'America's Best Dance Crew': Season 4 dodging the West Coast?
The scantily clad women in the audience are back; judges Shane Sparks, Lil Mama and JC Chasez are back; the usual press corp is camped out in the green room; current champs Quest Crew are hanging out in the audience; and "America's Best Dance Crew" is kicking off Season 4 on a new night with high expectations and a tough task ahead.
Aficionados have seen the MTV ad for the show tout the fact that the rest of the country is gunning for the West Coast. Jabba Wockeez, Super Cr3w and Quest Crew were all winners, all b-boy crews, and all from the West Coast. Despite what they say, there seems to be an effort to broaden the show regionally. Last year saw a lot of diversity with a clogging crew, a steppin' crew and more. I didn't get to see all of the crews in the other regions, but after this first episode, I do think that there were some crews in L.A. that still could've made it. This season seems to be trying to kill many birds with one beat -- an even more diverse cast of characters, fewer b-boys, and a nod toward crews from other regions of the country. Can't be mad at that, I guess. We'll just move on to the crews and performances that we do have.
Beat Ya Feet Kings. The Washington, D.C., crew's go-go style seems perfect for the show. Footwork is always good and something that can be incorporated. But they were nervous; sooooo nervous. Like Shane said, they were sloppy and looked like they were thinking. Luckily, they had lots of energy, as Lil Mama said, but that didn't help them avoid landing in the bottom three.
We Are Heroes. An L.A. crew took the stage by storm. Like Beat Freaks last season, these hard-driving, pop-locking females easily became audience favorites with great formations and precision movements. Just awesome. Saw Rino from the Beat Freaks with Heroes member Hiro backstage making a Japanese connection. They may get some comparisons, but each has a different dance flow.
Afroborike. The Latin flavor that G.O.P. Dance neglected to showcase last year is brought out in full force by this crew. Definitely a different vibe brought to the stage with some couples dancing. They are good, but when they add their Puerto Rican/Cuban style to different types of dances, we'll see how well they adapt. A sleeper crew.
Massive Monkeys. Representing b-boys, Seattle's Massive Monkeys bounded onto the scene. Mentioning that Quest Crew was not a real b-boy crew in their intro did not automatically endear them to the crowd, but their tricks were good and they had energy from beginning to end. Comparable to any of the past champions? Not yet, but who knows how they'll progress. If one member could go from leg braces to break dancing, they have a shot. Here's an intro to b-boy representatives.
Artistry in Motion. Lil Mama said they had the "tightest choreography on the show by far." A contemporary dance company may have a hard road to travel on a hip-hop-centric show, but hip-hop is many things. The only other crew on the show to represent the West Coast, they could surprise some people and be this season's ASIID or Fly Khicks. Nope, that's not a knock on them; the Kicks were No. 3 last year, people. We talked to the other West Coast crew and asked them what they did when they found out they'd been chosen.
Southern Movement. The "hick-hop" dancers brought energy and displayed a country style from Nashville, even line dancing, mixed in with familiar hip-hop moves to create a unique look. Shane said that he "was about to laugh at them," but they proved that their adaptive moves will have to be reckoned with. Problem is, they were sent to the bottom on their first show. Ominous?
Rhythm City. The Bronx is represented well. JC said that they had the cleanest performance yet and even called them his favorite crew. Precision moves and many styles, if Vegas odds were laid, they might be the favorites right now. They used the stage really, really well, had tricks and flips. As Shane said, they killed it.
Fr3sh. Dirty Jersey's in the building. They may have only brought seven people with them, but they had a lot of support in the audience. Fr3sh has apparently tried out for the show a few times, and no, they don't bring shades of Kaba Modern and So Real Cru despite being an Asian crew. They've got a very different vibe, but their fun attitudes and repertoire didn't help them stay away out of the bottom three.
Vogue Evolution. Besides maybe Fanny Pak, they are the most theatrical, dramatic crew the show has probably ever seen. They're a gay crew with a transgendered woman among them, and they're flaunting and embracing it. Vogueing is about big, dramatic movement, and though they may have even been a bit tamer than their personalities in the crew garage, like Lil Mama said, no one expects them to be America's best dance crew. Right now, though, they are (as JC said) battle-tested. That will get them far, and who knows once the competition heats up.
The bottom-three dance-off, featuring Beat Ya Feet Kings, Southern Movement and Fr3sh, may have brought the first bit of controversy. Much tougher to judge than last year's challenge, Beat Ya Feet Kings flashed the footwork, Southern Movement had a great routine, and Fr3sh came out fighting. But in the end, the popular Fr3sh went sour and was the first crew to be sent home. It seemed that Beat Ya Feet was off just a bit, while Fr3sh was a bit more precise, but the bits couldn't overcome the potential to see something new that the Kings bring. We were able to speak with Beat Ya Feet Kings on their bottom three finish and will later post video from Fr3sh on their elimination.
A great start to the new season! We are Heroes and Rhythm City seem to be the top two crews after this introductory episode. Unlike almost all previous seasons, where there were always a couple of crews that rose high above the others, anyone can get in this to win. Next week's Beyoncé challenge -- will Sasha Fierce herself appear? -- will be a great display because of the diversity of her music.
[FOR THE RECORD: In an earlier version, it was said that dance group Sweet and Sour won in 2006. It was 2008. And it was said that they were from Australia. They are from New Zealand. Sorry guys.] A side note ... The 2008 World Hip Hop Dance Champions from New Zealand Sweet and Sour performed for the crowd. Flips, precision, and a different look at how hip-hop is viewed and performed in different parts of the world (that you may not even think embraces it), these guys were strong. Who knows, they could also be another link to the World's Best Dance Crew show that may eventually be launched!?!
-- Jevon Phillips