Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ninjaboi recap & ratings of ABDC VMA Costume Challenge: was there biting? #abdc

Click here to return to the first page and to leave comments.

A word on biting and originality
There has been a bit of discussion this week regarding whether particular crews “bit” or copied certain moves from other dance groups, without giving them credit.  When you bring together passionate knowledgeable dance fans, it’s bound to happen that you will notice similarities between what different groups do. And unlike academic literature where there is a bibliography where you can cite your sources and inspirations, unless the dance is presented in a workshop where a dancer can break down the origin of their moves, ABDC does not offer crews a platform to explain the dance themselves.  
Let me be clear. Dancing is an extremely personal endeavor, and as such, if a dancer creates or invents a move, their contribution to the art form should be acknowledged, and groups should not pass moves off as their own original creation when it is indeed not.  Similarly, if a group lifts an entire performance from another group, that is wrong and should not be tolerated.  At the same time, in today’s world where dance moves are easily viewable online, and this new digital ecosystem allows us to be inspired by others where previously before, it becomes harder to say “who did it first.”  
At what point does a move become common? In a bboying example, someone had to have done the headspin first, the flare, the six step, etc.  And yet today they are considered foundational moves that everyone should know, and not considered biting.  Dance grows and evolves when you take something someone else has done that you have been inspired by, add something of your own to it, taking it to the next level.  In another bboy example, Poe One has admitted to copying the original airchair, but the state of airchair now is only because he copied the original from someone and added something to it. See the following video, which not only contains PoeOne’s opinion, but also Neguin’s opinion as well on biting (spoilers - he considers being bit by someone to be a compliment because they like the move, so long as they’re not under the illusion that they made the move first).

With regard to how biting will be considered in this review, I will not name specific names or moves in the review itself. I find the whole process to add an extremely critical and negative tone to the review, when all I want to do is spread positivity and constructive criticism.  In addition, there is very much the possibility that I am only aware of a certain segment of the dance population and another, so it would not be fair for me to call out only one crew when there very well might be biting from other crews that I am not aware of. It is very much a fuzzy line as to what degree something can be “biting.” I want BBDC to be a place where we can come together and enjoy the dances we see for what they are, and recognize the work the crews put on every week for our enjoyment.
Judging Scale

I’ll use the same scale as last time, out of 20. One small change to the Dynamics/Execution/Challenge segment - I will break out the Challenge score and the Everything else score, and that category’s score will be the average, rounded down.

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 week’s challenge, I am interpreting it as “how well did the crew use and integrate their clothes into their routine.” As far as whether their interpretation of what their clothes are, I’ll assume that their interpretation is correct and go in with that assumption, looking at their execution.
Performance Ratings

Super Cr3w - “Baby Baby” by Tropakillaz - 14

Choreo/Tech/Foundation - 3 - While they did have solid foundation this week, it quite honestly was a bit too limited in quantity for me to give more than a 3 score. For what it was, it was pretty solid (and very clean) toprock/uprock, and a touch of footwork flow.

Wow Moments - 4 - The big moments this piece were definitely memorable - the human wheel, the hat trick segment, and Neguin’s solo at the end.  Probably not as well noticed was a triple human flag segment (between the hat trick and Neguin’s solo) that is very very impressive.

Transitions/Formations/Flow - 3 - Speaking of Neguin’s solo, while I do realize that he and Lil G are the new members of the crew, and definitely a world class soloist, it is getting a bit predictable that they will throw him a solo for that wow moment.  Also aside from the transition near the beginning into the human pyramid before the human wheel, the transitions and formations weren’t terribly outstanding - the background members during the hat trick were a bit awkward and just “taking up space” while frozen in position, as were the members in the background of Neguin’s solo, as they went all Magic Mike on us. That said, they do receive praise for the transition of how they got their clothes off stage during the human wheel, super clean.

Challenge/Execution/Misc - 4 (4 Challenge; 4 Other) - When Supercr3w was talking about the challenge, I thought to myself that bboys only do things with their clothes when it involves taking off the clothes, or by doing a hat trick.  So it was no surprise when they did both.  I do like how they incorporated the removing of clothes part into the human wheel, which I didn’t notice on my own, I must confess.  The progressive stripping a la Vegas is probably the simplest way you could go with the challenge, but done in fairly creative ways give it the boost. There were no major crashes during the performance, and the whole vibe of Mike Murda being a DJ, with the two headspinners being records (and later the human flag footwork) reminds me a bit of Ichigeki’s tribute to DJs and music from Battle of the Year 2005, one of my favorite bboy sets of all time.

