Friday, April 20, 2012

Ninjaboi's Review - Week 2

Here are the five categories I judge on, and my explanation for each category:

10 – Choreography:  There are basically two ways to dance, as I see it.  There’s freestyling, which is the root of all dance, but unfortunately not as common ABDC.  Then there are performances.  Performances are further broken up into two parts.  “Wow” moments which are meant to keep your memory on that routine, and “Choreography” which is everything else.  This section looks at how good the choreography wise – this is musicality wise, how much swagger, how complicated, etc.  “Choreography” is basically any coordinated dance movement of the crew’s members outside those moments, be it newstyle, or any other street style. Crews with better foundation and technique, as well as more complicated/difficult choreography will get higher scores.

10 – Wow Moments:  As explained above, Wow moments are when you create a moment that sticks in people’s minds.  This can either be tricks, to crazy isolations, to pretty much any singular moment that defines the piece.  However, if we see the wow moment coming, that takes away from its impact.  The way you build up into the moment is just as important as the moment. Also, overloading your performance with nothing but Wow moments takes away from its impact. Difficulty is also taken into consideration.

10 – Showmanship: This is a variety of things.  Almost a miscellaneous category if you will.  Just off the top of my head, this includes: Appropriate Energy Level, Emotion Conveyed, Stage Use, Blocking/Framing, Transitions, Concept, Levels, Story Telling, Cleanness, Musicality, Pacing, Any real small thing that adds to the performance as a whole. If I haven’t defined something above and I use it in the category, I will mention it in that particular section

10 – Challenge: How well did the crew A)execute their challenge B)complete it creatively, and C) incorporate it throughout the performance rather than just simply do it once and have it seem out of place.  Also, prop challenges are usually much more difficult inherently, so those give crews a +1 to their overall score.

10 - Improvement: Usually this would be to see how well crews improve each week and work on their problems because one common theme of good crews on ABDC is constant improvement.  Just for reference: 7 means no improvement.  More means improvement, less means did worse.  The rationale is that on ABDC, crews that show that they keep giving better and better performances tend to do better overall.

This week, since we don’t have a challenge, and there’s nothing for them to improve on, I’m going to judge “Improvement” as “First Impression,” and not include challenge at all, giving a Total Points this week of 40.

Just for reference: 10 is perfect.  7 is average.  5 is barely passable.  Anything below that is… very weak.  So Average would be a 35 (or 28 this week), for reference.  I guess I developed this scale from the academic scoring system where 7 is average, and getting a 9 is a pretty big deal.  It’s rare for me to give out things below 5, or perfect 10s. 

As with any other human, I have biases and such that I try to compensate for. As is the case, I will try to adjust my score by adding or subtracting points where I have had a pre-determined bias. For this particular episode, I went into the season with a bias for Mos Wanted Crew, given how a lot of them have influenced my own personal style of dance. In each case, I will add/subtract half a point in each respective case to help bring my opinions to a more objective standard. As the season goes on, this bias may change as I grow more accustomed to crews.

Overall Performance
I’m not gonna spend much time here, except to express my annoyance that the camera was focusing way too much on Flo Rida. Yes he’s here, but at least let the crews get their spotlight.

Elektrolytes (Club Can’t Handle Me)
Choreography – 6 – The biggest issue I had with Elektrolytes is their choreography, or rather lack thereof. Yes I will admit thy wer very talented in their stunts. However, the in between choreography was lacking in two key components – difficulty and foundation. Aside from the stunts, a lot of the “choreography” was at a very elementary, somewhat repetitive nature (the simple top rock shuffle forward, repetitive tutting angles, hitting the feet like drums, shuffling). When they tried to do some more street style inspired stuff, aside from a little bit of footwork, there was weak foundations (lazy shuffling, bad angles on the tutting, poor locking position). And for a lot of the sound effect riffs, their choice of move was to “shake violently,” which at this level of competition is too simple to be  considered at the same level as the others.
Wow – 8 – I can’t say that they don’t have creativity or uniqueness when it comes to wow moments. And, even if I don’t like it when crews spam their stunts, I still  found all their “moments” different and unique enough that it was still entertaining. Obviously there is their signature “tower” flip. The variation of the over under with a mid-air running man. The highlighted one handed handspring was cool. For me the real highlight was the headslide ripple, even if the b-twist was a bit low by most standards. Overall there was good variety enough with high difficulty.
Showmanship -  6 – They did use the stage well, and were pretty energetic. However, the transtions were pretty weak, mostly focused on walking from place to place, or a very generic shuffle-trot into line.  Their framing/blocking were hit and miss. Maybe it was just the camera angles, but I feel that a lot of the routine was too must “posing.” It’s good to have some pauses, but too much is a problem. You should be moving and not standing still unless it’s for contrast.
First Impression – 6 – Overall, given their rank as first in the US HHI, I was a bit disappointed, in both their lack of foundation and difficulty. While stunts are great, I really hope in the future they focus on the dance aspect in addition to the stunts.
Total – 26
Highlight – The head ripple. Very very very dope.
Advice – Work on foundations. Keep tuts sharp, locking positions locked, and step up the difficulty level of your choreography to at least match everyone else’s. Stunts are awesome, but a moment in a routine must only be that – a moment. Sometimes it only takes a little bit of sauce to bring out the flavor in some food. Drowning it in sauce takes away from the appeal.

