Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ninjaboi's Better Late Than Never Pitbull Review

Grading Scale
For those unfamiliar with my rankings, I judge each crew based off of 5 factors that comprise each routine on ABDC, and give some sort of indication how well the crew is doing in the show. Each is out of 10 points, for a total of 50. For me a 7 is "standard" level of what a crew on ABDC should have, so a 35 would be an average total score. Major mistakes will usually cost the crew 1 point in a section.
Choreography - How difficult was their choreography? How well executed? How much foundation? How intricate? How agile? How in sych musically? How creative? The more styles incorporated the better.
Wow Moment - How creative/difficult were their "moments" on stage? Did they overuse wow moments, thus decreasing the value of each one? Did they build up to each moment and frame it well? Did it fit in with the rest of their composition, or did they do a wow moment for the sake of having one? Not necessarily always stunts. 
Showmanship - Any factor that really improves upon the performance. This includes appropriate energy level, transitions (working vs walking), blocking, levels, storytelling/conceptual aspect, composition of the piece, use of stage (clumped vs filling), etc. 
Challenge - Each week each crew is given (a) challenge(s). A crew will get a 7 if they simply implement the challenge into the routine, simple as that, provided they don't mess up. Crews get higher than 7 if they "embrace the nature of the challenge), either by shaping the routine around the routine, or by taking it to the next level, or both. Mind you, a crew that does only the challenge for the whole routine is letting the challenge rule them, rather than them ruling the challenge.
Improvement - A 7 means that they performed at the same level as last week. As ABDC tends to favor crews that do better from week to week, upping your level each week is important. 

Also note that there are various modifiers to these scores. Crews with a second challenge receive an extra half point. Crews with a mandatory prop challenge, due to their inherently more difficult level of challenge, get another half point. I also have my own individual biases, which result in point deductions. For this week, Mos Wanted Crew receives a -1 modifier since I've known about these guys and followed their craft since before ABDC

Choreography – 6 – The big big big problem with this crew is their insistence that their routines be consisted mostly of stunts, very simple/basic choreography, posing, and transitioning between different formations. Dancing and choreography is supposed to give the music physical form and interpret it. Simply moving for the sake of moving and to simply fill the stage with movement does not make for impressive choreography. With good choreography, there is a REASON for each movement you make. I don’t see that when I watch Elektrolyte’s so called choreography, which is in itself rare to see in their routines, beyond simply having movement to get between formations.
Wow – 7 – Elektrolytes – I’ll be frank. Your  stunts are getting old. With the exception of the knee roll in the first half of the routine, there was literally nothing we haen’t seen before, either from you or other crews on the show. Backflips, butterfly kicks at the start. Partnerwork was done way more impressively than Massive Monkees and Supercrew. ith an assisted pike (which isn’t that impressive).  Stripping for votes isn’t that impressive, especially after ICONic Boyz ruined it for us. The lifted flip was done more impressively by Collizion Crew earlier this very season. Bring something new, stop spamming your flips in place of choreography, and get into your routines without having to prep so much for it.  The only reason this is not any lower is that really dope knee roll.
Showmanship – 7 – Stage use: good actually. Transitions – actually pretty strong, especially for the capoeira section between groups, though the last one was weaksauce. Formations were good, Energy was a bit less than their typical brand. Still lacking anything magical or outstanding to give this crew more than a brief notice given the rest of talent tonight.
Challenge – 7 – So my in person experience with capoeira is limited to a couple of events at school where the capoeira group held workshops and let the audience members participate and go against some of the experienced members. Based on what I personally experienced, I had mixed reactions to their use of capoeira. First, it is true that capoeira is a lot of butterfly kicks, one handed armstands, and cartwheels. I really did like how they did a lot of partnerwork, especially with the hand holding position at the beginning. However, Lil Mama’s comment about not touching the opponent was a bit misguided. While that is true that in capoeira you’re not supposed to collide, the reason is because you’re supposed to be skilled enough to get so close and still not hit each other because you can react, while still going through the moves and not holding back. In this routine, Elektrolytes were a bit farther apart from each other than most capoeira partners I saw were, so that could be considered a bit of “cheating” to get away with it, which won’t fly. Not all the time (like at the beginning they were good), but for most of the ones in the middle. So there were some good parts (incorporating the partner work), but some bad (not doing it so well).
Improvement – 6 – After last week’s clever story telling, I briefly held hope, only to have it crushed underneath the lack of choreography and the deluge of flips. JC was right, at least in the part about this one being a step down from last week.
Total: 33

