‘World of Dance’ recap: Divisional Final was the final hurdle before the million-dollar finale [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

The end is near! Twelve contestants went into the “World of Dance” Divisional Final, but only four came out. So who will represent the Upper Division, Upper Team Division, Junior Division and Junior Team Division next week in the World Final for a chance at the million-dollar grand prize? Find out below in our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.

The three acts who survived the Cut in each division now face off one last time to decide the division champs. The Upper Team Division has been the most competitive field all season. The hip-hop crews The Kings and The Heima, and the contemporary troupe Unity LA have higher season-long averages than any other contestants in any other division. But “World of Dance” fans we’ve polled in our predictions center thought The Kings would have the Divisional Final in the bag. Were they right?

The Upper Division has also been a tight race, but we were betting on contemporary soloist Briar Nolet to be the class of this field. She had the highest score in her division during the Cut, but she would have been eliminated in the Duels had it not been for the redemption round at the end of the night. In the Divisional Final she faced contemporary duo Derion and Madison and veteran hip-hop soloist Poppin John.

The Junior Division came down to a battle between hip-hop duo Julian and Charlize, contemporary duo Ellie and Ava, and contemporary-ballet fusion soloist Kayla Mak. Our users gave Ellie and Ava the edge after the sisters finished first during the Cut.

The Junior Team Division was also a close contest between the contemporary Crazy 8’s, the hip-hop crew VPeepz and the ballroom standouts Dancetown Divas. VPeepz ruled the Cut, but our users thought the adorable, flexible, heartwarming Crazy 8’s would get the better of them in the Divisional Final.

Once again the judges went backstage to mentor the divisions for this round. Jennifer Lopez counseled the junior teams. Derek Hough advised the juniors. Ne-Yo lent his wisdom to the upper contestants. And special guest Twitch from “So You Think You Can Dance” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” taught the upper teams a thing or two.

But did the judges make the right calls when all was said and done? Find out below starting at 8:00pm (times listed are Eastern). And sound off in our comments at the bottom of this post and in our forums.


Derion and Madison

8:03pm — “World of Dance” twist! There could be FIVE acts going to the World Final if the judges agree that an eliminated act deserves to move on. I like that idea, and I feel like it might be designed to put one of the losing upper teams through to the finale because that field is so stacked. Ne-Yo is mentoring this crop of contestants, and he thinks Derion and Madison need to amp up their routine to turn it into a true million-dollar performance. Their plan: for Madison to flip off Derion’s back for the final move.

8:06pm — A cool routine from these two, but a couple of moves looked a little labored, the wardrobe changes didn’t add much, and the attempted flip off the back was an epic fail. I could sense their nerves throughout the entire routine.

JUDGES — Derek thought they did so much that was so good despite the big miss on the end. Ne-Yo liked that the whole routine progressed nicely throughout. Jennifer admired the difficulty of their routine, but they challenged themselves maybe a little too much. I honestly think they’re toast.

Poppin John

8:12pm — No scores for Derion and Madison yet, so it looks like we’ll get the numbers after everyone in the division performs. The popper is back, and Ne-Yo thinks he needs to add variety and not just show the judges more of what they’ve seen before.

8:14pm — Really gorgeous movements from his as always, but I don’t think he exceeded what he did in previous rounds. Derek gives a standing ovation, but I think the door is wide open for Briar.

JUDGES — Derek thinks this was Poppin John’s best performance. Jennifer says that he takes her back to her childhood memories of dance. It was a great routine for her. And Ne-Yo thought he showed them a version of himself we haven’t seen before.

Briar Nolet

8:16pm — Ne-Yo mentoring Briar, which worries me because Ne-Yo has lowballed her more than once this season. He thinks she should give more emotional dancing and not quite as much gymnastics. I think it’s hers to win if she’s clean. And she’s dancing to Britney Spears dressed in “Oops! I Did it Again” realness.

8:18pm — She delivered a vastly different performance from the ones she has given before, and I love her versatility but I did miss those wow moves. I think she was a little better during the Cut. Standing ovations from Ne-Yo and Derek, though. I think she’s got it.

JUDGES — Ne-Yo praises her for her growth throughout the season. Jennifer thinks she has really taken off since her redemption dance during the Duels, but it had a little too much gymnastics. Derek felt “it had everything in it” and had “tremendous technique.”


Briar Nolet Scores — Ne-Yo (96), Jennifer (93), Derek (97) — Average: 95.3

Derion and Madison Scores — Ne-Yo (92), Jennifer (91), Derek (93) — Average: 92.0

Poppin John Scores — Ne-Yo (95), Jennifer (96), Derek (94) — Average: 95.0

8:26pm — That was a lot closer than I expected, and Briar almost lost it with that score from J. Lo. She gave Poppin John the highest score, and she tells him that he has a good chance at the wild card slot. I think the scores were a little too high overall, though. In a previous round there’s no way that Derion and Madison routine would have been in the 90s.


