"World of Dance" showcases a variety of different styles of dance, which makes it nearly impossible to pick the best routines. (Illustration by Jaila Desper, University of California, Berkeley)
Screens x

If you’re already missing this season’s performers, this is for you.

Season 3 of NBC’s smash competition show “World of Dance” (“WOD”) just ended, and it was a wild ride. The acts this year certainly didn’t disappoint, and several of them are surely going to go down in not only “WOD” history, but television-dance-show history in general.

To celebrate this season coming to a close, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite routines, in no particular order, from the season. If you’re not caught up on the most recent season of “WOD,” what are you doing? Go get caught up. If you’ve already seen every episode, or you don’t care about spoilers, feel free to proceed.

1. VPeepz: “&Burn,” The Cut

Out of all the VPeepz performances, their Cut-round routine to Billie Eilish’s “&Burn” is the best.

In it, their formations, sharpness of movement and intricacy of choreography are the most refined they look all season. Their use of costume, as well, while simple, proved very effective in their movement through the formations.

2. Briar Nolet: “Come Fly with Me,” The Duels

As a soloist, it can be difficult sometimes to succeed against the larger groups’ capacity for greater tricks and more intricate formations. Particularly in the Duels, one of the most difficult rounds of “WOD,” the stakes are higher, and it can be a struggle to create an impactful routine powerful enough to take the win.

While this routine barely lost the Duels, acrobatic dancer Briar Nolet was able to return to the competition through winning the Redemption round, and she ended up making it all the way to the World Finals.

Out of all Nolet’s routines, this, in my humble opinion, was the best. Her musicality shone brightest through the choreography, and it was the most powerful emotionally. Nolet shared her battle with epilepsy through this performance, with the motif of her quivering hand — a symptom of her seizures — symbolizing the disorder. When she grips her hand at the end of the dance, she metaphorically conquers the disease.

While this routine got Nolet cut from the Duels, she was able to make a comeback through the Redemption round, and her Redemption routine is also one of my favorites. Click here and head to 0:57 to watch her amazing routine.

3. Derion & Madison: “Call Out My Name,” The Cut

As a trend, not many of the slower routines succeed on “WOD.” They usually don’t engage the audience as well and don’t measure up to the larger-than-life routines that larger groups usually offer. However, with this performance, Derion & Madison enraptured the audience with their slow but intoxicating movement.

This video, stylistically, is unique, as it offers the rehearsal version side by side with their performance. It’s fascinating to see the nuanced differences between performances, or get a behind-the-scenes look at how they accomplished certain movements.

For instance, at 34 seconds Madison appears to lean forward, suspended by Derion. In the final performance, you can’t quite see how it’s done. In the rehearsal video, however, you can see his hand on her thigh, holding her up (which, if I might add, how?! Don’t try that at home).

4. Poppin John: “Universal Mind Control,” Divisional Finals

Poppin John is a unique force in the competition this season as he is not only a hip-hop soloist, but a popper — a branch of hip hop defined by quick, staccato movements that create the illusion that one is a robot.

Poppin John is the cleanest popper I’ve ever seen, and no routine better showcases his talent more than his Divisional Finals performance. He hits every beat, doing such quick movements with his body that it doesn’t even appear physically possible. His use of the stage, as well, is a unique twist, as not many “WOD” performers use the stage and screens as well as he did here.

5. Unity LA: “Piece by Piece,” Divisional Finals

The contemporary large group Unity LA is fronted by Ashley and Zack, a lyrical/contemporary duo from Season 2. Ashley and Zack’s decision to return for Season 3 with friends was a good one, as their storytelling capabilities expanded with the group.

Their best routine, by far, was “Piece by Piece,” because not only did it showcase their incredible skill, but it also told a hauntingly beautiful story that gave Ne-Yo his very first set of chills, or “goosies,” as Jennifer Lopez calls them.

Keeping with the lyrics, Unity LA shares the story of a daughter recovering from her absent father returning suddenly into her life, and their choreography, combined with their use of a door as a prop, adds to the story’s power.

This routine just serves as a reminder that dance is more about showcasing beautiful art through the power and manipulation of the human body. It’s also about imparting an experience and sharing the experiences of others, to cultivate emotion, understanding and empathy from the audience members. Unity LA accomplished this perfectly with “Piece by Piece.”

6. Ellie & Ava: “Head Above Water,” Divisional Finals

Lyrical duo and sisters Ellie & Ava blew everyone away throughout the competition with the elegance, synchronicity and technical brilliance that shone through every move.

From a simple jeté to the flawlessly unified turn section at 0:54, while their style is relatively mainstream, the choreography for this routine was clever, brilliantly timed and the girls danced it beautifully.

7. The Kings: “Tattad Tattad,” The Cut

The Kings, a large hip-hop group from Mumbai, swept the competition this season. Not only were they one of the consistently highest-scoring acts, sending the judges to their feet after each routine, but they had the only perfect score of the season and the second perfect score in “WOD” history.

The audience, judges and fellow competitors alike came to respect and revere them for their original, mind-boggling tricks, innovative choreography and incredibly clean execution. It came as no surprise that they would win the whole competition and take home the million dollars.

It was hard to pick just one routine to share from the Kings, but my favorite by far was “Tattad Tattad.” In it, the Kings keep their Bollywood hip hop flavor but add popping and robotic work to create incredibly unique shapes, even forming a sort of Transformer with their bodies, stunning the audience.


Leave a Reply