Charity Anderson, of Springville, and Andres Penate, of Vineyard, were shown finishing first in the junior division on Wednesday night’s episode, securing them a spot in the World Final, during which they will compete with the winners of each of the upper, upper team and junior team divisions.
The contemporary duo’s combined score of 93 in the Divisional Final beat out American Fork contemporary soloist Jaxon Willard, who scored 87.8, and hip-hop fusion partnership Sean and Kaycee, who scored 92.3.
“You’re the champions of your division. That’s huge,” judge Derek Hough told the duo. “Next week, this is it. This is it, the performance of your lives for $1 million. So no pressure, right?”
Judge Ne-Yo said the fact that Anderson performed the Divisional Final routine with a broken toe made the performance “that much better” for him.
“Coming into the Divisional Final, we were feeling so confident in ourselves, and then I was on his shoulders and I fell backwards, and I landed first on my head and then my foot swung over and smashed into the floor. I broke my toe,” Anderson said. “We were really worried. This is my dominant foot, which I land on and jump off of, so we had to switch my dominant side to my right side.”
Though Anderson wore bandages on her toe during the performance, the injury didn’t seem to affect the quality of the routine.
“So much of our balance and our groundedness and our strength comes from our feet, so the fact that you were still able to do that with a broken toe just says so much about how strong you are technically and physically as a dancer,” guest judge Misty Copeland said.
Judge Jennifer Lopez complimented Penate on his part in the dance.
“You really shined in this routine,” Lopez told Penate. “We got to see all of your athleticism, all of your strength.”
Willard said he left the competition with more faith in himself “because I am enough.”
“Jaxon Willard came into this competition shy and timid, and before our eyes, his confidence is soaring,” hostess Jenna Dewan said. “He actually has the ability to fly onstage.”
Ne-Yo said he was proud of the confidence Willard found in himself throughout the competition.
“I felt like you reached a level right here on our stage,” Ne-Yo said. “I thank you for allowing us to be a part of that.”
The American Fork dancer was shown during Wednesday night’s episode struggling with some breathing problems while rehearsing as a result of athletic-induced asthma and was put on oxygen temporarily.
“It definitely worries me because I don’t want to be dancing in this round and just all of a sudden stop just because I can’t breathe, but I’m just going to have to power through,” Willard said leading up to his performance.
But this health concern didn’t seem to affect Willard’s dance for the judges.
“It was amazing to see him will through,” guest mentor Ciara said of Willard. “He’s a trooper, he’s a warrior and I’m really proud of him.”
In an interview prior to the episode’s airing, Willard told the Daily Herald he aims to create relatable work that helps others.
“Overall, my goal is just to share who I am in a positive way, so people who have similar stories to me can not feel alone,” Willard told the Daily Herald.