne-Yo’s score of 87 was the last nail in the coffin, leaving her with an average of 90.3 and costing her the Duel. All Ready beat her with an average of 92.3.
The good news for Nolet was that she had the highest score of any losing dancer, so she got to perform a redemption dance against contemporary duo Denise and Josh for one last wild card spot. Nolet slayed that performance with such intensity that she won her redemption battle and advanced to the next round despite her initial loss. Maybe all three judges will finally give her her due in the Cut.