The Crazy 8’s

8:28pm — Jennifer is mentoring the kids, and Naia, the girl with selective mutism, has spoken to everyone on the team except one, Kendyl, so this routine will be inspired by the wish that Naia will someday speak to her.

8:30pm — The routine wasn’t as technically difficult as their previous numbers, not showing off the crazy spins and twists as much as before, but they emphasized their emotions, which might help them. I think the door is open for the next two groups.

JUDGES — Derek felt a sense of calmness during the routine, and just as he says that Nai says hi to Kendyl — tears from everyone! Jennifer thought it was “powerful,” especially when Naia and Kendyl came together at the end. Ne-Yo tells them to just keep doing what they’re doing.


8:38pm — Jennifer thinks they need more than just their usual moves. They need more dynamic dancing in-between. This group knocked it out of the park in the Cut, so I’m excited to see what they bring tonight.

8:40pm — This is a fantastic team. they made great use of their black and orange costumes to create unique, creative, and sometimes funny pictures. Their precision was superb, and they got standing ovations from Derek and Ne-Yo. I think they outdid The Crazy 8’s. And I think they’re second only to The Kings among all hip-hop crews this season.

JUDGES — Jennifer loved the illusion of breaking one girls legs. Derek loved the cage match theme. And Ne-Yo thinks they have superb synchronicity. That’s going to be tough for Dancetown Divas to beat.

Dancetown Divas

8:47pm — The Divas are starstruck by J. Lo. Their routine is inspired by girl power and how they don’t need boys to do ballroom. But Jennifer tells them they need one powerful moment that really brings the girl power idea to a crescendo.

8:49pm — Ne-Yo prays the routine is as good as they look, and they’re dancing to Beyonce’s “Girls (Who Run the World),” so that’s a lot to live up to. Their routine has great attitude, and great group formations that are worthy of Queen Bey, though I’m not sure if it quite rises to the level of VPeepz. They get standing ovations from Derek and Jennifer and a salute from Derek.

JUDGES — Derek thinks it’s amazing to see what they’ve done and it was their best routine. Ne-Yo says they epitomize girl power and will be inspiring for his own daughter. Jennifer is “so proud of young girls right now,” and their ownership of their power is moving to her. They credit Jennifer with inspiring their confidence, and bring her to tears.


The Crazy 8’s Scores — Ne-Yo (94), Jennifer (93), Derek (92) — Average: 93.0

Dancetown Divas Scores — Ne-Yo (95), Jennifer (96), Derek (96) — Average: 95.7

VPeepz Scores — Ne-Yo (96), Jennifer (95), Derek (97) — Average: 96.0

8:54pm — Another result that was closer than I expected. But I think this was the right result after the first two divisions. So far there’s one contemporary soloist and one hip-hop crew in the World Final. Hip-hop has won for the last two seasons, so that’ll be interesting. But if hip-hop wins the season, I still think it’s likelier to be The Kings … provided The Kings win their own division, which isn’t guaranteed.


Ellie and Ava

9:00pm — Derek is mentoring the Junior Division, and we’re starting with the duo that blew the judges away during the Cut. Their routine in this round is inspired by Ellie’s feelings of anxiety. Derek recommends that they say goodbye to find away to conceptualize their feelings: say goodbye Anxiety Annie and invite Wonder Woman to the party.

9:03pm — Lots of gorgeous, fluid movements, creative formations and transitions, great musicality and emotional connection to “Head Above Water” by Avril Lavigne. I think this is their best performance this season and one of my favorite routines of the night so far. Their control during their slower movements was outstanding.

JUDGES — Jennifer thought they were moving and “perfect”; she couldn’t believe how perfect it was, and it was “poetry in motion.” Derek is “in shock right now.” Ne-Yo thinks their technique is “flawless.” They threw the gauntlet down with that. I’d be surprised if anyone tops that.

Julian and Charlize

9:11pm — Derek thinks they’re so musical, but they need to find more special moments in-between so they’re not just working every beat. That was a pretty abruptly edited mentoring session, though. I think they just got the also-ran edit.

9:12pm — Solid routine, but their synchronicity could have used a little more polish.

JUDGES — Jennifer thought it was a clinic in musicality and the choreography was top-notch. Ne-Yo loved the back bend movement from Charlize. Derek thought it was “so good,” but I don’t think they’re going to come close to Ellie and Ava.

Kayla Mak

9:13pm — I’m rooting for Kayla. I love her blend of ballet and contemporary, and it would be exciting to see her and Briar Nolet both in the World Final. Derek thinks she needs to bring something new and exciting to her movements.

