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

Saturday, August 22, 2015

DirtFaceX HHI 2015 Review #HHI2015

Click here to return to the first page and to leave comments
What another incredible year I had at this year’s Hip Hop International (HHI).  I met up with some old friends, made some new ones, and of course, saw some amazing routines!  And while the competition was fierce, there was always a strong community/family-like atmosphere throughout the entire week. I’m not a performer and I certainly felt very welcomed by everyone.

This was my third year attending HHI. But was the first time the event was NOT held in Las Vegas, so it was sort of new for everyone.  This year, it was in Valley Center located in Southern California.  Before the trip even started, finding an affordable place to stay was a bit difficult, seeing that the Harrah’s Resort was pretty much in the middle of nowhere and a room there costs $200-$300 per night.  Luckily, I found a nice, cheaper motel to stay at in Escondido (25 min drive away).  I noticed many of the international crews did that as well.  Other than that though, I absolutely loved the new location.  The ballroom was much bigger (I heard it holds 500 more people than the Red Rocks venue) and just the change of scenery was nice.  The “Chill Down Lounge” was located outdoors and was very accommodating to all guests.

Angel Gibbs from 8 Flavahz

My first night there, I attended the finals of the USA Championships.  Being a New Yorker, I was a bit saddened to see the East Coast wasn’t represented at all.  All the crews came from California, Arizona, and Nevada with only one crew coming from Florida.  I’m not sure why it’s like this, but perhaps traveling/lodging expenses is a reason.  I didn’t take any pictures or videos that night, but from I saw, I fully agreed with the judges’ decisions that night.  In the Varsity Division, Kaba Kids and Ill Habits jumped from 6th and 5th positions and won themselves Bronze and Silver medals.  And in the Megacrew division, Elektro Academy jumped from 5th position to snag themselves a Bronze medal.  The night ended with chants of “A-Z! A-Z! A-Z!” for the two megacrews representing Arizona which then turned into chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”  Next stop… Worlds!

The next night was Welcoming Ceremonies for the World Championships.  Representatives from each country (over 50) went up on stage and introduced themselves- many displaying a dance routine in front of a packed house.  Of course, reps from New Zealand performed the Haka. There were many disappointed fans in the audience because they didn’t take off their shirts (haha!), but it didn’t bother me! At one point, reps from Gabon was introduced.  I’ve NEVER heard of that country in my life before, so it was kind of funny to have learned something new.  Later on, I tried chatting with some of the Gabonese dancers there, but they didn’t understand English.  After opening ceremonies, many dancers left to either sleep or practice more for the upcoming days.  I hung out at the Chill Down Lounge for a bit, but was upset that there wasn't any karaoke going on.  In fact, every day they announced that there was karaoke at the Chill Down Lounge, but every night I checked and there wasn't. What's up wit dat?!?

The World Championships began the next morning with the Junior Division. My favorite routines came from Japan (J.B. Star Junior, Proceed, and Next Jr.), New Zealand’s and Royal Family’s Bubblegum, and the Youngsters from Canada.  Had I known that the Youngsters came from the same dance company as Flip, DM Nation, and All.Young.All.Stars, I would’ve recorded that preliminary performance.  Scores were announced, and again, I 100% agreed with the judges.  After a short break, preliminaries for the Adult Division began.  After the first three performances, it was obvious that the skill level was WAAAY higher than that of the Junior Division.  I’m not certain why, but there was a bit of a delay as the judges huddled together on the side to discuss something.  The highlight of the night for me was with India’s Kings United crew.  India's support team was pretty small and the crew was introduced to a practically silent crowd.  But they performed their routine, and in the end, received a HUGE ovation.  Those boys came there to win.  My other favorites from that night were both Filipino crews – Rockstars & Romancon and the girls of Gossip from Canada.  The event ended pretty late, so after scores were announced, I pretty much headed straight to bed.

