THE BLOG
02/15/2008 03:50 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Women Don't Fare So Well on America's Best Dance Crew , Week Two

So, this is week two of MTV's new dance competition show, America's
Best Dance Crew
, the first in which the public vote had a say in
eliminations. I was disappointed that the two all-female groups, Fysh
'N Chicks (love their name!), and Femme 5, came out with the two
lowest scores, although, judging from week one I can't say I'm all
that surprised. Both groups were told last week by the judges,
particularly by choreographer Shane Sparks, that they were trying too
hard to be someone they weren't: they threw in too many complicated
formation changes, too much break dancing, that they clearly weren't
comfortable with, just because they figured that's what the public
would want. In other words, they need to find out who they are and be
more comfortable in their skin. I, reluctantly, had to agree with
Sparks - trying to please others without remaining true to yourself is
something young women, all women, too often do. I particularly had
wanted to root for Fysh 'N Chicks after behind-the-scenes footage
showed one of their members crying when recounting how Sparks had
rejected her during another, earlier audition, after which she felt
she had started to "sell out" in order to please people, making her
all the happier her team had made it onto this show with Sparks's
saying he valued their uniqueness.

Anyway, the dance-off between the two all-female teams: I actually
preferred Femme 5, but that may be that I prefer the piece they were
given, Gwen Stefani's confrontational "Hollaback Girl," to Fysh 'N
Chicks's sexpot Beyonce. This week's challenge was for each group to
perform choreography to a dance-heavy music video. Each team was given
a different artist. It wasn't completely clear if the group was
supposed to come up with their own choreography, doing their own
unique thing to a well-known video, or whether they were supposed to
emulate the choreography, but giving it their own spin -- seemingly
much harder. Practice footage showed groups trying to learn the
choreography already on the video, though some of the results looked
far different.

Femme 5's routine had several difficult, and very fun, formations -- I
particularly liked when all five dancers made a fan shape at the
beginning, one dancer standing in the middle, and each popping out
from behind her, one at a time, landing in a perfect oval formation,
not a head out of place. Their routine had a good variety of steps,
and they had a good isolation section and were all perfectly on beat.
In contrast, Fysh 'N Chicks, dressed in short, tight-fitting dresses
and high-heeled boots, in Beyonce mode, seemed to do too much of the
same thing throughout: sexy, hip-shaking action and walks with
attitude dominated. Sparks appreciated a section where several women
grabbed their crotches -- with an eye to, but also kind of making fun
of, male hip hop / break artists. So, it was their version of "sexy."
While I thought Femme 5 had more variety and difficulty in their
choreography, based on performances on the show as a whole, including
last week's and the previous week's audition numbers, I felt Fysh 'N
Chicks had a bit more promise, so I was glad the judges kept them.

So, the others: I was also very surprised, shocked actually, that
Status Quo was in the bottom four. I thought their routine last week
was extremely theatrical, risk-taking, full of thrilling jumps and
acrobatics, spot-on isolations, fun floor work and supercharged hip
hop - everything you'd want in a hip hop performance. So, I was
shocked that the public didn't go as wild as I did over them. This
week, I didn't think they were as hot unfortunately. They were given
MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This," a mad fun number, albeit an old one
now. They seemed to have a hard time with what they called the "old
school spins" and moves. You could see that they had trouble jibing
with Hammer's style and I found their footwork a bit sloppy on the
runs in place and bent-knee popping action. And their large leader had
some problems keeping up. They had a couple of a amazing tricks
though, including one guy's doing a lengthy flip over a row of several
men lying on the ground, and another doing repeated "worm" moves on
the ground while the others rocked out in back, although I think the
latter was meant to take attention away from the sloppy footwork going
on behind him. Still, they're endearing kids from inner-city Boston
who bring a charmingly authentic "street" aesthetic to their dancing,
and I won't stop rooting for them. As I said last week, I love the
irony of their name as well!

My other favorite was JabbaWockeeZ performing to Omarion's "Ice Box."
There is something so arty, almost poetic about this group who don
white, almost opera-like face masks and all black clothing. Their
isolations, performed both in complicated floor work and standing,
were so crisp, every movement marked by wondrous clarity and
precision. And their routines, while not always telling actual
stories, are very evocative and expressive. At one point, the men
looked as if they were playing flutes, which mimicked both the music
and echoed the story told by the lyrics -- it was if they were
serenading their sweethearts who'd rejected them in a futile attempt
to win them back. The piece ended with their hands all in poignant
prayer-like position. They remind me of sympathetic tin men from
Wizard of Oz. They're simply beautiful in their understated, staccato
movement.

I also loved Live in Color, dancing to Black Eyed Peas's "Hey Mama."
Complaining during practice sessions that this was too slow a rhythm
for them, they seemed to accommodate by doubling up on the beats. This
is a team that, as the judges note, is heavy on the booty shakes,
which is fine -- those bent-kneed pelvic back and forth movements are
so much harder than they look and I have immense respect for anyone
who can do them at lightening speed like this team does -- if they want
to be known primarily as the booty-shaking team. If they didn't have
the guy with obvious ballet training who goes sailing across the floor
in gorgeous grand jetes or fascinates with multiple fouettes and
pirouettes, I'd say they should work on their versatility. But the
super-fast pelvic contractions and rollicking fun hip hop combined
with ballet guy's arty centerpiece theatrics make this group stand
out.

KabaModern danced to Chris Brown's "Wall to Wall," with a lot of
versatility and clarity in their movement. They combined fun, fluid
hip hop, with great, very clear isolations, their signature move, and
even threw in some fun stepping, a dance that seems to be making a big
comeback. The crowd goes wild over this bunch.

BreakSk8 performed to Ciara's "Get Up," on skates of course. Their
practice footage was particularly funny, as they worried a great deal
about how they would successfully emulate the floor "humping" on
skates. As it turned out, they put little of that pelvic bumping and
grinding into the routine, probably smartly, focusing instead on
standing pelvic rolls and whole-body, wavy, "windmill"-looking
movements, and throwing in some of their signature tricks, including,
most thrillingly, one man's giant leap over several others lying on
the floor, crotches pointing upward, a trick Sparks amusingly referred
to as the "nutcracker". Judge Lil' Mama, while calling the windmill
messy, made sure to note that they're a very masculine group, which I
found interesting because I was thinking there was something a bit
feminine about them, but not at all in a bad way. Something about
their being up on skates gives a lot of their hip shaking, pelvic
swirling a kind of high-heeled sexiness. It marks them as different,
and different is nearly always good in my book.

Iconic also danced to Chris Brown, his video "Kiss Kiss" allowing them
to break out of their Broadway-esque charm to test their skills at
more hard-core hip hop. They succeeded, performing some great breaking
floor work with strong, athletic push-ups - and from the women instead
of the men no less! -- good isolations in which all were perfectly in
sync, and an impressive split by the leader with his back leg in
attitude (bent-knee) position and back reclined all the way to the
floor. I still prefer their more theater-like work, and to me this
routine wasn't all that memorable, but they successfully went out of
their element and showed they could be versatile.

Unlike judges on other shows, the judges here seem to be very nice,
having problems finding many negative things to say. That may be
because all the teams are good, but all very different, each having
their own idiosyncratic charm and unique wit. This makes for a
near-impossible contest, since you're basically pitting styles against
each other, and makes me wish there was another way to show dance on
TV.