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In honor of the lovely spring day we are getting, here is some lovely ballet to brighten you ballet– an appearance by Suzanne Farrell on Sesame Street.

In which Miss Farrell takes little steps and big steps:

In which the Count counts Miss Farrell’s turns:

America’s Best Dance Crew is down to its top two crews. Voting is going on this week and the winner will be announced at the finale show this Thursday.

I find it interesting to see the type of web presence each crew– Beat Freaks and Quest Crew has. Does it have any bearing on their dancing? No. But this show is not just about dancing; it is a popularity contest as well. Fan votes will ultimately determine who wins, and the web has become an important additional factor in rallying their bases.

Beat Freaks

Beat Freaks have fully utilized the social networking tools at their disposal. They are doing a good job of engaging their fans. None of it– aside from the Freak the Vote site– is anything that you can’t make for free. This is the underdog group in the sense that they don’t have the same recognition as Quest Crew. They

They have a wordpress blog with a populist feel to it. Lots of fan appreciation and interaction. It is frequently updated and pulls in youtube videos and fan submissions.

There is also a facebook fan page

A FREAK THE VOTE website– this looks like the official site. It is a professionally created and hosted site with voting information. It has a retrospective of their performances if you want a quick refresher. I initially thought the crew had engaged a publicist to create and maintain this page for them. Then, I noticed something on their blog that says: “FREAK THE VOTE! is a 3 month movement strategy to create awareness of the BEAT FREAKS participation on Mtv’s America’s Best Dance Crew.  We are a pro-bono, non-profit grassroots movement of Fans.”

A YouTube channel featuring professional-quality interviews with each crew member, and favorited videos of them and other dancers.

A fan created MySpace page that aggregates a lot of information about the crew and has things such as fan-submitted dance videos.

BeatFreaks on Twitter. Very actively used to notify followers of new videos, blog posts, and of course, how to vote.

Quest Crew

I had to giggle when I saw their official website, which includes member bios, photos, videos, and booking information. Mr. P said the other day that he thought Quest sounded more like a corporation than a dance crew. The source of the giggle was the mission statement on their website. Yes, mission statement. And a very corporate sounding one at that (excerpt: “to provide awareness of the facility that remains a viable resource of knowledge and growth for the community” tell me how this appeals to the average ABDC viewer).

The group has a MySpace page though they haven’t used it much to promote themselves for the show.

There is a Facebook page, but likewise it is not very active nor has it been used much in the service of the show.

I searched for, and was unable to fine, a blog or a twitter feed.

With So You Think You Can Dance alums Hok, Dominic, and Ryan on Quest crew, it’s no surprise they have a more established feel on the web. The slick official website definitely has a publicist behind it. Is this a good thing for a popularity contest? Not so sure. On one hand, I’m more drawn to the populist feel of Beat Freaks. It makes me feel like my vote is more appreciated. In fact, most of the existing web content for Quest Crew appears to pre-date America’s Best Dance Crew. There’s something to be said for branding, but this is pretty static.

In the contest for best web content and best use of social networking to mobilize support, there is no contest, the Beat Freaks win. Now, let’s see who wins the dance and popularity contest on Thursday. This is a pretty equal contest in terms of originality and dance prowess. Could web presence play a part?

What did you think of America’s Best Dance Crew last night?

Though I haven’t written much about it, I have been following the show on and off this season. I think there is some amazing dancing on this show, which really showcases the diversity of hip hop. I love that they had a clogging group and I love that they made it as far as they did. I also love that female groups did as well as they did this season, outnumbering the men 2:1 in the top three.

Ultimately, Fly Khicks, the female group from Miami, was eliminated, leaving the Beat Freaks and Quest Crew (which Mr P thinks sounds like a rather corporate name) heading into the finale. I think this is a good top two. Strikers All-Stars, the step crew from Florida would have also merited a place at the top. Ultimately, it came down to the two groups with the most physical prowess and the most unique flavor.

I just love what the Beat Freaks have done, showing that women can go head to head with men in some of the craziest, most difficult moves such as head spins and threading. They have upper body strength and control that even most men can only dream about.

Quest Crew has some familiar faces– Dominic (or D Tricks as he’s calling himself on this show) and Hok– from So You Think You Can Dance. That gave them a familiarity advantage in the beginning, but they truly belong at the top.

I have no idea who deserves to win. I think that Quest did slightly better last night in terms of leaving their mark than Beat Freaks, but I’m going to have to review videos from the season before I can figure out who deserves to win.

Thanks to Clinton Yates over at the DC Express Blog Log for featuring my post on Superstars of Dance in both the online and print version. It was so cool to open up my free daily paper on my morning commute and see my words in print. If you’ve come over from Express, welcome!

