America's Best Dance Crew had its sixth season premiere last night and the show has changed formats again. Instead of an extended introductory episode--with regional heats to determine the finalists or randomized heats, the ten finalists have been split into two episodes. The judges eliminate the worst crew and the remaining four are voted on by America. They've also recruited international crews, which makes you wonder how often the finalists were pre-selected and not in danger of early elimination. One last change: the crews are dancing to different artists every week. So there will be a week of only Lil' Wayne, a week of only Justin Bieber, a week of only Katy Perry, and so on and so forth until the finale. The participating crews in performance order are: IaMmE (featuring So You Think You Can Dance cast-off Phillip Chbeep), Phunk Phenomenon (from Bahstahn, as they all said), ReQuest (all girl crew from New Zealand who incorporate war dance in their hip-hop), Eclectic Gentleman (formerly Ocean's 11 before a required name change), and Street Kingdom (some of the originators of Krump, including a featured dancer in dance documentary Rize). They perform a sick group routine to Lil' Wayne's "6'7'" (one of my favorite jams right now), which is almost the highlight of the show.
IaMmE perform to "Right Above It"
Hit or Miss: Miss
This crew, though very clean, did nothing we haven't seen on the show before. The moves in their audition package were a lot more engaging than the "illusions" they created onstage. It took so long to get their vision across with the first big group formation of interlocking tuts that they barely moved across the stage at all. This was not the week to play it low key and show artistry. I will not be surprised if IaMmE is up for elimination in two weeks. They have a lot of potential, but this was a weak start.
Phunk Phenomenon perform to "A Milli"
Hit or Miss: Miss
They used the stage better than IaMmE but didn't really try anything new. They even did ABDC mainstays of one member of the crew knocks all the other members down and struts away. They did walking the dog and put the girl up front to show how sexy she is. I don't know how much more this Phunk Phenomenon has to offer. Plus, the judges have a history of bagging on one-girl crews as soon as the girl "makes a mistake," even if the mistake is not being 6'2" like the rest of her crew.
ReQuest perform to "Massive Attack"
Hit or Miss: Hit
This crew brought some engaging new visuals and a lot of energy to the stage. There is one sequence where they were apparently doing tribal chant while dancing, which freaked the judges out. I like that. It's an all girl crew that can actually do hip-hop choreography as hard as the all boy crews. Hopefully, they'll avoid the "freak'um dress" pitfall that ruined so many all girl crews before them. I get it, judges: they're girls. But you don't expect the all boy crews to bring it hard in a pair of high heels.
Eclectic Gentlemen perform to "Fireman"
Hit or Miss: Miss
Eclectic Gentlemen were doomed with these judges from the start. The smartly dressed all-male crew always gets bagged on, going all the way back to Season 1 and The Movement. Worse than that, everything they did was predictable and wrong for the occasion. On a night where the judges praised groups that didn't highlight anyone, this crew chose a member to play the Lil' Wayne role, relegating everyone else to back-up dancers. Their moves wouldn't have gotten them past the first week on Season 1, either. I even checked their online videos and audition interviews and I see nothing--other than a slick set of bowties--that competes with the other crews we've seen so far.
Street Kingdom performs to "I Am Not a Human Being" Hit or Miss: Hit Why? Because we finally have a freestyle crew that knows how to do formation changes and group choreography. That's why. Street Kingdom was phenomenal. They brought a lot of krumping into more mainstream hip-hop choreography without watering down what makes that style so iconic. They also have one girl in their crew who actually brings it as hard as the boys. If she wasn't dressed differently, you wouldn't have been able to pick her out. Lil' Mama is going to fight for this crew and that's always good enough to get a crew through a few trips to the bottom two.
In a shocking twist for the series, the judges do not eliminate my favorite crew before I even get to vote for them. Eclectic Gentlemen are out.
Next week, the other half of the competition performs to Ke$ha music. Ke$ha on a hip-hop dancing show. This should be fun. I'm predicting there is at least one house or club-style crew competing for that choice of artist this early on.