World of Dance enthrals even viewers who have a strict policy of not watching talent shows.
The audience has zero say, thanks very much. There’s no social-media streaming across the screen, no backstage interviews, no judges spinning in their chairs or thumping oversized buzzers, no Simon Cowell or America rah-rah, no abject cruelty. Just dancing. Really quite freakishly great dancing.
French identical twins Larry and Laurent Nicolas Bourgeois – “Les Twins” – have spent six years dancing for Beyoncé and they move as if they don’t have bones in their bodies. Then there’s Keone and Mari, the sinuous husband-and-wife contemporary dancers from Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself video (where the couple dance through waking up, getting dressed, having breakfast – and breaking up; it’s so gorgeous it’s worth enduring the Biebs).
Eleven-year-old sprat Diana Pombo dances her wee heart out and has J Lo shrieking, “She just wiped her head with her foot!” She did, indeed.
The only moment of mediocrity in the first episode is NXT LVL, a meaty troupe of Californian cloggers (like tap but with clompy shoes), who spend a too-long two seconds stomping on stage before beaming at the judges and being mercifully sent on their way, hopefully to learn about that helpful letter, E.
Backstage there’s Step Up star Jenna Dewan Tatum, dressed as if she’s been partially swallowed by an albino python. She’s allegedly the host and dance mentor, but that’s limited to the briefest of shoulder-squeezes and squees. This is good, because it means more time for dancing and comments from the judges, who seem legitimately invested and delighted by what they’re watching.
“Super-smooth, super-together,” raves Ne-Yo over the first act. “You guys are water, man. Water.”
Twenty-five countries are represented here. There are no age limits and no restrictions on style (hence the clogging), and dancers can enter as individuals or groups. Lopez calls it “the Olympics of dance”. They’ll start with qualifiers, go on to duels, something called “the cut”, divisional finals, then world finals.
And hey, New Zealand is in with a shot: this first series features Auckland hip-hop crew Mini ReQuest, trained by Parris Goebel.
This article was first published in the January 13, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.