America’s Best Dance Crew: “Madonna Superstar Challenge”
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America’s Best Dance Crew: “Madonna Superstar Challenge”

The West Coast crews almost always win America’s Best Dance Crew—the “ABDC trivia” during the commercial breaks tonight told me so, but it had been fairly obvious already. I remember when clogging team Dynamic Edition were my underdog favorites in Season Three, and constantly feeling like they were just hanging on – five hicks from Alabama playing a multiweek away game in a soundstage in Glendale. And the further you hail from sunny California, the harder it is to stay on the show—just ask G.O.P. Dance (Puerto Rico) and ReQuest Crew (New Zealand.) When your home base can’t phone or text in votes that’s a pretty big blow to whatever support you might have going for you, not to mention that you’ll never have all your friends cheering you on in the studio like the North Hollywood crews do.

Not that I want to get hung up on voting technicalities—the voting aspect has always seemed like an afterthought compared to just getting to watch everyone dance every week. But two out of the three bottom teams tonight were from outside the U.S., and in my opinion at least one of them went home way too early, which kind of makes me raise an eyebrow at the fairness of it all.

It’s Madonna night, which might be the one Superstar theme I was least looking forward to. (If it was pre-1990 Madonna week, then okay, I could work with that. Incidentally, the teams who were assigned the earliest singles probably did the best work tonight.) And there’s a shocking twist—so shocking it’s been on all the promos for the show all week—two teams are going home tonight! I imagine this was more for practicality than anything else; cramming nine teams into an hour long show was quite a feat, and as a result, only one judge could give feedback per team. Again, this show is All About The Dancing, so this doesn’t really matter that I didn’t get to hear Lil’ Mama tell every crew that they were holding it down for [insert demographic or geographic location here] but as a non-dance-expert sometimes I do like having the judges there to guide me through what exactly was so dope about a routine.

Of course, that’s never necessary for truly great routines—I don’t care what Rowan says, 8 Flavahz were hands down the best of the night. The actual voguing that was going on in their “Vogue” routine was more dynamic and crisp than Mos Wanted Crew’s popping, and they really sold it with their facial expressions. I also love that you can have a bunch of little girls up there dancing to a Madonna song and working red lipstick, high ponys, and even in KK’s case, a corset, and none of it feels gross or oversexualized because their moves were so powerful and strong. Voguing on the knees? The vertical splits? I’m dead. I was so glad Lil Mama critiqued this one, because she took the words right out of my mouth: “Y’all did NOT come out here and just SERVE us like that!”

Elektrolytes also surprised me this week—I found them rather forgettable after the first go-round, but this time the whole “electricity” theme that they say informs their style was pretty evident. Again, not to put last week’s front-runners on the spot, but both this crew and Mos Wanted did the visual trick of having the crew “activated” by one member, and I think Elektrolytes’ version was far more exciting. Sure, the challenge here was krumping, and you’re not going to turn these small-town Arizona boys into Street Kingdom overnight, but it was a really fun and sharp performance. I loved the “hanging” illusion at the end as well—there have been some great ending poses so far this season.

Mos Wanted were also great, don’t get me wrong. I continue to love their “Motion Over Sound” approach to dancing to the lyrics, it really makes for some unpredictable rhythms that make you sit up and pay attention. (I’m glad I watch this show alone, because I can feel myself making some really embarrassing faces as I watch the crews perform.) But now that we know how technically proficient and “cool” these guys are, I do want to see more exuberance and risk-taking from them. Fanny Pak are right up next to them in terms of skill, but managed to bring more theatricality to “Girl Gone Wild” courtesy of a giant mirror (which they all pretty much made out with at the end – super funny) and the whacking challenge which automatically made their routine more active in the upper body.

The two crews I was least thrilled about—Stepboys and Rated Next Generation—both made it through to next week. While I merely find RNG okay, just not quite up to the level of proficiency of some of the other crews, Stepboys once again went jokey and juvenile on “Ray of Light.” The real problem with them isn’t their lack of seriousness, though—it’s their extreme literalism. They’re going to get “sugar high” for Madonna’s rave song – so they bring out a giant lollipop? I did like the flopping goldfish moment, but as soon as D-Trix put up a slow-mo of it, it was immediately apparent how messy the rest of their choreography is.

Our bottom three tonight were foreigners Irratik (Canada) Funkdation (Mexico) and Collizion (Atlanta.) I was disappointed to see all three of them there, though Irratik certainly wasn’t helping their case by showing up in PVC bras tonight. (Don’t even get me started on the leash thing.) Funkdation had a lot of fun working some guy vs. girl cheerleading moves into “Gimme All Your Luvin’” and when the song cut the tempo halfway through and they started doing those isolations in unison, I’ll admit I got some goosebumps. (Fair warning, my ABDC weaknesses are well-executed isos and half-tempo breakdowns. Miss u, Kaba Modern.)

But in terms of skill and creativity, Collizion crew rightly earned the save tonight. JC was right, they really got the short end of the stick song-wise, line-dancing to “Don’t Tell Me” (a track I’m not even sure I had heard before tonight.) But they made the genius decision to transpose their cowboy hats and country moves into Michael-Jackson-esque moves. Stepboys, take note: this is how you get outside your comfort zone and maintain your sense of fun/cool without having to make a mockery of anything.

Drake Challenge next week! Can’t wait to see some awkward Bat Mitzvah party dancing from whoever gets “HYFR.”

Stray observations:

  • Mario Lopez Standout Copy Of The Week: “Which crew will Live to Tell… and which two will be pushed over the Borderline?”
  • Lil Mama looked slightly less sedate tonight, sporting a perm and some bling—is she going to pull a Miss J. Alexander (R.I.P.) and work some kind of progressively more insane style week to week? Fingers crossed!
  • “No more sweet! We’re on a diet!” I cannot believe that a bunch of ex-dance-pageant girls made a dieting joke and I thought it was adorable rather than terrifying.
  • Lastly, thanks to everyone who made weekly ABDC coverage happen! A surprisingly small number of sites cover this show professionally, so I’m glad Rowan and I can be among the first.

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