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Review: America’s Best Dance Crew 7 Week 3: Madonna

Week 3! The show’s finally in full swing and by now all the crews have had a chance to work out all the butterflies from their debut jitters. Originally, this point in the season would have been the Crew’s Choice or Video Star Challenge, but instead the producer-powers-that-be have deemed we pledge our undying devotion to yet another music icon. Break out your pointy bras and British accents, because up this week is Madonna.

I still can’t get the smell of brand marketing out of my nostrils for ABDC’s new “Superstars” theme. Are the days of each crew representing themselves in as unfettered a manner as MTV’s hype machine will allow gone forever? Letting the crews choose their own soundtrack, if just for one episode, at least gave viewers a chance to know the crews for who they really are before the challenges started filtering reality. Now we get pre-rolls of each crew passively snitting about how they wouldn’t usually dance to their given song, but that they’ll have to make it work anyway.

In any case, it’s great dame Madge this week, and just in time for the old girl’s impending world tour too.  Coincidence? Heck no! On to the dancing!

Crew: Fanny Pak

Track: “Girl Gone Wild”

Challenge: Waacking and high heels

There have been lots of moments since this season’s started when the show’s felt like Fanny Pak’s regretful ex-boyfriend, as if it were trying to say sorry for kicking them off Season 2 solely because the first of their 80s routines “started off slow” (JC Chasez’s words, I kid you not). It’s as if they still can’t find a good reason to explain why it was decided that their genius Flashdance routine was less successful than a half-dozen Kevin Bacon cosplayers breaking to Footloose.  In any case, giving the three punch combo of Madonna, high heels, and waacking to quite possibly the ONLY crew capable of pulling all three off without looking like a collection of wannabe drag queens seems like a gimme. But I’m a fan, so I’m not contesting that advantage.

There’s no way they couldn’t have done this routine justice, seeing how two members from Fanny Pak are RIGHT NOW under contract to create choreography for Madonna’s world tour. FP’s name brand “storytelling” angle is alive and well, and they haven’t lost their touch with formations in the slightest. The heels never became an issue, despite what the pre-roll tried to establish. The vinyl punk chic costumes were a bit too busy for my taste but nonetheless worked for the theme, and as a whole the routine was a success. Not the best of the night though; I felt FP bit off more than they could chew by incorporating that full-length mirror in their entire routine.

The risk any crew on ABDC runs with dancing a 60-second routine that features a large, unwieldy prop is it requires time and crew-power to work with the prop. It also requires that choreography be done in relation to the prop to justify its presence. FP’s routine waned right around the parts when the mirror became the focal point. Their slick choreography took a backseat every time that mirror came into play, and their overall performance suffered because of it. In the end, the mirror didn’t really add that much “wow” value to the performance, so it was ultimately meritless. Sure, they get flair points for it, but I didn’t recall anyone gushing about the mirror post-show.

(Poor Beau; he looked slightly distraught when JC brought up the heels during judging. Could it be leftover anti-femme lashback from Shane Sparks? No one cares anymore, Beau. The audience would find it weird if Fanny Pak wasn’t femme.)

Crew: Elektrolytes

Track: “Hung Up”

Challenge: Krumping

Hip-Hop International 2011’s 1st place winner holds their own during Madonna week, which is commendable if only because they had to dance to “Hung Up”, a track I’m sure none of them have ever considered using. They had one of the stronger performances of the night thanks to clean execution, GREAT energy, and a handful of clever tricks that kept the audience engaged. The move where the entire crew does a simultaneous mid-air twist from a push-up position right as one of their guys pulls off a side somersault was particularly remarkable. All in all strong representation in Week 3 that will no doubt win them new fans.

My only complaint, which also happens to be my main pet peeve, is that the crew didn’t really use “Hung Up” as inspiration for the routine. Granted, the song was essentially foisted on them by ABDC’s producers, but that shouldn’t keep any crew from attempting to marry the song to the routine. The explosive opening can be attributed to District 78’s synthesized overlays, and most of the routine was matched to the embellishments the audio engineers made to the original track, ignoring “Hung Up” for the most part. Still, fortunately their routine was impressive overall, and ultimately only nit-pickers like me will find issues like this unappealing.

