Friday, August 28, 2015

Ninjaboi's review of ABDC's Semi-finals: who he thinks deserves to win! #abdc

Judging Scale
I’ll use the same scale as last time, out of 20, 5 to each category.  3 means average, 5 means near perfect/perfect, 1 means pretty much totally absent.  2 and 4 are below and above average respectively.

Foundation/Technique: If you go to a studio to take dance classes, odds are you’ll learn one of two things.  Either some combination of choreographed movements set to a certain song (technique), or the basic/intermediate moves (foundation) that make up different street styles.  This category looks at the complexity and amount of Foundation and Technique within each set.   

Blow Ups/Wow Moments: These are centerpiece moments that are supposed to stand out that don’t quite fit in Foundation or Technique - not necessarily limited to tricking or bboy power moves - intricate tutting sections or prop use can be a “wow” moment.  Overall impact of these blowup moves (including difficulty and how well they stood out in the overall piece) are considered.

Transitions/Composition: Each performance has an ebb and flow of energy. How well does the crew manipulate this energy in order to present a compelling performance? Is the piece too busy with too much going on, or does it not have enough?  In addition, aside from simply dancing, there you have to consider blocking, formations, levels and how you are going to move between transitions.  Do you simply walk to your next place or do you work into it?

Dynamics/Execution/Challenge: There are just a number of myriad of factors that go into a performance, which this section looks at. These include, but are not limited to prop use, cleanliness, musicality, synchronicity, energy level appropriate to the song, costumes, themes, stage use, etc. In addition, how well a crew met the challenge fits under this category as well. This will allow for crews who may have suffered in other categories, but still knocked it out of the park with the challenge to get some props.

For this first set of performances, I’m splitting the Dynamics/Execution score into a “Challenge” subscore and a “Dynamics” subscore, and taking the average of the two scores, rounded down as the score for the category.  Roughly speaking, the challenge is to essentially pay homage to the particular song, and whatever challenge them mention in their pre-video package.

Quest Crew - “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon - 15
Choreography/Foundation - 3 - The choreography was fun, and contributed to the overall vibe of the performance. I wouldn’t call it complex or prevalent throughout the performance, but it sufficed.  If I had to call out specific moments, the way they worked back to center stage during the verse “she took my arm” was pretty good. Rudy also doing the whip/nae nae out of the flip was pretty smooth.

Wow Moments - 4 - So on one hand part of me wants to ding them hard for reusing moves. Not necessarily moves from outside ABDC, that’s all fair game. I’m talking about having about Brian backlip over someone. Ryan doing his weird stage humping crossing the stage thing. Steve throwing out his third overhead kick of the season. Pants dropping yet again (twice in one routine) and crotches to faces. And good Lord the jumping through holes which they’ve done just about every conceivable variation of at this point. However I can’t deny that they do these things very very well, even if they really don’t break new ground for Quest as a whole. Regarding new stuff - the new Brain Bang they did with Jolee upside down was pretty sick.  I feel like I’ve seen the so-called reverse 69 (I personally saw it as a Quest homage to DIrty Dancing), but not on the show before. And the Steve midair kick right next to DTrix’s crotch was actually fairly impressive he got that close.

Transitions/Composition - 5 - This is where Quest shines, more so than their impressive stunt work.  After watching this performance dozens of times I can’t really say anyone walks into position, it’s all worked into. They use their bodies to frame and draw attention to the part of the performance they want you to focus on, while screening set up from the audience’s eyes. The fluidly flow between formations to the point that by the time you realized they’ve changed formation, they’re already in the next one. And most of all, they control that ebb and flow of energy so that you’re either anticipating something, experiencing something, or recovering from something, while never being bored or overwhelmed.  Roughly - they start off with a small bang, before slowly building up to a climax with Steve. They pull back shortly before Rudy comes through, then recede again, then build up through choreo and the Brain Bang and DTrix losing his shorts to Ryan’s landing on his back.  Note at this point (which I consider the climax) they use Confetti cannons on the audience to highlight this point. After this they slowly draw it back with a minor bump in energy with Steve’s kick before ending with a very in your face position.