The next day began the Preliminaries for the Varsity and Megacrew Divisions.  The competition was stiff this year.  I noticed the room filled up for the Royal Family’s Duchesses and Sorority- and they did not disappoint.  I could honestly watch that Sorority routine for days!  Other notable performances were from USA’s Miniotics, Season 5 from Guam, Canada’s FLIP, Kana-Boon! from Japan, Legit Status from the Philippines, Masque from New Zealand, and the Brotherhood Varsity from Canada.  After a short break, the Megacrew division began.  From top to bottom, pretty much every performance was REALLY good.  Korea’s Lock N LOL Crew had everyone smiling with their clever, educative routine that ended with a message spelling out “TO BE CONTINUED…” – meaning they planned on seeing us in the semi-finals.  And also a really fun routine from Trinidad & Tobago’s TNT – they incorporated a huge hip-hop puppet on stage that had the whole crowd laughing. 

Duchesses of The Royal Family

Legit Status
After the first 25 crews performed, we took a 15 minute break.  By the time we got back, the room was filled to capacity with anticipation to see New Zealand’s Royal Family make their triumphant return to the HHI competition.  The entire room went bonkers, and rightfully so – it was such an amazing, high energy performance.  After a few words from Parris herself, RF exited the stage and nearly the entire crowd followed suit.  It took nearly another 15 minutes for everyone to exit and for the next crew to hit the stage.  The competition continued throughout the night with 25 more crews. Near the last several performances of the night however, I was getting a little sleepy.  It had been another long day and it was absolutely FREEZING in there.  Since I couldn't pay much attention to what was happening on stage, I decided to step out and get coffee.  Unfortunately, I missed some really great routines including the one from Canada’s DM Nation.  When they placed 2nd in the Megacrew division (right behind the Royal Family), I couldn't believe I missed it!!!!!  After all the scores were announced, I quickly went to bed again.  I was exhausted and we had another long day ahead of us with the Semi-Finals.

The room packs out for The Royal Family

I woke up the next morning a little late, and arrived just in time to see the top 5 routines in the Junior Semi-Finals. Americans celebrated for USA’s ChapKIDZ as they moved up from 2nd to 1st position.  Then, as soon as the Varsity division began, I quickly drove back to my hotel to take a shower and get some food.  Luckily, HHI’s Facebook page kept me updated on which crews were performing on stage.  I came back – much more refreshed – to catch the last half of the Varsity crews.  Right before New Zealand’s Masque hit the stage, I decided I was going to sit with all the Kiwis in the crowd and cheer and chant in support for their crew.  I was having a blast!  I even started a huge “MASQUE! MASQUE! MAQUE!” chant that got over pretty well.  When they finished, I moved over and sat with the Philippines and cheered and chanted for LMN and Alliance.  I nearly lost my voice I was yelling so hard!  And I pretty much kept that up till the very end of the Varsity semi-finals.  I was having a great time and many people even personally thanked me for their support.  That's one of my favorite things about HHI - the crowd participation.  I love that each country has their own chant and even if you're not from that country, you still chant-along.  AJ and Mookie (the hosts) do a fantastic job with keeping the crowd entertained too with their jokes and crowd waves.  Check out the 'choreographed wave' they started doing this year.  It was so much fun!

The Adult Division began, and once again, I dipped out to walk around and meet up with some friends.  I got back in time to cheer for the last several crews of the division and for scores.  The Prophecy from the USA was able to move up a couple spots and place in the Finals.  Also, Germany's Keraamika moved up three positions.  

