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Huntington Beach’s Diego Pasillas a big winner on ‘World of Dance’

Diego Pasillas,  Madison Smith and Emma Mather.
Diego Pasillas, of Huntington Beach, center, is part of the MDC 3 dance trio along with Madison Smith, left, and Emma Mather, right. They won $1 million on NBC’s “World of Dance” show.
(Courtesy of Trae Patton / NBC)

When the moment came and the results were revealed, Huntington Beach resident Diego Pasillas almost couldn’t believe it.

“It was like a dream state almost,” Pasillas said. “All of the confetti and all of the cannons were going off. It didn’t even feel real.”

The 17-year-old was much richer, but a journey to the top also had been completed.

Pasillas’ three-member contemporary dance trio MDC 3 had won the fourth season of the NBC show “World of Dance” — and they get to split the $1-million grand prize that comes with it.

Pasillas, 17-year-old Madison Smith and 15-year-old Emma Mather comprised the winning team. MDC 3 won the world final show in March, and the episode aired Wednesday night.

“It’s definitely been super-hectic,” said Smith, who is from Murrieta and just graduated high school, of the whirlwind since the episode aired. “Our social media has definitely been blowing up the past few days. We’ve been getting a lot of love and support from fans in our Direct Messages, and it’s just super-great to see how we’re inspiring others.”

MDC 3 is based out of Placentia, and Mather’s mother, Shannon, serves as the group’s choreographer. They have been performing together for close to seven years, Pasillas said.

The group also auditioned for the first three seasons on “World of Dance.”

“It was definitely the perfect timing,” Mather said. “I think if we were to get on the show any other year, we would have been too young and we would have cracked under pressure. I’m glad the timing worked out like it did.”

MDC 3 performs on the "World of Dance" TV show.
(Courtesy of Jordin Althaus / NBC)

MDC 3 had the highest score in the semifinal show that aired Tuesday night, which gave the trio confidence going into the final. The last show, filmed at the outset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, had no live audience, which provided another challenge.

But the trio’s performance to Celine Dion’s “I Surrender” earned them an average score of 95.7 from judges Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough and Ne-Yo. That was enough to beat the other three finalists, Oxygen, Jefferson y Adrianita and Geometrie Variable.

“It’s the tricks, it’s the amazing things you can do, but honestly, it’s the quality of your dance that gave me [goosebumps],” Lopez told the group after its final performance. “It was breathtaking at moments, and I could not take my eyes off of you guys … To be that consistent is really a testament to how talented you guys are.”

Pasillas, who attends school online and will be a high school senior, said he definitely plans to go on a shopping spree. But he also wants to save for an apartment in Los Angeles.

“I graduate next year, so I really want to move to L.A. and pursue my dreams in the dance industry, maybe book a world tour with an artist,” he said. “Hopefully, when I’m older, [I can] teach at a dance convention.”

He said that MDC 3 also plans to keep performing together in the future.

“We’re going to be forever grateful for this experience,” Pasillas said. “It taught us so much as dancers individually, and it brought us closer together as a trio. We plan to stay together as a trio and do more projects and music videos maybe. Eventually, if this COVID thing wears off, we want to go on the World of Dance live tour.”

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