Jennifer Lopez has a lot on her plate: Shades of Blue got renewed for another season; she's got a residency in Vegas; she's no doubt prepping for NBC's live musical Bye Bye Birdie at the end of the year; and she's apparently squeezing in time for some personal fun. Not good at slowing down, the powerhouse performer and producer now has another project on her packed schedule: dance competition World of Dance.
World of Dance is not only yet another J.Lo endeavor, but it's also another addition to a TV dance landscape teeming with more sequins, bruised toes and 8-counts than anyone can tally. But this one has something the others don't, apart from judges Derek Hough and singer Ne-Yo: a cash prize of (your best Dr. Evil voice here) one million dollars.
An extension of the dance brand World of Dance, the series brings together dancers handpicked from qualifying events and online submissions who are divided into three divisions: Junior (any size act, 17 years old and under), Upper (groups of 1-4, 18 and older) and Team (groups of 5+, 18 and older).
The expert panel, which includes Lopez, Ne-Yo, Dancing with the Stars alum Hough and Jenna Dewan Tatum as mentor/host, will score acts through five rounds: qualifiers, duels, "The cut," divisional final and the world final. Dancers compete only within their division in the first four rounds but then, in the world final, face off against the winner from each division for the $1 million prize. "We are going to do with World of Dance what The Voice has done with singing," executive producer Benny Medina said at NBC's summer press preview in Los Angeles Monday.
Lopez, who clearly never lacks for things to do, called World of Dance a dream come true and the perfect job for her. "I always consider myself a dancer, kind of first. That was my first form of artistic expression."
She and her co-stars see the big prize not only as a huge pile of cash but a way of validating the passion and devotion that dancers give to their profession. Hough, certainly no stranger to the work and sacrifice dancers make, said, "We understand the toll it takes on your body, your life. These dancers are risking it all. There are numerous moments in this show where we are gasping, clenching and terrified," because of the "literally death-defying moves" happening. The intensity wasn't just on the dance floor either: Hough said that off-camera, judges frequently got into heated debates about contestants.
While only one contestant is going to win that million, it is, for Lopez, a symbolic way of giving back to the profession that birthed her career — and a way of encouraging the countless other dancers struggling to make it.
"As a dancer you get into it because you love it," she said, recalling times when she'd survive on one slice of pizza for dinner. "That's how I lived for years after I moved out of my mom's house. That's what these dancers do. It's a dream come true to create something like this."
World of Dance premieres Monday May 8 at 10/9c on NBC.