Multi-faceted superstar Jennifer Lopez returned to her TV desk job last week for NBC’s competition series World of Dance. Judging TV talent competitions is familiar territory for Lopez; it’s a gig she began in 2011, first with two seasons of Fox’s American Idol, then one season of the Univision/Fox competition series ¡Q'Viva! The Chosen and then three more at Idol. According to Lopez, besides performing/acting/writing/producing/running an empire and playing mom to twins Maximilian and Emme, her role as judge is one she relishes.
“It's like the perfect job for me in a sense,” an exuberant Lopez recently told me. “We literally created the perfect show for me to be a part of. World of Dance is a competition that's been around and I've known about for years. I've actually poached choreographers from dances that I've seen and innovative things.”
Joining Lopez at the WOD judges desk are six-time Dancing with the Stars winner Derek Hough and singer, actor and dancer Ne-Yo, while actor/dancer Jenna Dewan Tatum pulls host and mentor duties. With a grand prize of $1,000,000 up for grabs, they all know just how much winning a show like this could be life-changing. Earlier in their careers they all starved for their art. (Ne-Yo, Lopez, Tatum and Hough are pictured above.)
“As a dancer, you do it because you love it,” Lopez explained. “You don't get into dance thinking, ‘I'm going to make it and I'm going to be rich.’ You dance because you love to dance.
“I remember having to have pizza, one slice of pizza every day when I was a dancer,” she continued. “No breakfast, no lunch, dinner around 6-ish that would hold me over to the next day. That's how I lived once I moved out of my mom's house and I did that for a couple years before I got my first big job. That's what it is, but I wouldn't trade it for the world, and none of these dancers would, either. They love what they do.”
“This show is so amazing to me because we are not only giving the respect dancers deserve, but we are giving them the compensation,” Tatum chimed in.
“I went through a stage where I really did not know [my] next job. The money that I had gotten from a music video, paid in cash, every day I had to make it work until I knew, ‘Okay. I've gotten through this month. I can pay this month’s rent.
“It's just a different mentality,” Tatum continued. “I don’t think we do it because we think we’re going to be famous. We do it because we can't do anything else. That passion and love is something that I really still relate to with dancers and anything that could give them a bit of a cushion to then become their own star. I would have given anything for that when I started.”
“You can be the top dancer in the world, go on tour with the No. 1 artist worldwide for a decade and not come anywhere close to a million dollars,” Hough concurred. “This is a substantial, life-changing moment for sure.”
For Lopez, it was also the chance to give dancers of all ages and styles the opportunity to become stars that attracted her to the project. “They can create their own brand and make a name for themselves,” she explained. “Where can you make that type of money? Nowhere in the world as a dancer can you make a million dollars. That was, for me, the best thing that I could have ever done [especially] having started as a dancer myself.
“Coming from that background, that type of struggle, that's why, for me, this is a dream come true,” she added. “It's not just a phrase, it is a dream come true for me to be able to create this type of opportunity for somebody who I know is just like me.”
Walking away with that grand prize will be no walk in the park. Above all, contestants must deliver a “world-class” routine. “That's the word,” explained Ne-Yo. “World-class! Technical skill is one thing; you can spin around a hundred times but if I don't care that you are spinning. You’re just spinning!”
While viewers of World of Dance are treated to some spectacular routines throughout the competition, unlike the other big NBC competition series The Voice (where the coaches routinely perform together) an all-star judges’ dance-off won’t be happening due to time constraints with the production. “We talked about it, but it doesn't happen this season,” Lopez said with a smile. “But it's something we wanted to do.”
Still, there was some moving and grooving behind the scenes. “We had a rehearsal at [Jennifer’s] house,” Hough recalled. “We all danced and had a blast. It was so fun.”
World of Dance is telecast Tuesday at 10 p.m. on NBC.
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