This is a fun week on MTV's America's Best Dance Crew for anyone who's tried to learn a dance popularized by the internet or in clubs. Competing teams were assigned to reinterpret a recent web or club phenomena, with an added challenge thrown in. Most crews, while creatively reinventing popular moves, didn't come through as well on their challenges.
"Live in Color," the Miami group best known for its lightening speed pelvic contractions, which judge Lil' Mama calls "booty pops," was given DJ Unk's "2 Step," a Stepping dance whose footwork the team captain noted was easy; the difficulty lay in putting character to those steps. They did the basic moves with all of their regular fast fun flair, and added their own spin with a series of those "booty pops," isolations with attitude, and a short ballet section by one couple. I appreciated that with last section that they tried something different, but unfortunately the woman seemed to have a little ballet less training than the man and their spins were not in sync and looked a bit sloppy. Their challenge was to exchange clothing at some point during the routine. This they did by having one man rip off his shirt and throw it to the dancer beside him, who quickly slid his arms through the sleeves, a daunting task when keeping the beat to such fast music. But, as with most teams, they performed the challenge only once and it wasn't tremendously creative. I liked better some of the tricks they were trying in practice sessions, particularly where one woman whipped her scarf over another's head and kind of roped her in with it.
The second team, the all-male JabbaWockeeZ performed to Dem Franchize Boyz's "Lean Wit it, Rock Wit It," another hit dance with easy moves geared toward general club dancers. Their soft, quiet movement with intricate isolations made for a wholly different dance, even while many steps were the same. They really owned it, and beautifully so. One man did a "flair" floor spin using his hands to whip his body around repeatedly, and in the midst, amazingly, caught a red handkerchief thrown at him. Their challenge was to create the illusion of flying, which, after initial confusion on receiving the task, they ended up executing brilliantly. At the end, four men kneeled, with two men behind them, one only his head and arms peeking out behind the first man in the row, the other only his legs visible from the end, so that the two back men appeared to be one flying Superman. With the team's poetry, and the soft undulating movement of the former's arms and the latter's legs, it also evoked a fish or bird.
The third team to dance was BreakSk8, performing the popular "Cupid Shuffle," an easy dance comprised of step-togethers back and forth, step and kicks, step and heels to the front, and, in the video, some impressive bouncing back lunges. The guys didn't think they'd have a problem performing such basics on skates -- which they didn't -- but I was impressed that a couple men did those same bouncing back lunges as well. Their challenge was that, at some point, they had to stay connected, obviously difficult on skates. They managed this both at the beginning, with some group moves where they held each other by the shoulders, and, brilliantly, at the end, when they constructed a group caterpillar by making a line with each man, lying on his stomach, wrapping his skates around the next one's shoulders, through a series of push-ups one by one, made one long snaking wave. In my mind, this tied with JabbaWockeeZ's Superman for most creative answer to a challenge.
The high energy group from the University of California Irvine, KabaModern performed Lil' Mama's "G-Slide," itself a reinterpretation of popular 70s disco dance "The Electric Slide." The Electric Slide, being a basic step together to the left, step together to the right, step together to the back and repeat, the G-slide has the same footwork but with a more swirling movement to each step of the foot so that the lower leg has more flair. KabaModern did little of the actual G-slide movement, substituting mostly their own moves, which were exciting but not the point of the task. As Lil' Mama said in judging, "I never did it like that..." The team's challenge was to perform lifts, which they did once only with men assisting the women in simple backward somersaults. I would have liked to have seen something more challenging from them.
Next on was all-female group Fysh 'N Chicks, one of the two teams nearly voted off last week. They performed to Yung Joc's "It's Goin Down," an Atlanta dance whose signature move is the "motorcycle" in which dancers hold their arms out as if they are grabbing handlebars, and moving their lower bodies as if riding. Their challenge was to perform something backwards. So, they did some steps in exact reverse, as if the DJ had hit a rewind button. Overall, besides one woman, Laura, who performed a couple of fouette whipping turns into a lovely circled leg in the air which she landed in a split, their routine was, as judge J.C. Chasez said, a little mundane. It had a variety of movement style and some formation changes, but I think they are limiting themselves by doing all ensemble work, some of which isn't even always that clean or in sync; even the final splits lacked clarity of line. Perhaps they could do some partnering to give their routines some more flavor. I know they are an all-girl group, but the all-male groups have no problem coupling up for lifts and tricks. I hope they can take it up a notch next week, if only to show an all-female team can give the boys a run for their money!
Next was the dance-off between the two groups who had received the least votes this week: Status Quo, the street kids from Boston, and Iconic, the studio team specializing in theater dance. Iconic performed their rendition of the popular New York club dance "Chicken Noodle Soup," a dance replete with fun bouncing action and arm movements evoking falling raindrops. Their challenge was to perform some steps on their backs, which, for a non-hip hop group, was understandably daunting. They came through with their challenge with flying colors, though, performing nearly half the routine on their backs, while, amazingly, remaining true to many of the original dance steps, simply taking the basic moves down to the floor. The camera wisely captured them from above as they made several spectacular formation changes. Unfortunately for them, though their dancing was excellent, it wasn't enough to pull them through to next week. Status Quo met their challenge - to perform some moves upside-down -- with head-on brilliance, dancing the YouTube phenomenon Soulja Boy's "Crank Dat." They kept many of the dance's familiar steps intact, performing them with magnetic pizzazz (particularly fun to watch if you've ever tried the Soulja Boy yourself, and caught a sorry glimpse of yourself in the mirror...). But they also brought to the dance their own charming specialty: telling a humorous story with great theatrics, character galore, and thrilling gymnastics, one here in which a man became a human jump rope as another, with an injured ankle no less, did repeated flips over him. They exceeded my expectations meeting their "upside-down" challenge by having two men perform the steps first in handstands, then being pulled up by the feet by two others into an upside-down lift, both sets of men continuing to dance for a bit in this awkward but hilarious manner. The dance-off, both groups performing spectacularly, as if they knew they'd be in the bottom two, provided the perfect climax to Week Three.