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'America's Best Dance Crew': O man, the new judge is Omarion!

January 21, 2010 |  6:41 am

There's been speculation and rumors (even the naming of possible judges), but word has finally come down that "Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew" has chosen a new judge to sit on the panel with JC Chasez and Lil Mama following the legal troubles plaguing Shane Sparks: Omarion.

Omarion Blog communities were abuzz with who could take the seat of the popular choreographer, still embroiled in a molestation investigation, if the show wanted to go in a different direction. We're not ones to pile on the situation here, though, and just hope the whole thing comes to a fair and favorable end for all parties. But we all, like the show, have to move on. And I think the show did it in a big way.

Omarion is one of the most popular performers in hip-hop / R&B music today. Besides a newly released CD called "Ollusion," he brings a few No. 1 albums and chart-topping singles, both as a solo artist and as part of B2K, which means he knows about dancing in/with a group. He'll definitely bring in a different dynamic and a fan base, though Sparks' occasional battles with contestants will be missed.

I got a chance to ask a few quick questions of Howard Schwartz, one of the creators of "America's Best Dance Crew." We first talked about the new format of the show and how it will now have 12 episodes. Every week for the first three weeks you'll see five crews from different regions (South, West and East). Yep, there will be regional competitions before they even get to L.A. for the big showdowns. More show, more dancing and more opportunity to see talented crews is cool with me. Obviously, we couldn't discuss Sparks, but Schwarz did talk about the naming of the new judge. Here's a quick Q&A:

What were you and "America's Best Dance Crew" looking for in a judge?
We were looking for a judge who could understand what the crews go through when they get on stage and perform. So, a judge that understands the performance side of it and can see when a crew comes out and definitely has IT. All in all, this is television, and we want to reach out to the audience and be able to perform for them and excite them. We were looking for a judge who can differentiate dancers and dances from each other, who can tell technique apart from personality and tell technique apart from aspects of specific dances that may be confined to one part of the U.S. And also who might be able to give us an opinion that might not be the same as our other two judges; someone who feels strong enough in their own skin to be able to recognize crews that have it together.

And with chemistry maybe playing a role, has the new judge spoken to the others yet?
Not necessarily. ... We're not looking to have him sit in and audition or see how well he does with the other two judges. The other two judges speak for themselves and have their own opinions and come from their own backgrounds. And they bring a quality about them that's uniquely their own.

When we first found JC. It wasn't so much that he wasn't a choreographer. He wasn't a teacher or he didn't teach dance. But certainly he came from the perspective of a crew. A very popular dance crew, and he danced with so many different choreographers and learned so much from that. And he started at such a young age. Lil Mama. A lot of people don't realize that she grew up as a dancer. What's happened to her now -- the fact that she's a performer -- doesn't take away from the fact that she was a dancer, and she brings something different from her background. As does our new judge. His background is one that he started off as a dancer early in his life. His mother was a dancer. He grew up in Los Angeles as a dancer, maybe in the hood a little more-so than in the classroom, but regardless, has the skills and has perfected it along the way. He can bring the street perspective and the dance perspective.

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The answers ended there, but Schwartz does bring up some interesting points that could make Omarion a great judge. The criticism (well, from me) would be that there's no longer a pure choreographer on the panel. Everyone is a multifaceted performer, and though the show is all about who gives the best all-around performance (dancing, presentation, creativity and originality) each week, it was cool to hear the intricacies that Sparks would sometimes bring to the table. As mentioned earlier, though, we all have to move on. Omarion may help spark a show that some fans characterize as being a bit ... stuck. Even "American Idol" tried that mansion/long hallway walk thing after numerous successful seasons, just to shake it up. Whatever dynamic he brings, and as entertaining and constructive or destructive as the judges can be, it still comes down to the crews. Next week, those will finally be unveiled, and the fun starts again.

Here's my favorite Omarion song.

-- Jevon Phillips

Photo: Omarion. Credit: Getty Images

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