Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ninjaboi's review of ABDC8's Premiere

It’s been a while since I used my rating scale, and since this is a special season, might as well break out a new scale to reflect my updated knowledge/tastes in dance. Each category is out of 5, for a total of 20.

Choreography/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 neceessarily 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: 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.
Super Cr3w - “Latch” by Disclosure ft Sam Smith - 12

Choreography/Foundation: 3 - While these bboys definitely showed us that they are adept at power moves (especially their newest additions) and gave us hint of funkstyles, the bulk of their group choreography was some basic housesteps and what looked like battle commandos adapted for the stage. While okay and interesting, it wasn’t particularly compelling to me, especially in relation to other sets

Blow Ups/Wow Moments: 4 - This set definitely showed off their two newest members, Neguin and Lil G, who are known for their crazy power.  Neguin particularly wtih the headstand combo on the bleachers, and Lil G with his solo in the middle of the semi circle were of note.  Some other stunts they included were some human flags, and the cheerleaderesque throw at the end (though I wasn’t as big a fan of htis last one)

Transitions/Composition: 2 - Probably the weakest part of this set was how little it flowed together. There were definitely some transitions that relied on video cutting and editing to make flow smoothly for the tv audience (going from the 3 person bleachers to the four on stage sudden).  None of the formations were particularly outstanding either, mostly either V or two horizontal lines.

Dynamics/Execution: 3 - Given that they went with a song without a strong breakbeat (which surprised me), I can see that they definitely went for a different, more artsy feel with this piece.  Small beat-kills (see Neguin’s solo at the beginning) added more dimension to this piece.
I.aM.mE - “Work” by Iggy Azalea - 12

Choreography/Foundation: 2 - Sadly, I think the pendulum has swung from I.aM.mE’s days as Marvelous Motion in Houston as a choreography-focused crew.  They only real studio choreography I saw was a brief section right before Tam’s first flip, and a bit of popping foundation right after the Bebo on shoulders illusion.

Blow Ups/Wow Moments: 4 - In my mind, I.aM.mE’s strength always were these Wow moments. Again they may not have been flips or tricks originally, but the brain banging sections specifically are meant to be centerpieces to build the set around, working into and out of those big moments.  The addition of Tam, Scarlet and Bebo in the crew have actually swayed things toward the more high flying side of wow factor, with Tam’s splits and Twirls with Bebo’s bboying stalls giving them more moments to build around. The tabletop tutting section, the table illusions were classic brain bang, and the stool-top back to back tutting mixed with the stool flipping, and Tam’s aforementioned stunts gave this to them. Heck, there was even a moment that mixed both, with the illusion of how Bebo was on 747’s shoulders,before switching to Pacman then Emilio.  

Transitions/Composition: 3 - To be honest, when I take a step back and look at the piece, it actually is pretty disjointed.  There’s one part that’s on top of the table. One part that’s choreo right after that. Then the table illusion. Then a brief popping section followed by some more tutting then the finale split.  It almost felt too crowded to me in this piece, very frenetic. And honestly, a lot of the formations felt lacking/loose to me (which is ironic given how tight their illusion work is).  However the fact that they were able to smoothly transition between each segment almost imperceptibly is impressive, so it evens out.

Dynamics/Execution: 3 - While there were some cleanliness issues (most notably what looked like an almost fall by one of the girls on the table), I would say that some clever bits more than made up for it, as well as the masterful prop use. Examples include matching the paper plane thrown to the word plane in the lyrics, and a subtle call outs to other crews.  The dancing matched the texture of the song too, so it fits.
Elektrolytes - “Big Bad Wolf” by Duck Sauce - 11

Choreography/Foundation: 1 - I don’t really know how I can judge this when even after multiple viewings I can’t really pinpoint a particular section that was straight up choreo or even foundation? Maybe there was a moment when there was a brief house step thrown in, but honestly not much at all.  Even if they had gone with straight up house (which you can totally do to the song) that would have given me something to work with.

Blow Ups/Wow Moments: 5 - Where Elektrolytes lacked in choreography in my mind, they definitely have wow moments to spare.  If I recall correctly some of their family owns martial arts studios, and it shows, with lots of martial arts inspired kicks and punches and that chain section. Very few crews in ABDC’s history I think can match them in this regard on pure physicality.

