The “World of Dance” Duels are winding down. The top six Junior Team and Upper Division contenders have been selected, and tonight’s show picked the top six for the Junior Division. So who made it through to the Cut, and which four acts got the axe. Follow along below with our live blog for all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.
The Junior Division comprises acts under the age of 18 with up to four members. The top 10 contenders who made it out of the Qualifiers round, listed in order of their qualifying scores, were Lauren Yakima (95.7), Ellie and Ava (92.3), Kayla Mak (90.3), Aydin Eyikan (88.3), Funkanometry (87.3), Julian and Charlize (87.0), Moving 4ward (86.3), The Trilogy (86.3), Audrey and Mia (86.3) and House of Tap (85.7).
Getting a high score in the Qualifiers is an advantage going into the Duels since the high scorers get their choice of opponents for their head-to-head match-ups, but it’s no guarantee of success. In the previous two Duels this season we saw several high qualifiers upset by their underdog opponents.
But this season there’s the possibility of a second chance. Of the five contestants eliminated in their Duels, the two with the highest scores got to face off in a special redemption round for the sixth and final slot in the next round, the Cut.
This is the division that produced past finalists like Eva Igo and Charity and Andres. So who’s on their way to joining their illustrious ranks? Find out below starting at 8:00pm (all times listed are Eastern).
Ellie and Ava vs. Audrey and Mia
8:03pm — “We’re battlers, so we’re ready for a battle,” say Audrey and Mia after they’re challenged. This will be a Duel of vastly different dance types: Ellie and Ava are contemporary, while Audrey and Mia are krumpers. “We’re not going home, we’re staying,” say Audrey and Mia. “You guys can go home.”
8:06pm — Ellie and Ava are first, and they’re dancing to Kelly Clarkson‘s “Because of You,” so they’re really stacking the deck in the emotionality department. Even Jennifer Lopez is singing along, and Derek Hough gives them a standing ovation.
JUDGES — Jennifer thought it was “really beautiful” and “technically perfect” in how it explored sibling rivalry and sibling support. Derek appreciated the emotion of the piece and their superb technique.
8:12pm — Adurey and Mia are up next, bringing a lot more burns against their contemporary opponents, but I’m not sure they had the technical prowess to quite match, though comparing their dance styles is like comparing apples and oranges.
JUDGES — Jennifer thought it was “really amazing” in a battle of “grit versus grace,” and it’s going to be a “hard Duel” to score. Ne-Yo thought they hit harder than in the first round, and he especially appreciates their confidence. Derek also thinks they stepped up from the Qualifiers, but towards the end there were a few missed musical moments.
Ellie and Ava Scores — Ne-Yo (90), Jennifer (92), Derek (93) — Average: 91.7
Audrey and Mia Scores — Ne-Yo (91), Jennifer (89), Derek (90) — Average: 90.0
8:18pm — Not surprised by the result, though I’m a bit surprised Ne-Yo gave the edge to Audrey and Mia. That’s a good losing score for the redemption round, but it wouldn’t have been good enough in last week’s Junior Team Division Duels, so it’s way too early to tell if they make it.
Kayla Mak vs. Funkanometry
8:25pm — Contemporary ballerina Kalya made an interesting choice by challenging the hip-hop duo Funkanometry, who scored in the top five during the Qualifiers. I’m rooting for Kayla because we see tons of hip-hop, so we could use some ballet in the Cut.
8:28pm — Funkanometry is up first. Their strong suit is their personality. They’re clean, but their choreography isn’t as advanced as other hip-hop teams in this competition. They stepped it up from the Qualifiers round, though.
JUDGES — Jennifer loves performers who can “move the crowd,” and it’s not just about the flips and tricks. They brought “great entertainment.” Ne-Yo thinks they earned their humor. And they make Derek laugh because they stand out and they have a clear, individual identity even amid so many hip-hop performers in this competition.
8:36pm — Kayla’s up next, and there’s nothing quite like ballet burns on the dance floor. She did the Milly Rock en pointe, you guys! I think she’s got this one.