Dynamics/Execution - 3 - Challenge 3; Dynamics 4 - Challenge wise, I think it was cute.  Their challenge so to speak was the emulate the 80s. Yeah they had the costumes (which really isn’t a function of dance though) and I heard a cute 80s Video Game Sound during Ryan’s pants-less moment (again not necessarily a function of dance).  Dance wise, I spotted some homages to Dirty Dancing in some of the choreo and the reverse 69, and a bit of some Kid n Play party dances/backup dances throughout.  So it was there, though mostly through the costume and atmosphere than the actual dancing.  Dynamics wise, This was a really fun performance.  Their cheesy facials and energy really sold the piece and made it enjoyable, even if it was a rehash of a lot of old moves.  I did notice that Jolee missed one of his moves, but he recovered well from it so it wasn’t obvious until you rewatched it.
Kinjaz - “The Weekend” by The Weekend - 15
Choreography/Foundation - 5 - I don’t have the words to describe the complexity, creativity and musicality that went into all those moves - I’d be here all day if you let me dissect each beat and hit. Suffice to say, I’m glad that this choreography heavy crew made it all the way to the finale. This is what they’re good at and it shows.

Wow Moments - 2 - This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but between most of Kinjaz wow moments coming from the Lor Twins bboying (which honestly barely is able to provide enough for me to give them a 3 most weeks), and having to dance on the bleachers all performance doesn’t give them a lot of options. Villn’s solo was extremely smooth and probably the best that could be done using the bleachers like that while staying in the tone of the piece.

Transitions/Composition - 4 - Given the constraint of having to dance only in the bleachers, I thought they were able to mix up their formations and transitions pretty well - nearly flawlessly in fact.  I think if there was a reason I’m not giving them a full 5, it’s that composition wise, the piece felt very same-y throughout.  Don’t get me wrong I realize that the choreo was different throughout and they were doing different things - and maybe this is a function of the song. But taking a step back and looking back, the energy level throughout the performance was very stable. It didn’t vary a lot, didn’t build up to anything high points. Just this tension. Which I guess can work for certain types of performances, a full clothed seduction being one of those. I’m not saying it needed to include flips and super high energy climaxes. But having that ebb and flow is important for a performance.  The ending with the masks dropping off was hella sexy, but still it was also on the subtle side, which isn’t necessarily what you always want.

Dynamics/Execution - 4 - Challenge 5; Dynamics 4 - I’m considering their challenge to be sexy (after all this was on the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack) and to dance on the bleachers the whole time.  On the first regard, I have nothing to say except that I’ll be in my bunk… *fans self*.  Okay in all seriousness they really captured the vibe of sexy and smooth masculinity, while still keeping it classy. On the second regard, mission accomplished with style. They didn’t just have a stagnant thing with standing in the same formation, they varied positions, sitting and standing, and all other aspects they could. Dynamics wise, they had flawless execution - still felt like it was missing a bit of something to push it over the edge though.

Super Cr3w - “Where Are You now” by Justin Bieber, Skrillix and Diplo - 15
Choreography/Foundation - 4 - Props to Super Cr3w for incorporating normal choreography technique in their moves. Even more props to them for mixing it up with their bboy foundations. A lot of deceptively complex footwork flows in there, all actually done in sync across many members to frame their wow moments.

Wow Moments - 5 - We always knew that one of Super Cr3ws strengths was that they excelled at Wow moments.  And at first blush, this performance doesn’t fall into that category - I think the reason for that is that they focused and framed it more around the choreography. But the more I look the more solid it all looks. The stalled midair cartwheel was super creative, and the double kip ups both were super risky and well executed.  The suspended bridge was also good, if not as clean, but then the kick ups over them to the synchronized floor work up to a headrock was great.  Ronnie’s power to yoda spins was also great, as was Lil G’s crazy jumping airchairs to elbow flares. Like what.

Transitions/Composition - 3 - On one hand, I really liked the flow and transitions and formations early on in the set. On the other, as JC would say, there was a good bit of the rest of the crew standing around while someone solos - they could have more effectively framed the solos.  Furthermore, the running toward the front was just… awkward for me, as was the soft ending. So between the two halves it evens out to neutral.

Dynamics/Execution - 3 - Challenge 3; Dynamics 4 - The challenge that I’m considering is the Chicago footwork segment - It was alright. Nothing too spectacular, though Neguin did kill his solo. But it was there then gone. Alright great. Passing marks, but not flying.  Dynamics wise, pretty clean overall.  There was a small flub up during the suspended bridge section where one of the boys wasn’t able to keep his torso up and level, which was pretty noticeable. The energy felt kind of muted, but that feels more like the song than them to me?

As you can tell - all three crews in my eyes scored the same and even watching live, I would have said that anyone going home would have been okay objectively since they all were functionally on a similar level. Maybe not Kinjaz since they’re marginally ahead all season score wise, but even then it’s only marginally. Luckily we were fortunate enough to have all three stay, which I’m totally okay with.
Before I get into these Last Chance Challenges, just a word on what I think these performances should do and accomplish. This is the performance to literally cap off what the voting public will see before the finale vote for ABDC.  As such, it should serve as a strong reminder of what your crew is capable of, and be a strong performance for sure.  It does not need to necessarily be the best performance you do all season - in fact it rarely is.  In addition, performances that can hit an emotional beat or help tell a story that has come full circle, is great.  

