Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough, and Ne-Yo welcome you to the Olympics of dance.

By Maggie Fremont
May 30, 2017 at 11:00 PM EDT
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Trae Patton/NBC

World of Dance

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In dark times, the world needs a light: a light to lift us up, remind us that we’ll all be okay, and also tell us if our hip action is sufficient or not. Ladies and gentlemen, today, that light is Jennifer Lopez. Because what the world needs now is dance, sweet dance. And a look at what fabulous shade of lipstick Lady Lopez is rocking (in this premiere episode, it’s a bright shade of red and it is whatever that 100 emoji thing means). J. Lo, bless her heart, wants to bring us the Olympics of dance. This is not So You Think You Can Dance With the Stars. This is a global competition of the best and brightest dancers. Any age group. Any style.

This is World of Dance.

It all sounds very exciting no? Unfortunately, the premiere doesn’t really hold itself up to its own standard. It’s all a bit overly produced and sometimes lacking the emotional connection that makes dance so special. Don’t get me wrong; these people are talented. At times though, the show is lacking heart.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that they spend half of the show explaining the rules. A summary: There are three divisions, Junior (under 18), Upper (four or fewer dancers, 18 and over), and Team (five or more dancers, 18 and over). Each act will be scored in five categories: performance, technique, choreography, creativity, and presentation. Each category is worth a total of 20 points, with the highest possible score being 100. Each judge — J. Lo is joined by Dancing With the Stars‘ King Bee Derek Hough, and Ne-Yo, who seems like he’s going to be “The Tough Judge” — will individually score the act using some tablet props from the movie Tron, and those scores will be averaged together. The act must get an average score of 80 or above to move on to the next round.

See what I mean? There’s a lot to explain. That Announcer Voice is really working hard for his money. Speaking of, why isn’t “Host and Dance Mentor” Jenna Dewan Tatum explaining all of this? Her job is very unclear to me. I think it’s just hugging parents?

Eventually the acts will be whittled down until just one is left in each division, and then the winners from each division will battle it out until there is only one left standing. They get one million dollars. And probably J. Lo will let them hug her. SO MUCH IS AT STAKE.

Anyway, the show goes to great lengths to explain all this business, when really it needs to focus on building the emotion. It needs to focus on authentic dancing.

I’m going to take my own advice and just get to the dancing. Here are the seven acts highlighted in this first qualifying round:

Super Cr3w, Las Vegas, NV
Division: Team | Style: B-Boy
We kick off this whole shebang with Super Cr3w, a group of breakdancers who want people to know that even if they are elderly, they are still chasing after their dreams. They’re in their late 20s and early 30s. BUT THEY ARE STILL DOING IT. They perform a routine to a Coldplay song, which doesn’t really scream “cool factor,” but their insane synchronization and tricks more than make up for it. At one point, they create this human fan type thing (is that the technical name for it?) and my jaw drops. The judges are also impressed. There’s not an emotional connection here, but their acrobatics easily push them through to the next round.
Average Score: 88

D’Angelo and Amanda, Miami, FL
Division: Junior | Style: Ballroom
These two teen cuties have been dancing together for 10 years. D’Angelo and Amanda are giggly and charming, but let’s get real: The star of this show is Manny, their coach and D’Angelo’s father. He seems like a delight and Jenna gets to hug him, and now we know why she’s cool with just hanging out backstage collecting a paycheck. Regardless, D’Angelo and Amanda’s routine, full of paso doblé, cha cha, and a little jive mixed in for good measure, is excellent. They should make it into the next round on Amanda’s leg extensions alone. For two teenagers, you can really feel their connection to the music and to each other.
Average Score: 88.3