Kinjaz - “Turn Down For What” by Lil Jon - 14
Choreo/Tech/Foundation - 4 - As usual, this is their forte.  The more and more I watch the set, the more I notice little musicality hits. Maybe their arms this watch through, then their legs another, hitting every note, minor or major. I especially liked their use of Vinh’s “Break Ya Neck” choreography, and after watching it in comparison, I do see some elements used from Pat Cruz’s “Turn Down For What” set from The Company’s closer to Urban Paradise 2014. Their chroeography definitely reflected the ratchetness/grimy buckness of the song.

Wow Moments - 3 -  There were a bit more wow moments this week for htem, though nothing super extraordinary.  I don’t know if you want to include the magic zipper here, but Mike Song’s Tailed Beast moment, as well as the Lor Brothers aka Twinjaz having their bboy combo.  Specifically on the Mike Song moment, if you look watch the dancers in the back holding the tails, they actually are doing fairly precise footwork and manipulation of the red carpet tails, often jumping up and down between levels on the bleachers.

Transitions/Formations/Flow - 4 - I feel kind of let down this week, since so far Kinjaz has been able to provide us routines that didn’t really rely on the camera cuts for transitions.  That was one of their big differentiators from all the other groups.  That said, the structure of their performance really matched the crazy style of the song - a slow build up before the solo during the drop, and then building it up again to the end of the routine.  The formations during the beginning, as well as how the members peeled off for the different segments was interesting.

Challenge/Execution/Misc - 3 (2 Challenge; 4 Other) - Challenge wise,  while a bit abstract, I can roll with the idea of using the red carpet as a costume.  While I think the whole Mike Song solo with the red carpet tails (did anyone else get the Naruto reference to tailed beasts? He definitely threw in a Rasengan at the end there), it was pretty much limited to that one segment. Yeah there was the mask thing, the disappearing “fire” handkerchief, and the mask change, those felt more “tacked on” than fully integrated into the routine.  Execution wise though, As usual they have the cleanest, most musically-sensitive choreography in the competition so far. I also love how they continue their dance after the music is over - if you watch their behind the scenes video you see that is all choreographed still - That’s something I liked from earlier seasons, when a crew would stay in character until long after the music was over.

IaMmE - “Dance Of the Sugar Plum Fairy” by Pentatonix - 12
Choreo/Tech/Foundation - 3 - They are doing a bit more choreography, I’ll give them that, but they do need to take Frankie’s words of taking a moment to just dance, without any brain banging, to heart. There was tutting during the shadow dancing part, and the housing where 747 messed up, as well as the choreography where Pacman was in front. All fairly simple, but at least it’s there more.

Wow Moments - 5 - As usual, IaMmE has mastered the art of the wow moment. They’ve mastered it in fact, to the point where nearly the entire routine can be Wow Moments, but none of them feel stale or boring. The shadow dancing is always impressive (Academy of Villains have done it, the winners of Asia’s Got Talent did it), and yet they kept it fresh.  Bebo’s walking turtles and trenchcoat flip, and their Brain Bang tutting were all impressive in their own right. I know there are other routines in ABDC’s history that required an overhead camera for them to make sense, but none of them accomplished as much as this particular set, with the striking red and black costumes and formatoins.

Transitions/Formations/Flow - 1 - This is my biggest annoyance/problem with the way IaMmE relies on the camera cuts for their routines. Supercr3w and Quest could have done their routine with no camera cuts. Kinjaz and Elektrolytes with two cuts/perspective changes. IaMmE needed six camera/perspective changes, on top of requiring a specialized screen to do the shadow dancing and special lighting filters.  While I get that maybe your concept is abstract enough that there’s no real way to smoothly transition, and that if the primary viewership (online/on tv) will be subject to cuts so  why not make the most of them, I think part of the appeal of ABDC is to see one coherent set of dancing that smoothly flows into each other.  This resembles more a series of 10-15 second mini-concepts that are strung together with no cohesiveness between them. That said, I think they matched the… sense of mystery (if that’s the right term) that goes along with the Sugar Plum fairy song. slowly building up to that release at the end with the grand finale.

Challenge/Execution/Misc - 3 (5 Challenge;2 Other) - I’m convinced that Pacman is a being from another dimension, with the way his mind works to come up with “shadows as the clothes that everyone wears.”  I’d like some of what he’s having. In all seriousness, they integrated the theme of shadows thorughout their entire routine, more thoroughly than any other crew, quite honestly.  As far as dynamics and execution though, I’m going to have to ping them hard, for 747’s major error when he was front and center during the small housing segment. It’s not even that he just messed up, but that he was visibly confused about what he should be doing.