This is actually the second time Express has linked to me, the first time was on November 20, for my post on Rahm Emanuel’s ballet background. This is the kind of stuff that makes this unpaid writing pasttime so rewarding.

While we’re on the subject of Superstars of Dance, did anyone watch the second installment last night? Did it get any better? Any particular dances we should check out on YouTube?

I had such high hopes for NBC’s new show, Superstars of Dance, but in the end it was a disappointment. There were a few nice moments, but ultimately, I turned the TV off before the show ended.

Superstars of Dance is billed as an international dance competition, with categories for solos, couples, and groups. It is hosted by Michael Flatley (aka The Lord of the Dance) and Miss USA Susie Castillo. The executive producer is Nigel Lythgoe, which explained why the whole thing felt like a sort of second-rate So You Think You Can Dance reunion.

Countries represented in the show are the USA, Russia, Argentina, China, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, and India. There is a judge from each of those countries, who must sit out on the voting when their own country performs. I was frustrated that not all the judges were introduced. I would have liked to know what their dance background was. A friend mentioned this morning that it felt like they were trying to make the show into a faux Olympics, complete with the conversation with the dancer and the “coach” afterwards.

A lot of the dancing was sort of ho-hum. Some of it was spectacular but more for a “wow” factor than for artistic quality. For example, a modern/hip hop group from Australia had fantastic tricks and rhythm but it wasn’t anything close to a revelation– more like pandering to people whose ideals of dance are formed by MTV and SYTYCD. Robert Mourain, the one-trick pony we saw doing contortionistic popping and locking on SYTYCD was back representing the US in the solo category; why? Also, talk about perpetuating sterotypes…why are Riverdance-type dances the only ones representing Ireland. Could it be because of Michael Flatley’s role in the show? It was so cheezy.

The two high points for me were the couple representing the US (Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian) whose partnering skills I really admired, and the Argentine tango. Despite the horrible camera work and mediocre production format, they managed to keep it together and show viewers a peek into their art.

The low points were pretty much all in the solos. In particular, China. The woman danced with such long scarves it was hard to see any body movement. It was supposed to be a traditional folk dance, but it was set to a euro dance beat. The “Zulu” dancer representing South Africa looked more like a Rockette with all the high kicks than any African dance I’ve ever seen (feel free to call out my ignorance here if I am totally off the mark).

Too bad that another dance show has come up short. I’m glad to see so much dance on TV now, but we definitely need a quality increase. Some new faces would be good too. Nigel Lythgoe changed the face of TV with American Idol and SYTYCD, but it’s time for some fresh ideas. On the upside, my Monday nights are still free so I can go to dance class.

I just signed up with Twitter. I’ve decided it is the solution to my aborted post problem. That is, I start so many posts and then abandon them before I get to far. Twitter will allow me to get those quick little thoughts, links and observations up more efficiently. To follow me, check out my Twitter feed at the top of the lefthand sidebar, visit my Twitter page, or put it in your feed.

I’ll be testing out Twitter this evening as I watch the first installment of Superstars of Dance.

A million thank yous to Salsa Gigolo for bringing this MadTV spoof on So You Think You Can Dance and the presidential race to my attention. Not only was the Baroque Waltz hilarious, but the judge impersonations were totally spot-on.

I’m still wiping the tears from my eyes.

In searching for some West Side Story clips to listen to at work (getting in the mood for the revival which opens here in DC on December 15— today is T minus 50!) I came across this hilarious Scrubs clip. Why did I not know about this scene before? I love Scrubs for its zany alternate reality sequences such as this.

This whimsical ad from LG (being shown in Korea, I believe), depicts figures from Matisse paintings coming alive, interacting, and dancing.

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t blogged at all about this season’s So You Think You Can Dance. At first I was feeling bad that I was letting my readers down, but this is my blog, not yours, and let it be known that I am taking a break from TV right now. It’s not so much an intentional thing, but a time issue. I am in either rehearsal or class pretty much every night and weekend day. When I’m not dancing, I’m spending time with the real life human beings that I care about– my husband, my family, my friends. Real life rocks and I’m enjoying every minute of it. Given the choice, I’d rather be dancing (or at least participating in the dance of life) than watching it on a little screen.

Philosophizing aside, maybe the excitement of these shows has worn off for me. After so many years where dance was not the thing to do on TV, it was so thrilling to have shows like SYTYCD that brought dance back to the awareness of the public. Now we have almost reached a saturation point where there is a dance show on pretty much every network and channel, of varying quality and target demographic. I think it is great. There used to be just one or two nights where I could watch the one show on TV where people danced. That’s why it was so sacred to me not to miss it. In some ways, it also inspired me to want to dance more and dance better. It also in some measure inspired me to seek out real life dance watching opportunities, to delve into the distinctions and overlaps between art and entertainment.