Les Twins, Paris, France
Division: Upper | Style: Hip Hop
You may recognize Laurent and Larry of Les Twins from blowing your mind whilst dancing next to Beyoncé (they toured with her for six years). Although, if you’re anything like me, you totally blacked out from too much fabulousness during Queen Bey’s live show realness. If you haven’t heard of Les Twins, they became YouTube famous for, um, dancing well and being twins. They do some amazing things together. As Ne-Yo points out, their World of Dance routine has much more emotional depth than their usual work. They tell a real story that, as Derek notes, creates an entire world for the audience to get sucked into. Backstage, Jenna says, “Wow.” That is all.
Average Score: 95.7

NXT LVL, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Division: Team | Style: Clogging
Poor NXT LVL. Sure, they hate vowels, but is that any reason to give them the kind of edit that takes all the tension out of their appearance on World of Dance? Yes, they get to clog backstage with Jenna, but with no prolonged entrance or dramatic opening to their routine, you know NXT LVL won’t be moving forward in the competition before they even begin. They seem like good dudes, and who doesn’t love a good clog once in a while? As J. Lo is quick to point out, they’re good at what they do, but without more dynamic routines, they won’t be able to win this thing. J. Lo’s laying down some harsh truths, you guys. Like her 2002 film, J. Lo’s had Enough.
Average Score: 77

Keone and Mari, San Diego, CA
Division: Upper | Style: Urban Dance
Full disclosure, I like my dance with a side of heart and a splash of joy, so I am predisposed to love Keone and Mari. The married choreographers perform a routine set to C2C’s “Happy” that looks like it could be straight out of Amélie. It is fun and adorable and tells a cute story about love. This is what I came for, people. Their passion wins over the judges. Ne-Yo responds to the energy, Derek to the musicality, and I’m happy to report that J. Lo’s goosies make their long-awaited return thanks to Keone and Mari’s cutesy backstory about wanting to win a cool million dollars as they look to start a family. Of all the acts we’ve seen tonight, Keone and Mari are the one I’m looking forward to following to see what tricks they pull out in the next round.
Average Score: 85

Kinjaz, Los Angeles, CA
Division: Team | Style: Urban Dance
A team of mostly second-generation U.S. citizens, the Kinjaz infuse their dance with influences from their heritage. They grew up with a fondness for martial arts, and you can see the reverence for it in their routine. This was my favorite of the teams this evening. It wasn’t full of tricks or acrobatics — its magic relied on complete synchronicity. It’s gorgeous. Ne-Yo calls out the fact that these guys made movements as small as bending a finger speak volumes. J. Lo tries to fake the guys out by telling them it wasn’t enough, but we all know she’s finishing that sentence with, “I wanted more.” Choreographed dancing fingers crossed they sail through the competition.
Average Score: 91

Diana Pombo, Miami, FL
Division: Junior | Style: Contemporary
This. Little. Nugget. Diana is just 11 years old, but she has the power to make human adults cry at will. She is so darn precious. According to her mother, Diana’s been dancing since she was in the womb. She’s so proud of her brave, tiny daughter. So is Jenna. SO AM I. It’s pretty unbelievable to see an 11-year-old so in touch with her emotions. This type of routine — raw, powerful — has been what’s missing from the show. Up until now, it’s all felt so glossy and staged. Diana brings the heart. She also brings the nickname “Miss J. Lo” for our fearless judge, which should earn her 20 points off the bat. If that doesn’t do it, maybe that time when she wipes her forehead with her own foot will.
Average Score: 89.7

When it’s all said and done, six of the seven acts we’ve seen are moving into the next round. Are we only getting a glimpse at the good groups or will there be a bloodbath in one of the future qualifying rounds? For all the explaining and re-explaining of rules, we haven’t been told how many people make it through each round, from each division. Could be useful information… but what do I know?

The good news is that it looks like the judges and Jenna will become more involved with each act as the season progresses. It should help the audience become more connected with our dancers, and the show in general. Also, it’ll give Jenna something more to do than watch a live feed while wearing a pretty dress. It’s really a win-win for everyone involved.

We wrote a react for this episode, which means we’ll just be checking in occasionally, but if this is a show you’d like to read about each week, please let us know! You can email chat@ew.com with your feedback and suggestions.

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