‘World of Dance’ season 3 premiere recap: Qualifiers 1 began the search for the best from around the globe [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

World of Dance” is back for season three! The international dance competition aired its first two seasons in the summers of 2017 and 2018, and it returned on Tuesday night, February 26, for its first spring edition. Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo and Derek Hough are back as judges, but the show introduced a new host: Scott Evans from “Access Live,” who takes over from previous presenter Jenna Dewan. So who stood out on the first night of the competition? Scroll down for our live blog for all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.

NBC previewed two of the Qualifiers contestants in advance, and if they’re any indication this season is already as competitive as the last two — maybe more. Upper Team Division hip-hop troupe The Kings gave the judges near-convulsions of excitement with their mind-boggling acrobatics, and Junior Division soloist Lauren Yakima gave Lopez “goosies” with a performance that showed off intense emotions and insane flexibility. And while it might seem too early to speculate about this season’s front-runners, this wouldn’t be the first time we got our first glimpse of the world champions in the season premiere.

In season one the hip-hop duo Les Twins performed during Qualifiers 1. They got the highest score of the night (an average of 95.7 out of 100), and they went on to win the whole competition. That premiere episode also featured performances by Keone and Mari, Diana Pombo and Kinjaz, who fell just short of the finale but made it all the way to the Divisional Final.

And in season two the first Qualifiers round featured world finalists S-Rank, as well as divisional finalists Sean and Kaycee, Jaxon Willard and Karen y Ricardo. So sometimes “World of Dance” saves the best for first. Do you think you saw the eventual winner during Tuesday night’s season premiere? Find out what happened below starting at 9:00pm (all times listed are Eastern).

9:00pm — Here’s one new wrinkle in the competition. Qualifying dance acts used to be able to advance with a score of 80. Now you need an 85. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but that would have knocked out a lot of competitors who ended up getting through last season.

The Kings (Upper Team Division)

9:03pm — First up is the team NBC previewed earlier today. This team from Mumbai, India, won “India’s Got Talent” season three despite having to walk miles to practice on the beach. They don’t even have a formal training space. Necessity is the mother of invention.

9:05pm — The routine seems likemost other hip-hop routines early on, but by the time they’re climbing each other like stairs in midair, you realize you’re witnessing something drastically different, and fittingly the judges are losing their collective minds. Derek and Jennifer both threw their shoes.

Judges — “I’m in shock,” says Jennifer. “A lot of the stuff you guys did is not supposed to be possible … death-defying moves,” adds Ne-Yo. “You could not have had a better button at the end … What an incredible start,” says Derek.

Scores — Ne-Yo (97), Jennifer (98), Derek (98) — Average: 97.7

9:09pm — Not quite perfection. I didn’t think we’d see 100s come out for the very first performance on the very first night, but if ever a performance deserved those kinds of numbers, it was that one. Of course, the question then becomes whether they can keep this up. When you start so high, sometimes there’s nowhere to go but down. Last season a lot of the highest-scoring early competitors ended up falling a bit short.

Erica and Aidan (Upper Division)

9:11pm — This urban contemporary dance duo includes former Poreotics member Aidan, and Erica who is apparently “Instafamous” online. But they haven’t been dancing together for very long. Fingers crossed, especially since they have to follow that first performance by The Kings.

9:13pm — An excellent, precise, intricate performance, but definitely not as big as The Kings, and the judges’ reactions are decidedly muted compared to their reactions to the first performance of the night. I wonder if that’s going to reach the 85 threshold.

Judges — Jennifer thought they have all the ingredients of a good team, but that they lacked chemistry. Derek thought they were out of sync at first, but it was ultimately a “strong performance.” Ne-Yo concludes, “It didn’t come together for me personally.” Kiss of death. I think they’re toast.

Scores — Ne-Yo (84), Jennifer (85), Derek (85) — Average: 84.7

9:16pm — That son of a gun Ne-Yo ruined their shot at The Duels, but I’m surprised they came as close as they did given the critiques.

Funkanometry (Junior Division)

9:16pm — A pair of goofy, appealing, young brothers who have “dominated the local competitions.” I’m … skeptical about their level of funk.

9:18pm — They’ve definitely got the personality to really fill the dance floor, but I’m not sure they have the moves. For the caliber of this competition it looked a little pedestrian. I don’t think personality is going to get them as far as they need to go.

Judges — Derek thought the style of dance was boosted by their personalities. He thought it was “refreshing” and “funny.” Jennifer appreciated the comedy and technique: “You were so committed.” And Ne-Yo thought it was “entertaining and fun,” but he’s “not sure how competitive it is” because of the simple choreography and technique.

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

9:21pm — I really like these two, but I think 80 of those points were for personality. I think Ne-Yo’s critique was spot-on when he said the choreography was too simple to really be competitive. I actually thought Erica and Aidan had a more dynamic routine.