We are now in the fourth year of this era of dance on TV. The public is now more educated about dance, and hopefully that will translate into inspiration to dance and see dance in real life as well. Judging from the number of blogs and blog posts that have exploded on this topic in the last year, the dialogue is alive and well.

 

The First Season of Step It Up and Dance concluded last night. I was very impressed by all four of the final contestants. Each one truly had their own unique style and I enjoyed everyone’s choreography.

Cody won, and I definitely wasn’t surprised. He has been the most consistent throughout the season technique-wise and in handling all the challenges. His solo was stunning. He moves like a cat– very fluid– and at times looked like he was flying.

At the same time, he was the most predictable winner. Miguel takes the most risks both artistically and generally (as evidenced in the flawless job he did on the sprained ankle). His style is unique and entertainment/tv-wise he has something really interesting to offer. I don’t doubt we’ll be seeing him on tv again soon.

I enjoyed Mochi and Nick’s solos a lot– nothing bad to say and lots of good things to say– but this wasn’t their night. Perhaps, even though they took a lot of personal risks, they were too safe in the end. Mochi got an awesome consolation prize of winning a spot in Akon’s next music video. Nick would be completely at home on Broadway.

I enjoyed this show moderately and I hope they do it again, with some of the issues ironed out. For example, winning and elimination groups have got to go– everyone, save possibly whoever is immune– needs to be up for elimination every time. Also, less pressure has got to be put on the contestants in terms of choreography. Bring in more guest choreographers– and hopefully not some of the usual suspects. Get some people from the art world that would benefit from the exposure and educate the public about good choreography. Finally, there need to be more opportunities for standard technique to shine in the first episodes.

What are your thoughts on the show– in terms of both the overall show and the winner?

…is that one of the contestants (the high school teacher from Miami…forget the name) danced to one of my favorite salsa songs, Aguanile by Hector Lavoe. It’s great to see such a good salsa song get mass media exposure.

An enterprising LJ-er scoured the net to find out what past So You Think You Can Dance contestants are up to now.  Among the highlights:

  • Musa Cooper is touring with Alicia Keyes
  • Jaime Goodwin will be a principal dancer in High School Musical 3
  • Lauren Gottlieb is on tour with Mariah Carey
  • Neil Haskell is in Altar Boyz (off Broadway musical)
  • Blake McGrath is a judge for SYTYCD Canada.

Many more contestant updates here.

Thanks to Beto for sending in the link.

I haven’t really been able to watch the show this season. As usual I am busy busy busy and have not been able to be at home when it is on. I’ll make more of an effort (or at least try to remember how to program my VCR…yes, I still use a VCR) when we get to the top 20, but in the meantime, what do people think of the new season so far?

Dude, I can’t believe I spaced out on the season premiere of So You Think You Can Dance. I caught the tail end of the second half of it tonight, with the LA leg of the auditions. The judges went gaga over a girl with bad technique, dance competition-esque fake smile and awkward choreography. I enjoyed the latin ballroom couple, and the guy who popped and locked was ridiculous.

I kind of wish something felt different from previous seasons, but the judges are the same and are acting the same. Mary’s laugh entertained me for two seasons, and now it’s just plain annoying. I’m looking forward to getting to the top 20. I always find the audition process relatively annoying.

Unless you are a reader of The Manolo’s bemused coverage of the event, most of my American readers are unlikely to be familiar with Eurovision. From what I understand, it’s like the olympics of manufactured pop bands and pageantry.

I’m a little late to this, because I should mention that the winner was announced yesterday (SPOILER: Russia). That said, it’s never too late to rehash the pop culture kitsch and dancing that occurred.

No way am I going to sit through all forty-something entries. Lucky for us, our European correspondent, Owlfish, has been following the festivities and has selected the songs involving the best dancing for us. And when we say “best dancing,” we mean in the most pop culture way.

Let’s start with Iceland’s entry, which brings to fruition every youtube lip-syncher’s and bedroom dancer’s daydreams. Hilarious.

(Eurobandid – This Is My Life)

Next, Owlfish recommended Ukraine’s 2008 entry, but I much prefer that country’s entry from last year, which came in 2nd place. I could really dedicate an entire post to Verka Serduchka.

(Verka Serduchka: Dancing Lasha Tumbai)

Next is Greece, which features some nice solid teen boy/girl band choreography.

(Kalomoira – My Secret Combination)

Finally, Switzerland’s entry. Bonus points for actually singing in a country’s native language rather than all the others’ Ken Lee-worthy English. As far as music video dancing goes, this is definitely the most interesting and artistic.

(Paolo Meneguzzi – Era Stupendo)

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