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Season 3 contestant Kayla Mak (Andrew Eccles/NBCUniversal)

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.

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News

Oh how we adore celebrating Valentine's Day here at DT. Love is in the air, which means everyone's improv/choreography is either fueled by happiness or heartbreak (either way—the emotion is doing fabulous things to their work). For a grand finale to this year's V Day celebrations, we give you our favorite romantic Instagram posts from some of the dancers and choreographers we adore most! Check 'em out!

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Chloé and Maud Arnold pose with NYCDAF Ambassador for the Arts, Debbie Allen.

Last night, the NYC Dance Alliance Foundation awarded Debbie Allen the 2015 NYCDAF Ambassador for the Arts Award at the annual “Bright Lights Shining Stars” gala. Held at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, the event paid tribute to Allen through song, dance and celebration.

Highlights from the evening:

Chloé Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies opened the show with a bang! With ear-to-ear grins, their fierce quintet, set to music by Beyoncé, created a celebratory tone for the entire evening.

Kolton Krouse performs Andy Pellick's Path of Enlightenment.

NYCDA student Kolton Krouse performed a gravity-defying solo choreographed by NYCDA faculty member Andy Pellick. Krouse was later awarded the Adele Astaire College Scholarship by An American in Paris star Robert Fairchild.

Jessica Lee Goldyn and dancers perform "I'm a Brass Band" from Sweet Charity.

Broadway star Jessica Lee Goldyn and a chorus of male dancers performed “I’m a Brass Band” from Sweet Charity. With original choreography by Bob Fosse, this was hands-down my personal favorite from the evening.

Allen's daughter Vivian Nixon performed the role of Anita from West Side Story.

Allen’s daughter Vivian Nichole Nixon made a surprise appearance, reprising Allen’s Tony-nominated role, Anita from Jerome Robbins' West Side Story. Nixon's lively rendition of “America” proved that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Dancesanity Stars' Karla Choko and Josen Torres showed that salsa can be enjoyed at any age, when they were joined onstage by their young students Nathalie Huiracocha and Felix Monge. The petite duet impressed—they held their own next to the professional duo.

Joe Lanteri stands with 2013 NYCDAF Ambassador for the Arts Catherine Zeta-Jones and her husband Michael Douglas. Zeta-Jones gave the welcome remarks at the top of the show.

Over the past five years, the NYCDA Foundation has awarded more than $17 million in college scholarships to hundreds of young dancers nationwide. Founded in 1993 by executive director Joe Lanteri, the NYCDA convention currently travels to 23 cities each season. Faculty includes Andy Blankenbuehler, Jared Grimes, Suzi Taylor and Melinda Sullivan. Many NYCDA alumni have gone on to have successful careers in dance including, Travis Wall, Derek Hough and Nick Lazzarini.

Photos from top: by Rachel Neville; by Eduardo Patino (3); by Rachel Neville, all courtesy of NYCDA.

Congratulations to Derek Hough, who picked up the 2013 Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography on “Dancing with the Stars,” presented for the first time as part of the event’s live broadcast! (Watch Hough’s acceptance here.) Also a first was the nominated choreographers’ collaborative effort to stage and perform the show’s main dance routine. The result was a SYTYCD-style contemporary interpretation of some of the evening’s nominated shows—from "Mad Men" to "American Horror Story"—anchored by host Neil Patrick Harris and set to a medley of “Lady Luck” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” With the skills of Hough, Allison Holker, Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Moore, Travis Wall, NappyTabs, Warren Carlyle and their friends, the number was sure to be a showstopper! See for yourself. Can you spot all the famous faces?

Derek Hough, Neil Patrick Harris, Napoleon and Tabitha D'umo, Sonya Tayeh, Travis Wall, Kathryn McCormick, and Mandy Moore and others, prepping for the Emmys

It’s one small step for the Emmys, one grand jeté for the commercial dance world: This year, for the first time ever, the Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography will be presented as part of the event’s live broadcast. Furthermore, the eight nominated choreographers have been invited to create the evening’s main dance number, featuring TV’s best host ever, Neil Patrick Harris. (Seriously. Remember the Tonys?) This means Derek Hough, Allison Holker, Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Moore, Travis Wall, Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo and Broadway’s Warren Carlyle (who choreographed Carousel for PBS’ Live From Lincoln Center) have been working together on one epic showstopper. According to TV Guide, the artists have attempted to meet once a week, convening other times by Skype and working alone on their individual sections. Tayeh also mentions “thousands of dancers” will be onstage for the performance. Whether that’s an exaggeration or not, we’ll have to wait to find out.

Are we in the midst of a new golden age for dance on camera? Signs point to yes, and Holker agrees. “The dance world has taken off and grown,” she says. “Just like it used to be in the Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse time. I feel like that is our time now.”

Photo: Primetime Emmys

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