Friday, April 27, 2012

Byenyn's review: ABDC's Madonna Challenge

Fanny Pak- They are saved first, so they can’t really wear the “underdog” badge anymore. They have to incorporate waacking and heels into their song, “Girl Gone Wild.” All of them have to wear heels? That’s rough; heels completely affect range of movement. That definitely seems harder than the waacking, which seems like a style Fanny Pak can easily handle. Waacking is a lot of exaggerated arm and elbow movements, almost like a fusion of disco and locking. Additionally, Megan and Matt have actually worked with Madonna before on her world tour, so the pressure’s on.

They’re outfitted like punk rockers. So in this scene, the role of “girl gone wild” will be played by ALL OF THEM. They have a dressing mirror on that stage which someone quickly vandalizes with “FP.” The song here is very electro-pop, and Fanny Pak’s choreography here looks like it could easily fit in on the discotheque. They do a nice spinning mirror trick where Natalie “magically” turns into Beau. The others are on the ground kicking their legs in the air as if they were riding a sexual bicycle. While the group waacks, two of the girls do front handsprings. They wheel the mirror out in the front so they can split up and do symmetrical choreography. I notice that none of the members seem to be inhibited by the heels at all. Good for them. Two of the guys have a catfight while waacking. They’re waack-fighting. Sohey really gets into his waacking solo. In the end, they pull down the mirror and start preening themselves over it.

To save time, only one judge will critique each crew. Excellent. JC says it was great and dynamic, and points out the girls’ flips as well as the waacking. To me, it feels like another solid, B-level performance from Fanny Pak. It was full of their typical personality and choreography, and they completed their challenges with aplomb, but the routine (and music) didn’t stray too far from their comfort zone. Fanny Pak’s historic successes were partly about subverting expectations, so next week they’ll hopefully have the opportunity to put on a completely different show to an artist they’re less accustomed to.
Elektrolytes- Chris is still out with his knee injury, but at least this time they should be more prepared for it, formation-wise. In their routine, they have to have to incorporate krump. Their song is “Hung Up,” another electro-pop song that won’t be easy to krump to. But, hey, if Street Kingdom could krump to a Justin Bieber song, the sky’s the limit! In a moment of tragic irony, their best krumper happens to be Chris. Shoot, will Chris able to teach that skinny white dude to krump adequately in time?

They’re wearing green jackets. A guy does some quick finger tutting. They’re emphasizing group choreo here a lot more than last week, as their first fifteen seconds are stunt-free choreo. One guy side flips over another person, while everybody else side twists horizontally. A guy lifts up his jacket to make a hat appear like it’s gliding across it. Did we accidentally stumble into another phony “Magic Themed Challenge?” They do their krumping in the middle of the song, usually featuring one person do it at a time and forming a chain reaction from it. One guy krumps and soon does a gainer off another’s chest. Not all of them did their krumping long enough, but the challenge rules don’t specify how long they have to. One guy does tricks in the center while the other six spread out and play to the crowd. Near the end, two guys jump off the stage, and Chris pretends to make a phone call, and hangs up. I don’t fully understand the concept of their ending pose, since it looks like two of them just died (after doing kip ups?), but that one dude is impressively nimble, crouching with his leg over his arm. Oh, wait, those two dudes were HUNG upside down. I just got it.

Lil Mama says that their dance fueled her body, although it started slow. She replays the side flip and says that’s when the energy took off. They should be able to get Chris back next week. This group was much sharper with their choreography than before, and showed they have experience in pumping up the crowd. They need to continue creating those big moments, because out of the first three groups tonight, they’re the crew with the most raw athleticism, and they need to leverage that.
Mos Wanted Crew- Their song is the hip-pop song “4 Minutes.” Their challenge is to include popping. It seems like the difficulty of challenges are scaled down right now, because there’s no way MWC, a crew of dance teachers, should be challenged by popping. Some of them (Bam and Jun) appear to struggle with it, but I don’t really buy it here. A crew never says, “The challenge this week was way too easy, so we just high-fived each other for ten minutes and started choreographing.” They’ll be fine.