Transitions/Composition: 2 - A lot of their big moments were kind of telegraphed to me, and their formations honestly weren’t so inspiring. Maybe this was a result of camera editing/cutting, but it honestly felt a lot more disjointed even than Supercr3w’s performance with regard to using the bleachers and stage. The biggest issue, I think however is that the energy level of the piece didn’t vary at all. It was always high energy tricks, all the time, never giving us a chance to breathe.  When everything is blowing up in your face, you get desensitized to that and it no longer is as impressive in the long run.

Dynamics/Execution: 3 - I do like their steampunk costume, and the fact that they did go with a theme.  They did certainly make use of the new stage fully. I do think some of the stunts just felt sloppy in execution as well, but not horribly so.
Kinjaz - “Fine China” by Chris Brown - 15

Choreography/Foundation: 4 - Of every crew in this episode, they had the longest segment that was pure choreography.  Granted, they already had choreography to this song, but I will never fault a crew for using pre-show material that they may already have. Their pedgiree as some of the best community/industry choreographers both on the teaching and competition circuit really shows. Out of a 1:15 performance, approximately :45 was dedicated to their choreography, which is far more than any other crew, or at least it feels that way.

Blow Ups/Wow Moments: 2 - I actually waffled a bit on this score, between a 2 and a 3.  Honestly, the sheer precision of some of the moments that weren’t particularly huge (the jump at the beginning, the isolations with the sword steel clanging) could be construed as a Wow moments.  However, the ones that most people probably are thinking of was a brief bboy breakdown in the middle of the set (which included a nasty slow down, and a well done footwork combo) and the final flip at the end by the Lor brothers.  Whether or not they are able to get by on their choreography alone remains to be seen (as honestly crews without any sort of wow factor don’t last long on the show), but honestly, even if they kept the same number of stunts and only upped the difficulty, I would be okay with that.

Transitions/Composition: 5 - Okay this is where I really got chills the more I thought about this piece.  After the bboy segment, they are left with five dancing on stage, and they actually changed formations a few times then. It’s just not as noticable because of the face masks, and the fact that they worked into these positions as opposed to walking into them.  I do think the beginning introduction dragged on a bit long, but the use of staggered cannons, and the build up and release of tension periodically through the piece was masterful.

Dynamics/Execution: 4 - As noted above, their costume actually helped by letting them mask their identity, allowing us to focus on the dance. A technique used by Jabbawockeez and to some degree Poreotics with their sunglasses.  There was only one very very minor error that was noticeable, and only if you’ve known the Lor brothers to do their ending freeze before the show. Honestly, their control over the atmosphere of the piece is to be commended.
We Are Heroes - “Diamonds” by Rihanna - 8

Choreography/Foundation: 4 - The body control they showed at the beginning and through the middle section with their isolations and animation, as well as the voguing foundation toward the end really stood out to me and.

Blow Ups/Wow Moments: 1 - Maybe it was the camera angle masking these when they happened, but honeslty there wasn’t anything that really stuck out. Looking back, there were a few splits and body contortions, but those are things others have done better already, so in comparsion it just didn’t excite.

Transitions/Composition: 1 - The biggest disappointment here was that the piece really didn’t go anywhere - that ending pose could have been a mid-piece wow moment probably, and they could have brought us down before bringing us up again.  This piece just took too long to get going and by the time there was any steam, it just ended suddenly. I also noticed a ton of walking transitions. More than that, there was just a tone shift to go suddenly from isolations to what looked like modern technique back to isolations, which was rather jarring.

Dynamics/Execution: 2 - Maybe it’s just the fact that they just got together as a crew in the last month or so, and maybe that means that they haven’t developed a body of work that is common knowledge between them and they haven’t had time to refine the little things. The timing of this step, the angle of this lean. Regardless, there were many moments that just didn’t feel as smooth as they could have been, like they had to think about their moves. Granted it did match the song’s energy and maybe that wasn’t their choice. But regardless, they better figure those things out fast.
Quest Crew - “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars - 15

Choreography/Foundation: 3 - I think that after Kinjaz, Quest actually has the most of what you would call studio choreography of the night. This partially comes from Feng’s video to this song, but it was still there, mostly broken up into two sections. It was entertaining, and definitely fit the high octane energy of Quest and the song.