RNG (Right Round)
Choreo – 8 – RNG is almost the opposite of Elektrolytes, where they shine really well in their choreography as opposed to illusions or stunts. Their musicality was on point, as was their body control, to shift between different speeds fairly instantaneously. They’ve got a very “grimy” style, but not in a messy sense, with even a little bit of femme mixed in there. If it seemed like they were over the place, I think it was more of the camera angles. Especially in the first half, right after the tire screech, on that down riff, when they hit every beat, which is impressive.
Wow – 6 – Like DTrix said, this isn’t their strong point. However, there are still things they could do in order to be impressive that don’t need flips. Being smart about their choreography, and changing the dynamic of their routines within a single performance, as a suggestion.
Showmanship – 7 – Overall they were pretty much on point. They did spread out and use the stage at most points, and they changed their formations well, without it being to noticeable, which si a good thing. I will say that for a majority of the routine they could have been a bit more spaced out so we could see all their little movements, especially during the dubstep section. Otherwise,they had some clever things, with the use of their levels to “go down down,” the Request shoutout for “king of the club,” and so on. Their energy and expressions matched well with the “mood” of the song.
First Impression  - 7 – Overall, I would say RNG matched my expectations. Excellent choreography and control. I’ll say they have several options for them as to the “role” or “path” they take on the show, but they have to find ways to play “smart” with their routines.
Total – 28
Highlight – Right after the dubstep section, then they’re grabbing their shirts and sliding. While the camera doesn’t show it outright, you can sort of glimpse it real quick. First off that head slide while grabbing their shirts is sick in itself. But in the split second before the camera view, and in the corner of the screen you can see the legs moving along with it. I wish I could get a better view, but if they’re doing what I think they’re doing (ie pulling their leg with their head while the body stays still), that is epic.
Advice – I’ll mirror what the judges said, but just add that other elemnt to their performance to take it over the edge. Maybe not an illusion or trick. But a concept or a story. Also, what really hur them this week was the blocking, even without the bad cameras. Paying attention to how spaced out they are can really help them highlight their individual members better.

Collizion - Low
Choreo – 7 - I think being the only crew from the South/Atlanta is really giving Collizion the chance to stand out and be unique. They have some very distinct moves from the Southern club scene  that you won’t really see from other regions, especially in this West-dominated season. That unique vibe from the step/groove based movements helps their performance stand out, in a good way, especially considering how clean they’re doing these moves.It’s sort of like Jungle Boogie’s cranking, but in a more relaxed nature. They also have good foundation with their popping/waving, though I think they should up the complexity of those moves in the dubstep section, but the “looking at her” isolations were dope as heck.  Looking at the routine, the contrast they would do between smooth movements and quick isolations and grooving all came together to show their versatility subtly.
Wow – 8 – that being said, they also did have good “wow moments.” It’s not like they’re overloading us, but they’re building up to each one. The opening flying stunt was extra impressive as the guy wasn’t being flipped over of his own accord, but more of thrown, and he landed as neatly as he possibly could. The end karate chop part was also impressive in the limbo/the core strength needed, and the flying granny to karate chop. As many tricks as other crews? No. But the fewer tricks they used done in a smart way? For sure.
Showmanship – 8 - One of the things I really like about this crew is that they do try to be a bit more interactive. The Lil Mama bit could have been a bit better, but they came across in their routine and the use of their formations and bouncing around the stage, as well as their facial expressions  as playing to the crowd, a bunch of silly guys. They also played with the lyrics (prefer with no clothes, turn around and gave that booty a smack, hit the floor/get low). Also a note to crews doing humor, I think this was one of the smarter ways to do it. It was silly, but entertaining without being campy, and integrated in well and seamlessly. I also liked their use of levels as well as the formation changes they went through which you didn’t really notice until after the fact.
First Impression – 8 – I was, and I think many people were, pleasantly surprised with Collizion. They definitely brought something different than every other crew, with a more groove-based style that is so characteristic of the South, specifically Atlanta. It also helped they came across as playful guys, with a solid set of foundations and technique, from some wow-moments to solid showmanship skills.
Total – 31
Highlight – At the beginning right after the throwing of the guy, but right before the pantsing. That groove is SOOO characteristic of the Dirty South, and something no other crew brings that I just have to highlight it again.
Advice – I don’t actually have much advice to be honest. I think when it comes to waving/dubstep, be careful that the difficulty level there matches the rest of your routine. A simple V formation and some basic waving won’t cut it.