For some reason, they look like a bunch of waiters. (“We only got four minutes to serve your lunch!”) Except they have gigantic goggles on their foreheads as well. Are they fashionably challenged 1920’s steampunk gangsters? Ricky does a semi-flare. They do lots of choreo, including a section where it looks like they’re gliding with their knees. The music halts as a few of them rotate their arms like a clock ticking. They play with the concept of slowing down time as Brian dances his way across the stage while the others are moving in slow motion and occasionally joining in (it’s conceptually similar to IaMmE’s “Peacock” chain reaction dancing). After some quicker choreo, they bunch up and tick their hands outward from the middle to pretend something is “hot.” Pow! Routine’s over.

D-Trix says this crew was meant for ABDC. He says they don’t need stunts and were amazingly conceptual with the clocks. He calls Ian cute and calls the group sexy as hell. Indeed, Mos Wanted Crew puts out another strong performance, and the slow motion was extremely well done. However, this is the second time they talk about being the ones to “raise the bar” and are coming across as dangerously overconfident. If this were a TV drama instead of a reality game show, they would be getting the villain edit and setting themselves up for a gigantic case of hubris. As it stands though, they’re in a solid position.
8 Flavahz- Both kid crews are announced safe in tandem, but 8 Flavahz gets to go first. Their song is “Vogue,” a song released before any of them were born. Naturally, their task is to do voguing. Again, the challenge seems like a softball challenge here because voguing (depending on the style) requires flexibility and femininity, in addition to the sharp angular movements. As least they don’t have to do the Leiomy-brand dips. They assert that they will be bringing the “fierce” this time instead of the “sweet.” They’re sugar-free!

They’re thankfully dressed in business dress suits similar to the ones in the music video, because giving them Madonna’s “cone bras” would have been the worst idea. Two of them do back-bridges and start crawling. They’re already voguing and bringing the attitude. Some of them do splits while on their backs, some of them do aerials, but the athletic highlight here is when Angel holds a ridiculously flexible standing split (when the cymbal crashes, she dips her head to her knee). That is impressive no matter what age. There’s some ballet and some “hairography” with their ponytail extensions. As the song name-drops random celebrities these kids are too young for (“What’s a Grace Kelly?”), the girls imitate the music video’s iconic voguing, with their hands framing their faces like a photo shoot. A girl tumbles over a girl doing headstand splits. The group finishes with all of them collapsed on the floor except for one person, which is my least favorite ending pose because of how clichéd it is at this point. It has literally been done over a dozen times on this show. Great routine otherwise.

Lil Mama gets out of her chair and makes a weird face at them and says she got served! She says “WERK!” She points out Kaelynn’s triple pirouette into splits, and says she made a great Madonna. 8 Flavahz now has the privilege of making me eat crow, when I speculated earlier that they might have a hard time performing to less cutesy songs. I do suspect that some of them have prior voguing experience, because they’re way too sharp and accurate with the style to glean all that from just one week and a music video. I also can’t think of any crew in the show’s history that was this aggressive with showing off their classical training, so they’ve already formed a distinction for themselves solely through their dancing, which is half the battle.
RNG- They’ll be dancing to the raunchy-looking song, “Human Nature.” Wow, this song’s older then all of them too. I can’t believe that these kids are all younger than the movie Toy Story. Feels old, man. Their challenge is to incorporate thrashing while highlighting a member of the group as Madonna. Ten bucks says it’s the guy that’ll be highlighted. Boom, I gave ten bucks to myself. Even though they call themselves a laid-back isolation crew, thrashing doesn’t really seem that alien to them. They’ve shown they can get grimy and aggressive. But can they incorporate everything while also showcasing an additional dimension like JC wanted?