8 Flavahz
Choreography – 7 - The sad part is, given what we saw in the first few weeks from them, I saw only a few sections of outright choreography. Don’t get me wrong, when they do choreography they do it well. The part at the beginning when Cameron was on the left of the stage, and the part right after they ripped off the skirts are the sections I’m taling about. The rest were dedicated to trying to wow us. That’s about 11 seconds (that I count) of solid choreography, out of a solid minute. I would give them an 8 in choreography given the raw technique, skill, and execution of their choreography, but there’s just so little in it, I can’t say they did a lot of choreography.
Wow – 7 - While I would greatly like to see them use their choreography as their core strength rather relying on acrobatics to wow us, I do have to admit they do keep it fresh unlike other crews. The bridge/flip at the start was cool.  The 3 girls in the front doing kicks were pretty dope. The two person cartwheel was insane. My personal favorite though was a flip. Now that’s odd for me, but the use of the skirts in the flip to create a circle effect was hypnotizing. That said, I still think that they do overuse them in random moments, and don’t really build up to them appropriately, which is what is ultimately holding me back from accepting their overuse of flips.
Showmanship – 7-  First that story… I was a bit confused, so I’m giving a mixed review for that. I get the ringmaster schtick, but then the random attack of the dancers with a blowdart? A story is good and all, but you need to be able to convey what you’re saying and it’s been a week and I don’t get what the story was. Stage use was pretty good. Even if they didn’t really make the typical straight line you associate with can can, they made sure to go in pairs around the edge of the stage, and in a circular formation to let everyone see the can can. Formations and highlighting were good up until the aforementioned random murder. 8 flavahz has this unfortunate tendency to block actually pretty decent choreography with random stuff going on in the front that distracts from the dancing. Oh, and Carmen’s ringmaster piece was mixed. I felt it was a mix between random posing and gesturing and dancing with them, which got distracting.
Challenge – 8 – The can can was pretty prevalent in this routine. You se them holding their skirts for a majority of the routine, either actually doing the can can(though I don’t think I actually ever saw the classic right knee, right kick, left knee, left kick that I associate with the can can), but you also see other elements of French dance with ballet foundation at the beginning. The whole Parisian circus theme ties in well (again with the weird story). So overall well done with the challenge, much better than just sticking it in.
Improvement – 7 – Not much better than last week’s (though better execution of the challenge), but fitting in with the rest of their performances, again not their best.
Total – 36

Mos Wanted Crew
Choreography – 8 – The choreography wasn’t actually bad. Overall the first half (before the Russian section) seemed to be focused on the agility/strength of their lower body (the staccato hits, the “tiptope” line reference). The second half, I could tell the energy sort of went out of them after the mistakes, but musicality, it was also on point (the song slows down and lacks the same staccato beats at the beginning, so their movements also smoothed out, with the arm slides, and the grooves.
Wow – 8-2 = 6 – So I think what Mos Wanted Crew was going was to show that they could do some awesome “wow” moments as well, but unfortunately they failed to execute. Obviously we have the hat trick, and the jump when Brian did a teabag both woulda been greatly framed and amazing had they been executed. As it is, the only stunt they pulled off was Rickey’s handsprings at the end. Minus one point each for their goof ups, so 2 goofups for execution.
Showmanship – 8 – 1 = 7 – So a lot to like here. Obviously one of the strongest openings of the season thus far. They played the military theme of the Soviet Russians, with both the beginning and end in a nice circle (maybe this whole routine was a drill)? Though Brian did mess up the ending, so I’m docking one point for that. Levels were used pretty well. Formations as usually were varied, and transitions were so smooth that I didn’t notice. I will say the energy was mixed, given the loss of momentum, but
Challenge – 8 – So they actually didn’t have any problems completing the challenge. That’s a killer challenge to have, especially considering that I think some of the members have knee injuries. But even with that, they took their challenge to the next level, first with the Russian presentation talked above. They also mixed up how to do the traditional Russian dance. They had multiple levels (a standing variation) mixed it up with paetnerwork and solo work, and even a quick group formation. They got in the spirit of celebration that this dance entails (did anyone see the movie Patton where they danced this?)
Improvement – 6 - Overall, it actually wasn’t a bad performance considering the mistakes. I didn’t catch them on my first run through, but even when you include them, the rest of the routine (choreography, challenge) all were done well.) Obviously making mistakes isn’t good, so I’ll give them a 6 here, but had they not, I actually would have given them an 8 since they would have shown more wow factor. Hopefully execution later tonight is on point.
Total – 35 -1 (bias) = 34. Would have been 40 (-1 bias) = 39 had they not messed up.

