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