From the opening minutes of last night's debut episode, it was clear that Season 4 of "World of Dance" would hit a little different.
First, we saw the contestants in a warehouse, thinking they were about to audition for the show's producers. But: surprise! In walked judges Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough, and Ne-Yo, announcing that this was in fact the Qualifiers round—the dancers' official "WOD" debut. Everyone was shocked, and we do mean shocked (never have we ever seen so many "I AM SHOOK!" reaction shots in a single episode of television, and we say this as "Real Housewives" fans).
Also, the show has done away with numerical scoring for this round. Instead, each act needs at least two "yes" votes to continue to the Duels. If the judges are undecided, they can opt to have the dancers return for a callback. It's pretty much the "So You Think You Can Dance" model.
So, which acts managed to stand out despite the surprise formatting changes? The duos and solos, for the most part. It's becoming harder and harder for the large groups that've historically been successful on this show to make an impact—the standard is just so high. Here are the folks who impressed us most.
Jefferson y Adrianita
Do we have a soft spot for salsa acts? Oh, absolutely. But come on: This routine to a classic Celia Cruz song was objectively impressive. The pair from Cali, Colombia pulled out all the stops, and by that we mean they never stopped—flipping, spinning, and throwing out lighting-speed footwork. J.Lo said their technique could be even tighter, but all three judges sent them on to the Duels.
Jake & Chau
Jake (Mcauley) and (A.T.) Chau from San Jose, CA have chemistry to spare, which further elevated their fluid and technically rock-solid contemporary performance. We're fans of the way they incorporated acrobatics and even a little contortion in a way that didn't feel jarringly show-offy. The judges loved it all, and sent them right to the Duels. Keep your eyes on these two.
Bailey & Kida
We all love Bailey Sok and Kida Burns, and we all came into this assuming they'd deliver fabulous, super-clean hip hop, as ever. Still: We'll really never tire of watching these two. So much charisma on one stage! As Lopez said, you can tell that they've only just begun to dance together—but they're through to the Duels, so we'll get to watch their partnership evolve on the "WOD" stage.
Oh, my gosh: This solo was pretty much the entire dance competition world distilled into two minutes and one tiny 9-year-old body, right?! Celine Dion's "River Deep, Mountain High"! Multiple gymnastic passes! Cazy-fast à la seconde pirouettes! That huge and truly infectious smile! We've seen a lot of routines like this over the course of our Dance Spirit career, but Savannah has pretty sound technique underneath all that flash, and there really is something special about her onstage presence. We'll see you at the Duels, small-but-mighty one.