Crew: Mos Wanted Crew

Track: “4 Minutes”

Challenge: Popping

Mos Wanted Crew received what is likely the least awkward challenge of the week, and in spite of dancing to a song they wouldn’t select for themselves otherwise, there was very little that kept MWC from doing well this round. Why then did I leave the routine feeling less impressed with this crew than I did the previous performance?

Maybe it’s because I could really only recall one section out of the entire routine that I loved. The moment where Brian P. glided across the stage and matched the choreography of each of his crew mates as he passed them was BRILLIANT and totally showed the potential of this crew’s creativity. But aside from that, I’ve re-watched the routine dozens of times and nothing else really grabs my attention.

It could be because the other bits of choreography they featured are carried through more on their attitude than their technical ability. This isn’t to say that I expect them to do huge tricks, but I do expect them to craft choreography that I can’t imagine another crew creating. Week 2 featured much more unique MWC choreography, which is why it was easy to rank them #1 that round. I’m hoping to see truly unique, Master-level, not-everyone-can-pull-this-off moves from these guys next week. And yes, MWC, we get that you don’t choreograph to the obvious beats in the song. (Psst, Collizion Crew does that too!)

Crew: 8 Flavahs

Track: “Vogue”

Challenge: Voguing

Hands down, the BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT. These kids took a look at their challenge, checked what they had in their grab bag of tricks and skillz, and proceeded to tear the rest of the crews new, uh, pant holes. It was one of the more obvious Madonna tracks to be handed out since it already comes pre-loaded with an established dance style, so it can be said that the girls got off easy this week. You won’t hear me complaining about that.

There was so much to praise, from the difficulty level of their overall choreography, to the undeniable presence this crew brought to the stage, these girls ruled the round. Their pacing was well done, throwing little teases of technical prowess at the audience who were all too eager to revel in their diva swag, building up to a close that was more throwdown than mere posturing. These girls represented themselves well, and this was no doubt an open challenge to everyone else in the show who ever doubted their ability.

Crew: Rated Next Generation

Track: “Human Nature”

Challenge: Thrashing

RNG’s turn in the spotlight also heralded one of the night’s two bogus challenges. How exactly is thrashing (outside of the context of a mosh pit) a dance style? It didn’t help that the season’s other underage crew also received “Human Nature”, one of the trickier songs from the Madonna roster to create choreography for. Still, the girls and guy of RNG did what they could with what they were given, even if the end result garnered little other than apathy from this viewer.

Incidentally, this night also signaled the second time ABDC’s selected BDSM-related content for underage dancers. (Rihanna’s “S&M” was given to IAmMe–featuring a then-15 year old Chachi Gonzales–in Season 6.)

Compliment sandwich time. I have no doubt the members of RNG are talented dancers no matter their age, but they have to bring something more unique and complex to the competition that doesn’t feed off of “we’re young AND we’re talented” if they want to stick around. That kind of angle works on a show like America’s Got Talent because you’re likely dominating the market for underage dance crews, but seeing as they’re NOT the youngest crew in competition this season, that reputation isn’t going to win them many sympathy votes. As much as I’m sure they don’t feel like they’re directly competing with 8 Flavahs, they need to consider it if they want a piece of the pre-teen voter segment. ICONic Boyz proved that voter segment existed last season, and the underage crews need to dip into that segment if they want a chance of going all the way. To cap it off, RNG has the skill to pull off more complex routines, the question is if they have the creativity to come up with the routines.

Crew: Stepboys

Track: “Ray of Light”

Challenge: Spazzing *sigh*

I really wanted to like these guys as far back as Week 1, even if I did very much doubt the decision to keep them over Mix’d Elements. Their second performance on the ABDC stage left me wanting a great deal however, and I will be supremely surprised if this crew doesn’t wind up in the Bottom Two in Week 4, if not sent home altogether.

