"World of Dance" Week 4 Recap: The Road to Redemption

Briar Nolet did NOT come to play. (NBC)

Have you ever felt that the Duels round on NBC's "World of Dance" was a bit unfair? During the Duels, each act's success hinges not on how objectively good they are, but on how good they are relative to a single challenger. Which means that mediocre acts can move forward if they best slightly-more-mediocre opponents, while frontrunners who're given tougher matchups end up knocked out.

Newly-engaged goddess J.Lo and her team get that. Which is why, last night, "WOD" introduced a twist designed to make the Duels more just: a redemption round. Formerly, five acts were eliminated in each division during the Duels. But from here out, the two highest scorers of those five will go head-to-head to earn a wild card spot. And that made last night's Upper Division Duels significantly more exciting.

Who just dueled it? Who was redeemed? Who made Derek Hough scream like a teenage girl? Onward to the episode highlights!


First, let's talk about Jonathan y Jorge vs. Denise and Josh, aka fantabulous salsa virtuosity vs. emotionally powerful contemporary. Ultimately, the former beat out the latter by less than a point, allowing the show's first same-sex salsa duo to continue its very sparkly journey. But Denise and Josh weren't done yet: As we found out a bit later in the show, their high score was enough to earn them a spot in the redemption round.

We were honestly obsessed with both Derek Piquette and Derion and Madison going into their Duel, but figured Derek's magnetic charisma gave him the edge. Whelp, we were wrong: The judges thought Derion and Madison's dynamic, intricate routine had more substance than Derek's emotionally charged performance—.7 points more substance, to be exact. (At least now Derek will be able to take some real time off for his double hip replacement surgery. We're pulling for you, Mr. Piquette!)

It'd be hard to find two more different competitors than street duo All Ready and contemporary queen Briar Nolet. We thought both of them absolutely killed it last night, with All Ready bringing the humor and crazy energy and Briar bringing the technique and dramatic intensity. All Ready ended up the victor, but Briar's still-impressive score meant she got a second chance in the redemption round.

So, in the end we had two contemporary phenoms, Denise and Josh and Briar Nolet, fighting for the wild card spot. But while their first-round scores were very close, we thought Briar completely dominated this face-off. Girl. Was. FIRE. And the judges agreed with us, advancing her to the Cut. (They must know she has a history of winning!)

Dance on TV
Gabriel Figueredo in a variation from Raymonda. VAM Productions, Courtesy YAGP.

This week, over 1,000 young hopefuls gathered in New York City for the Youth America Grand Prix finals, giving them the chance to compete for scholarships and contracts to some of the world's top ballet schools and companies. Roughly 85 dancers made it to the final round at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater on Wednesday. Today, the 20th anniversary of YAGP came to a close at the competition's awards ceremony. Read on to find out who won!

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Dance News
After a string of ballet-company rejections, Jennifer Sydor (here in Laura Peterson's "Failure") found success in other areas of the dance world. (Stephen Delas Heras, courtesy Jennifer Sydor)

In her senior year at Butler University, Jennifer Sydor auditioned for more than a dozen regional ballet companies—and got a string of "no, thank you" responses. "I have an athletic build, and my movement quality isn't the typical ballet aesthetic," Sydor says. "But I'd been laser-focused on ballet. When I didn't get a ballet contract, I was heartbroken."

Her one job offer came from Kim Robards Dance, a small modern company based in Aurora, CO. After attending KRD's summer intensive, Sydor ended up accepting a yearlong position with the troupe. "I was relieved and happy to begin my career," she says. She's been working as a contemporary dancer ever since.

In the dance world, rejection is part of the package. That doesn't make it any more pleasant. But whether you didn't get the Nutcracker role of your dreams or you weren't picked for a job despite feeling like you aced the audition, you can emerge from even the most gut-wrenching "no" smarter and stronger.

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Mind
Ballet West principal Beckanne Sisk as Kitri (Luke Isley, courtesy Ballet West)

Guess who's baaaaack?! Your resident Dance Spirit astrologers! And on the eve of the Youth America Grand Prix awards ceremony, we thought it was the perfect time to pair each zodiac sign with a variation commonly seen during the competition. After many painstaking hours spent researching, consulting the stars, and staring wistfully into the sky, we compiled our data and present you with the definitive list of each star sign as a YAGP variation! As we said last time, don't @ us if you're not happy with your pairing—the stars don't lie, baby!

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