My favorite LCC in ABDC history (as most people’s are) is Quest’s orQUESTra, as an example.  i don’t think it was their strongest performance of the season (their performance immediately before takes that for me), but it still is a solid performance that highlights their strength - controlling the flow of a performance and tempo, and when they feel like it the emotional impact of the piece. It was creative, it told a story, and most of all it ended with an impact (the legendary Steve flip toss).  Close other performances include the Red Pill by Jabbawockeez and Super Cr3w’s James Brown homage, and to a lesser degree iLLimental from IaMmE and Poreotic’s Tetriotix.
Quest Crew - Mad Max: Quest Road - “Febreze” by Jack U - 14
Choreography/Foundation - 3 - As usual with Quest (this has been said before) - they are great dancers and I know they have good choreography. They just never let it shine and rarely have it front and center, instead opting for their Wow moments to shine. I saw some nice choreo, but it was gone before I could really appreciate it. If only they gave us a chance to to… WITNESS IT.

Wow Moments - 4 - Again, I get the sense that we’ve seen a lot of these before - the jumping through the tire, the Brain Banging segments, martial arts, flips.  The real highlight for me was the return of Rudy (which I feel was Quest’s focus this week, letting him have a chance to shine after being sidelined for most of the season).  He definitely showed off his kama skills.  Dtrix’s Bboy segment matched the music pretty well too, which I appreciated. The ending trick was good as well.  Personally I feel that if they had been able to get Macklemore to clear his song Can’t Hold Us (which they usually dance to for Rudy’s kamas) it would have looked a lot better. They were so… VERY SHINY AND CHROME

Transitions/Composition - 3 - I was not a fan to be honest. Part of what made orQUESTra so great was the fact that they were able to build and release in cycles with the emotional component, which they didn’t here.  They also limited themselves here to the front part of the stage, which just added a lot of visual clutter with the props in the background.  The formations weren’t particularly outstanding, and they were missing Ryan for a good portion of it (you can see him in the top left corner) as he was on his keytar. Still, you wouldn’t say it was bad. Some would say what a performance. What a lovely Performance.

Dynamics/Execution - 4 - If there was one crew I would expect to have the best sense of style and fashion and creativity, it would be Quest Crew. It appears that they loved Mad Max: Fury Road just as much as I did this summer, and took inspiration from that piece.  They certainly nailed the look, and the dancing did have a sense of intensity that matches the post apocalyptic scene. Ryan with the piano as an homage to their original orQUESTra performance, while also channeling Doof Warrior (though needs more fire).  The hammers and tires.were a nice prop to use, to match the music. I do think though, if they had stuck to that simple cleanliness of some of their other performances, they would have had a better performance overall. Also very Rufio. Bangarang.
Kinjaz  - Dojo - “OG” by TroyBoi - 17
Choreography/Foundation - 5 - Maybe it was because of the music choice (they had danced to this previously in the their collaboration with Lyle Beniga) - but man this track really allowed the Kinjaz to go off. Their musicality was obnoxiously insane here - be it choreography, popping foundation, even bboy foundation.  My only complaint is that they never really had a chance to showcase all eight members dancing at once, but given the constraint of having to move the panels, it’s understandable. I really did like how the Sensei (Anthony Lee) would subtly mimic (or were his students mimicking him?) the choreography, if not all out, but almost in a way as though “showing” his students what to do. He captured the spirit of the moves but were able to present them/alter them in a way that showed how he was different from the others - a way of story telling through dance.

Wow Moments - 3 - Some would argue that using the panels were in and of themselves a wow moment. And not going to lie, I considered it.  But the panels were more of a framing device than actual dance, so I’ll have to pass.  The Lor bros bboying though kept it interesting, and the one segment with the arms appearing from behind the panels to tut was also pretty dope.

Transitions/Composition - 4 - I would give this a five because the amount of structuring necessary to transition between segments smoothly is insane. My three particular favorite transitions are when the panels cross in front of three dancers to reveal the bboys who’s back are to the audience, the initial pan when the panels move toward the audience, making it look like Anthony Lee and his partner are moving down the hallway without walking, in a neat perspective trick, and the final disappearance of the dancers/reappearance of Anthony Lee. The only reason I’m not giving it full marks is that, again, I feel like an opportunity was missed for one final Kinjaz choreography section.  But maybe that’s just my taste.

