‘World of Dance’ Qualifiers 2 recap: Jennifer Lopez and company continue their search for the next world champ [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

World of Dance” premiered its third season on Tuesday, February 26, but the dance competition moved to its regular Sunday night time slot on March 3. So who impressed the judges enough in “Qualifiers 2” to advance to the Duels? Scroll down for our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.

Tuesday’s two-hour season premiere introduced us to new dancers across all four divisions, and the stakes were higher this time around. In previous seasons you needed an average score of 80 from the judges to advance, but now the cutoff is 85, and that high bar already knocked out a few impressive acts that would have made it through in previous years. However, several other vaulted clear over that bar.

The class of the field in the Upper Division (age 18 and over, up to four members) were Jonathan y Jorge, a male salsa duo who scored 88.7 for defying gender expectations, though judge Jennifer Lopez thought they needed to work on their salsa fundamentals. But that was nothing compared to The Kings, who ruled the Upper Team Division (age 18 and over, more than four members) with 97.7 after they defied gravity.

Lauren Yakima was nearly as good, leading the Junior Division (under 18, up to four members) with a whopping 95.7. And the standouts in the Junior Team Division (under 18, more than four members) were The Crazy 8’s with 93.0. Those scores will be wiped clean in the next round, but it means that whoever faces them in the Duels has their work cut out for them.

So were the “Qualifiers 2” hopefuls just as good as the competitors in “Qualifiers 1”? Were any of them even better? Find out below starting at 8:00pm (all times listed are Eastern).

Kayla Mak (Junior Division)

8:03pm — Kicking off the night is a contemporary ballet soloist. She’s nervous to compete against such competitive styles, but I think her best strength is the fact that her fusion of styles is unique. And her range of motion is superhuman. I didn’t know arms and legs had joints in those places.

Judges — Derek Hough “loved that routine.” Ne-Yo thought it was “so beautiful it looked easy.” Jennifer considered it non-traditional and thought she was like a “fairy” or “nymph,” but she wanted Kayla to show more musicality in terms of how she interpreted her song.

Scores — Ne-Yo (92), Jennifer (87), Derek (92) — Average: 90.3

8:08pm — A huge score to start the night, and well deserved, but I agree with Jennifer that the routine could have used better musical interpretation. She’s got the moves and the presence, and if she can connect it better to the emotion of her song, she could be extraordinary.

Fuego Dance Crew (Upper Team Division)

8:10pm — This “boy band”-style group hasn’t been formally trained, but they’ve been together since they were schoolkids. Not sure how I feel about their self-styled bro-band style, but to their credit their intricate movement and precision made up for their cockiness.

Judges — Derek thought they were “unbelievably clean.” Ne-Yo calls them “absolutely amazing.” Jennifer thought it was an “arrogant” routine that earned its swagger, but she thought it “flat-lined” a bit in the middle. “Don’t get lazy halfway through,” she warns them.

Scores — Ne-Yo (92), Jennifer (95), Derek (94) — Average: 93.7

8:15pm — They advance to the Duels with room to spare. They definitely deserved to move on to the next round, but those scores were higher than I expected, especially since Jennifer warned them about losing their energy midway through. I wouldn’t have gone into the mid-90s for that, but I’m looking forward to how well they evolve in the next round.

Motiv Crew (Upper Team Division)

8:21pm — A short segment. We don’t see much from them, but they got an 85.7, even thought Derek thought they were inconsistent.

JDC (Junior Team Division)

8:22pm — Another brief segment, and Jennifer thought their attitude carried them through the routine. They made it through with a score of 87.3.

Ethan and Anastasia (Junior Division)

8:22pm — Ne-Yo wanted more maturity in their movements, so they were eliminated with an average of 84.3.

Aydin Eyikan (Junior Division)

8:24pm — 15-year-old contemporary dancer with a supportive dad. He wanted to appear on “World of Dance” because it would be an ideal platform to share his love of dance. He has great spins, great control, and great flexibility, like most of the other contemporary soloists we’ve seen on the show, but he has a strong connection to his music, “In My Blood” by Shawn Mendes.

Judges — Derek thought his “technical foundation was supreme,” but he should time his choreography to match the crescendos of the music. Jennifer Lopez loved this physicality and technique, and he also thinks Lopez has the added X-factor. Ne-Yo thinks he’s “an amazing dancer.”