Crowns Up!
When the Megacrew Semi's began, I made sure I wasn't going to miss ANY of the action this time.  Korea's Lock N LOL changed their routine up a bit with a different message at the end that spelt out "TO THE FINALS...".  The room (including myself) went bonkers for that. I finally got to see Canada's DM Nation and boy was that a treat!  Those girls bring the fierceness and intensity matched by no other crews.  After them, The Royal Family performed (again, to a packed room) to another standing ovation. And after them, the crowd remained in their seats in anticipation to see the defending champions from the Philippines, The A-Team.  But as we were waiting, DM Nation had walked into the room and were showered with love and applause.  It was an emotional moment as many of the girls were touched by the crowd's gesture of appreciation.  The defending champs hit the stage and it was obvious that they came to take back their crown.  The competition this year was intense and it seemed that no matter what decisions the judges made, not everyone was going to be happy.  This was certainly proven to be true during score announcements.  After the A Team was announced for 3rd position, everyone was waiting to hear if Canada's DM Nation pulled ahead of The Royal Family.  But to a HUGE surprise, the crew announced for 2nd position was Korea's Lock n LOL crew!  It seemed that EVERYONE in the room was confused now.  The thoughts racing thru my mind at the time were "What if Royal Family didn't place???", and "Maybe HHI felt it was unfair for RF to be in the competition and took them out".  Then it was announced that the Royal Family placed in first position and jaws dropped wide open.  DM Nation did not place and were not moving on to the World Championships.  It was a very confusing - and dare I say, hostile - situation.  As the Royal Family made their way to stage, I believe I heard some "BOO's" (NOT FROM ME!) but they were quickly turned into chants of "D-M! D-M! D-M!".  More than half the audience turned their attention away from the stage and chanted in support of DM Nation - who were standing in the back corner of the room.  Announcements were being made, but they were easily drowned out by chants of "C-A!... N-A!... D-A! WHAT?!?".  It's important to point out that the dancers of DM Nation DID NOT chant- they kept it classy and mostly kept to themselves.  I looked on stage and felt sort of bad.  It was supposed to be a time of celebration for the crews that placed, but it seemed to be overwhelmed by the controversy.  Even as everyone was exiting, support for DM Nation continued.  Outside the ballroom, everyone was still talking about how DM Nation should've placed in the Finals.  Crewleaders of DM were being showered with compliments, love, and support from dancers and spectators.  And just outside the gate, Parris Goebel was even seen having a private conversation with DM's choreographers - I was too far away to hear what was said.  It took about an hour after the show let out, but the controversy began to die down.  At this point, there was nothing anyone could do.  The judges made their decision and it was final.

Courtesy of Pacific Rim Photo Press
As I stated before, I am not a performer.  I am not a dancer.  So I certainly don't qualify to a be a dance judge.  But I'm still confused by why they didn't place.  I saw several comments that DM recycled this routine from a WoD competition in 2014 and that's the reason they didn't do well.  But that doesn't make any sense at all.  HHI World Championship judges are from all over the world.  The likeliness that all 9 judges had watched, recognized that routine and penalized the crew for 'sort of recycling' is a bit ridiculous.  The World of Dance competitions are totally seperate from the Hip Hop International Championships.  And to further make my point, season 5 ABDC Champions Poreotics won a SILVER medal in 2010 with a routine that resembled their 'Hip Hop Nation' and 'Disco Challenge' routines. So HA!

The crew competition was over for now and the next day was dedicated to World Battles.  In the past, I’ve always used to this day to take a break from HHI.  This year, I met up with some friends and spent most of the day at the beach.  We made it back in time to catch the 1-on-1 B-Boy and 2-on-2 All-Styles Battles.  I thoroughly enjoyed everything I saw that night, but the All-Styles 2-on-2’s had me jumping out of my seat!  Congrats to Kannon & Sett from the USA for beating out some amazing teams!

Courtesy of Pacific Rim Photo Press

Sunday was the very last night for HHI 2015.  About an hour away from the Harrah's Resort, the new home of the World Championships was at the Viejas Arena at San Diego State University.  I absolutely LOVED this new venue! Definitely much better than The Orleans Arena in Vegas.  The rows are a little bit more stacked on top of eachother, as opposed to spread out.  So while it still seats a lot of people, it's much more compact and intimate- perfect for large, loud crowd reactions.  Also this year, The Finals were hosted by Mookie!  He's been such a fantastic host throughout the two week competitions and he knows EVERYTHING that's been going on.  Without Mookie, there is no HHI.  He is absolutely the most perfect host for the World Championships.

