World of Dance has already been renewed for a third season before the second season returns at the end of the month. The season one finale ended on a high with 8.3 million viewers tuning in. What makes the show so popular? Jennifer Lopez heads the judging panel and serves as Executive Producer on the show. Alongside her, Ne-Yo, Derek Hough and Jenna Dewan make up the panel as dancers from around the world compete for a prize of $1 million.
If you haven’t caught the first season, then watch some of these performance highlights below:
Evo Igo – She’s going to be returning to compete in season two.
Les Twins – They would go on to win the season
Keone & Mari – From the Upper Division.
On top of great performances, like any reality competition show, it’s an emotional rollercoaster of a ride. It’s still crushing to see Eva Igo, but at the same time, she’s coming back and we can’t wait.
Dance as Ne-Yo says in our conversation, “is universal.” It’s a language we all understand, whether performed to classical instrumental music or hip-hop sounds, we’re watching art. We’re invested in the acts, rooting for them. It’s something to watch with our mothers, grandmothers or with our friends on social media. We can all relate to the language of dance.
World of Dance is even more fun when you have an original fly-girl, Jennifer Lopez leading the pack and the great chemistry between the panel.
I caught up with them at the NBC Press Day to get the gossip on Season Two.
Season Two guys!
Derek: It’s huge. The first season was incredible. It was amazing and it did so well, and we’re so proud of it. Season two just surpassed expectations even more from the set and production, the dancing, the choreography. Everything about it feels bigger, better and more polished.
From the talent to the production, it’s stepped up twenty-five and a half.
Jennifer Lopez: All the talk was how to make it better than season one because season one was so phenomenal and exceeded our expectations. The truth is we’re in a good groove. We knew what the show was, people knew what the show was and dancers knew what the show was. We attracted so much more talent than the first season. We had to scour for the first season because no one knew it. A lot of people showed up after thinking, “Oh, a million dollars?” This year, double that showed up. We had a great time together putting together an even more high energy, high impact, defying, never seen performance dance entertainment show type and it was entertaining for us.
Were you surprised at how everyone latched on to the show?
Ne-Yo: For me, it confirmed something I already knew. There are very few things that everyone can get into regardless of being male, female, race, children. Dance is universal. It’s the language that everybody and anybody can speak and I knew that already. The show came on and it was successful and it made perfect sense.
You don’t have to know anything about dance, you can just tune in and enjoy. It’s that. I wasn’t surprised when it happened.
Derek: It captures the energy in that room. Some shows are not as exciting as they feel on TV, but the energy in that room is unbelievable. It’s electric and I feel when you watch it, you feel that and people respond to it.
Jenna: You never know so it’s always a nice surprise. You think you have the perfect magic recipe for a hit show and it doesn’t work. It’s always that opening, that first episode. We were happy with what we were making.
Ne-Yo: We knew we had something special from that first night where we sat down with each other and interacted. There was no awkward silence. Everyone was on the same chord from the jump.
Derek: The new generation of dancing is at such a high level, especially with the kids. To have a platform for this amazing talent, it doesn’t matter who you are, you can appreciate it. It’s pure entertainment at its finest. It’s a positive show. It’s being disruptive by being positive.
Ne-Yo: There’s so much negativity on TV. There are very few things that everyone can get into, and you can watch this with your whole family.
Derek: There were disappointments for sure, but that’s the nature of the competition. That’s when I knew we had something special when people were getting mad about the eliminations. That’s good because it showed they cared about it.
The second season is going to be amazing.
Jennifer, you’re an Executive Producer, you started off as a fly-girl and a dancer, why was it important for you to showcase that side?
Jennifer: For me, I loved a lot of the dance shows that we’ve seen over the years, but to me, they never show the dancers that I know. They never showed the heart, the commitment, the dedication, the athleticism, the courageousness and the stars that they are. The passion that they have. The fearlessness that they have. There was something missing from that because I was a dancer and I’m still around dancers all the time with my shows and everything I do. I know we’re not getting that part of it and I know that if we do a worldwide competition and attract this talent and we make it the Olympics of dance. You can be any age and you can do any kind of dance you want and we’re not going to make you do something that you don’t normally do. We’re not going to make you do a hip-hop dance or try to tap. You come and do what you do and you show the world and we’ll give you that spotlight, I knew we were going to have something special.
Ne-Yo, How did you get to be on the show?