Scores — Ne-Yo (89), Jennifer (87), Derek (89) — Average: 88.3

8:27pm — Compared to the previous performances, I think Eyikan was a little under-scored for this performance. I thought his musicality was actually stronger than the judges gave him credit for. But I can understand the judges being a little more conservative when scoring contemporary soloists. We’ve seen so many in the last two seasons that it’s harder for any one of them to show us something we haven’t seen before.

All Ready (Upper Division)

8:33pm — This South Korean duo met in Latin dance school, and their style is a fusion of Latin and street. They want to show the world that “women can have it all.” They’ve got the stage presence, great musical interpretation, and huge personality, though I’m not sure their choreography had the level of complexity and difficult to go all the way in the competition.

Judges — Jennifer “couldn’t even define what that was,” and she loved that combo. “There was something really cool about the fusion you guys created.” Ne-Yo loved the routine and the wardrobe, but he wants them to make sure all their styles are clean and precise so they’re not “jack of all trades and master of none.” Derek found them “refreshing” and “charismatic … It made me smile the whole way through that routine.”

Scores — Ne-Yo (89), Jennifer (90), Derek (85) — Average: 88.0

8:39pm — Derek’s score indicates he was on the fence about them, and I can understand his ambivalence. Their choreography isn’t big and showy, so they’ll sink or swim based on how well they execute the character of their dances. That can go a long way, but it puts more pressure on the quality of their concepts and storytelling.

Guests of Honor (Upper Team Division)

8:45pm — Short segment with a troupe that just missed out with a score of 84.3, but Jennifer thought they had potential. Maybe next year.

Exiles (Upper Team Division)

8:46pm — Christian hip-hop crew wants to win the competition so they can create a studio space to serve at risk youth. Their routine doesn’t feature anything groundbreaking, but their choreography was strong, well timed, and executed with precision and personality.

Judges — Derek says, “You guys showed up to compete,” but they need a little more show-stopping intensity. Jennifer thought their energy was “strong and in-my-face,” and they took her by surprise with her tricks, but their team leader needs to hold his center more consistently. And Ne-Yo loved the routine and its intentionality.

Scores — Ne-Yo (88), Jennifer (87), Derek (89) — Average: 88.0

8:51pm — They make it through comfortably, but I think they might be in trouble in the Duels going head-to-head against another team that might bring a little more innovation to the dance floor.

Briar Nolet (Upper Division)

8:56pm — Another solo contemporary dancer. Her career hit a major setback when she had a seizure that almost killed her. She continued to suffer seizures after that, seemingly triggered by her dancing, and she was eventually diagnosed with epilepsy. And I’ve definitely got to give her credit for that level of performance given her challenges. The fluidity of her movements and the hip-hop vibe of some of her choreography felt fresh even after seeing lots of contemporary performers.

Judges — Jennifer appreciated the “sensual” quality of her movements, but she wanted her to connect better to the music. Derek praised her “stunning quality of movement. I was mesmerized.” Ne-Yo loved the snake-like movement towards the beginning, and he echoed Jennifer’s praise of her sensuality.

Scores — Ne-Yo (88), Jennifer (86), Derek (88) — Average: 87.3

9:02pm — Another solid but somewhat conservative score for a contemporary dancer. It seems like they’re holding back a bit. It’ll be interesting to see how the judges rate the contemporary dancers in the Duels.

VPeepz (Junior Team Division)

9:07pm — Filipino crew representing difficult economic classes. “We don’t care where you come from or how much money you’ve got.” Their orange/plastic jumpsuits are giving off a very Hazmat vibe. They get a standing ovation from Derek.

Judges — Jennifer thought their formations were “flawless,” and they give her hope for the future of the world: “You guys are honestly going to change the world and make it a better place.” Derek adds, “It was absolutely fire … Everything was so on-point.” Ne-Yo loved the “ridiculous” synchronicity.

Scores — Ne-Yo (89), Jennifer (89), Derek (93) — Average: 90.3

9:14pm — Great score for this team, and I can’t argue with those numbers, really, though I’d probably fall closer to Ne-Yo and Jennifer’s scores than to Derek’s. This team has great potential and precision, but could use a little more wow factor.

Movement Society (Junior Team Division)

9:20pm — Short segment. Jennifer didn’t think they stood our nearly enough, so they were eliminated with a score of 84.7.

Derion and Madison (Upper Division)

9:21pm — “If you can name the move, we can’t put it in the piece,” says Derion about their unique, athletic style of contemporary dance. Indeed, their movements were unique, difficult, challenging.