Fanny Pak
Choreography – 9 – I’ll talk more about this later, but Fanny really incorporated A) all sorts of Indian dance styles, not just Bollywood into their routine, and B) the fused it so well that you could still see the influence, but it was something distinctly Fanny Pak that no one else could convincingly sell. More importantly, I think Fanny Pak tonight showed strong choreography in that they looked so much more ALIVE when they were dancing. The movements they had, and the conviction behind their choreography – each movement had a purpose, as that purpose were vital to life itself. They so convincingly sold themselves in with their choreography, that each hit, each graceful movement and slide, all complemented the music perfectly,  brought us to India, and gave a mark of who is Fanny Pak. The showed slow graceful movements, hard hits, great control, high energy, and just playful spirit in their choreography, all within a minute.
Wow – 8 – This routine I think gave the best example of “wow moments” that don’t need to be stunts. The use of scarves (an unnecessary prop) to create that illusion was both in line with the challenge and artistic. Glenda’s travel through the members and collecting their scarves. I’m pretty Sohey was doing something in the back for the back half of the audience, showing a smart, thoughtful aspect of their choreography.
Showmanship – 9 – Stage use – Even with more members and the scarves,t here still is more room on the stage. By using the scarves to make a wall they halved the size, giving them a larger presence on the stage, in addition to the moving. If you can, go back and watch closely for the facials. They change so much in the routine, but fit the movements so well, from smiling to a werk face, to fierceness, to sassy, to toughness, to pretty much any emotion, but it fits the movement. Transitions and blocking were flawless, as is typical of Fanny Pak. Even the subtle things like pulling the scarves out of their Fanny Pak to harken back to Season 2 days where they would do that every episode showed thought and planning that few crews put into their routine. Plus that ending? To go from movement to still (including dropping to your knees all of a sudden?) is no small feat.
Challenge – 10 – Okay. So this is the first 10 of the season. And I wouldn’t give it if I wasn’t 100% sure that they killed the challenge. First some qualifications – I not only went to a high school with a high South Asian population, my college also has a strong Indian representations. I’ve seen amazing choreography of many south Indian styles, which all these kids my age do very well, either for cultural or religious reasons, but also for competitive reasons as well (and they win). I could point to a lot of things that made me give them a 10. For one, they incorporated not only high energy choreography from Bollywood movies, they had seated choreography with more religious connotations, the choreography with scarves (I’m not good with names, sorry). Even when they didn’t do straight up Bollywood, they incorporated the foundational aspects of it in their technique. The way they placed and pointed their feet. The way they held their hands. The lines of their arms and torsos. The angles of their limbs. The jump step when moving across the stage. The hip movements. Soft graceful movements contrasted with hard hitting, high energetic hits. Even the use of facials to convey emotion. That ending pose. My god. Fanny Pak did Bollywood, and more, all throughout the routine, while at the same time making it distinctly something only Fanny Pak could do. That is the ultimate sign of owning the challenge.
Improvement – 9 – Last week was great. They should not have been in the bottom. But given my glowing review, I think that this routine may be very underrated by most, and could possibly be the routine of the season, given their mastery of not only Bollywood, but movement itself.
Total – 45

Choreography – 9 – This routine was similar and different from Fanny’s. Similar in that they showed a lot of different styles, but whereas Fanny focused on the styles related to the challenge and injecting Fanny Pak into their styles, RNG focused on using their strengths (foundational hip hop, street styles), and making it work with the music. I saw house, bboy, and their newstyle urban choreo, along with some groove. It still worked, and it was just executed so well, flowing between these styles almost seamlessly. Strong foundation, creative transitioning, sick musicality. RNG is just growing more and more.
Wow – 8 – Outside the obvious challenge of the 1000 hands, they had some good moments. At the start, they do a bit of toprock, then spin around to do knee/floorwork. The hits between the two girls in the middle after the fouettes (which admittedly were out of synch). The opening obviously was so mesmerizing with the head hits, and the shuffling feet across the stage. Even the cannon across the stage where Bailey triggered it by popping up and the girls popped up 2 by 2 in a diagonal was a moment to remember.
Showmanship – 8 – First the whole China theme worked really well. They used the stage a lot better compared to past weeks, moving back and forth across it to great effect. I think the biggest thing to comment on is the use of levels. They had a decent amount of work on the knees. The next step would be to mix it up and contrast it with upright chroegoraphy at the same time. Transitions are also improving – for example they used the fans to distract the audience well while working into position, even as it was done somewhat simply. Even the energy and commitment are great. I think another thing to mention – when they tied up their hair, they seemed a lot more spaced out than before. It may just be an optical illusion, or if they’re actually more spaced out, but it looks a lot nicer than when their hair is in each other’s and their own face.
Challenge – 8 – As with Fanny Pak, I’ve had a lot of experience with this particular dance (even choreographed one myself). It is a lot harder than some people would give it credit for, but moving on. I loved how they reinterpreted it. First the traditional technique was present (lining up, hand position, even having expression in the person at front). However, they put an RNG twist on it by making it a bit more harder hitting than usual (usually its more fluid and less focused on hits and more on flowing quickly). Even the second one, they upped the ante a bit with using fans, and then peeling off into the ending pose, which is smart. I will say I wish they could have done a bit more with the fans in the routine, which visually would have been amazing. But beyond that, they definitely played to the Chinese angle, incorporating martial arts and the bowing at the beginning, was smart and staying in that character was great.
Improvement – 9 – As Dtrix said, this crew is constantly growing. From using levels more, to spacing themselves better, to using more styles in their routines, and embracing their challenges to a deeper, more intellectual level, they are just getting better and better.
Total – 42