Ne-Yo I got a call from JLo and the producers. My initial response was, “This sounds amazing but you guys know good and damned well a lot of dancers who are more qualified to judge other dancers than me.” I didn’t feel qualified to do it. Especially when you have Jenna and Derek, who have danced their whole lives and have a dancing background. I’ve danced, but it’s not my specific forte. I’m entertainment. I was asking, “Why me?” I needed that question answered before I could be OK with it.
It took JLo to point out to me that it’s one thing to be a technically good dancer, but it’s another thing to invoke passion and emotion and to make the audience feel something with what you’re doing. I don’t care how flexible I am or how high I can lift my leg if the piece is sad and you’re not sad after you watch it. She said, “You understand that part of it.” and then I said,”Okayyyy then. I’m with it.”
Jenna: You need all different perspectives. You can’t have all the technicians judging.
What I enjoy most about the show is that it is giving a face to dancers because so often, we don’t pay attention to them.
Jennifer Lopez: The nameless, faceless ones who make the show amazing.
Derek: That was another selling point for me. These are people that spend years and risk injury and sacrifice so much to hone this craft. It’s not for money or for fame. It’s for the sheer joy of dance. How do you not give this person a platform?
They do it knowing they’re not going to get the spotlight. They’re going to be the guy behind the guy. They’re not going to get paid very well for it. They do it because they have to and it’s embedded in their DNA.
When she told me that not only are we giving these artistic athletes the spotlight they deserve, we’re also going to help them out financially in a way that’s life-changing. Being a competitive dancer myself since I was 12, I was in financial deficit because you’re paying for the travel, the competition themselves.
Jenna: It’s so expensive to be a dancer.
Derek: When you win, you get a trophy. I just spent $50,000 and got nothing in return but a trophy. You do it because you love it. I like that a production is going to invest in the talent and give them an opportunity. Even if they don’t win, they have something to aspire to.
Jenna: We’re really fortunate because we’ve had a lot of great dance shows that have paved the way for World of Dance to be so successful, but I’ve found it to be the next level where we were compensating them, but we were doing it in a way that hasn’t been done yet on a dance show.
We had a little time with J-Lo to talk a bit more about the show and ask her about working on Shades of Blue
I love the category format of the different age groups.
Jennifer: At first, we didn’t know how this was going to work last year. How is this nine-year-old girl going to compete against a group of adults? I think our scoring system which we adapted from World of Dance and the practical competitions that existed, that really helped. We were able to really break down each act individually.
At the end of the day, it’s feeling, right? There could be a group that goes out there and they kill it. A little girl comes out and dances this beautiful piece with great technique and all of this ability and athleticism. How do you compare apples to oranges? You don’t. You go, that’s the most amazing thing I’ve seen today.
Les Twins winning was fantastic. Seeing them perform at Deliah just showed that. What can we look forward to in season` two?
Jennifer: It’s a lot. There are different people in season two. Different groups, different couples. It’s pretty awesome.
Jennifer, were you always going to be on the panel for this?
No, I was producing the show and as we were trying to find the right panel and the chemistry, it just wasn’t coming together. They were like, “You’re one of the best TV judges ever, why don’t you do this?” I thought, I just really wanted to produce and they said to me, “It’s your show, you own it.” I wanted to give it the best chance I could give it.
I was thinking about American Idol, I had the front row seat to watching one of the well-oiled best competition shows ever. I thought it needed an anchor and Ryan Seacrest was the anchor for that show and we needed that for here. I’m not the host but in a sense, that’s how I saw it. I knew it needed that. Someone with experience and someone who could help navigate in all of the moments and it’s been great.
How’s the culling process for you, especially as you’ve been there yourself as a dancer?
It’s awful. It’s terrible. It never gets easy and I always think we made mistakes and so do the boys and we lose sleep and we talk about it the next day. We ask each other if we did the right thing and debate because we all care so much.
You’ve got contestants coming back from season one.
Yes. If you did not win you can come back.
Shades of Blue. I was so invested in Harlee and I’m going to miss her.
I was too. I’m going to miss her. I got so emotional the day we announced. I wrote this thing on the day the announcement came out. It really changed my life. It was a life-changing project. IT was three years of my life, longer than most things I do. It was a game changer for me. Not just because it was amazingly complex and multi-layered role in a beautifully complex world. She was so tougher than I was. It was so different being in her skin for four days a week, for 12 hours a day or more, for six or seven months of the year and playing her really changed me. It made me look at the world and I got to examine things through her eyes that I would never have on my own. I will miss her terribly.
World of Dance taking it to new levels returns on May 29