Elektrolytes - “Feel Right” by Mark Ronson ft Mystikal - 13
Choreo/Tech/Foundation - 3 - Maybe it’s because it’s another Mark Ronson song, but this actually had the same energy/vibe as Super Cr3w’s Uptown Funk routine from last week. There was locking and a James Brown solo at some point, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Mark Ronson’s songs definitely go for that direction.  That said, I actually liked how did their choreography this week.  They incorproated the whip and the nae nae, and the way they threw in the hunched over/back cracking moments into their routine really gave it personality.

Wow Moments - 4 - Elektrolytes had been the champions of physically intensive wow moments, so while they still kept those in, it’s a bit surprising that the moment that sticks out most is their over the head solo, especially since it was almost like a transition right after IaMmE’s overhead ending. This overhead segment is especially creative I think, due to the illusion they went for at first with it appearing to be a normal set up before you slowly realized what it was.  Back-rock dancing is super difficult since it’s hard to move around, so props to them for that segment.  That aside, the walkers and flipping were pretty cool, if fairly par for the course from them at this point, and so not quite as impressive.

Transitions/Formations/Flow - 3 - It was pretty good.  On one hand the forced perspective from overhead does mess with the flow a bit, but it was so good and necessary to the piece.  Transitions were a bit in the “walk into place” but the formations themselves were fairly varied. Nothing too stand out, but nothing horrible either. I do really like how they didn’t restrict themselves to either straight on facing the audience, or 90 degrees facing the bleachers, but were sometimes just askew overall.

Challenge/Execution/Misc - 3 - (2 Challenge; 4 Other) - I’m really surprised by Elektrolytes this season. Before I wouldn’t have pegged them as a crew that exactly had a ton of charisma or super expressive unique personality (at least compared to some other groups).  But the past two performacnes just oozed with that personality.  Maybe it’s that lack of being held back by the inanity of the producers from Season 7, but the Greasers routine and this old man routine are probably their two best on the show, in my opinion. And honestly, sometimes you just need that personality/fun dynamic to push a performance over the edge. Challenge wise, I wasn’t particularly impressed.  They didn’t really use their clothes so much as old men.  They acted old men, sure, but their clothes never really played into their dancing like it did with the other groups. I do kind of miss that we won’t be able to see how their continuous story (Big Bad Wolf watched by Greasers who later remember their youth as Old Men) would have ended up, similar to how Jabbawockeez connected all their performances.

Quest Crew - “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, ft Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj - 12
Choreo/Tech/Foundation - 2 - The only real choreo moment that I’m counting is that moment during Nicki’s breakdown (about 30 seconds in).  Honestly, the choreo wasn’t that great, half of it was booty shaking, and it was not clean or coordinated at all between any of them.

Wow Moments - 4 - If you look at the wow moments presented, they actually are fairly impressive, if par for the course for Quest.  Some were flubbed, some not.  The successful ones include Steve’s double diving through clothes before flip kicking mid air (which we’ve sen before); DTrix being picked up from doing ballet turns to air flares; Hok’s brain banging using his hair, and the crotch collision (which I’m fairly certain we’ve seen before) followed up by the three-pants jumping and flipping; and Hok’s shablam right on point at the end. Some that failed included a triple flip on beat (which wasn’t on beat, ruining the effect), the backflip to head (which we’ve seen before) which was kind of off in that it didn’t land straight), and the diving through another person’s body (a Quest staple by now and hardly surprising) which failed when the circle fell apart mid-dive.  Overall, due to the mix of successful and unsuccessful stunts, and the fact that the vast majority of these were recycled things which we’ve definitely seen before on the show, it averages out to a slightly above average score

Transitions/Formations/Flow - 3 - I think the flow overall was okay.  The choruses were focused on group wow moments, the verse was on (attempted) choreography, and the bridge was on solo wow moments. I think the transitions and formations could have been a bit more interesting - they were never really focused in just one formation, but were always moving between places to set up for the next stunt.  I do appreciate that instead of relying on jump cuts, they used the wardrobe, which fit into their theme, as a way to transition, similar to how you would on a regular stage.