JUDGES — Jennifer loved the “Paint it Black” song choice and it was a “really impressive” routine, but she had a couple of wobbly moments. Derek loves that she takes classical ballet and spins it on its head; her movements are “on another level.”
Funkanometry Scores — Ne-Yo (92), Jennifer (91), Derek (92) — Average: 91.7
Kayla Mak Scores — Ne-Yo (90), Jennifer (90), Derek (93) — Average: 91.0
8:41pm — Um, can we get a recount on that one? I wasn’t expecting that Funkanometry routine to score in the 90s. Those numbers were generous for that level of choreography, and Kayla’s scores were stingy. Yet another contemporary soloist getting lowballed by the judges. I don’t get it this season.
Aydin Eyikan vs. Moving 4ward
8:48pm — “I like our odds: four to one,” says Moving 4ward. It’s an all-contemporary Duel, but Derek thought he needed better musicality in the Qualifiers and Moving 4ward needed better choreography. Only four points separated their first-round scores, so this is anyone’s game.
8:51pm — Aydin is up first. Just the first few seconds of the routine were killer, the fluidity throughout was outstanding, and it had great musicality as far as I was concerned, but let’s see if the judges hold down another soloist.
JUDGES — Jennifer thought it was an “amazing performance” with “attack” and “fire,” and she really felt his fight. Derek thought it was “so beautiful” and “really well done.” Ne-Yo thinks it was great how “technically sound” he was; he’s reminiscent of Michael Dameski, but he needs to clean it up a bit. I’d agree with Ne-Yo’s last note there: Aydin’s last front flip landed a bit hard.
8:59pm — Moving 4ward takes the stage next, and they’re doing “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol, also known as my kryptonite. It doesn’t have quite the complexity of Eyikan’s performance, but their movements were incredibly clean with great synchronicity, and Jennifer gave a standing ovation. This is going to be close.
JUDGES — Jennifer thought they were “beautiful” and in-sync emotionally — they “annihilated that.” Derek agrees that it was “beautiful.” But Ne-Yo thought there were moments when they weren’t as in-sync as he wanted it to be. Okay, I’m not down with that critique. I’m not sure what routine Ne-Yo was watching.
Aydin Eyikan Scores — Ne-Yo (91), Jennifer (89), Derek (91) — Average: 90.3
Moving 4ward Scores — Ne-Yo (94), Jennifer (93), Derek (92) — Average: 93.0
9:04pm — A reasonable result, but man, another lowball score for a soloist. That 89 from Jennifer, for that performance? The judges joked that Eyikan could team up with Moving 4ward since the two of them would be so compatible together. He might have to, since soloists are struggling to get scores this year. But he might have a shot at redemption with that 90.3 score.
Julian and Charlize vs. The Trilogy
9:10pm — No one challenged either of these teams, so they battle each other by default. Hip-hop duo Julian and Charlize and contemporary team The Trilogy were less than a point apart in their Qualifiers performances, so neither seems to have an advantage going into this Duel.
9:13pm — The hip-hop duo is first. They make great use of the music, especially when they slow it down mid-performance. Clean, precise, complex. One of the better performances of the night, I think. Ne-Yo is standing up, and even Derek has goosies.
JUDGES — Jennifer thought “that was nuts,” and she loves the choreography and musicality. She thinks they’re “so nasty” and “grimy” — both compliments. Derek couldn’t take his eyes off of them, and he wants to re-watch the routine over and over again just to appreciate their intricacies. That’s going to be tough to beat, could end up as the highest scoring routine of the night.
9:21pm — Some beautiful moves from The Trilogy, in their performance, but I’m not sure it’s going to be enough to win. The judges sounded like they liked it during that performance, but they’re all still in their seats.
JUDGES — Jennifer thought they were “soaring” and the moves were more delicate than in their Qualifiers performance. Derek thought their pictures and transitions were creative, and they bring something different to the stage. Ne-Yo needed a little more intent and clarity in this round of the competition. I think they’re toast, but I’ve been surprised before tonight.