They’re wearing black and gold, again. Did they just reuse what they wore last week? Oh, Bailey gets a fancy chair. It turns out that they are indeed adding the element of storytelling, by making it a love story (or is it a love-hate story?) between him and Aneeka. Bailey starts out like a king, getting all of the ladies’ attention and making them swoon, and he even gets a chance to glide and do a back handspring in this routine. They do a lot of choreo which is their style but infused with a little R&B influence from the song, and it does look really clean. See, the cameras not madly swinging around helped! Bailey gets back on the chair but gets nut-punched off. The women are taking over! As they drag the chair to the front of the stage, she gets to sit on the throne while he’s shoved to the floor.

JC says clean and tight is their signature. He appreciates how they’re learning, taking his notes and D-Trix’s notes on transitions to heart. He says they nailed the attitude and calls them a force to be reckoned with. I’m actually impressed with how both kid crews are given just completely filthy and inappropriate songs but manage to turn them into respectable routines. RNG did well, but am I certain of their safety? Not really. I’m generally curious what the voting demographics are like, and who RNG have to contend with for votes. Are they fighting 8 Flavahz for the kid votes? Are they fighting Fanny Pak for the clean choreography votes? Is this season going to end up being a battle of pre-existing fan bases?
Stepboys- They’re the last saved crew, once again barely escaping the danger zone. They really need to step up their choreography or they’re going to end up as this season’s joke. And not the kind they’re hoping for. Fortunately, instead of getting Madonna’s song “Like A Virgin”, they get the song “Ray of Light.” It’s a warm and uplifting song by Madonna, but for the Stepboys, not enough dirty jokes, maybe? Their task is to include a sped up, spastic section. So they’re pretty much spazzing out.

They’ve got gray jumpsuits with rainbow beanies, a fashion must-have for every third-grader. They wake up. There’s a giant lollipop. Are they lobbying for the pre-school votes? Their beginning choreo is VERY basic until they get into the downrocking and three of them do quick turtle-freezes. One of them wriggles like a fish. They pretend to shiver with their legs as the music says “cold.” They combine nose-picking and tutting. Really. The chubby guy eats it and then falls back to the floor, while a person way in the back is doing a handstand. That moment could have been so much better framed. They shimmy-spaz for a bit, and I believe they try to make a human tricycle. But that tricycle, much like their routine, falls apart in the end.

D-Trix appreciates that they did more choreography and fewer stunts. He thinks the choreo was creative, and points out the fish-out-of-water trick, but wants them to tighten it up so they can take it to the next level. I don’t want that. They need to go at least three levels higher. This is the seventh season of ABDC, and there’s no reason a crew should be this sloppy. I hate seeing a crew coast on personality alone (cough, Iconic Boyz, cough, cough), and D-Trix’s comments were way too gentle to hammer in the point that they have lots of areas to improve on.
Collizion Crew- Fairly surprisingly, the lone Southern crew is in the Bottom Three in votes. Their weekly challenge is to include country line dancing to Madonna’s country-pop song, “Don't Tell Me.” Okay, this is probably the trickiest challenge out of all the crews, but not by a wide margin. There’s a significant distinction between the Dirty South dancing style and line dancing, which is mostly hips and kicks.

They’ve got black leather hats and light blue pants. I doubt anybody in the South wears that color combination. I feel like these were the costumes they were saving for Southern Movement in Season 4 (“What are we going to do with all these extra cowboy hats?”). They begin with one guy pretending to be strummed like a guitar. They pull out a few flips here and there. They include a lot of line dancing in the routine, occasionally broken up with some grooving and toprocking. They’re embracing the challenges really well. One dude busts out some furious tap skills. They throw their hats in the audience, and I want to steal those hats. In the end, they form a bull as one of them whips out a red cape. Spanish matadors aren’t exactly Southern country, but at least I can see some relevance here.