The show begins with a fun Introduction of Nations ceremony and we get started right away with the World Championships.  Be sure to check out our YouTube channel and Facebook page for all the pictures and videos I took.  I noticed that some of the crews added/changed their routines a little bit for the Finals.  It seemed everyone was leaving their hearts out on that stage.  Before the Medal Presentations, The Living Legend of Hip Hop Award was presented to Ken Swift.  After a few kind words from the B-boy icon, the winners were announced.  Here are the results:

Junior Division


SILVER - Next JR. - Japan


Varsity Division

GOLD - Kana-BOON! - Japan
SILVER - Legit Status - Philippines

BRONZE - J.B. Star Varsity - Japan

Adult Division

GOLD - The Bradas - New Zealand

SILVER - Romancon - Philippines

BRONZE - Kings United India - India

Megacrew Division

GOLD - Lock'N'LOL Crew - Korea

SILVER - The Royal Family - New Zealand

BRONZE - A-Team – Philippines

Probably the most surprising result was that The Royal Family did not walk away with the Gold.  But I was still genuinely happy for all the crews and dancers who competed- even the ones who didn’t win.  As I said, I’m not a dancer (and I’m certainly not a dance judge) so I can’t really comment on any of the judges’ decisions.  But if I was “Fantasy Judging”, I would’ve had The Royal Family take Gold, DM Nation with Silver, and A-Team taking the Bronze.

Well, that’s it!  That was my week at HHI 2015!  As people were filing out of the arena, I congratulated some of the medalists and even took a selfie or two.  I can't say this enough but I had so much fun this year. I met some awesome people and was truly entertained throughout the whole week.  I already can’t wait for next year!
Click here to return to the first page and to leave comments

Friday, August 21, 2015

Ninjaboi's review of ABDC's Crews Control Challenge - did the right crew go home?

Judging Scale
I’ll use the same scale as last time, out of 20.
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.
Super Kinjaz (The Illiance)- “Lean On” by Major Lazer + DJ Snake - 14
Choreography/Foundation - 4 - While most people would agree that Kinjaz strength these past few weeks have been their strong choreography, I don’t think people give Super Cr3w enough credit for their bboy foundation.  After all, a large contingent of Super Cr3w performed with Jabbawockeez as part of their MUS.I.C and Prism shows in Las Vegas.  I think this performance reminded us of that.  From the large group choreoraphy to smaller groups demonstrating both footwork prowress and more precise choreography, I think that there weren’t any major issues with the musicality or complexity of the choreography. Maybe not as strong as some we’ve seen, but by no means sub par.

Wow Moments - 3 - I think at that this point in the competition, most “one of” wow moments (flips here, mills here) unless framed and executed especially well don’t really contribute as much to the Wow Moments.  THey did bring back the Ninja Towers from Season 2, which while normally I would ding them for using the same move we’ve already seen before, I would say they added more to it - they used it as a framing device to tell a story (more below).  The bleacher headstand moment was pretty cool, if a bit sloppy.  And then getting the crowd involved was definitely a “wow moment” - not necessarily complex but still got the audience out of their seats, amirite? The flags didn’t really add much per se (as opposed to if they had done like color guard choreography) and the jumping through the people had been done before so it didn’t add anything.  Overall they had some moments they worked around, but nothing that truly blew your mind.

Flow/Transition/Formations - 3 - Not the strongest this week - aside from the large formation in the beginning it was more disjointed, smaller man pods. Transition wise also a bit more jump-cutty than before, but I did like that one way they worked across the stage from the 3 man choreography across to the bleacher headstands, then back across to the 3 man choreography again, before cutting.  The set up of the two towers was off camera so I can’t really comment on that unless I see a behind the scenes.