Funkdation (Good Feeling)
Choreo – 8 – So one of the components of choreography is “technique” and “foundation.” These guys may not be typical newstyle choreography, but I think along with Mix’d Elements, they have shown themselves to be one of the strongest foundation-based crews this season in street styles, which must be commended (and expected if their inspiration is Mr. Wiggles).  Not only did I see good bboying/rocking, waacking popping, some locking, but they also were able to incorporate that Latin flavah (which is interesting since bboying originally was influenced by Latin dances), both in individual toprock/housing, as well as in their partner work. Some isolations could have been cleaner, but they more than made up for it with their hits. I will also say that one person was off time with their locking, but other than that the form and such was correct.
Wow – 8 – Their opening is a classic example of a “wow” moment that doesn’t need to be a stunt – creating a piano with their legs and hitting it in time with the music? Genius. On top of that, they got a top-level gymnast to do epic flips and twists, and bboy skills with mills to headspins? Alright, nice.
Showmanship – 7 – They used the stage well in filling it and reaching out with many transitions that you didn’t’ really notice. I think some of the blocking (though it could have been camera) hid some members more than would have been nice. But they still had good levels, the feel overall really did remind me of n old school crew jamming, and presentation overall, with a nice couple bit that was sort of humorous, was pretty good. The old school Mr. Wiggles/bboy pose was the icing on the cake. I think if I had to criticize anything, it would be that they could use a centralizing concept to really tie their performance together, especially with the creativity of their piano opening.
Impression – 8 – Definitely a pleasant surprise that there are a lot of crews this season that have that old school foundation. I also dig how they incorporate Latin elements into their routine, but not overtly so to the detriment of other styles. They have creativity for sure, and technique.
Total – 31
Highlight – When they’re all in a circle and doing some latin flavor things, it’s a weird fusion of uprock, house, and salsa hips that works really really well for some reason, which I relaly dig for some reason.
Advice – I think the composition (ie how you break up the time of your routine) could use a touch of work (not much). But spending a really long time on an opening, and getting back into position for a less than outstanding (even if it was artsy) ending eats up a lot of your limited time. There were also a few moments when they slowed down, but it just seemed awkward and an interruption to the flow of the song. Be efficient with your routines. Also, make sure if you’re doing multiple people locking that it’s totally 100% in sync.