I totally agree with the decision for both crews in this bottom 2 to stay, even if I don’t agree with who should have been in the bottom 2. With some respect to other tough bottom 2s, here are reasons why I think they didn’t do it for others.
Any top 3/top 4 difficult bottom 2, they logistically couldn’t because that would mean it would be 3 crews who are finalists, which I don’t think they want to have 3 finalists, they want the final week to be between only 2 crews. Top 4, it will be 4 crews doing the decathlon challenge, as well as the last chance challenge, so production wise, it may be that they won’t have time to get ready.
The rest of the top x crew episodes, I think that the reason this didn’t happen is because, as far as I can remember, no really tough bottom 2 were was dominant over the rest of the night as these two crews were.
As far as the integrity of the show… well given that they had to get ICONic Boyz to perform tonight to attempt to get ratings… yeah I don’t think that’s much of an issue.

Since only MWC has a bias, I’ll just combine this week’s pre/post bias rankings.
45 – Fanny Pak
42 – RNG
36 – 8 Flavahz
35/34 – MWC without/with bias
33 – Elektroltyes

Cumulatively, over the whole season here are the ratings.
196 +/- 2 Fanny Pak
185.5 +/- 1.5 RNG
182.5 +/- 5.5 Mos Wanted Crew
180 +/- 2 Flavahz
167.5 +/- 1.5 Elektrolytes

Based on these, I think I’ll give next week
Fanny Pak -1 bias for me being so enthralled this week with them
RNG -.5 since their urban choreo is really to my liking.
MWC -1 since I’ve been liking their choreography from before the season so much
ELEK +1 since I’m pretty sure that them being in the bottom of the rankings all season long every single week means something.

Power Rankings
1) RNG – I think coming out strong this week, after a solid week last week and just their continual growth, plus great support from the judges (ie saving them for having such a dominant routine) I think the breakout routine at this point in the competition will help them keep the momentum going, so long as they don’t face the bottom again (which viewcounts being more than MWC’s suggest they won’t, at least next week).
2) 8 Flavahz – It’s getting further and further from their performance-of-the-week Vogue, and they’re leaning more towards stunts and less dancing. I think that will become apparent soon, as some people are picking up. Granted, they still have a decent number of viewcounts, so they’ll go far. But if they don’t come hard again soon, the fact that they’re always saved first could play against them as people forget their routines as great performances come later in the episode, leaving them forgotten and thus unvoted for.
3) 4) Mos Wanted Crew - There is growing opposition to this crew, for a number of reasons. Some are legitimate (ie messing up), and some aren’t (don’t blame the crew for their fanbase, or for being professionals already and having an “unfair advantage since they’re so good.”) Even so, I think people overreacted to the comments about execution, and disregarded what JC said about having a great routine put together. If MWC messes up again, I think the bashlack will hit them too much. If they want to win, they need to have a performance of the week next week (ie tonight), a top 2 performance in the top 4 week, and they need to absolutely murder the multistyle challenge in week 3, to turn haters.
4) Fanny Pak – While I think that they are absolutely being so consistent every season week, and bringing something new literally every single week, and having flawless execution, and such strong technique, it seems America just doesn’t agree, sending them to the bottom 3 weeks in a row. No crew has stayed in the bottom 2 more than thrice, usually being eliminated on their third strike or on the episode right after. The only exception is Blueprint, who had immunity for 2 weeks, and We Are Heroes, who had their third bottom 2 in the top 3, not this early in the season. If they hit the bottom once more, I’m betting they will go home. Hopefully they won’t, but low viewcounts suggest otherwise.
5) Elektrolytes – a lackluster performance this week, plus a more and more apparent lack of versatility in what they can offer (flips flips and more flips) will limit them. Low viewcounts suggest a bottom 2 next week.

Shoutouts to 54Maxxann, Clarence, Wings, Molasses Gang, and NancyT.

Till my next review (hopefully sooner again),