Dynamics/Execution - 4 - So on the execution front, it wasn’t the most clean.  Were there unforced errors or maor trip ups? No not necessarily, so I can’t really subtract points.  As far as other dynamics go, I like how they incorporated the story telling element.  If you pay attention in the beginning, you see the blue ninjas (I’m assuming Kinjaz) try to steal the ABDC trophy from the yellow clan (Super cr3w).  They get caught and have to escape the traps (the falling ninja towers) Indiana Jones style before they begin combat, and then team up via voiceover.  I think that theme of “ In Unity There Is Strength” was carried throughout well, including unifiying the audience to their cause. Even their song choice “Just Need Someone to Lean On” went with the whole theme, as were their identical costumes (aside from the scarves at their waist) allowing them to transition smoothly. So from a conceptual point of view I dig it. I think this concept and intelligent thinking is what pushed me over from giving them just a 3 in this category.

I Am Quest - “The Saints” by Andy Mieno ft KB + Trip Lee - 14
Choreography/Foundation - 3 - A bit more choreography here than in some of their solo performances, though I would argue the large group’s was not as intense or complex as the other group’s. My favorite choreo bit were Moon/Feng/Dtrix all together grooving, as well as the Waacking of IaMmE’s girls before Bebo was thrown.

Wow Moments - 4 - If Kinjaz and Super Cr3w are masters of Choreography and Foundation, Quest and IaMmE are masters of the Wow Moment.  Between AXYZM founders Pacman, Moon and Hok pioneering the brain bang, to the physical flips and tricks, they know not only what tricks to do, but how to do them. The Brain Bangs at the beginning just get so much more intense when you have that many more individuals to work with.  I also want to call out Bebo’s turtle hops.  Those aren’t especially new, but the musicality, and control he has was great - as the music softened, he reduced the distance and height he jumped accordingly. The AXYZM tutting around the judges head was okay.  It wasn’t particularly complex compared to what they’ve done before, but it was more than just having the audience wave flags around, and still a nice moment.  The bleachers scene here was a lot more impressive visually than Super Kinjaz’s.

Flow/Transition/Formations - 3 - Similar to The Illiance’s, there was a few large group segments, filled in between primarily by 3-4 man groups doing certain solos with a bit of cutting between. Again there was a segment that panned to three different groups from left to right, showcasing the choreo, the fast foot and the bboying footwork. Still felt a bit choppy, and outside the brain bang segments which required precision, none of the formations felt that inspired.

Dynamics/Execution - 4 - While the Illiance wasn’t perhaps as clean due to them having more members and less time to refine everything, I Am Quest definitely stayed clean, enough for them to get an additional point.  Yes there were some sloppy moments, such as the footwork, or one of the tutting sections by Hok (if you slow down the video you can see he’s not in sync).  But overall it was fairly crisp and clean.  I also think that their energy and facials were on point and contributed a bit to people’s enjoyment overall, particularly DTrix and Emilio (coincidence they were in the package together? I think not).

So I know a lot of people thought that I Am Quest clearly out danced Super Kinjaz, but personally, before I even gave them the scores, I felt that they were both around the same level overall; even if I was off by a point here or two, it was not the blow out/robbing that I think most people are making it out to be. Maybe the reason for this perception is that I feel people have an inherent bias toward the Wow Moment factor (since it sticks in your mind more), which I Am Quest did do better in.  For me I could have honestly just done a coin toss to determine who would be safe, or even just go with all four groups are at risk. As far as why the judges selected for Super Kinjaz to go on, I would hypothesize that due to the “challenge “so to speak being the idea of two groups coming together as one, The Illiance’s focus on that theme of Unity probably is what put them in the safe category.