Mos Wanted (In the Ayer)
Choreo – 8 – I wanted to give them a 9, but looking at last week’s scores, I wouldn’t rank them higher than Fanny Pak, and I don’t want to retroactively adjust scores. But moving on to the actual routine… Starting even before the music to the “7, 8” of the counts, you knew that they were on to something. They have so precise muscle control. I wouldn’t call it purely isolations, but the way they seem animated doesn’t seem human. The agility and speed of their movements are highlighted when contrasted to when they slow down. When they do slow down they also have such body control that every single part of the body is doing something. They switch speeds up so quickly from fast to slow without getting lost. It was smooth, yet grimy at the same time. They had swag and precision.  Even when they were being blown up as a balloon they showed the different types of illusions they could create with their body.
Wow – 8 – Even when you don’t include Ricky’s crazy flips at the end, you still have some very impressive moments, outside the aforementioned choreography and body control. Jawn’s signature body spin is crazy difficult to do without losing balance. The leg thread thing that  Jawn, Brian and Jun all do to a foot drop without falling on their butts was hella dope.
Showmanship – 9 – These guys are veterans of winning multiple dance competitions, so its no surprise they have this category down cold. The spacing was just enough so that the stage wouldn’t look mpty, while at the same time it allowed each member to be seen. The transitions between formations were so seamless and unnoticeable, be it via smooth footwork or unique framing to work into position. Even the subtle things, like dancing to lyrics (the spin to CD player, 747 with a plane miming, See you with the hand over the eyes, This is my jam to a DJ motion, the hand in the air bouncing). Even if they showed off that they could slow down and dance to different beats and still keep time, they never really lost energy at all.
First Impression – 9 – Their performance was definitely for me the best of the night. Which is to say a lot given that I think most of the performances tonight were pretty good. They showed their professional expertise in putting on a performance, while at the same time bringing back a style of dance that we haven’t seen in a while on ABDC.
Total – 34 (-.5 bias) = 33.5
Highlight – The part when the mix randomly slows down with machine sounds. I absolutely hate this part in the mix cuz it messes with the flow of the entire song, but I highlight it because of what they did with it. They instantly went from mid to high speed movements to instantly slowing it down and by that contrast showing their body control. Look at their legs, and that attention to detail is breathtaking.
Advice – I can’t really call this advice, since I don’t think they need to “improve” per se on anything. But I think highlighting more individual members would be really dope. It probably depends on the song you’re given and who takes the lead on choreographing, But I really want to see someone take the spotlight a bit more than a single flip, a la Jawn Ha’s “Outta your mind” set. That, and I guess next week with Madonna, show off some more styles – we’ve seen mad muscle control, so let’s see you guys swag it out and just groove.

Overall, given these scores, I fully woulda expected Elektroltyes to face elimination, rather than Funkdation. But in any case, given what we got, we ended up having two of the most foundationally-strong crews battle each other. Which begs, the question, what determines who wins a battle? I have a prototype of a scale, based partially off of Bboy Dyzee’s OUR system. 

There are 5 categories, and whoever getes the most categories should win.
Execution – Who completed their routine with better technique/more difficulty/ fewer mistakes. Obviously if you goof up then you don’t deserve to win the category. –In this case, I think both crews pulled off their routines well, at a similar difficulty level. In fact, both crews went IN, which I really appreciated. Funkd’s headhops were dope as anything, probably the dopest move of the whole night actually, but on the average, Mid’s was a higher level. Overall, this category is a TIE

Battle Mentality – Do you go after your opponent? There’s choreography, and then choreography actually meant to “burn” or “attack” your opponent. The crew that makes more attacks on the oppontent wins. – I think here, Mix’d Elements took this category. From using martial arts in their routine, to shaking their ass in Funkd’s face, to creating guns out of their bodies, to calling them out, they just went in. Funkd’s smiling the whole time wasn’t exactly a battle mindset either. – MIXD ELEMENTS

Response – A battle isn’t only about giving attacks, but how well do you receive them. Do you call out opponents for being wack, do you one up them? – I think Mix’d also took this category. First, they called out Funk’d all throughout their first set, with showing they could do kick-ups just as well, and mimicking their locking and choreography, showing how predictable/easy it was to do. Second, they responded in their second set to Funkd’s uprock with their own, more complicated uprock which is the ultimate form of one-upping and responding to them. I know some people will say that they should have let Funkd have their space to waack, but two things. First, I think the ABDC camera angles could just have easily focused more on Funkd than Mixd, so it’s all a matter of perspective. Second, on a philosophical level, a dance battle is about keeping your space on the dance floor. Easily giving up space isn’t what you should be doing, you should be fighting for it. – MIXD ELEMENTS

Variety – Can you show your potential for doing more on the show? The more styles the better – This was really really close, but Funk’d took it. Why? A simple count shows that both crews did locking, bboy/uprock, and while Mix’d did use martial arts, Funk’d also showed waacking and old school popping/boogaloo as well as their gymnast’s mad flips. – FUNKDATION

Overall, with a score of 2-1-1, I say Mix’d should have taken the battle. However, I’m not necessarily too disappointed that they went, since Funk’d really did battle well, it was really really close, and those headhops were NASTY.

