'World of Dance' Finale 5th Judge: Derek Hough Steals Show with Stellar All-Star Routine

It all comes down to Briar Nolet, Ellie & Ava, The Kings, Unity LA and VPeepz — Five acts enter, one walks out with a million dollars.

It’s the season finale of "World of Dance" and there are four acts left competing … no, make that five after the judges opted to save one more during last week’s semifinal.

Considering we were left on a cliffhanger as to who the judges would save last week, it was a bit of a letdown to find out during the recap. Come on, "WoD," we deserve all the fake drama you can give us!

Not to mention there was no surprise at all it went to Unity LA. They slayed everyone else in the competition except for their divisional champs, The Kings. Both deserve the shot for sure.

The show kicked off with a rousing performance from all five finalists that was a stunningly powerful tribute to the diversity of dance, the strength of these finalist and just how powerful this artform can truly be. It was surprisingly powerful and moving. What a way to start the festivities!

Then, both Derek Hough and Ne-Yo took to the stage with some of our favorite finalists from the past two seasons, with Derek turning in an absolutely stunning performance with his stage partners. In all seriousness, it might just be the best performance of the entire season by anyone!

Dancers were divided into four categories: Junior (17 & Under, 1-4 Dancers) and Upper (18 & Older, 1-4 Dancers).One act from each of those divisions outlasted all of the others to become division champs, and the the judges advanced one Wild Card, making it five acts total vying for the top prize.

A quick reminder about me: I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer, all for this moment: armchair judging a dance competition. From a young boy learning a shuffle-ball-change to performing with the St. Louis Ballet Company, I experienced the ups and downs of one of the most difficult, physically demanding sports on the planet.

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Ne-Yo, Jennifer Lopez, and Derek Hough. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.


Derek Hough, Michael Dameski and Charity & Andres

Charity & Andres were Junior Division champs last season and got the first-ever "WoD" perfect score. Michael Dameski was last season’s runner-up. And the four of them together were absolute fire. That was easily one of the strongest performances and routines of the entire season. Charity & Andres went off and got even stronger and sharper, and Charity in particular was doing things that blew our minds away. Talk about power, strength, sharpness, tight synchronicity. This one had it all. An absolute master class in technique.

Ne-Yo, Ian Eastwood and Sean & Kaycee

Sean & Kaycee return from Season 2 and they really captured everyone’s imaginations and hearts with Sean’s impressive choreography for 16 years old. Ian Eastwood was already doing well even before Season 1, but he definitely grew as a visionary and choreographer as well. Unfortunately, with a broken foot, Ne-Yo was limited in what he could do. The way around it was for Ne-Yo to sing with minimal dance moves while the other three brought the movement, and it made for a very entertaining show with some very cool and unique moves.

The Lab

We clearly aren’t yet worthy of a J.Lo performance, but we can’t be mad when we can get a tribute in her honor from the reigning champs (for another hour or so) from last season, The Lab. One of the most exciting crews to ever hit this stage, we’ve waited a year to see them back. As expected, it was a blast to see them again, though it wasn’t quite as exciting as their performances last season. Still, these guys are amazing for what they do at their age … hell, at any age. Maybe J.Lo really should give them a call for her next tour.


Briar Nolet

(Upper) Briar took the judges note to connect more with the lyric and came out a total badass on Britney Spears’ "Toxic." The musicality at the top was just ridiculous and the whole thing held together than many of her earlier routines, which were almost entirely a talent showcase. They were amazing, but this was next level. Not as heavy on the stunts, which was good and bad because they do show so much of her strength, nevertheless Briar showed dancing and brought a lot of character to the piece.

Judges Scores: 92.7

My Score: 19 (Performance), 20 (Technique), 19 (Choreography), 18 (Creativity), 19 (Presentation) = 95


(Junior Team) Honestly, this was a bit of a letdown from what we’ve seen them do before. The hand motions and synchronous dancing is always rock solid, but there was so much of it it started to feel boring. The upside down and spin stunts didn’t quite work, either. If it doesn’t look amazing, it doesn’t need doing. They were clearly intimidated by The Kings tricks and tried to up their own, but that’s just not what they do, and they sacrificed some of their own unique style and cleanliness trying to play catch up when they didn’t need to.