Seeing their performance was akin to watching a comedian die a slow, painful, ridicule-laden death after dropping a batch of bad one-liners on open-mic night. They kept throwing gags at the audience and none of them seemed to be all that funny, at least not outside of a clown act at a kid’s birthday party. By the time they went into the nose-picking tutting section, I was completely nonplussed. The insipid onesies they had on only added insult to their self-injury.

I also didn’t understand how their sugar-addled toddler theme worked within the song. And in what universe would the normal-time choreography they came up with constitute frenetic hyperactivity? I just don’t get what they were thinking with this routine.  There was nothing really groundbreaking or impressive here, and it seemed nearly half of the entire song used filler choreography (move to the left, now move to the right, repeat ad nauseum). I’d hate to think that their claim of being slackers is carrying over to their stint on the show, but it’s hard to look at this performance and not think of it as lazy.

SAVED

Crew: Collizion Crew

Track: “Don’t Tell Me”

Challenge: Line dancing

Sheesh, talk about a double whammy. Not only does Collizion get line dancing as their challenge, but they ludicrously get assigned “Don’t Tell Me” because it’s got a southern theme. Wrong South, ABDC. Despite these setbacks, the guys do admirably and make it through the elimination to dance another day.

Both weeks I’ve seen Collizion perform I’ve come away with something new to be impressed by: The first week it was their great attitude and the energy of their performance, this week it was with their versatility. This crew is really proving themselves to be the most underappreciated of the ABDC roster this season, which unfortunately often translates to frequent trips to the Bottom Two. It also doesn’t help that social networking is playing a larger hand in this year’s competition and Collizion doesn’t have as strong a following and online presence as most of the other crews.

Solid routine overall from Collizion, and they managed to keep their choreography cohesive despite the line dancing monkey wrench. Regarding versatility, they’ve pulled off quite a variety of different dance styles across their two performances, and they know how to play with timing in their routines, which makes me curious about what else they can do. I’m not surprised these guys made it on the show. Now they have to work on gaining more voters.

Other well-rounded crews have made it onto the ABDC stage in the past (ex. Rhythm City, Southern Movement, Royal Flush), but part of what kept those other crews from succeeding was their lack of a deeply relatable crew identity. TV voters pick up the phone more for crews they admire rather than ones whose skills they respect. You can get anyone to cast a vote for you if you pull off a sick air flare in a routine, but you’ll get people voting weekly no matter how well you do that particular routine if they LIKE watching you talk and interact and be real people.

ELIMINATED

Crew: Funkdation and Irratik

Track: “Give Me All Your Luvin'” / “Express Yourself”

Challenge: Cheerleading / Jazz

The international crews are both ousted at the same time. I think the save could have gone to either Collizion or Funkdation, but I also have a feeling that the historical trend of poor voter numbers for international crews may have urged the powers-that-be to go with the crew least likely to suck at the polls.

Funkdation performed extremely well and could have likely been the victim of the ABDC logic machine (see above) given the strength of their routine. The pom-pom and smoke props were incorporated smoothly and they managed to keep their own swag even with the peppy cheerleader requirement of the challenge. It’s a great loss to the show that a talented crew like Funkdation would be kicked off this early thanks to a double elimination. They clearly showed they had the drive and skills to come up with remarkable performances. I still see no merit to why a double elimination would be good for this show this early in the season.

Irratik didn’t fare as well with “Express Yourself” in my opinion. The expert balance between sharp and quick choreography these girls struck so well with their first routine just came across as overly frantic when laid over this track. Maybe if they had chosen to do some sections of the song in half time and let the audience take in some of the vibe they’re projecting it would have seemed less erratic (pun slightly intended).

Good luck and bon voyage to the eliminated crews! We hardly knew ye.

Ranking (Most to Least Favorite)

8 Flavahs

Mos Wanted Crew

Fanny Pak

Elektrolytes

Collizion Crew

Funkdation

RNG

Irratik

Stepboys

Next week: Drake! I’ve already checked out the tracks they’ve selected for the crews and I have no clue how any of them are going to work with the music (although Mos Wanted Crew has already said that Drake is in their wheelhouse). Drake isn’t exactly known for his club hits, so hitmakers District 78 definitely have their work cut out for them.

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