'America's Best Dance Crew': Arnel Calvario critiques the Champions for Charity episode
Arnel Calvario -- choreographer, member/founder of Kaba Modern and manager of Beat Freaks and Fanny Pak -- has graciously lent his time this season to recap some episodes of "Randy Jackson Presents: America's Best Dance Crew" and provide commentary, along with Chonique Sneed, from the perspective of a dance community professional. He wanted to share his thoughts on the Champions for Charity episode, with quotes from insiders and former contestants, and what the show means to many. -- Jevon Phillips
Give it up to MTV and Warner Horizon for putting together an amazing show for five great causes for the Champions for Charity episode. Each of the five winning crews were paired with a charity that promotes youth to do something positive in their community. It was refreshing to see the show air background stories on the charities while also giving a $10,000 donation check to each charity representative. There to support their dancing peers, members of Fanny Pak, Kaba Modern and Beat Freaks were in the studio audience. Even "Blind Side" actor Quinton Aaron came out to watch the special episode.
"I watch the show all the time and this was definitely the best episode ever. I really enjoyed every performance tonight," he said.
Before getting into the individual crew performances, all five crews graced the "ABDC" stage with the first collaboration of this caliber of talent. While the opening number was not the cleanest, it definitely was dynamic and entertaining. I liked the concept of each crew being dressed as royalty with transitions announcing each season winner. Show choreographer Napoleon D'umo shared that every crew really impressed him.
"We only had less than six days to put the show together and all of the crews’ work ethic was amazing," he said.
Next up was We Are Heroes. The crew members dressed up as female hero action figures and started off the routine in these elaborate action-figure boxes. The performance was packed with different styles such as waackin', tutting, lockin' and acrobatics. While their performance was definitely energetic, it was apparent to me that not all the crew members had the same technique and execution I would expect of a season champion. Crew leader Hiro is definitely an amazing talent, but the performance as a whole was not the tightest technically. What I did like was the crew's genuine interaction with and support of the Sparkle Effect, the charity they were paired with. Sarah Cronk and her organization creates cheerleading programs for children with special needs.
A fan favorite, the audience roared when Season 3 winner Quest Crew took the stage, dancing to benefit young educational filmmaker Jordan Coleman. They were the only crew that did not use any stage props, but they clearly did not need it! The performance started with Ryan executing power moves on his head perfectly to the sound effects of the music. Although the Charleston-esque music was not what I expected from Quest Crew, they delivered a power-packed performance that displayed their cohesiveness and power as charismatic entertainers. The routine was packaged well with stunt blowups and the humor that made them fan favorites during Season 3.
Said Teresa Espinosa of the Beat Freaks: "Quest's performance was trick-based, but it was entertaining, funny and packaged so well! They didn't need any stage props and really did a great job at showcasing their stunts."
Megan Lawson of Fanny Pak felt the same way. "Quest Crew was living on that stage. They stole the show with no prop gimmicks in sight," she said.
Season 2 winner Super Cr3w took the stage with their street-alley set to honor Marvelyn Brown’s charity, Marvelous Connections, an organization that promote HIV/AIDS awareness. Starting in chair freezes and jumping into amazing top rocks, footwork and power moves, Super Cr3w definitely made their stamp as the show's most legitimate B-boy crew. However, the star of their set was 8-year-old Jalen, who popped out of the wall prop and rocked headspins, then slid down a pole to take center stage doing halos and windmills. As a member of Super Cr3w, Jalen does bring a new wow factor, but with the crew making him the center of the piece and highlighting him so much, the audience didn't get a chance to enjoy the power of the original Super Cr3w members. Regardless, it was a very entertaining performance.
"ABDC" icon Jabbawockeez closed out the show, coming out of a giant elevated mask that commanded everybody's attention. Clad in costumes with light chains draped across their chests, they gave the audience the most refined, mature performance of the evening. They truly are the masters of musicality (it helped that their music was composed by their own affiliates the Bangerz). Most of the audience was rocking Jabbawockeez masks, clearly excited to see the Season 1 winner take the "ABDC" stage. With added original crew member Joe Larot, Jabbawockeez gave us an amazing sneak peek into the crew's upcoming MGM Grand Las Vegas show, and repped Josh Sundquist as well, hopefully helping him further develop a network for fellow amputees.
This was an extremely entertaining episode featuring amazing talent on stage for five great outreach causes. Include Kaba Modern, Fanny Pak, Beat Freaks and Strikers All-Stars and you'd have what I think would be viewers' dream "ABDC" episode, but this was pretty close to that dream episode! Quest Crew's Victor Kim said: "It was an honor to share the stage with people who inspired me when I started dancing -- some of the first video clips I watched were of Do Knock and Ronnie. This experience was an absolute blessing."
It was definitely great for us, the audience, to witness that magic happen on stage.
Thank you, Jevon Phillips and the Los Angeles Times, for giving me the opportunity to get a backstage look at the show and share my thoughts on this season's "ABDC." I had a great time! In talking to many "ABDC" alumni, it's clear that the show has served as a platform for these inspiring talents to pursue their dreams of traveling and performing for diverse audiences, teaching dance workshops, connecting with the world, launching new business ventures, and creating show productions.
Cheers to a great season of "America's Best Dance Crew" and the hope that urban dance continues to evolve and be known as first-class entertainment that's visible and respected by the world.
-- Arnel Calvario
Photo: Quest Crew presents "Say It Loud" director Jordan Coleman with a $10,000 donation. Credit: Mark Davis / Warner Bros.