Kinjaz - “Dance Box” by KRNFX - 16
Choreography/Foundation - 4 - Was it large group choreography? No it wasn’t.  But we’ve seen Kinjaz do that. We know they can do that. And we want to see them do more.  So here is that more, while still somehow still being sure to be unmistakably Kinjaz.  Their isolations were on point as always, the bboy flows from the Twinz, the grooves to the breakdowns, and the popping/animation foundation all were present at their typical high level.

Wow Moments - 4 - Wow this is weird. Giving Kinjaz a Wow score as high as their choreography.  My rationale is this - the tricks they did would get them a 3 - The Bboying segments were solid in and of themselves (especially the one at the top of the stairs including a stall in midair of his leg).  What bumps it up a full point in my mind is the fact that they were dancing to live music, specifically the human voice. I don’t know how many of ya’ll have danced to the human voice a capella live, but that is so difficult, second only to dancing to no music at all, and some would even claim that no music is even easier. Props to KRNFX for being able to keep it consistent the whole time, and props to the Kinjaz for being able to adapt and match the texture of his voice as if it were a recorded song.

Flow/Transitions/Formations - 4 - I think the fact that it was single shot camera means that it was designed around having a great flow, and that shows.  Maybe the formations weren’t as large and complex as in past weeks, but the transitions were great - every “scene” was led into by the previous one. Granted, I think some transitions were weaker than others. However, the flow and build up was well done - It would start off slow and quiet with a relatively simple breakbeat, before going into a more complex one, with the movement matching, before easing up, with a push and pull between the two states.

Dynamic/Execution - 4 - Okay so first off, I am not saying that this routine is as clean as some of their others. It was not as crisp nor as precise. But that made sense, given the music they were dancing to wasn’t necessarily the most produced or overly refined as well. It was as clean and crisp as you *should* be when you’re dancing to something as raw and acoustic as the human voice. I would give their cleanliness overall a 3. The extra point comes from the rest of the dynamics in this piece. I think the point hit on by the judges of KRNFX being as crucial a member of Kinjaz to this performance is totally valid - they worked on the relationship between music and dance here.  All groups I’m sure are cognizant to be dancing with a song as opposed to dancing to a song (there is a difference).  However, here they way they framed and picked their choreography and musicality hits here and there really accentuated that aspect of performance and dancing.  On top of that, just the little bits of creativity where they interpreted everyday things (using a defilbirator, talking to someone like the SIms, and being Goro from Mortal Kombat) through their dance was hella creative.

Super Cr3w - “I’ by Kendrick Lamar - 13
Choreography/Foundation - 3 - On the foundation front, it felt like this routine was more weighted toward the wow moments.  Not that there wasn’t good toprock in there, which is where the bulk of their foundation comes from.

Wow Moments - 4 - Super Cr3w is veering dangerously to the point at which they are just trying to cram in too many small tricks that they all lose their impact. They still have a few spectacular standout moments.  The first freeze on the bleachers on beat was very dope - for some reason the angle of the neck at that point got me. There was the commando in the middle, followed by very impressive slides by multiple members of the groups.  Their big highlight,the manhole section, wasn’t necessarily that impressive aside from the fact that going from platform to platform and dancing on it was rather perilous - you can see the pods shaking as they dance.  I really liked Ben’s solo/breakdown actually. It was more focused on footwork, and the fact he made it flashy and impressive is always great for me. And of course the ending impact of the flip off the back, with everyone who had been doing munchmills on the back showing great response/musicality to the impact.

Flow/Transitions/Formations - 2 - Somehow this piece felt both like it was too busy and too empty at the same time? Which is a really weird way to describe it but its the only way I can think of that fits. On the one hand, it seems oddly busy in that it’s broken into a lot of subsections (roughly the Subway Intro, which went on too long, the commando in the center that went too long with the slides, a rather forgettable foundation section, the manholes, then the group munchmills ending with the flip off the back), But at the same time, each segment doesn’t feel like it’s a complete segment.  