The Crazy 8’s (Junior Team Division)

9:27pm — A contemporary group from California whose routine is inspired by one of their members’ selective mutism, a condition in which her anxiety prevents her from speaking even thought she is capable of speech. But she has the comfort level to speak normally with The Crazy 8’s just like with her parents. This is the team designed to make Jennifer Lopez cry I’m guessing.

9:29pm — Okay, we’ve seen lots of contemporary groups on this show, but this team brought genuinely fresh and exciting movies. And their flexibility was scary good, like I feel like they need to relocate some joints after that, and they got a standing ovation from Derek. They’re definitely going through.

Judges — Jennifer says, “I’ve never seen that in my life. I was floored.” Derek thought it was “so impressive,” and he loved their stability. Ne-Yo thought they were so “amazing” that he almost forgot he was supposed to be judging them. He thinks they could compete on an adult level.

Scores — Ne-Yo (93), Jennifer (95), Derek (91) — Average: 93.0

9:33pm — Well, Jennifer didn’t quite cry this time, but The Crazy 8’s are, and they get a hug from Jennifer to boot.

Jonathan y Jorge (Upper Division)

9:38pm — A same-sex salsa duo. Last season there was a same-sex male contemporary team, and I thought they were excellent, so I’m really excited to see how two male dancers tackle a traditional Latin style. Bring it!

9:40pm — First off, I’m loving the sparkle hoodies, and dancing to a Jennifer Lopez song is a bold choice.In terms of the performance, the technique was great, they brought a lot of personality and drama, and they even delivered a dramatic spin reminiscent of Karen y Ricardo last year. Not perfectly clean, but that was so much more than just the novelty of same-sex dancers.

Judges — Ne-Yo loved the energy and the costumes. Jennifer loved the tricks and costumes, but especially the spins, but she didn’t like the transitions, and it didn’t have enough genuine salsa style or content. Derek thought it was “fun to watch,” and he even joins them on stage to try dancing with Jorge. Sorry, Jonathan, I think you’re about to be replaced.

Scores — Ne-Yo (90), Jennifer (87), Derek (89) — Average: 88.7

9:45pm — I was worried they wouldn’t make it through given how critical Jennifer was of their transitions and salsa content, but I’m glad they’re advancing. They have some great technique and personality.

Julian and Charlize (Junior Division)

9:50pm — They’re junior dancers, but they’ve got a surprising amount of professional experience dancing and choreographing in the music and entertainment business.

9:51pm — Their performance didn’t feel especially groundbreaking, but they have a good connection to each other on stage, and their movements did feel fresh. Could be a close call in terms of advancing to the next round.

Judges — Ne-Yo thought the “spacing of the stage worked against” them at point; they needed to be closer together. Jennifer thought there were two or three moments that made her go “ooh”; they reminded her of seeing kids in her neighborhood on the street, which she appreciated. Derek though thought most of it was clear and precise, but about 20% lacked that sharpness.

Scores — Ne-Yo (87), Jennifer (88), Derek (86) — Average: 87.0

9:55pm — Deserving scores for deserving dancer. But it feels like the new 85-point threshold to advance to the next round has changed how generously the judges are score more than it has changed the level of competition. They probably could have kept the 80-point requirement and scored more strictly.

The Heima (Upper Team Division)

9:59pm — “The best b-boy crew in South Korea,” or so they say. One of them has a girlfriend with stage-four cervical cancer, who encouraged him to find someone else due to her illness. “We each have our own hardships, but we come together as one.”

10:02pm — A surprising subtle routine, but packed with intricate shapes, symmetry and synchronicity. Derek leaped out of his seat and screamed. He can’t even sit down to give his critique.

Judges — Derek thought it was “one of the most incredible things I have ever seen,” especially one outstanding moment of solo breaking. Ne-Yo is “so pleasantly confused” by their “elegant breaking.” Jennifer thought it was “well crafted,” “tricky and sneaky,” and one of the most interesting routines she has seen.

Scores — Ne-Yo (87), Jennifer (88), Derek (86) — Average: 87.0

10:06pm — One of the highest scoring performances of the night so far, and like the judges I’m really excited to see what they do next because their unique style gives them the potential to keep innovating and surprising as the competition goes along.

Minibots (Junior Team Division)

10:10pm — Popping group from Vancouver, Canada. One of them co-starred in the recent remake of “Poltergeist.” Creepy popping sounds good to me, but this performance is getting an abbreviated segment. Never a good sign. We see most of the performance, and it’s solid, but we’re seeing more of a Q&A session where the kids ask the judges random questions. They’re cute, but I’m not sure that’s going to help.

Judges — Ne-Yo thought they need to work on their synchronicity. Jennifer thought it was more talent show level than “World of Dance” level. Alas, it wasn’t enough for them to advance.

Poppin John (Upper Division)

10:14pm — A solo popping dancer, who is 34 years old and thus considers himself a dinosaur in this competition. He’s been dancing longer than many of his competitors have been alive.

10:16pm — An incredibly intricate performance that clearly required a lot of technical skill, but I don’t know if it was big enough to really fill the stage. He could have used a little more dramatic presence.

