Farmington native falls short in bid to move on to 'World of Dance' finals
John Austin hopes for wild card selection next week
FARMINGTON — The road to victory for Farmington High School alum John Austin on this season of NBC's "World of Dance" has taken a disappointing detour, but he remains alive despite failing to win the Division Finals on Sunday's episode.
Austin finished second in the Upper Division, narrowly losing to fellow competitor Briar Nolet despite wowing judges NE-YO, Jennifer Lopez and Derek Hough. Nolet finished with an average score of 95.3, while Austin earned a 95.0. Both dancers easily outdistanced the other Division Finals contestants, Derion and Madison, who drew a 92.0.
"You have so much to be proud of for what you have produced on this show," Hough told Austin afterward, while Lopez offered him additional encouragement.
"I feel like you have a good chance for the wild card," she said.
That possibility means Austin retains a slight chance of winning. During next week's broadcast, the season finale, one contestant or team that failed to survive an earlier round could be chosen to return to the competition as the wild card entry mentioned by Lopez, joining the four division winners.
Austin had advanced through three rounds to land a spot in Sunday's Division Finals. In the time leading up to that appearance, Austin had been rehearsing with his celebrity mentor, NE-YO, and during a taped segment that ran before Austin's performance Sunday, NE-YO offered him some advice.
"Your vocabulary of moves has to elevate somehow," he said, encouraging his protégé to come up with something new.
An interview with Austin followed, during which he described how special it had been for him to have his wife present during his appearances on the show.
"If I could get into the finals, that would be a life changer," he said.
The show features a $1 million grand prize for the winner, and Austin clearly had given some thought to how he would use that windfall. He said he and his wife are ready to start a family and buy a house.
"I'm here to win," he said.
Austin gave it his best effort Sunday night while dancing a routine to the music of Common's "Universal Mind Control." His performance had Lopez out of her seat and on her feet within a few moments. By the end, she had lost an earring.
"You got her so excited her jewelry is falling off," Hough said, laughing and dangling the errant object.
Hough then heaped praise on Austin.
"This was your best routine of the whole season, man, it really was," he said. "The content, the physicality, the effects … the magic tricks."
That was music to Austin's ears, as his popping animation style of dancing has been cited several times by the judges over the course of this season as a bit of a disadvantage for him. The robotic genre requires great discipline but is considered by some to lack the visual appeal of other, more flashy dance styles represented on the show.
Austin acknowledged that in his response to Hough.
"I'm on Cloud 9," he said. "This is such a hard style to appreciate. I'm so happy I'm here representing for poppers and street dance."
Lopez seemed even more impressed with Austin's performance than Hough.
"You know what it is you do?" she asked. "It's what all great artists do. They take you somewhere in your mind, and you take me back to my childhood. … You do it at such a high level, and you elevate that memory for me and thank you for that."
Ne-Yo grinned at Austin and acknowledged he had done exactly what he had asked of him in terms of elevating his performance.
"Great job," he said.
Hough awarded Austin a 94, while NE-YO gave him a 95 and Lopez a 96. That worked out to an average of 95, which wound up being just shy of Nolet's mark of 95.3.