JC thinks Collizion got the toughest song of the night but made the most of it, giving the routine a lot of great imagery and athleticism, and replays Joker’s knee-drop. I actually think they got screwed with the task. How many viewers are going to think, “Mmmm, that’s some authentic line dancing they got there!” There’s probably not a big overlap between the ABDC viewership and the cowboy population. Collizion strikes me as the crew most likely to win the “Gone Too Soon Award” this season, because they’re already struggling for votes and this routine, even though it was great and accomplished many things, may not be enough to pull in those extra votes.
Funkdation- ABDC’s first Mexicrew lands in the bottom, once again. The song they have is “Give me all your Luvin.’” Their job is to incorporate cheerleader steps. Oh, good, cheerleader-types have done well on this show NEVER. The guys are struggling because nobody has any cheerleading experience. I dunno, cheerleading seems easy enough to fake. Isn’t a big part of cheerleading about acting fake?
With the red letterman jackets, they look like a co-ed Supreme Soul. They’re given pom-poms too. They start out with cheerleading stunts, the extension prep and a backflip toss. They do some high-energy choreo, and the girls use the pom-poms a little more. At some point, Nicki Minaj’s rap breakdown takes over the song, where the girls combine some cheerleading and locking. They do a gimmick where a guy angrily appears to have steam coming out of his ears like a Looney Tunes cartoon. They shake things up by adding some more intricate popping moves. The last few seconds are somewhat chaotic, as the men toprock in the background while some of the girls do multiple backsprings. They finish with a cheerleading pose, with a guy holding a headstand freeze.

Lil Mama thinks the costumes made Funkdation a whole new crew, is baffled by the steam trick, and thinks they represented Mexico. Jeez, Lil Mama always says [CREW] represents [CREW’S GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION] or [CREW’S DEMOGRAPHIC]. It’s such an inane statement. “Your group represented a larger group of which you are affiliated with! Good job existing!” For what it’s worth, I think they aced their challenge too, incorporating the cheerleading moves and spirit, but their remaining choreography rather surprisingly lacked Latin flair. Other than the guy having awesomely curly hair, I actually don’t see how their routine specifically represented Mexico. Popping and locking, sure. But Mexico?
Irratik- The curse of the foreign crews continue as Irratik also has to fight for their right to stay. The Canadian chicks have to add jazz steps to their routine, “Express Yourself.” It’s not a difficult challenge for the technically solid members, but jazz has been integrated into dance (especially Broadway) for so long, it has problems looking fresh and different. They state that they’re not holding back on the sexiness despite JC’s comments, which I actually think is smart in terms of the group adhering to the song’s message, but also for carving a niche for themselves.

They’ve got black latex tops, exposing their bare midriffs, and shiny purple pants. They’re expressing themselves as a jazzercising biker gang, apparently. They begin with one woman standing on another woman’s back, hunched over. Dang, that’s pretty strong for the woman providing the base. One woman does ballet pirouettes into a spinning leg extension. In addition to their typical style which already involves waacking and voguing, they also do some very jazzy choreo. It borders on cheesiness, but a lot of the 80’s dance style was like that. They bust out chains to use as leashes, because chains and whips excite me. They have two women doing pushups on different levels, one of the women hoisted up above the others. They even have a little bit of vogue-style duck walking. They finish by making sexy poses on the front edge of the stage, redoubling their efforts to make D-Trix happy in his pants.

D-Trix says the jazz challenge was right up Irratik’s alley and compliments their technical aspects and cleanliness. He is also uncharacteristically not perverted towards them. Although I mentioned that ramping up the sexiness was a good idea, since they were the only group that could really pull it off, it also has the immediate consequence of being the exact opposite of what JC wanted from them. And he’s the one making the decision right now. Oops.
Elimination- The judges save Collizion. No big surprise there by the judges. Considering this show still has an awful track record regarding voting for foreign crews, it’s not shocking that our neighbors to the north and to the south got immediately shafted by the voters in one fell swoop. Enjoying the sweet freedom of being largely ignored by the American viewing audience, Funkdation and Irratik?! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! Next week, the seven remaining crews perform to the music of Drake. Which of these crews will inch closer to the Young Money Cash Money? Find out next week! Americans only!