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‘America’s Best Dance Crew’: ‘Road to the VMAs’ starts, and one crew hits bottom quick

Ne-Yo on ‘America’s Best Dance Crew’

Ne-Yo performs with the crews in the first episode of “America’s Best Dance Crew: Road to the VMAs.”

(MTV)

“America’s Best Dance Crew” is finally back, and this “Road to the VMAs” special promises to answer the question once and for all: Who is “America’s Best Dance Crew”?

Yes, there are some great crews from past seasons not here -- Mos Wanted Crew,  Beat Freaks, 8 Flavahz -- but they didn’t win. Even Season 5 winner Poreotix wasn’t able to bring its storytelling style to this season -- but despite all that, these are the crews -- Super Cr3w, Quest Crew, We Are Heroes, IaMMe, Eleckttrolytes and the combo crew Kinjaz (Jabbawockees and Kaba Modern) -- who will vie for the championship this season.

They started out with a bang, performing alongside Ne-Yo. One of the best there is out there at singing while dancing, Ne-Yo and the crews showed from the start that these aren’t just groups vying for a championship, these are professionals. We Are Heroes started the group number with a bit of groove, followed by Kinjaz and its very deliberate ninja styling moves. Then Super Cr3w stepped in, adding the b-boy flair that will be its strength throughout. Quest Crew might be the crew closest to Ne-Yo in terms of style, and showed it with a quick, fun dance number. I.aM.mE. was next, continuing its brain-banging kaleidoscope formations, then Elecktrolytes ended the individual showcases -- competent and together as per usual.  The groups came together for a huge number, which really showed that despite their individual styles, they can all dance.

Jason Dundas is competent enough as host, though we’ll all miss the super busy Mario Lopez. He had the task of introducing the night’s first crew: Season 2 champ Super Cr3w. Its song? “Latch” by Disclosure, featuring Sam Smith. This was not fair. Super Cr3w is probably the most high-flying and strongest b-boy crew in all of “ABDC.” And it added some Red Bull all-star friends to the crew? The ease as the members performed intricate tricks and complex moves was ridiculous.  The solo by Fabiano “Neguin” Lopes, was smooth and powerful, and the crew’s choreo was together. A complaint it often heard was that once it got off the floor, it wasn’t as great. They’ve all strengthened that even more.

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Best judges comment came from T-Pain: “Pure art... The danger, the timing. It was great, man. I may have peed a little bit.”

Second crew up: I.aM.mE. Its song: “Werk” by Iggy Azalea. It might be tough to follow Super Cr3w, but this is the crew to do it. Such a different style with its brain-banging precise body imagery. Starting off the show using props is tough, but this is a champion crew that used a table and chairs to show its creativity and athleticism. Three crew members on their backs and jumping over a rolling chair, plus  a split done on rolling chairs were highlights of the performance. This crew got even stronger by adding Tamara Rapp from 8 Flavahz. Her strength and athleticism can only add to Phillip Chbeeb’s intricate choreography.

Best judges comment came from Frankie Grande: “Tam. How dare you give me a (hip shake) ‘Werk! Werk! Werk! Werk!’ into a backwards tinsica into a rolling split. You are fierce!”

Next up is the Elektrolytes. Their song: “The Big Bad Wolf” by Duck Sauce. The Arizona crew had great energy, despite one of their high-flying members being injured. Dance moves were together, and they were the first to take advantage of the new stage’s multi-level addition in the wings. Their storytelling was great, though the actual dancing might not have been their best performance.

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Best judges’ comment came from Grande: “You guys gave me a beginning middle and end. You guys told a story. It was really fantastic. The Broadway boy in me was so excited. With chains and -- I like chains, so ...”

Kinjaz, the new crew with old members followed the Arizona guys.  Their song was “Fine China” by Chris Brown. Theatricality was the order of the day. With their masks and black hats and zebra pants, their motto -- Respect all, fear none -- was the attitude that they came with. They had a groove and musicality that was more than just hitting the right moves. Very much a combo of some of the crews -- Jabbawockeez, LXD and Kaba Modern -- that mostly comprise it, the Kinjaz didn’t have much in the way of tricks. But they didn’t need them.

The best comment came from Teyana Taylor: “Since I can’t throw my panties up there, can I throw my wig up there! ... I’m a groupie!”

Next up came the only female crew to be crowned champions in We Are Heroes. With their tight, silver catsuits on, they danced in unison, making diamond shapes to Rihanna’s “Diamonds” and doing acrobatic movements with flips and splits galore. Though they started off wacking a bit, they didn’t do as much of the popping and locking as fans of Heroes may be accustomed to. Dundas even said when introducing them that We Are Heroes dominated the fourth season with their popping style.  That style was only brought to the forefront a smidge during their performance, but it was solid nonetheless. Grande, commenting on their attire, responded to Dundas’ intro by saying “Shine bright like a Frankie.”

More physical hijinks ensued as the best comment was made by T-Pain: “When you did what I’m now going to call the vagimond -- somebody copyright that in the back! The difficulty of doing that ... and y’all went full circus at the end there.”

The last crew to perform is, let’s say it, one of the favorites: Quest Crew. The LMFAO choreographers and FOSD (friends of Snoop Dogg) won Season 3 with creativity, energy, passion and generally awesome dancing. Steve’s story of coming back from injury was heartfelt, and looked to give him and the other guys fuel as the crew came out super energetic. Their spacing and passion is evident; they really seem to want it. Not a whole lot of tricks, but some great movement and choreography, ending with Steve’s patented bicycle kick, but topped off with a split hitting the ground. And the crowd goes wild.

T-Pain had a breakout comment for the high-flying guys: “The cojones on these guys. I don’t know how rehearsals went, but my whole thing would’ve been like ‘Watch my ...”

The first real criticism of the night came from Grande, who said that he felt like he was “watching a highlight reel of what you’ve done in the past, and what I want to see is what you’re doing in the future.” Compliment for sure, but a little constructive feedback for the group.

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And, the first crew to be voted in the bottom is ... We Are heroes! Yeah, they needed to do a bit more of the popping since that seems to be their strength besides just being great dancers. But, in a twist, they’ll get their chance to fix it all as they were not eliminated right off the bat!  They’ll return in the next episode to face whoever is the bottom crew then. Most likely, they’ll come back strong.


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