World of Dance is shaking up its format: The NBC competition series returned for Season 4 on Tuesday with a couple of tweaks.
In the first Qualifiers episode, the contestants think they’re about to audition one final time for producers in a warehouse, but when they step through the door, they’re greeted by judges Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough and Ne-Yo. Instead of making their debut before the trio and viewers on the World of Dance stage, the dancers must now perform under pressure and earn their way onto the stage. And since they had no idea they were about to dance for the judges, that means we have to watch every act’s shocked reaction upon seeing the trio. (By the third performance, I was kinda wishing they’d broken the “Surprise! J.Lo, Derek and Ne-Yo are here!” news to the all the dancers at once.)
Also new this go-around: Instead of scores, the dancers need at least two “yes” votes to continue to the duels. And should the judges be undecided, they can give the dancers a callback to see what else they’ve got before determining if they should continue on in the competition.
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Now let’s briefly rundown the first six performers to be stunned by J.Lo’s presence:
* Before we get to Colombian salsa duo Jefferson y Adrianita’s moves, let’s take a moment to absorb the fact that the couple named their baby boy Derek, after Derek Hough. Adult Derek is speechless — but not speechless enough not to give the pair some constructive feedback. J.Lo notes that their footwork needs to be faster, but they still get three “yes” votes.
* Vancouver-based youth hip-hop group GRVMNT ends their performance to what feels like tortuously long awkward silence from the judges. Still, they show enough promise that J.Lo says “yes,” while Ne-Yo and Derek give them a callback.
* Contemporary duo Jake & Chau easily earn their way to the next round with their elegant transitions. These two appear to be ones to watch.
* The first “ouch” of the season comes when The Williams Fam, a hip-hop brothers act, fails to get a single “yes” with their social-media influencer moves. But hey, at least Derek records a TikTok with them as a parting gift.
* Hip-hop duo Bailey & Kida have only been dancing together for a few weeks — and it shows in their lack of connection. However, both are so skilled as individual performers that all three judges move them along to the duels.
* And finally, there’s 9-year-old jazz dancer Savannah Manzel, who so blinds the judges with her big smile that they shower her with praise before voting her to the next round. Yes, her strength and agility are impressive, but without a certain beyond-her-years maturity and musicality, I’m worried she won’t make it far.
What did you think of the World of Dance format changes? Grade the premiere, then hit the comments with your thoughts!