Judges — Derek thought it was “incredible,” especially the gliding across the floor and the musicality. Jennifer is reminded of tap: a style that is remarkable but might have trouble competing against bigger, bolder movements from other competitors. Ne-Yo thought it was “popping 101,” but maybe not as competitive as it needs to be.

Scores — Ne-Yo (84), Jennifer (86), Derek (86) — Average: 85.3

10:17pm — They let him through, barely. I think they’re grading him on a curve, and I think that’s fair because they want to give his unique style a platform and an opportunity to compete in the next round since he’s so good at what he does and it’s so challenging to compare it to other, bigger, more theatrical styles. But they think he needs to create a concept for The Duels that will put his skills in a more exciting context.

10:22pm — Morehort segments, including  Get Down District, who just barely advance with 85 points. Mya Walters just missed the cut with 83.3.

Ellie and Ava (Junior Division)

10:24pm — Okay, back to full-length segments, but no extensive backstory for these two. Straight to the dancing. A really strong performance from this contemporary pair that got a standing ovation from Derek. I’m not sure I’m quite that thrilled by the performance, but performing at that level with so much synchronicity was extremely impressive.

Judges — Derek thought they were “perfectly matched like synchronized swimming almost … remarkable.” Jennifer loved their work, but would like to see more “intensity and passion” in future performances. Ne-Yo thought it was “flawless from start to finish.” I like their chances.

Scores — Ne-Yo (95), Jennifer (89), Derek (93) — Average: 92.3

10:28pm — That score from Ne-Yo was shockingly high. I thought the performance was more in like with Jennifer’s score. Excellent performance, but they have room to grow just like Jennifer said.

D’Angelo Brothers (Upper Division)

10:33pm — Bring on the tap! I wonder if this Italian duo can make tap a viable style for winning “World of Dance” finally. The judges are eager to see a tap team excel, but none have been able to go the distance. Like popping, it’s hard to compare the style to bigger theatrics.

10:36pm — They definitely brought da noise and da funk. The back flip helped. They did a good job of enhancing tap with more theatrical choreography.

Judges — Derek admired how clean their routine was, but he thinks it might help if they highlight their tapping by dropping the background music. Ne-Yo admired their synchronicity. Jennifer loved their intensity and passion. She also likes their accents, but there’s no scale on this show for judging that

Scores — Ne-Yo (87), Jennifer (86), Derek (89) — Average: 87.3

10:39pm — Not surprised they made it through to the next round given how much admiration these judges have for tap dancing. The test, as always, will come when they have to go head-to-head against another act during The Duels. That’s when the limitations of tap on such a big stage are often exposed.

Lauren Yakima (Junior Division)

10:43pm — “I’ve been competing my entire life,” says the 17-year-old contemporary dancer. NBC previewed this routine too, and it was dynamite. Considering the judging and scores we’ve seen tonight so far, the numbers for this routine should be sky-high. Triple standing ovation from the judges. And what a great ending with just a simple but perfectly executed and expressed pose.

Judges — Derek says, “You are exceptional,” and he loves the extra energy he added to his movements. Jennifer loved how she “commanded every single moment. You played with the music, and you played with our emotions. This is the level that ‘World of Dance’ expects.” Ne-yo thought it was explosive.

Scores — Ne-Yo (97), Jennifer (94), Derek (96) — Average: 95.7

10:48pm — Huge score, and well deserved. But we have seen a lot of intense contemporary soloists in just the last two seasons, so she’s going to need to bring new and unique qualities every time she steps out on stage to keep distinguishing her from the rest of the pack.

Elektro Crew (Junior Team Division)

10:53pm — This team has to close the show, so I wonder if they might surprise with a showstopper. One of the members of the team has an absent father who has never responded to his attempts to reach out, but his crew has his back.

10:56pm — A well-executed hip-hop routine with a handful of unique and intricate movements that stood out. Not a showstopper and not as original as other routines tonight (dancing to a ubiquitous song like Usher‘s “Yeah” was reflective of a certain lack of creativity), but a solid routine.

Judges — Jennifer thought it was clean, but it had a lot of basic steps and needed more intricacy. Ne-Yo adds that there’s little room for error, so they need to step it up. I felt the same way.

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

10:59pm — They made it through to the next round, and the judges encouraged them to grow as they move into The Duels round. I hope they do because they have a lot of rooting factor, and not just because of their emotional backstory. They’ve got a lot of energy and spirit.

SCORES:

Upper Division
Jonathan y Jorge — 88.7
D’Angelo Brothers — 87.3
Poppin John — 85.3
Erica and Aidan — 84.7

Upper Team Division
The Kings — 97.7
The Heima — 87.0

Junior Division
Lauren Yakima — 95.7
Ellie and Ava — 92.3
Funkanometry — 87.3
Julian and Charlize — 87.0

Junior Team Division
The Crazy 8’s — 93.0
Elektro Crew — 86.3

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