Blow Ups/Wow Moments: 4 - As expected, Quest did lean a bit more heavily on the physicality side of things (with those crazy dragging into position at the beginning, myriad flips, a Hok tutting section (this time wtih legs), the signature Quest over/under, and ending with the exclamation point known as with Steve’s flip.  Some new things include D-Trix wtih some NASTY drills, and the whole jacket segment.

Transitions/Composition: 4 - Here’s a fun exercise. Look at Quest’s performance and notice how they transitions from compact at the beginning, slowly expand out till they fill the stage during the choreo section, before slowly compacting back down to the Hok-leg segment, before expanding back again for choreo and some footwork, before closing it in again and ending with a bang. That is very well done composition of a set, and the way they transitioned was, for the most part, seamless and unnoticeable until they were already on to the next segment. Even small things, like their formation during DTrix’s drills having subtle level changes add to their composition.

Dynamics/Execution: 4 - Honestly, I started off with a 5 on this segment, but had to dock it for two things.  There were some pretty noticeable errors (in Hok’s leg segment, was not clean at all, and what looked like an almost-flubbed over/under. Aside from those, the stage use was phenomenal, the energy and charisma they exuded just made the piece fun.  They’ve clearly worked out some subtle things, possible only really to crews that have that tightness and constant chemistry. People may say they want to see Quest change it up and try something new, and I would welcome that. But honestly, I think they’ve figured out that mix of choreography and wow factor, how to work between those segments, and how to layer on the charisma, to lead them to ABDC. If Kinjaz is a well oiled, efficient ninja squad, Quest is the rock and roll band that seems out of control, but actually has every little outburst of energy finely honed down.


So with that, my overall rankings are (out of 20)

1) Kinjaz - 15
1) Quest Crew - 15
3) Super cr3w - 12
3) I.aM.mE - 12
5) Elektrolytes - 11
6) We Are Heroes - 8

Aside from the routines, I do have to comment on a few other things.
  • I really like the new stage. It’s shaped a lot more like a typical stage (more rectangular), so that crews don’t have to adapt their normal routines to the round stage. The bleachers also offer options, though hopefully they aren’t reduced to only platforms to flip off of.
  • NeYo’s opening was great. In fact off the top of my head it’s definitely up there with one of the greatest openings/group performances over the course of the show.  Shoutouts to Nappytabs for choreographing, NeYo for showing his own moves, and all the crews for killing it.
  • Did anyone notice they weren’t using the banner logos in the crew introductions? Kinjaz aside, they used a new W logo for We Are Heroes, plain text for Supercr3w the thumbprint from I.aM.mE and the official Quest logo. Not sure if the Elektrolytes logo is new.
  • Okay the elephant in the room is the judges.  I feel like they’re getting a lot of hate outside of their pre-existing fanbase.  But honestly, I think people are jumping to conclusions too soon to see how they are. It’s obviously the first episode after three years, and they probably don’t want to come down too hard on the first episode with the scathing criticism and reviews. Frankie Grande does have Broadway dance experience (which is a super cut throat environment) and seems to be aware of at least some of the crew’s body of work (in his comments about Quest) and by the sound of it Teyana Taylor at least has some working knowledge of specific dance terminology. T-Pain I can’t really comment on, but every judging panel needs someone saying crazy stuff.  I do realize that the lack of a JC-esque character who’s more calm/stable could be worked on but we’ll see what happens in the coming episodes.  
  • I don’t really have any strong feelings regarding the host, Jason Dundas. Shame Mario isn’t back, but might as well face things with a positive attitude, yeah?

Anyway with that I look forward to seeing what next week’s episode will bring us.  Shoutouts to Nancy for keeping up this website and letting me host these reviews here, the rest of the Molasses Gang for life, and to you, the reader.  See you here again next week, on Blogging America’s Best Dance Crew