Judges — Ne-Yo says they are the “epitome” of artistic athletes, and they showed him things he hasn’t seen before. Jennifer Lopez thought it was a “strong” performance with a lot of passion. Derek was thrilled by Derion’s strength, so much so that’s trying one of Derion’s moves himself — no, not quite. He’s afraid he’s going to pull something

Scores — Ne-Yo (89), Jennifer (92), Derek (90) — Average: 90.3

9:26pm — I’m really excited to see what they bring to the next round of the competition. Madison explained that their choreography is shaped by their improvisation, and I’m looking forward to seeing more innovation. I’d also like to see them marry that to a cohesive concept or theme that could give them more of an emotional impact as well as a physical, visual impact.

Moving 4ward (Junior Division)

9:31pm — Short segment. Jennifer thought they have a “ton of potential,” and Derek thought their choreography “stayed on one note.” Ne-yo thinks they need more maturity of movement. Surprisingly, they make it through with 86.3. Did not see that coming given those critiques they showed.

FemP3 (Junior Division)

9:33pm — Short segment. Derek thought they didn’t finish as strong as they started. Jennifer didn’t see anything from them that she hasn’t seen before. They’re eliminated with a score of 84.7.

Dancetown Divas (Junior Team Division)

9:35pm — A Latin ballroom group with elements of jazz, hip-hop and waacking. their dance moms seem just as intense as they are. Their routine is a big, bright burst of color. I liked it a lot.

Judges — Derek loves “a good fringe pant,” and he thought they were fun to watch, but they need to be a little cleaner. Jennifer agreed that the need to be “super precise,” especially in their formations. Ne-Yo thought they needed to work on their synchronicity.

Scores — Ne-Yo (87), Jennifer (88), Derek (87) — Average: 87.3

9:38pm — Good routine, good scores. But it doesn’t seem like the judges have been overly enthusiastic about anyone tonight. There hasn’t been a performance or moment at the level of The Kings from “Qualifiers 1.”

Tobias and the EZTwins (Upper Division)

9:44pm — A trio of professional dancers from Denmark and Slovenia who have performed with a variety of recording artists including Anne-Marie and Kylie Minogue. Their performance is smooth and polished all the way through, though not necessarily ground-breaking.

Judges — Ne-Yo thought the whole piece was a wow moment all the way through: “crystal-clear, clean, precise.” Jennifer admired that it had its own specific style, which is what makes people stand out. She wants them to dance for her. Derek thought their shapes and symmetry were “pleasing to the eye.”

Scores — Ne-Yo (94), Jennifer (92), Derek (92) — Average: 92.7

9:48pm — Huge scores for a strong routine. Derek thought it was “stunning” and a “choreography clinic,” though I wasn’t quite as blown away.

The Trilogy (Junior Division)

9:52pm — A contemporary trio. One member had a little sister who died of a rare heart condition called Brugada syndrome. Later on his father ended up dying of the same condition. Now he wonders if he has the condition as well since there are no symptoms that present themselves before the fact.

Judges — Ne-Yo admired the “seamless” transitions between them and “a lot of clean and beautiful pictures,” but criticizes them for showing too much effort in the lifts. Jennifer thought some transitions were good, while others were “bumpy,” but she “felt the emotion of it.” Derek felt it was “creative” and “thoughtful,” but they could be even better if they improved their “polish.”

Scores — Ne-Yo (87), Jennifer (85), Derek (87) — Average: 86.3

9:58pm — A modest score for a modest performance, which closes what has been a modest night of competition. I don’t think any of tonight’s performances looked like world-champion performances, though there was a lot of potential for teams to step up in the Duels. It goes without saying that there was a ton of talent on the floor tonight.

SCORES:

Upper Division
Tobias and the EZTwins — 92.7
Derion and Madison — 90.3
All Ready — 88.0
Briar Nolet — 87.3

Upper Team Division
Fuego Dance Crew — 93.7
Exiles — 88.0
Motiv Crew — 85.7
Guests of Honor — 84.3

Junior Division
Kayla Mak — 90.3
Aydin Eyikan — 88.3
Moving 4ward — 86.3
The Trilogy — 86.3
FemP3 — 84.7
Ethan and Anastasia — 84.3

Junior Team Division
VPeepz — 90.3
Dancetown Divas — 87.3
JDC — 87.3
Movement Society — 84.7

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