SALT LAKE CITY — Despite having challenges to overcome on “World of Dance,” the two remaining acts from Utah both came out on top during Wednesday night’s round of the Cut — where only three teams from each division move on to the next round.
That means both American Fork dancer Jaxon Willard and Springville duo Charity Anderson and Andres Penates — who are both in the Junior Division — are two of the three acts in that division to move forward.
Challenge No. 1: It was near impossible for dancers Anderson and Penates to top their last performance on the show — a performance that earned the contemporary dance duo a combined perfect score of 100.
In a coaching session with celebrity judge Ne-Yo, the duo said they were “overthinking” their dance, stressed by the pressure of having to live up to a history-making performance. But that pressure seemed to disappear when they took the “World of Dance” stage and performed an acrobatic dance filled with fluid movements to match their song selection, “Waves," by Dean Lewis.
“You guys are exceptional. I mean, honestly, I can’t keep my eyes off of you guys,” Lopez told the duo following the performance.
When she asked Anderson and Penates how they felt about receiving a perfect score last time, the dancers admitted they began doubting if they truly deserved it. Lopez put their doubts to rest.
“It’s not that you have to match the 100, it’s just that you have to keep being the best you every time,” judge Jennifer Lopez told them. “You guys are awesome. You have to know that. Never let your head get in your way, not when it comes to doing what you love.”
They didn’t walk out with a perfect score, but the duo did earn a combined score of 92.7 — a score that gave them the No. 1 spot in the Junior Division.
Challenge No. 2: Willard was the last performer of the night and followed Anderson and Penates’ high-scoring dance (Utah fans had a long time to wait as the two acts didn’t come on until the final 20 minutes of the two-hour show).
In his coaching session with Ne-Yo, Willard spent a lot of time developing his self-confidence.
“The thing that makes you different is what makes you you — is what makes you great,” Ne-Yo told 17-year-old Willard.
Ne-Yo’s coaching and advice paid off as Willard assertively took the stage and danced to the song “Higher” by The Score. “I’ve been up, I’ve been down, seen the world from the ground,” the song begins. As the music’s intensity grew, so did Willard’s confidence, and when his bold dance came to an end, Ne-Yo was beyond enthusiastic.
The judge stood up and shouted, “That’s what I’m talking about!” before walking over to the stage to give Willard a hug.
“The first time we saw you, you came out on this stage (and) you were a little shy, a little timid,” he said. “And then this time you walked out here with your chest out and your shoulders back and your head up, (saying), ‘This is my stage!’
“Brother, everything you do is just effortless,” he continued. “It looks like you’re not even trying up there.”
“It’s a beautiful thing to watch,” Lopez added. “We’re watching a transformation right before our eyes.”
Willard’s performance earned him a combined score of 90.7 — two points under Anderson and Penates, but high enough to earn him the No. 3 spot in the Junior Division. Both Utah acts will compete in the next “World of Dance” round called the Divisional Final — where only one team in each division makes it through.
Watch the Utah dancers perform in the Divisional Final on Sept. 5 at 8 p.m. MDT on NBC.