Based on my rankings alone, here are the rankings for tonight
1) MWC = 34 (-.5) = 33.5
2) FUNKD/ CLZ = 31
4) RNG  = 28
5) ELEK = 26

And including all the crews this week
1) Mos Wanted Crew = 34 (-.5) = 33.5
2) Fanny Pak = 32
3) Mixd Elements = 32 (-.5) = 31.5
4) Funkdation/Collizion = 31
6) Irratik/8 Flavahz = 29 (+.5) = 29.5
8) RNG = 28
9) Elektrolytes = 26
10) Step Boys= 26 (-.5) = 25.5

For next week’s rankings, I’ll apply the following bias modifiers (I don’t retroactively go back and determine biases, I only apply them moving forward)
-MWC = -.5 for the influence their dancers have on my own choreo style
-FNKD = -.5 for a bias for old school crews that have a lot of foundation
-CLZ = -.5 for a bias for being nostalgic for Southern Dancing
-8FLAV = +.5 for not being sure if their little kid-ness is getting in my way
-ELEK = +.5 for being very very annoyed with their lack of foundation

These are based on both my rankings, the view count on Youtube as of the Friday morning after their performance, and the judge’s overall reaction (+ for a good response, - for a negative, and 0 for a neutral), as well as other external circumstances.
1) MWC (33.5, 56730, +++) – Preseason favorites, and with good reason. Not only did they deliver by my scale the strongest performance of these two weeks, they have a rabid fanbase that will definitely keep them safe.
2) Fanny Pak (32, 8854, +++) – I actually in all honesty would rank Fanny Pak a bit lower given the possibility that people may not vote for them due to them expecting Fanny to last a long time with minimal help (a la Request, and to a certain degree how Blueprint was in bottom 2 most weeks), but on the expectation that they will absolutely wreck next week’s Madonna challenge, they will probably stick around for a few more weeks at the very least.
3) 8 Flavah  (29.5, 14319, +++) – Combining the hype about these little girls, the expectedly femme challenge they’ll get next week, and a pretty decent showing, I think they’ll stick around at least one more week.
4) Collizion (31, 10744, +++) – This may surprise a lot of people, but I actually considered putting CLZ second. The reason I didn’t is the fact that next week’s Madonna week may not be to their strengths. However, their sole representation of the South (which before, got Jungle Boogie to 4th, once Royal Flush and Swagger Crew left), as well as a surprisingly strong first week can help them.
5) Funkdation (31, 12923, ++0) – I would tie these guys with Collizion, except I’m A) uncertain how strong Mexico/Hispanic support is for them, and B) what the effect of them beating Mixd Elements will be, ie people being annoyed with them. However, I think Funkd represented well in a battle, which should outweigh the negative reviews of “they should have gone home instead.”
6) Irratik (29.5, 12652, ++0) – While I expect them to do excellent during a femme-heavy Madonna week, Canada’s history with having problems voting, as well as the time frame we’ve had since their last routine may be playing against them. I think if they end up in the bottom two though, they shouldn’t have too much trouble staying in, unless it’s against Fanny Pak possibly.
7) RNG (28, 15883, ++0) – Unfortunately for this crew, I think they may be getting overshadowed in the choreography department by Mos Wanted, and in the kid department by 8 Flavahz’s hype. In addition, while these view number are higher, other numbers closer to the voting timeframe I believe indicated they were behind. Unless their support from the rest of the community is more hidden that I think it is, they may very face the bottom two next week.
8) Step Boys (25.5, 11393, 000) – I wouldn’t count them out, especially with their decent views this time last week, but we’ll see whether they adjust their humor to something more accessible, or whether they continue to rely on flips.
9) Elektrolytes (26, 13826, +00) – Given everything I said above about their need for stronger fundamentals, combined with the fact that next week, Madonna’s more poppy songs won’t let them go as hard in the same way that’s conducive for stunts, I don’t see them lasting as long as many would like.

So yay. Next week we’ll see 9 crews perform on stage, to Madonna. Not sure how they’ll adjust after Flo Rida, but hopefully we’ll be pleasantly surprised. I'm convinced that this season we have not a single truly weak crew that doesn't belong at all, so big props to them all and to ABDC casting. Best wishes to Chris of Elektrolytes, I hope your knee gets better. Big props to Mixd Elements for representing well, I hope to see you all in person at some point in the future. Shoutouts to Molasses Gang (keep it sugary), Nancy, Clarence, and Maxxann.
Until then