NBC's "World of Dance" is officially back! Over the last two seasons, the show has exploded in popularity, and it's easy to see why: The contestants truly are in a league of their own. No matter their genre, every dancer that takes the "WOD" stage gives it their all.
But what exactly is it like to be up there, surrounded by all the bright lights and cheering fans—and watched by not only J.Lo, Ne-Yo, and Derek, but also millions of viewers? To find out, we spoke with Briar Nolet, Kayla Mak, Lauren Yakima, and Derek Piquette, all of whom are competing this season for the (very casual) $1 million grand prize. Here's what they had to say about the lessons they learned, people they met, and experiences they had on the "WOD" set.
Briar Nolet<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTIyODAwOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzUzNTE2Nn0.HNrBo9zZe70X7ljfk47pm6zFde3ZwtbASULokVb11xE/img.jpg?width=980" id="b60c7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="85ad45bb347327436809e7430221354f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Briar slaying at her Cover Model Search cover shoot (photo by Erin Baiano)<p>The <em>DS </em>staff let out a collective squeal upon finding out our very own <a href="https://www.dancespirit.com/its-briar-2326844024.html" target="_blank">2016 Cover Model Search winner Briar Nolet</a> was one of the Season 3 contestants. She's a powerhouse dancer who knows her way around a TV set thanks to her starring role as Richelle on "The Next Step"—but she says "WOD" was an entirely new beast.</p><p><br></p><p><strong><em>Dance Spirit</em>: </strong>How did you prepare for the show? <br></p><p><strong>Briar Nolet: </strong>I really needed to get my mental health and dancing to a competitive level. I'd been dealing with a health issue (that's all better now!), so I started preparing months in advance. I did ballet, tumbling, and every style that wasn't contemporary. The dancing I do on "The Next Step" is very commercial, and I'm playing a character; for "WOD," it was important for me to be able to dance at a high level of intensity, all while staying true to myself.</p><p><br></p><p><strong><em>DS</em>: </strong>What was it like filming "WOD"? Was it like "The Next Step" at all? <br></p><p><strong>BN: </strong>It was super cool, and very intense. I had no idea what to expect filming a reality show. When you're actually in the thick of it, you're experiencing so many different emotions all the time. With "The Next Step," you get as many takes as you need, and it's a whole different atmosphere. At the end of the day, "WOD" is a competition, so some people might be really excited, while others are really nervous or laser focused. <br></p><p><br></p><p><strong><em>DS</em></strong><strong>: </strong>Did you get nervous at all while filming? <br></p><p><strong>BN: </strong>I was definitely nervous, but I dealt with the nerves in a different way than I do when I'm touring with "The Next Step" or filming for that. I tend to get really excited, which then turns into adrenaline—but that wears off, you become incredibly exhausted. So it was key for me to calm my nerves. With "WOD," every time I took the stage, I had to focus on the story I was telling, and remind myself why I was dancing.<br></p><p><br></p><p><strong><em>DS</em>: </strong>Why do you think "WOD" is such a popular show with non-dance-world audiences? <br></p><p><strong>BN: </strong>I think the international aspect is what makes it so great. And the fact that it's a competition. There's so much diversity among the performers. It's not just cookie-cutter hip hop or contemporary. And we all share the stage, which is such a beautiful thing. I became friends with dancers from India and South Korea, among lots of other places, and that never would've happened otherwise.<br></p>
Kayla Mak<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTIyOTk4Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MjM4NzcyMn0.3yb_YP7vGURzWqG847QbyEHE5Fre1i2meuUWHoIK5ok/img.jpg?width=980" id="83c3e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2e15b01b3655a2a43ee595a2d8a4734e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Andrew Eccles/NBC)<p>We've been watching Westchester Dance Academy standout Kayla Mak shine as Clara in the <em>Radio City Christmas Spectacular</em> and dominate at events like NYCDA and YAGP for years, so her graduation to the “WOD" stage feels like a logical next step. And while repping the ballet community comes with tons of added pressure, Kayla says she took the whole experience in stride.</p><p><br></p><p><strong><em>Dance Spirit</em>:</strong> Tell us a little bit about the energy on set. </p><p><strong>Kayla Mak:</strong> The energy and vibe were everything I could've dreamed of, times ten. While performing, I drew all my adrenaline from the amazing audience and beautiful stage. Every single person was so supportive and kind—I'm so grateful I was able to dance with them. Also, the production crew and producers were so caring. We all became family.</p><p><br></p><p><strong><em>DS</em>:</strong> Were your nerves the same as when you compete or perform as Clara? Or was it a totally different feeling? </p><p><strong>KM:</strong> I was very nervous during the show. Dancing on pointe adds a whole other level of stress in addition to just performing for such an esteemed panel of judges! But my nerves were definitely as high as when I performed as Clara or competed. I always want to do my best and represent the ballet community and the competition community, to show that the two worlds can co-exist, and that ballet can be just as entertaining and competitive as more commercial genres of dance.</p><p><br></p><p><strong><em>DS</em>:</strong> Why do you think “WOD" appeals to so many people?</p><p><strong>KM:</strong> I think the stories behind so many of the dances and dancers are incredibly relatable to audiences. Dance is such a powerful art form, and being on the show allowed me and so many others to inspire people all over the world. </p><p><br></p><p><strong><em>DS</em>:</strong> If you could give one piece of advice to someone auditioning for the show, what would it be?</p><p><strong>KM:</strong> Never be afraid. When I was auditioning, I prepared two contemporary pieces—one with pointe shoes, and one without. I performed the one sans pointe shoes, and the judges then asked me if I was able to dance it again on pointe. I was afraid at first, but took a deep breath and a leap of faith, which I'm so glad I did! This was a big lesson I learned while auditioning, to take chances.</p>