'America's Best Dance Crew': The East regionals bring a blueprint for winning
Last season, the East regionals produced one of the most talented crews to ever grace the stage of "Randy Jackson Presents: America's Best Dance Crew" with Rhythm City. Can it happen again with the five crews competing for the national show? Well, the two crews from Massachusetts, one from North Carolina, one from Rhode Island and one from Montreal definitely put forth the effort. What, no New York? We'll go with what we got.
Straight out of Boston, Legendary Seven contained two members from Season 1 runner-up Status Quo, but this was not the crazy, colorful crew that SQ was. The group was better, much cleaner, and though it was there (a backflip, landing on the knees? Nice!), the group was not as reliant on acrobatics. Legendary Seven's lines weren't as clean as they should have been, but they were definitely together. Choice judge cuts:
Omarion: "Wow. That's how you're supposed to perform... Explosiveness."
Lil Mama: "It's nothing better than seeing a crew come back and transform themselves."
JC Chasez: "You guys didn't waste any time ... It's nice to see your enthusiasm. You showed us Status Quo, but a whole new side... I think that you guys are humble and showed a great attitude."
The Providence, R.I., group draZtik -- they yelled it so that we wouldn't forget -- gave us another clean, triangle formation body wave crew. Definitely good, definitely practiced, but there needed to be a little bit more. Whether it was energy, better lines, more creative choreography ... something was lacking. And the judges seemed to sense that.
Lil Mama: "You can tell that this is a group that's been together for a while... I don't know if you need to get a little bit more wild and crazy."
JC: "It was a tight, clean choreographed routine. But there was nothing memorable... You need to find something else in the music."
Omarion: "In the beginning you stayed in the center too long... The pirouette was a little too cutesy."
Montreal reps in "ABDC" with Blueprint Cru. Like draZtik, the group came out with the triangle formation as well but then switched it up. After watching draZtik perform, and then Blueprint Cru, it's clear that that extra something may separate crews with similar styles. Blueprint Cru's music was a bit different, their formations had layers and their transitions had more movement and life.
JC: "I was really, really feeling it. Honestly, that summed up what we were trying to say [Drastic] needed. It's about finding that one little thing that made it different... I liked how you experimented with the musical styles."
Omarion: "I felt like in the beginning, the girls were giving me everything. I forgot that the guys were there... Guys have to step it up."
Lil Mama: "The word that I was looking for earlier was dimension, and you guys definitely brought that out. I can't wait to see you guys grow and give us more."
From Cambridge, Mass., comes Static Noyze -- a crew that prides itself on individuality, bringing new styles and backgrounds to a group format. The group has a weird kind of creative energy -- you can tell that its members have disparate personalities trying to work together as one. Not in the robotic sense that so many other crews try to emulate. Not as tight as one would like, but you can almost forgive it. Static Noyze's uneven nature gave the judges pause, creating one of the first vocal disagreements between JC and Omarion. It was the old "trained versus heart" categorizing, and being able to tell the difference. This will probably be a running clash of styles throughout the season for the judges as Omarion finds his way.
Lil Mama: "One of the most well-rounded crews that we've seen in a long time... You reminded me of Fanny Pak... And what I like is your transitions."
Omarion: "I can tell that you have all kinds of different styles, but I can see how that can be a detriment... I didn't enjoy it like I thought I would."
JC: "With all due respect, I completely disagree with you. I thought that was a cerebral performance... You dance with an intelligence behind it."
And for this year's BreakSk8. This year's Ringmasters or Dynamic Edition. We present North Carolina's Saltare, jump rope champions incorporating hip-hop. Double-dutching daredevils who will try to overcome the mountain of b-boys, poppers and general hip-hop dancers that rule the "ABDC" universe. Good luck. The crowd loved them, and there's always the "wow" factor when you first see people who are great and passionate about what they do, but the group's dance choreography was not memorable. There were lots of stunts and incredible moves with jump ropes, but there'll have to be something more.
Omarion: "First of all, I really respect y'all... That timing -- I recognize that if y'all mess that up, the whole thing is done."
JC: "I was pleasantly surprised. I was entertained."
Lil Mama: "It's very difficult to make it on 'ABDC' when you do something different... You guys are impressive."
And with that, Saltare was the first team chosen as Mario Lopez did less of his dramatic pause than he usually does. Not the strongest dance crew, but definitely the one that could bring a shock factor to the competition and maybe force others to raise their athletic level. The second crew chosen: Blueprint Crew (who seems to be the best crew to come out of this region this season, but we'll see how they adapt in the national rounds).
Now, on to the battle.
Three crews enter, one walks away. Drastic brings the energy, coming out with hard, fist-pumping moves, but as was their first performance, not truly inspiring. They end with a member doing a few back flips towards the judges. Legendary Seven steps in and pulls out all of the flip tricks for their 30-second routine. Not a whole lot of choreography, and ends it with a memorable but not spectacular flip into a sheet carried by the other crew members. Static Noyze steps in dancing with transitions, levels and some grooving that was just as good, if not better, than their routine. And apparently, the judges thought so, too. Static Noyze moves on to nationals.
These crews were OK, and when I say OK, I mean average. Blueprint Cru is impressive, but we'll need to see more from them and the others. Especially because next week is the West regionals, and I've seen many of these crews perform, and they're strong. Each has their strong suits and teams, but the East and the South will have to step it up if they want the trophy to leave the West coast.
-- Jevon Phillips
P.S.: In case you didn't hear, there's another lawsuit in the "ABDC" camp, but I think this one, against Randy Jackson and MTV, will go away quickly. Or at least I hope so.
Photo credit: MTV