Utah teen wows ‘World of Dance’ judges with choreography, touching background

May 31, 2018, 11:29 PM | Updated: Jun 1, 2018, 1:16 am

OREM, Utah — From an Orem dance studio to a nationally televised dance competition, each one of Jaxon Willard’s performances has soul. The 16-year-old from American Fork has only been dancing for four years but said from them beginning he knew this is what he wanted to do in life.

“I had so much heart when I started with ballroom at my school,” he said. “I got into all these other styles of dance and I just loved it and so I took it and ran.”

The Center Stage Performing Arts member not only ran but sprinted, making it on this season’s “World of Dance” competition on NBC. On Tuesday night, he wowed judges Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo and Utah native Derek Hough with his contemporary performance. Willard received a standing ovation.

“I never thought I had the power to move people and so it was just overwhelming and super exciting,” he said.

Willard said the prejudice he has experienced after being adopted into an all-white family actually inspires him on the dance floor.

“I decided to take all that hurt and all that pain and use it in my dancing to make something beautiful,” he said. “It’s like a coping mechanism for me to express who I am.”

The teen choreographs his own routines and said it set him apart from the other competitors this season.

“I use dance as a way to express what I am feeling,” he said. “I have so much passion in every move.”

“World of Dance” airs Tuesday nights from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. on KSL.

Related: Utah performers hope to impress ‘World of Dance’ judges

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Utah teen wows ‘World of Dance’ judges with choreography, touching background