Farmington High grad Poppin' John Austin makes splash on NBC dance series
FARMINGTON — Farmington native John Austin's debut on the NBC-TV reality series "World of Dance" tonight was a successful one, as the Farmington High School alum advanced to the next round of competition.
Austin, who performs under the stage name Poppin' John, received an average score of 85.3 points from judges Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough and NE-YO — a little more than the required 85-point average — to survive the first round of competition and advance to the Duels, the next round.
In the introductory segment that preceded his performance, Austin acknowledged his relatively mature status among the competitors as a 34-year-old.
"I'm a dinosaur here," he said. "I'm an old guy. I've been dancing longer than a lot these kids have been alive."
But that doesn't mean he's any less focused on winning the program's Season 3 title.
"That would change everything," he said.
Austin's performance, during which he performed his trademark popping animation style to the accompaniment of Lamke's "Flower Duet," drew varying degrees of praise from all three judges. Hough, who gave him a score of 86, went first, asking Austin if he was the godfather of the style.
"Godfather, maybe not, but definitely an innovator," Austin replied.
Lopez gave Austin an 86, as well. She pointed out that he likely faces an uphill battle this season by performing a solo style of dance that lacks the eye-catching acrobatics of other forms of dance featured on the show. But that didn't stop her from calling him a master at what he does.
NE-YO awarded Austin a score of 84.
"It was poppin' 101," he said. "I don't know if it's as competitive."
The competition on "World of Dance" will continue over the next several months. If Austin continues to advance, he will establish himself as a serious contender for the show's grand prize of $1 million.
If Austin wins this season's title, it would allow his hometown to claim a double victory among NBC talent competition programs. Farmington High School junior Chevel Shepherd, 16, won the fall season of "The Voice" in December, earning a recording contract with the Universal Music Group and launching her professional singing career.
According to the "World of Dance" website, contestants are selected from online submissions and qualifying events held around the country, and competitors are split into four age divisions. When they perform on the show, dancers are judged on such criteria as performance, technique, choreography, creativity and presentation. The competition consists of five rounds — the Qualifyers, the Dual, the Cut, the Division Final and the World Final — with performers facing only other dancers from within their division in the first four rounds. If they reach the world finals, the winners of each division go head to head for the title.
"World of Dance" moves to its regular slot on Sunday nights this weekend.