Challenge/Execution/Misc - 3 - (4 Challenge; 3 Other) - Again, part of Quest’s success is not only how they use wow moments that somehow feel fresh, but also in the personality they channel, and how well they integrate the challenge in their routine.  They were fully committed to their sassy femme personas, and went all in on the ways they could use their clothes in their dance. It wasn’t just once or twice that they did something with the clothes,  I don’t count that they had a femme personality, but the actual things they did, with the leggings, the diving through the skirt, and using Hok’s hair. Like I said, the whole piece did feel kind of sloppy to me and not very precise throughout, but that execution is offset by the energy and dynamic they brought in their personality.  On a side note, Quest is a very smart move. They know TPain was impressed by the Ryan landing on his dick? They upped the ante by having two dicks collide.  Frankie likes Hok’s hair? Use Hok’s hair, sampling his comment from week 1.  Frankie has a singer sister and is a big LGBT advocate? Use his sister’s song and cross dress. Very very smart and strategic, given that they know who is judging their routines up until the end.
Closing Remarks
In short, for this week my rankings (out of 20) are

1) Super Cr3w - 14
2) Kinjaz - 14
3) Elektrolytes - 13
4) I.aM.mE - 12
5) Quest Crew - 11

Overall across two weeks, the totals (out of 60) are

1) Super Cr3w - 14+ 19 + 12 = 45
2) Kinjaz - 14+ 15 + 15 = 44
3) Quest Crew - 11 + 15 + 14 = 40
4) Elektrolytes - 13+ 13 + 11 = 37
5) I.aM.mE - 12 + 12 + 12 = 36
6) We Are Heroes - (9*) + 10 + 8 = 27

*We Are Heroes’ Week 3 score is based on the average per week score while they were on the show.

Was the right crew sent home? It depends. If you look at cumulative scores, Quest deserved to stay. If you look at who did the challenge better, Quest deserves to stay. If you look at this one week in particular, then no, Elektrolytes should have stayed.  That said, it is what it is.  I will say that it’s interesting to note that the crews that both had members absent last week and had to scramble as a result were the ones put in the bottom, so these last minute emergencies really do have an impact overall. That said, best of luck to both Rudy and Joey and godspeed to both their recoveries!

Who do I expect to be in the bottom next week? Going by scores (either cumulative or this week only) Quest and IaMmE should be the ones in the bottom.  However, I don’t expect Quest to be in the bottom again due to having universal praises and a standing ovation from the judges.  Super Cr3w was criticized yes, but only really for not having the same level of energy as the previous week, which isn’t really a fair criticism. Kinjaz was fairly criticized for having somewhat predictable routines, so I could see them in the bottom to give them a kick into gear and motivate them.  IaMmE was generally praised for their creativity, but Frankie did bring up also that they need to dance more, so I can see them being in the bottom as well. Overall I’m predicting Kinjaz, and one of either SuperCr3w or IaMmE.

Other notes
  • The judges are stepping up their game with more criticism for the crews, which are valid.  I hope the ABDC producers, or whoever is in charge of editing, really makes an effort to let the audience know what feedback the judges have, not slanted purely toward praise.  The crews do get these critiques live, and the judges in interviews have shown they have the knowledge. They just need that conveyed to the audience.
  • The opening number was okay to meh, definitely not as good as the other two. Between the multiple weeks of 20 hour days, and working on their own routines, I bet that it’s hard for them to really refine these segments. That said, props to Nappytabs for doing their best and keeping things interesting.
  • TPain can get down, but people shouldn’t be surprised, given that his career has been all about getting turnt in the club
  • I really like how IaMmE used their video segment to really explain and pick apart their routine.  If the crews/producers used these segments more for that and less for sob stories, I think that could really add to the appeal of the show.
  • On Frankie’s comments about gender after Quest Crew’s performances - I have a few issues with this.  First, him saying that it’s never been done before really kind of ignores the whole Vogue Evolution thing, and having the legendary transgender voguer Leiomy herself on stage, especially with the controversy that arose after Lil Mama’s comments.  Secondly, while I do appreciate the historic time it is for LGBT rights in this country, and the ability of dance to tackle social issues, I kind of have a feeling that Quest’s routine wasn’t really meant to make a statement like that, based on the semi-joking manner in which it transitioned from a hardcore masculine video package  with breaking wood and kicking fences, with that juxtaposition being the joke. Though they wouldn’t obviously say that after what Frankie said. Insert complaints here of politics in my dance show grumble grumble.

That said, hope you all have a great week (or couple of days really depending on when this goes up) before the next episode airs. Leave a (respectful) comment back on the main page to keep the conversation going. Remember to check in on Blogging Best Dance Crew at 11EST for a live chat, followed by a party room afterwards.

Till then, stay funky