World of Dance judges J.Lo, Jenna Dewan Tatum, Ne-Yo, and Derek Hough define their roles
A version of this story appears in Entertainment Weekly’s Summer TV Preview issue, on stands now and available here. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
Who’s ready to watch dancers of all ages from all over the world get their heart rates up while you sprawl comfortably on your couch? World of Dance judges Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo, Derek Hough, and host/mentor Jenna Dewan Tatum are awarding a cool $1 million to the winner(s) of the latest dance show to hit prime time — and this one, premiering tonight on NBC, is anything but amateur hour.
“The idea of the biggest dance competition in the world was a no-brainer for me,” says Lopez, who started her career as a Fly Girl on In Living Color and is also an EP on this series.
For Dancing With the Stars vet Hough, World of Dance is a logical progression for both him and the audience. “In the past decade, we’ve seen dance become a star in itself, and America’s been educated, so it’s a good time to go to the next level,” he says.
Ahead of the series debut, some of the best dancers in the biz share what’s to come center stage.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How would you describe each other’s personalities in your respective roles?
JENNIFER LOPEZ: We all love dance, we all are performers, and we all are competitive, which you have to be in this business. We come from different backgrounds, so we bring those sensibilities. Some people would say Ne-Yo is tough, Derek is charming, and I’m more compassionate and clear.
DEREK HOUGH: Everybody’s like, “Ne-Yo’s the tough judge,” but I think he’s the reminder of “Yo, guys, this is for a million dollars.”
NE-YO: I’m not Simon Cowell-ing it, but I’m definitely very particular. I need to feel something.
JENNA DEWAN TATUM: [Contestants] would come to me and say, “We know that Ne-Yo is a stickler about being clean, Derek talks about the choreography and the technique, and Jennifer wants heart. Where are we with making sure we’re getting that in the routine?”
HOUGH: One week during the competition, Jennifer was like, “But she has more heart.” I said, “This isn’t called World of Heart!” [Laughs]
RELATED: The Cost of Dancing With the Stars’ Mirrorball Trophy
Looking back to your start as dancers, what do you want to impart to the contestants?
LOPEZ: Being a dancer is passion. You don’t do it to become rich or famous. You do it because you love it. No matter where you go — dance took me in many different directions — you never want to lose that.
HOUGH: Being a competitor, there’ve been many times when I lost, but that fueled me. There’s an expression, “Rejection breeds obsession,” and for me it did.
NE-YO: I was naturally a really shy kid. Even now, I sometimes have trouble looking people in the eye.
DEWAN TATUM: Oh my gosh, that’s so cute. I never knew that about you.
NE-YO: That’s not cute. I’m 37. I used to hold back because of fear of judgment. It’s something that I had to get over, and if there’s any piece of advice that I could give, it’s: There is no “save it for the next show,” because you’re not promised a next show.
Okay, serious question: Where do you stand on dance fads?
NE-YO: Things move so fast now. Every other day, somebody’s creating a new dance.
DEWAN TATUM: I’m so lame, I don’t know them when they happen! I remember the Running Man and Roger Rabbit. That’s dating myself.
HOUGH: I did something the other day and one kid said, “That’s old!” I’m like, “Wait, what? I swear that just came out.”
World of Dance premieres Tuesday, May 30, at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.