“World Of Dance” is the most exciting dance show television has ever seen. Unlike shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance” or “Dancing With The Stars”, “World of Dance” functions more like a sports tournament than a dance competition. Solos, duets and groups of dancers compete against each other in multiple rounds, clashing as they battle for the grand prize of $ 1 million.
“World Of Dance” emphasizes the athleticism of the dancers as much as their artistic talent. The competitive nature of the show demands that competitors push each other more than ever, resulting in performances in which the dancers seem to challenge the limits of the human body. However, despite all the elements that make it such an incredible competitive dance performance, âWorld Of Danceâ has one glaring flaw: The judges unfairly favor hip-hop over other dance styles.
Make no mistake, a lot of the hip-hop dancers who participate in “World Of Dance” are absolutely phenomenal. It’s just that, time and time again, the judges demonstrate that they prefer flashy hip-hop routines to more technical dance styles such as contemporary, jazz, and ballet. The favoritism of the judges allowed hip-hop competitors to prevail even when dancers of other styles clearly outperform them.
“World Of Dance” is presented as a show where world class dancers representing all styles of dance are invited to compete. However, only the hip-hop dancers have won in the full three seasons it has aired, leaving viewers wondering if the show is as fair as it claims it is.
How it works
Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough and Ne-Yo judge dance groups from all over the world who come to the United States to compete on the “World Of Dance” scene. Judges assess dance numbers based on a detailed set of criteria that include categories of performance, technique, choreography, creativity and presentation. From the semi-final, the judges give the candidates numerical marks according to these criteria.
The judging criteria should mean that “World Of Dance” is as fair as it gets. It works in such a way that dancers advance or get fired following a point average based on specific qualities of their performance, rather than a majority yes or no vote among three judges. However, hip-hop groups still manage to impose themselves more often than other styles of dance. Ultimately, the use of specific criteria does not protect against unfair judgment.
Moreover, the use of criteria only shows how biased the judgment is towards hip-hop. The digital judging system highlights the clear inconsistencies between judges’ positive comments on non-hip-hop dance performances and their subsequent low scores.
Contemporary dancers are robbed
A recent and very obvious case of judges robbing a contemporary dancer involves Kurtis Sprung and his performance in this season’s semi-final. Sprung’s experience on “World Of Dance” is a classic example of the discrepancy between the judges’ reactions to a dance and the mark they ultimately give.
Sprung performs a contemporary gravity-defying dance in which he jumps, spins, flies across the stage, and does it all while describing an emotional tale of his relationship with his father. The performance has all the elements of a great dance piece. Sprung manages to both show off his stunning dance technique and tell a powerful story without letting his showmanship overshadow the technical aspects of the dance, or vice versa.
In contemporary dance, it is easy to rely on exaggerated emotion or technical tricks to wear a piece. It is much more difficult to mix these two elements so that they complement each other. Sprung strikes the perfect balance between performance and technique, resulting in one of the most fascinating dances of the season.
The judges are clearly impressed with his performance. They have overwhelmingly positive reviews for him, praising him for his artistry, technique, and incredible storytelling. Derek Hough even chokes on his comments due to how the performance affected him emotionally.
Only Ne-Yo provides a review in addition to his praise for Sprung, saying he wished the dancing had slowed down in order to have more “picture moments.” It is difficult to understand what he means. At certain points in the play, Sprung stopped moving altogether and held a pose, meaning there were many specific instances that would look amazing if someone took a picture of them. J.Lo even points out that she does not agree with Ne-Yo and cites some of these cases that she considered “moments of images”.
Despite their obvious love of performance, the judges gave Sprung a score that wasn’t high enough to move him forward. It was also lower than the scores of two hip-hop groups, one of which made it to the finals.
Based on the judges’ praise, the absence of any valid criticism, and the criteria they use to rate the contestants, it is impossible to understand how Sprung failed to reach the final. His score just didn’t match what the judges clearly thought of his performance.
Sprung checked off each of the categories that make up the criteria, and then some. He perfectly executed some of the most difficult dance steps that exist while telling a detailed story based on his personal experiences. Her performance was so powerful it almost made a judge cry.
The best performing hip-hop groups were great, but they couldn’t compare. The technical difficulty of their choreography and the storytelling abilities of their performances did not correspond at all to the heart, soul and talent that Sprung left on stage.
Sprung is not the first contemporary dancer to be denied victory despite praise from the judges for his performance. Contemporary groups have lost to hip-hop groups in each season’s finals. A particularly disappointing example was last season, when hip-hop group The Kings beat contemporary group Unity LA for the grand prize.
Unity LA has always performed some of the most unique, inspiring, and technically sound dances the show has ever seen. Like Sprung, they perfectly blended challenging dance technique and tricks with gripping storytelling. The judges absolutely adored them and didn’t hesitate to tell them that they were some of the best dancers to ever take part in the show. In fact, the group’s choreographer Tessandra Chavez received the only Emmy Award for choreography that a âWorld Of Danceâ choreographer has ever received.
The Kings were a spectacular hip-hop group that the judges loved too. However, their performances have always relied on sophisticated tricks and stunts to get audiences and judges excited. They didn’t have the artistry, versatility, or storytelling abilities that Unity LA consistently brought to the stage. Nonetheless, they won the grand prize.
If the show was called “World Of Tricks” then the Kings definitely deserved to win. However, dancing is more than a performer’s ability to catapult themselves into the air. The judges’ comments and the criteria they use to award marks seem to recognize this, but the results always end up favoring hip-hop groups. This phenomenon leads me to believe that judges often give hip-hop groups higher marks than they really deserve compared to contemporary artists.
“World Of Dance” can and should be fairer
Of course, comparing hip-hop to contemporary is a classic apple-or-orange dilemma. Hip-hop is naturally geared towards flashy and energetic performances, while contemporary lends itself to calmer and more emotional dance storytelling. However, if “World Of Dance” is to be fair for all styles of dance, it needs to make some changes, as the current system clearly isn’t working.
One impactful change could be the addition of a trick that forces contestants to perform a piece that does not match their style of expertise. This would add another layer of difficulty to the competition and force competitors out of their comfort zone. “So You Think You Can Dance” forces its competitors to do so. Over the years this show has had a healthy mix of winners who specialize in all different styles including contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, and even tap dancing. This type of handle would therefore make the show a bit fairer by forcing the “World Of Dance” contestants to reveal how well they behave under the pressure of dancing in a style that they are not so confident in.
It is important to note that while contemporary groups often come second behind hip-hop groups, other styles such as ballet, tap and ballroom have been seen even less successful in performing. Thus, this type of trick could help level the playing field for all competitors by allowing dancers to show off their versatility by dancing in styles beyond what they are entering into the competition.
By the time this article is published, the Season 4 Champion will have been crowned. I really hope that if a non-hip hop group deserves to win, they will. Unfortunately, the last three seasons do not make this result promising. I hope the show proves me wrong this year. I look forward to the day when the judges of “World Of Dance” fairly evaluate all styles of dance. Only then will it be truly the best dance show on TV.