Dynamics/Execution - 4 - Again, this was not the most precise, cleanest performance. There weren’t any major crashes or falls though, so they would get a 3 on execution alone.  The dynamic that added the extra point for me was their authenticity to bboying in New York, back to the roots. Living in New York how, despite the crackdowns on the dancers who say “ITS SHOWTIME” you still see dancers in the subway and on the streets.  Certainly going back old school, with teh denim graffitti jackets, gold chains, and bucket hats/berets. Even the manhole section is relevant today as the dancers will get up right in your face, as they did here. I would say their use of the bleachers was, as the judges said, the most creative this season yet. Small musicality bits of matching the lyrics “to God” to prayer caught me, for some reason.

IaMmE - Fire Power “Wolfgang Gartner” - 13
Choreography/Foundation - 3 - Yay they kept up the more choreography aspect they had from the group performance.  I really actually liked Emilio’s choreoraphy (I assume it was his, since he was in front) on the bleachers once they got off the boards. It was fresh and a style we hadn’t really seen from IaMmE so far this season. Same with the choreo 747 and Moon was doing while he was doing his handstand, and the choreo while Moon was off the board (I think he meant to be off the board at that point, since his choreo is different? It just wasn’t framed as well).

Wow Moment - 4 - As usual this is their strong point, though to be honest this week I felt underwhelmed.  Obviously the difficulty of the smartboards throughout ups the wow factor, which is a big part of why I kept their Wow factor at a 4 instead of a 3 as I was considering. That said, Obviously Emlio’s handstand on the board is impressive… but it’s only seems impressive because he did it on a board.  Likewise, his jump off the board/stage was definitely difficult considering the board… but again that’s only considering the board.    Bebo’s walking over the board-riders was great, though slowdown we had seen previously, and in the same context, so it feels like a straight up recycling as opposed to reinventing it.  I think the brain banging while on the board was cool, if framed a bit imperfectly.

Flow/Transitions/Formations - 2 - I think this is where the boards came back to bite them the most.  Formations weren’t impressive at all and actually at times I struggled to see any reasonable formation.  Transitions were nonexistent, since they just wheeled into place. And again, the structure of the performance were a series of really cool individual ideas just strung together without a real overarching theme.  Let’s start with this tower on wheels, then move to a segment over in this corner while everyone changes, then come back and scramble into this new formation to do a short segment, then cut to a jump off the stage, then have a random brain bang we set up during the cut, then end on the bleachers.  Again, like Supercr3w they had the issue of trying to do too many individual ideas (each of which were cool), but not devleoping any of them further.

Dynamics/Execution - 4 - I’m mixed on the cleanliness and execution presented by the smartboards.  On one hand, there were moments where they definitely distracted me and removed me from the experience of just enjoying the dancing.  I can’t watch the Moon solo segment without noticing 747’s board wobbling back and forth because it always catches my eye.  On the other, it did smooth down a lot of things and is an incredibly genius concept. Felt a bit more America’s Got Talent than Best Dance Crew, to be honest. I do wish they had keep the long cloaks that at least somewhat hid the wheels - I was pretty disappointed when those came off since it ruined the illusion.  I’ll also give them points for attitude and facials as well. The Girls and Emilio particularly were fierce and gave us the creepy factor necessary for this piece to work.

Quest Crew - “Take You There” Jack U - 18

Choreography/Foundation - 3 - If there was any criticism for this particular performance, it would be that they were rather choreography light. There weas the section near the beginning with Feng at the front, which I rather liked, but aside from that not much except the tricks.

Wow Moments - 5 - This performance was almost nothing but wow moments.  And to be honest, most of these were new ones that I hadn’t seen from them before, either from on or off the show.  Starting with a threading combo with Hok and Jolee, that really shows a fusion of Quest’s two strengths of having complex interactions and physicality.  This built up later to a full human thread, followed immediately by Jolee’s slides, before Steve led us to a full human Brain Bang.  Honestly I would have given them a 4 here alone, but what pushed them to a 5 was that insane bench moment.  I can call that probably one of the top 10 moments in ABDC history, if not higher.  