9:15pm — Strong routine when it started, but then she did almost a hip-hop breakdown midway through. That was really stellar. I’m not sure if it’ll beat Ellie and Ava, but she really knocked that out of the park.

JUDGES — Jennifer thought she was “exquisite.” Derek calls her “stunning.” Ne-Yo was also wowed by her grace. I think this is a two-way race, but I’m betting on Ellie and Ava.


Julian and Charlize Scores — Ne-Yo (95), Jennifer (96), Derek (96) — Average: 95.7

Ellie and Ava Scores — Ne-Yo (94), Jennifer (95), Derek (99) — Average: 96.0

Kayla Mak Scores — Ne-Yo (94), Jennifer (97), Derek (95) — Average: 95.3

9:18pm — A well deserved win by Ellie and Ava, but I’m shocked Julian and Charlize finished ahead of Kayla Mak after those judges’ responses to their routines. Ne-Yo really seems to dislike contemporary to be so stingy to both Ellie and Ava and Kayla Mak. Interestingly, each judge picked a different performer as the best: Ne-Yo gave the best score to Julian and Charlize, Derek’s top score was for Ellie and Ava, Jennifer’s high score was for Kayla.

9:22pm — Only one division left. It feels like the show really rushed through those junior division dances because the Upper Team Division is going to get a lot more time with almost 40 minutes left in the show. Kind of understandable, though, since the upper teams are so damn good this year.


The Heima

9:24pm — The Korean sensations are first up, and they’re being mentored by Twitch, who should be great at mentoring the hip-hop teams. He thinks The Heima bring a “fresh new take” that creates art out of struggle. One member of the team suffers from Diamond-Blackfan Syndrome and has had heart surgery and takes medication that allows him to compete. The name of their team means “home” because the team is their home. And the masks are back on for this routine!

9:27pm — One front flip looked like it went a little sideways and affected their centering. Not their best performance, I don’t think, but still pretty damn terrific. And another standing O from Derek.

JUDGES — Derek think they’re “beyond athletic” and truly “world-class,” but maybe not their best performance. Jennifer notes that they do amazing work standing on their heads. Ne-Yo didn’t think there were as many beautiful pictures as they’ve seen before. I agree. They needed to be lights-out perfect up to challenge The Kings, so they’ll need to hope The Kings fall short tonight.

Unity LA

9:34pm — They’re coming in as underdogs, but The Heima left the door a crack open. Twitch has no advice for them choreography, but he thinks it needs more emotional connection. The routine tells the story of a father who walks out on his child.

9:36pm — The routine gets a little too conceptual for me with the door as a rolling prop throughout, but they use the door quite well to create beautiful pictures when it hides and reveals different dancers. Visually beautiful.

JUDGES — Derek feels “grateful” from watching the routine and it was “pure art.” Jennifer thought the supporting dancers were perfectly in sync and beautifully framed the two leads; it was their “best piece yet.” Ne-Yo has never gotten goosies before, but today he got goosies, and he got a congratulatory hug from Derek. From those critiques, it sounds like it’ll be Unity LA giving The Kings a run for their money. I think that performance is going to get at least one perfect 100.

The Kings

9:44pm — The front-runners are next, and the previews tonight keep teasing a serious injury. I can see there being an upset. Twitch is nervous about their big moves and wants to make sure they clean up the transitions so it doesn’t just look like they’re setting up the different tricks. On the day of the performance, one dancer injures his leg pretty badly. Even if they somehow lose, though, I think the judges will put them through as the wild card.

9:48pm — Go big or go home, and they definitely went big. Some of those tricks were so huge, the way they use Indian mythology is so evocative and downright supernatural in the intensity of their movements. That was truly unrivaled. All the judges were on their feet and stunned. Yep, they’re winning.

JUDGES — Jennifer thought it was out of this world and “just mind-blowing.” Derek was wowed by their moves and their visuals. Ne-Yo thinks their identity is singular and will never be equaled. I’m pretty sure The Kings will win this and Unity LA will get the wild card slot.


The Heima Scores — Ne-Yo (92), Jennifer (93), Derek (95) — Average: 93.3

Unity LA Scores — Ne-Yo (100), Jennifer (96), Derek (100) — Average: 98.7

The Kings Scores — Ne-Yo (100), Jennifer (99), Derek (100) — Average: 99.7

9:57pm — Just as I thought, The Kings beat Unity LA by a nose. No way Unity LA doesn’t get a wild card spot, though. But I’m surprised The Heima got scores that low. The judges were more generous to acts tonight that weren’t that good.

9:59pm — Oh come on! They didn’t reveal the wild card slot. So I guess we’ll have to wait until next week’s finale? Is there really any chance it won’t be Unity LA? Why drag it out?

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