A veteran robotics trio, teenage girls and a performing duo—all from the Valley—are in line for a $1 million grand prize on NBC’s World of Dance.
The robotics trio Elektro Botz, the all-girl Elektro Elite and Avery & Marcus started dancing across the TV screen in late May on the Jennifer Lopez-helmed show.
“The show is wild,” says dancer Phoenix Banuelos of Gilbert, who’s one-third of Elektro Botz. “There is a crazy level of talent and it has some of the craziest combination of dancers anywhere.”
Elektro Botz, who previously competed as the Outlawz on season 11 of America’s Got Talent, is looking to tackle World of Dance’s upper division. Banuelos is joined by Red Mountain High School graduate Max Thompson, and Dominic LaRovere of Chandler.
World of Dance gives dancers the platform to showcase their talents and compete in front of a judging team of dance superstars, including Lopez, Derek Hough, NE-YO and host/mentor Jenna Dewan. It airs Tuesday evenings.
“We set out to make World of Dance a competition series of the highest caliber — every act that hits the stage gives their all and challenges themselves against the most elite athletes in the world,” Lopez says.
“As an executive producer and judge, I’m constantly reminded of the heart and determination it takes to rise to the challenge and become the best of the best. I can’t wait to see the talent that comes across our stage for season three.”
The first season, the French hip-hop duo Les Twins were crowned champions. During the series, solo dancers compete against duos and crews in an unlimited range of dance, including hip-hop, popping, locking, tap, ballet, break dancing, ballroom and stomping.
Handpicked from qualifying events around the nation and thousands of online submissions, competitors are divided into junior and upper divisions. The competition consists of five rounds: qualifiers, duels, the cut, divisional final and world final. In the first four rounds, dancers compete within their division, but in the world final, the winner from each division will compete against each other for the $1 million prize.
The three Valley girls began their dance training in ballet, contemporary and jazz, but a few years ago discovered hip hop. After their mentors won America’s Best Dance Crew season seven with Elektrolytes, the girls are aspiring to follow in their footsteps. They’re participating in the junior division.
“It’s a little nerve wracking to be on TV, but it’s mainly fun,” says 14-year-old Alyssa Suarez of Chandler.
“It was such a great experience meeting new people. I’ve wanted to dance since I was a kid. I love to perform on stage in front of people. I use my body to express myself. It’s like acting.”
She will attend Hamilton High School in the fall, after graduating from Elite Performance Academy on the CTA Humphrey campus.
When 16-year-old Gilbert resident Tayla Rodriguez started dancing as a youngster, the Basha High School student never expected to come so far so quickly.
“You never hear about people making it right away,” she says. “It’s a dream. You expect it to happen to you way later in life. For it to happen at 16 is insane.”
Ironically, Rodriguez wasn’t interested in dance. But when she saw the moves of her sister, Alexsys, she joined in.
“I was super shy, but I fell in love with it,” she says. “You have to have a certain mentality to go in front of a lot of people.”
Mesa resident Aspyn Morrell, who attends Elite Performance Academy, strives to “aspire to inspire before we expire.” She was inspired by her mother, Jolene, who doubles as her dance teacher.
“She’s probably the person I look up to the most,” the 13-year-old girl says. “She’s taught me everything I know.”
Avery & Marcus
Competing in the junior division, Avery Gay of Scottsdale and Marcus Sarjeant of San Clemente, California, came together thanks to their coach, balletRED’s artistic director Josie Walsh.
They’ve only been working together for about 18 months, but Gay, 13, and Sarjeant, 17, have developed a love of contemporary and ballet styles. They call themselves “daredevils.”
“I train really, really hard and I believe to be the best, you have to work the hardest,” she says. “To be the best in the class, you have to work even harder. That’s my method. Of course, I have to give up a lot, but it’s worth it in the end. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Set to attend State University of New York at Purchase this fall, Sarjeant explains the duo works well together, by melding the home-schooled teen’s ballet moves with his athleticism.
“There is a lot that goes into dancing,” Gay adds. “We have to do side training. We have to eat a certain diet. My friends are ordering hamburgers, and I’m sitting there eating a chicken salad. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not a diet. There’s a lot that goes into it. It’s not easy.”
The long-time robotics trio has been popping its way through the competitive dance scene for years.
“Like everyone else, we’re doing the best we possibly can,” says Banuelos, who is preparing to move from Gilbert to Los Angeles to pursue a dance career. It’ll be his second relocation, as he came to the Grand Canyon State to follow in his family’s dancing footsteps.
“I had older cousins who were dancing as well as teaching,” he says. “I wanted to come here to train. Then I met the other guys and we all just fell in love with dancing. All of the Botz are passionate. We do really creative work, with dancing and music and mixing. We are addicted to creating something from scratch and seeing it come to life. We’re doing a bunch of robot moves and sounds that didn’t exist before.”
For more information, visit nbc.com.