These 3 Southern California teens just won $1 million on NBC’s ‘World Of Dance’ – Orange County Register

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When the confetti fell and the fireworks erupted, the three Southern California teenagers in MDC 3, a contemporary dance trio out of a Placentia dance studio, had just won the fourth season of NBC’s “World Of Dance.”

Oh, and the $1 million prize that came with the title is also a nice chunk of change for the crew that includes Madison Smith, 17; Diego Pasillas, 17; and Emma Mather, 15.

On a conference call Thursday, the day after “World Of Dance” aired its finale, the three dancers still felt the vivid memories of the big moment, even though it was actually filmed in March and kept secret ever since.

“In that moment when we found out we won, we were definitely at a loss for words,” said Smith, who lives in Murrieta and just graduated high school.

“The firecrackers and confetti and big bangs were just super loud,” said Pasillas, who lives in Huntington Beach and is headed for his senior year in high school.

“I felt like everything was moving in slow motion,” said Mather, whose mother Shannon Mather is both founder of the Mather Dance Company in Placentia and choreographer of the four routines MDC 3 performed on “World of Dance.”

“It was such a big moment, just witnessing it and experiencing it with my two best friends,” Mather, a 10th grader, said.

The three dancers have known each other through the studio for years, and have danced as a trio since at least 2014. They auditioned for “World Of Dance” each of the four years that the show — which was co-created by Jennifer Lopez, who also serves as a judge — has aired on NBC.

The trio performed four numbers as they moved smoothly through the competition, their fluid and athletic movements evoking the heartbreak of a love triangle and a woman’s battle with cancer, the latter inspired by Smith’s own mother’s experience.

“We made up all-new dances because we wanted it to be something special and we wanted it to have a lot of tricks,” Mather said.

“Our choreographer, Shannon Mather, really knew what she was doing,” Pasillas said.

Their confidence grew with the positive feedback they received after each number. Their first two numbers — set to One Republic’s “Apologize” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Never Again” — wowed judge Derek Hough with the clever continuation of the love triangle theme. The cancer-themed number set to Maxwell’s cover of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” left Lopez with tears in her eyes.

That dance gave them the highest average score heading into the finale, where their performance set to Celine Dion’s “I Surrender” earned more effusive praise from Lopez, Hough, and third judge Ne-Yo.

“It’s the quality of the dance that gave me goosies,” Lopez told them.

“I always feel good when it makes me react like that,” Hough said. “When I’m watching and I go, ‘Whoo, OK, yeah! I like that!’”

Added Ne-Yo: “Absolutely flawless.”

Their win is notable not just for their tender age, but also for the fact that they’re the first contemporary dance act to win after hip-hop dancers won the first three seasons of “World Of Dance.” (They are the second Southern California winners; West Covina hip-hop group The Lab won the second season.)

“We all just love contemporary dance so much because it shows a story through what we do,” Mather said. “And we have so many stories we want to share.

“I think we love just reaching out to people and touching the audience,” she said.

“To be able to represent contemporary on the show and be the first act to win in contemporary was a super honorable thing,” Smith said.

All three say they want to work as professional dancers, doing tours with pop stars and eventually working as choreographers, too.

Smith is on her way — now that she’s done with high school she plans to move to Los Angeles later this year to pursue a career in dance. Pasillas and Mather say they hope to head there when they finish high school, too.

And then there’s the enviable problem of what to do with their shares of the $1 million prize. They all acknowledge that it’s probably important to save it or use it for apartments and expenses as they’re establishing themselves as professional dancers.

But … it’s been a long pandemic and they had to be so good not to reveal their success from March until August, so who can blame them if a little spending spree should happen sometime soon.

“I love shoes so I really want to buy like every Air Jordan,” Smith said.

“I would love to get a Louis Vuitton backpack,” Pasillas admitted.

“I would rather go on a shopping trip for a bunch of different things, so I just want to go to some of my favorite stores,” Mather said.

“We worked super hard.”

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