Dynamics/Execution - 5 - They were able to create an atmosphere that was reminiscent of a mystical kung fu/martial arts film.  The constantly shifting backdrop, revealing different aspects of the crew.  I do like the homage to their soon to be opened studio, called the Dojo. (Crazy to think that what started as a fun goofy dance project with the Anbu Black Ops and Cyber Ninja Scroll) has turned into this.  As usual there were no errors at all - everything was crisp and sharp. I caught myself holding my breath the whole time, breathing only when it was over.  Also - did anyone else catch that they ended the performance (before disappearing) in the same pose as when they started ABDC, on their knees facing the audience, before their Sensei? Pretty cool full circle stuff, a la Jabbawockeez.
Super Crew  - Super Fancy - “Block Rocking Beats” by The Chemical Brothers ft QViolin - 16
Choreography/Foundation - 4 - As usual the boys show they have foundation. The main part of this came when they were in a single line and each bboy (aside from DoKnock who was conducting) had their time to shine.  It may not be obvious but to have that much flavor this late in the game and still have fresh moves and combos like that is sick. And of course there were the group commandos, which were solid in their own right.

Wow Moments - 5 - Holy crap. This is why Lyrical Bboying needs to be a thing. Like we all got hot and bothered when DTrix was able to speed up and slow down his headspins. But to do it with mills and flares? To hi the stacatto not just with hand hops but with stalls, a mini 2000 to air chair, then pop back up again? And that’s just in the first 45 seconds. Then later on we get an extended 2000 as well as Neguin’s crazy 5 person jump.  And then to do it to live music (yes I know that KRNFX did it last week with Kinjaz, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s still incredibly difficult to do so well.

Transitions/Composition - 3 - I think the first half was spectacularly structured. The lights, the transitions in and out of the spotlight. Flawless.  The part I really didn’t like was their parkour bit in the middle when it was essentially Neguin and (I think) DoKnock running across the stage, up the benches and then jumping off of them then running back? LIke that was impressive and I get they probably needed the speed. It just didn’t feel particularly bboy or dance-y in particular to me.

Dynamics/Execution - 4 - So as with Quest Crew, I actually see a bit of a throwback to their first Last Chance Challenge (the James Brown) with the musical lights. The whole packaging of the set as a opera/classical performance was very nice, different from what they’ve usually gone for in the past. DoKnock’s acting was fairly funny actually. Dance wise, there were a few spots that felt a tad sloppy, but not enough to constitute a major error.
Ending Remarks

In short, for this week my rankings (out of 20) are
1) Kinjaz Dojo - 17
2) Super Cr3w Rocking Beats - 16
3+4+5) All Three Crews First Performance - 15
6) Quest Mad Max - 14

Overall across two weeks, the totals (out of 140) are
1) Kinjaz - 17 + 15 + 14 + 16 + 14+ 15 + 15 = 106
2) Super Cr3w - 16 + 15 + 14 + 13 + 14 + 19 + 12 = 103
3) Quest Crew - 15 + 14 + 18 + 14 + 11 + 15 + 14 = 101
4) I.aM.mE - (12*) + (12*) + 13 + 14 + 12 + 12 + 12 = 87
5) Elektrolytes - (12*) + (12*) + (12*) + (12*) + 13+ 13 + 11 = 85
6) We Are Heroes - (9*) + (9*) + (9*) + (9*) + (9*) + 10 + 8 = 63

While Kinjaz technically edges out ahead by 3 points over Super Cr3w and 5 over Quest, that is a 3.5% differential between first and third place, so it’s really anyone’s game.  Personally I’d like Kinjaz to win just so I have a shot at the Top 5 Prized that this site is hosting, and so that no one crew can lord it over the others that they are a better ABDC champ than the others :P.  But please, vote for whom you wish - you really can’t go wrong with any of this top three.

Just for fun, let’s take a look at the top  5 performances of this season - these all have at least a score of 16, which means that across the four categories they averaged at “above average” for each.
1) Super Crew - Week 2 - Barbershop (Uptown Funk) - 19
2) Quest Crew - Week 4 - The Bench (Take You There) - 18
3) Kinjaz - Week 5 - Dojo (OG) - 17
4) Super Crew - Week 5 - Super Fancy (Block Rocking Beats + QViolin) - 16
4) Kinjaz - Week 4 - Dance Box (KRNFX) - 16

What does this tell about me as a reviewer? Probably that I like performances with single shots, and performances with live music on stage :P What are your top performances for the season?

I don’t really have any specific closing thoughts to be honest, especially given that we don’t have so much time between this episode and the finale.  So I’ll just catch you all in the live chat at 10pm Saturday EST here on Blogging Best Dance Crew
Till Then, Stay Funky

Thanks Ninjaboi! Click here to return to the first page and to leave comments