Flow/Transitions/Formations - 5 - Similar to Kinjaz’s one shot performance, this one flowed super well due to being choreographed with no cuts in mind would give them at least a 4.  Even if it was several distinct segments, each segment flowed smoothly into the next, from the threads to choreo to Jolee’s power, back to center stage, to the Brain Bang to the Bench tricks.  And good lord the bench tricks demonstrates how flow/transitions can be wow moments all of their own. There weren’t any real formations per se but aside from that, this was near flawless. Having the performance come full circle with the opening position identically to the end position was great. Also the performance structure was phenomenal, showing what they are really great at - constructing performances to flow. It started off slow then sped up before settling into a groove, and drawing back (with power of all things) before intensifying again before the climax of the bench at which point they ended on a high note, while still managing to “cool down.” Also, looking at the performance again, you see earlier tricks foreshadow later ones.  Hok and Jolee’s threads foreshadow the full body thread later.  Likewise, Jolee’s being dragged around sliding on the stage foreshadows the bench being swung around.  And Steve sliding through under the bench foreshadows the bench being pulled through under Hok and Jolee. Masterfully done

Dynamics/Execution - 5 - I think the most emotional performance we have had all season so far was Super Cr3w’s episode 1 performance.  Or at least it was until this performance.  Maybe it was the music choice, but the emotional rawness shown isn’t exactly that common on the ABDC stage, so it is worth noting. I really do enjoy Quest’s performances when they take themselves seriously (though not too seriously).  The dichotomy between last week and this week really highlights that.  There is complexity in a minimalist performance. Execution wise, there may have been… maybe one element that was a little off, but you would be hard pressed to really call it that.  
Closing Remarks

In short, for this week my rankings (out of 20) are
1) Quest Crew - 18
2) Kinjaz - 16
3+4) Super Kinjaz and I aM Quest - 14
5+6) Super Cr3w and IaMmE- 13

Overall across two weeks, the totals (out of 100) are

1) Kinjaz - 14 + 16 + 14+ 15 + 15 = 74
2) Quest Crew - 18 + 14 + 11 + 15 + 14 = 72
2) Super Cr3w - 14 + 13 + 14 + 19 + 12 = 72
4) I.aM.mE - 13 + 14 + 12 + 12 + 12 = 63
5) Elektrolytes - (12*) + (12*) + 13+ 13 + 11 = 61
6) We Are Heroes - (9*) + (9*) + (9*) + 10 + 8 = 45

So the question remains if the right group was sent home.  I’m inclined to say yes - between Quest and IaMmE, Quest clearly had the stronger performance overall.  They did everything IaMmE did - Brain Bangs, choreography, physical wow moments - but added on this emotional aspect as well as better structure and flow throughout the performance.  Between Super Cr3w and Kinjaz, Super Cr3w would have gone home.

Some other random thoughts from me.

  • The judges really are growing on me - TPain especially who I feel is rather misunderstood due to his autotune days
  • Can we all agree that the real winner of tonight’s show was Moon with his sickeningly sweet proposal to his girlfriend? Like come on man, that’s not even fair. I do sort of wish IaMmE would be able to stay through till next week when we could have seen his dance for her, but such is life.
  • I really do like the idea of Crews Control and wish that somehow every performance could be like that with total crew direction and production.
  • I do find it kind of sketch how they swapped up the way of determining the bottom two from “worst two” from last week to this megacrew challenge.  I’ve got my eyes on you, producers.
  • Oh man. Only two more episodes to go. Let’s hope they keep it up through the end.

Just a reminder that the performance that was taped on August 20th will air on the 26th, and that there will be no taping on the 27th, as the final episode will be live right before the VMAs.  We’ll have live chats and party rooms here then so catch you around here then.

Till then, stay funky

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