Julian and Charlize Scores — Ne-Yo (96), Jennifer (96), Derek (94) — Average: 95.3
The Trilogy Scores — Ne-Yo (89), Jennifer (90), Derek (91) — Average: 90.0
9:25pm — I think the judges got this one right. And I agreed with those scores for The Trilogy since it keeps Aydin Eyikan in contention for redemption, and I liked his performance better. Kayla Mak is guaranteed a slot at redemption, and Aydin is still on the bubble with his 90.3.
Lauren Yakima vs. House of Tap
9:28pm — This will be the last Duel of the night before the redemption round, and if any contemporary soloist can score well from the judges, it had got to be Lauren Yakima. She got the highest score in her division during the Qualifiers, so she must have chosen her opponents first even though they’re saving their Duel for last. Lauren scored 10 points higher than House of Tap in the first round, so she might be the heaviest favorite in any Duel so far this season.
9:31pm — But before this last Duel, the judges get a surprise visit from the aforementioned Eva Igo. They tell her she should give the contestants advise backstage, which sounds like a really good idea for next season — just saying.
9:34pm — House of Tap goes first, which is a tough spot to be in with this big a deficit between them. These tappers brought in hip-hop elements and a cappella elements to really show off their tapping. The music goes in and out and their feet fill in the gaps. They did an outstanding job of that. Excellent performance, smart choreography, and standing ovations from Ne-Yo and Derek. Ooh, they threw down the gauntlet on that one.
JUDGES — Derek thought they represented tap “amazingly.” Ne-Yo thought it was going to be a lopsided battle, but House of Tap came out and made this “a real Duel.” Jennifer thought adding hip-hop elements was smart and got the crowd going; they showed the judges and audience something new. Uh-oh, the contemporary soloist curse could strike again.
9:43pm — Okay, Lauren’s turn, and she brings some of her own hip-hop style to her performance. Some of her balance and flexibility moves are dynamite, and she too gets Ne-Yo and Derek on their feet, but I’m not sure one act was clearly better than the other in this Duel.
JUDGES — Jennifer thought she had total command of the stage, but she didn’t have enough dancing or emotional connection. Derek felt she had “incredible control” in her movements and her split at the end of the routine was the sickest burn of the night. Ne-Yo also loved that split and her limbo bend and she has “ungodly talent.”
Lauren Yakima Scores — Ne-Yo (97), Jennifer (95), Derek (96) — Average: 96.0
House of Tap Scores — Ne-Yo (92), Jennifer (89), Derek (93) — Average: 91.3
9:48pm — Lauren deservedly makes it through with flying colors (she may be the only contemporary soloist not to be underscored this season), while House of Tap knocks Aydin Eyikan out of the redemption round. I think House of Tap are deserving, but I’m disappointed that Aydin is automatically going home. I think House of Tap should be battling Aydin for redemption, and Kayla Mak should have won her Duel outright.
REDEMPTION: House of Tap vs. Kayla Mak
9:53pm — Time for redemption. A battle between two underrepresented dance styles on this show, so I’m not sure who I’m rooting for.
9:55pm — House of Tap are great, but their dance to this piece of music isn’t as impactful as their initial Duel performance. Kayla follows it up with another gorgeous routine. I think I’d slightly prefer to see Kayla in the next round, but great effort from both.
JUDGES — Derek thought both were “amazing,” and their tenacity brought Jennifer to tears. And the performer advancing to the Cut by majority vote is … Kayla Mak! I’m sad to see House of Tap go. Funkanometry had better knock my socks off in the Cut to justify advancing to the next round over Aydin Eyikan and House of Tap.
Junior Division acts advancing to the Cut:
1. Lauren Yakima — 96.0
2. Julian and Charlize — 95.3
3. Moving 4ward — 93.0
4. Ellie and Ava — 91.7
5. Funkanometry — 91.7
6. Kayla Mak — Redemption
Junior Division acts eliminated:
— Audrey and Mia
— Aydin Eyikan
— House of Tap
— The Trilogy