World of Dance returns for its highly anticipated third season tonight, February 26, and according to judge Derek Hough, we’re in for an epic ride.

“You always say, ‘This season’s going to be bigger and better than ever.’ And sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t,” he told Brit + Co in a recent interview. “But I can honestly say that this is. This is definitely bigger and better. Just the energy and the vibe of the show — it feels brighter. Even if you’re not a dancer or a trained dancer, you watch it, and you’re just like, ‘Wow.'”

Hough is returning alongside fellow judges Ne-Yo and Jennifer Lopez, who, he says, is just as incredible as you imagine. “Let’s just get the really important, hard-hitting stuff out of the way first: J.Lo smells amazing,” he quipped. “Always smells great. Her fragrance has like a 50-foot perimeter. So it’s like, ‘Oh, I smell J.Lo, she’ll be here in about two minutes.’ And 10 minutes after she’s gone, it’s still lingering.”

Of course, that’s not the only reason he loves to work with her. “She’s wonderful,” he raved. “Just a professional and a true icon. And the longevity of her career is phenomenal.”

Having spent many long days with her on set, Hough has also come to know and respect Lopez on a personal level — particularly after seeing how she is with her kids, twins Max and Emme. “One thing I love about her so much, and what I learned when I saw it firsthand, is what a great mom she is,” he shared. “You know, she gets a FaceTime call from her kids, and everything stops. She’s just on the phone with them, talking and making sure they feel loved and seen and appreciated. And seeing that really warmed my heart and made me think of her in a higher way than I already did.”

Viewers won’t get to see those kinds of behind-the-scenes moments on the new season, but they will see some awe-inspiring performances. Hough has been so impressed by the contestants on the show that he recruited some of them for his upcoming live dance tour.

“There’s going to be live music, live percussion, and the most incredible dancers from all over the country — actually, dancers that competed on World of Dance,” he told us. “And so many different styles of dancing, too, which I love. Big band, salsa, Latin, tap, hip hop, contemporary. It’s going to be an epic night of nonstop energy. I’m very, very excited about it.”

Derek Hough: Live! The Tour starts in April and will hit 60 cities over the course of just a few months. It’ll be hard work, but Hough can’t wait to hit the road. “I really enjoy it, because I’m in the best shape of my life, and I get to connect and perform for people,” he explained, adding that he especially loves the meet-and-greets before each show. “It reminds me of why I do what I do. You know, meeting people and seeing them and hearing their stories and hearing this connection that we have through television or through the dances and the performances — if I’m feeling tired that day, or if I’m feeling a little achy, as soon as I do those meet-and-greets, it just invigorates me. I get this jolt of energy and I’m ready to put on a show.”

(Photos via Trae Patton/NBC)