Judges Scores: 93.7

My Score: 18 (Performance), 18 (Technique), 18 (Choreography), 19 (Creativity), 18 (Presentation) = 91

Unity LA

(Upper Team) There was a joyfulness to this routine that was the polar opposite to the pain of the door number last week, and yet it was no less beautifully danced. Even better, by putting everyone in gold, there was a more equal sharing of the spotlight throughout the dance. This is an incredible group top to bottom, so it’s nice to see everyone get a chance to shine. The story was a bit muddled at times, but the lyricism was so delicate and smooth and perfectly timed, it was nevertheless mesmerizing to watch.

Judges Scores: 95.7

My Score: 20 (Performance), 19 (Technique), 20 (Choreography), 19 (Creativity), 19 (Presentation) = 97

The Kings

(Upper Team) It seems like maybe one running stunt didn’t go off as planned (and they didn’t properly hide the setup) and their early synchronicity was way off. But the way they took the judges advice by staging an actual epic battle a la "300" in the middle of their routine was just sick. This piece picked up as it went along and absolutely ended on a high. A distinct cultural identity, a strong emotional core and the passion was palpable.

Judges Scores: 100

My Score: 19 (Performance), 19 (Technique), 20 (Choreography), 20 (Creativity), 20 (Presentation) = 98

Ellie & Ava

(Junior) What a stunningly beautiful piece danced to perfection by these two powerful sisters. That they make it look so effortless belies just how difficult that routine was. On top of that, their synchronicity puts everyone else to shame. The turns are perfect, the arms, the elevations, every stunt. Even their billowing skirts were nearly identical. It was just so magical and moving. No one would have picked them to win after the Qualifiers, but they may have just positioned themselves as the ones to beat.

Judges Scores: 95

My Score: 19 (Performance), 20 (Technique), 20 (Choreography), 20 (Creativity), 20 (Presentation) = 99


The Kings have been dominating this show since the beginning and they very well could take it again this year. So far, hip-hop has taken every season, even though we thought Eva Igo outdanced Les Twins in Season 1 (no one doubted The Lab’s dominance last year).

This year, Ellie & Eva brought incredible synchronicity, technique and heart to the stage. They moved us with the growth throughout the season and really nailed it with their last two performances.

That said, our scores are incredibly tight between this duo, The Kings and Unity LA; three of the strongest acts to ever grace the stage. But for real, the judges are probably going to go with The Kings. It’s just more commercial.



Ellie & Ava Judges Score: 99

The Kings Judges Score: 98

Unity LA Judges Score: 97

Briar Nolet Judges Average: 95

VPeepz Judges Average: 91


The Kings My Score: 100

Unity LA My Score: 95.7

Ellie & Ava My Score: 95

VPeepz My Average: 93.7

Briar Nolet My Average: 92.7

It’s not a surprise that The Kings took home the top prize, and they are definitely worthy of the title, but it is a surprise that it was essentially a blowout. Unity LA and Ellie & Eva really brought incredible stuff to that stage. We’d also argue against The Kings being perfect, because they simply weren’t.

Is there a glass ceiling for contemporary on a show like this just as there is for tap?

That said, if The Kings weren’t there, it would have been a toss-up between two contemporary acts. But maybe there should be a category for emotional impact or something, to properly take in when a dance is so powerful it draws you in and tears you apart on a visceral level.

Okay, enough grumbling. The Kings are an absolutely incredible dance crew and they absolutely took it to the next level with their slo-mo fight sequence. It was beautiful and it was powerful and it was so visually stunning it genuinely looked like a slo-mo replay on our TV. So there’s that.

The real question is how to do next year’s acts top the caliber of talent in this finale?

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