'America's Best Dance Crew': Casting director Michelle McNulty on the new season
"America's Best Dance Crew" took an extended break before announcing last week that the next season had been greenlighted. Though it's no "American Idol," with 15 million votes on the finale, it seemed like "ABDC" would've been a quicker done deal. To get some more insight on the coming season, we talked to casting director Michelle McNulty, right, who called the break "reenergizing" for the entire upcoming season. It's too early to answer some of the questions we may have (Any new challenges? Where will auditions be? Any judging changes?), but now that we know "ABDC" is returning, who better to talk to about what the show could be looking for than McNulty, one of the main crew selectors?
Jevon Phillips: Were you at all worried that the show wouldn't come back?
Michelle McNulty: No, I guess not. I think it's kind of a nice break because we did so many back-to-back-to-back [seasons] ... it's reenergizing everybody for this new season. I feel more energized and I think dancers are going to be more energized. I think they will have grown because they've had more time to work on their routines.
It has been a minute ... It was such a great last show that we did, though, that if it had gone away, it would've been a great way to go.
JP: Do you know all of the cities for the auditions yet?
MM: We're still discussing and finalizing those. Obviously, L.A. and New York are always our big cities and we're still deciding on the rest of them. I think we're going to four cities this season and auditions will be at the end of January, beginning of February.
JP: Do you go to all of the auditions in all of the cities?
MM: I usually hit every single one of the cities ... I'm always there at the callback.
JP: Most of the crews out there know that you're looking for personality, originality and skill. What else?
MM: It's "America's Best Dance Crew." People know the show now and know the past winners and even the runners-up and the success they've gotten from the show ... We want the dancers where we know that the dance that they do on the audition and the dance that they do on the finale will be just as phenomenal. I don't like for crews to ever hold back. Originality is huge because we're coming into the sixth season and we've had so many crews. I don't want to see a bunch of copycatters.
And we always look for different styles. Clearly it's a hip hop-based show, but we always want to see other styles. The jump-ropers were a perfect example and they killed it on the show. It brought such a different energy and vibe to the show. Break Skate is another example of that...
MM: Personality-wise, it's the banter that happens when they come in the room. It's in their faces and they're engaging us when we're just sitting there at the judges table. We do casting interviews so that we get to know them a little more. So in the personality sense, that happens right away. They're engaging, then when they're dancing they're engaging to you too. That all plays into that.
With Super Crew, they brought their 'A' game that second season. They gave great tricks and such skill and their ability was so awesome that you just knew it. They had that elusive 'it' thing.
With Poreotix, we saw them a couple of different times and a couple of different seasons. They finally put it all together last season. It's one of those things where we like to see crews come back because we try to give them constructive criticism in the audition process so that they can take that in and come back the following season.
JP: You've seen cloggers, steppers, poppers and jump-ropers, anything you'd like to see make it through?
MM: We've never really had a straight krumping crew ... A jerk crew, house crew. Turfing. There's definitely styles that I'd like to see get on and be represented.
JP: Overall in dance, have you seen a growth in its popularity toward mainstream America outside of just the popular shows?
MM: Well, I love it. And yeah, there's is a growth for sure. Even when I was judging at Hip Hop International, to see the little ones -- these junior kids to the teenagers to the adults -- the creativity that they bring to it is just so great. Even the music, not dancing to strictly hip-hop music, is so great because you can see that it's continuing to evolve.
Even in other shows ... the favorite dances on "So You Think You Can Dance" are usually the hip-hop numbers. And, when I was on Facebook the other day, I was watching this ["Saturday Night Live"] skit "The Hip Hop Kids" that was hilarious -- and it's not even really about dancing. It just shows the growth of these shows and of this whole hip-hop culture.
In case you forgot who the champs have been, here's the charity episode of "ABDC" featuring all of them.
-- Jevon Phillips
Photo: Michelle McNulty. Credit: Michelle McNulty