Pure World of Dance, Season 2, Week 5 (Qualifiers) – Court’s Thoughts: The Good, The Bad, & the WTF???

So this week was supposed to be “a very special episode” of WOD…why? Because someone got injured right before they were due to go onstage? Sorry, but I wasn’t feeling the alleged mushiness that the “very special episode” description we got last week implied.  But we did get some good acts, and saw quite a few familiar faces this week – namely Rudy Abreu (the leader of Embodiment) and Audrey Case & Will Thomas (from Royal Flux), who are all SYTYCD alums. No doubt this show has definitely brought a few dancers we’ve forgotten about over the years back to the forefront of our minds 😉 Not a whole lot else to add, so shall we get to it?

This is What Happens When You Do Too Much of A Good Thing: Royal Flux. I’ll say this: generally, I enjoy Royal Flux and what their style of dance is. We only saw them pretty briefly last season (no qualifier performance shown, and I don’t even know that they got a full-length intro in the duels), but I went back and read what I had to say about them and it was neutral-to-positive. Here’s my concern: their routines tend more towards the DNA end of the spectrum – meaning they toe the line between and an above-average amount of content and wayyyyy too much content. They’re doing really cool lifts and tricks – but there is just SO MUCH going on onstage at any given time that it can get a bit hard to absorb and appreciate everything they’re doing. And part of me thinks that may have contributed to their teammate (who Justin on Twitter pointed out to me is Audrey Case from season 9 of SYTYCD – I thought she looked familiar!) getting injured while practicing – they are just going full-tilt, trying to do more and more interesting and complicated lifts and tricks that eventually, something has to give.  I’d like to see them pare down some of what is going on onstage at any given time, and maybe have those in the background stick to simpler steps in order to keep the focus on those doing the complex stuff.  They’re about 50/50 for me headed into the duels – I think their success is largely going to depend on who they’re pitted against: I think they lose if they’re put up against an act that’s very clean and fleshed-out like Fabulous Sisters, but they might be able to beat a less-realized act like Expressenz.

100% Skill, 0% Personality: Freshh. I’m not sure I’ve seen an act on this show yet that was so fully engaged and skilled in their performance – but had such a poker face about it, to the point that it felt a bit robotic.  I mean, these guys were doing some pretty intricate stuff, IN PERFECT SYNCHRONIZATION, but judging from the looks on their faces, they may as well have been doing the multiplication tables in their heads.  Yes, their faces were moving – but it somehow felt…rehearsed? Like they were used to not doing ANYTHING AT ALL, facially, and were forcing themselves to do SOMETHING to make the whole things seem more…human? I dunno…I’m just left with a really strange vibe from this group.  They’re fantastic, but there’s a peculiar hollowness to their performance that I’m having a hard time putting into words.  They’re another group that I’m on the fence about headed into the duels – depending on who they’re pitted against, they could advance or they could get bumped out.  Strange.

Eva Igo, Slightly Remixed?: Madison Brown. Oh, awesome…another teenage-ish female contemporary dancer. Perhaps I’ve just soured so much on Eva that any contemporary act in general kinda makes me yawn, but Madison just felt like a slightly tweaked Eva with slightly different packaging. I will commend Madison on having much better musicality than Eva, and more of a tendency to move with intent and understanding behind the choreography; whereas Eva tends to give more of an impression of just going through the motions and not being particularly connected to the music or choreo. But at the end of the day – are they really that different or special in what they do? Flex, flail, repeat – my guess is that they’ll pit them against one another in the duel, and we might get a surprise shock elim of Eva.

Rudy!…Rudy!…Ruuuuuuudy!: Embodiment. It’s good to see Rudy really coming into his own as a choreographer 🙂 I remember watching him on SYTYCD, and he seemed like he was often overlooked in favor of the more conventionally attractive male contestants, despite the fact that Rudy was impressively cross-trained – he specialized in contemporary, but had training in salsa/ballroom (with Manny Castro, no less) and seemed to fare pretty well in hip-hop as well. I know he did a stint on Derek & Julianne’s tour, and as he mentioned on WOD last night, he’s also been dancing in J-Lo’s Vegas residency. So for him to finally step out in front and choreograph, after being a backup dancer for awhile? That’s pretty impressive, and I daresay it was a pretty admirable effort for a first-timer – loved that there seemed to be two guys doing a pas-des-deux in the middle while the group danced around them; loved that everyone was very in-sync; also loved that it was a very edgy performance with a lot of musicality. And I’m going to disagree slightly with J. Lo with regards to Rudy’s ambitions for doing the show – I don’t think any act HAS to win in order to “get hired” or benefit professionally from the show.  Would winning improve their chances? Maybe, but I think the best thing this show has to offer is exposure – so I’m right on board with Rudy’s ambition to do well on the show, but have it be more about personal growth rather than being 100% eyes-on-the-prize.  I think this group could go far this season, though, if they can continue to switch up their routines week to week.

Cognitive Dissonance On Fleek: Marissa & the Heartbreakers. Like Heidi, I’m generally not a fan of “hairography” – anyone that has followed us over at PureDWTS knows how we groan and shake our heads whenever the female pros are reduced to Beyonce-esque hair-flipping and mugging to the camera while the male pros get to do really athletic, impressive choreo that really shows off their skills. So normally, what Marissa & the Heartbreakers (the name is pretty cringe-y, while I’m at it) did would not be my cup of tea.  HOWEVER – I am actually familiar with Marissa and have seen her dancing in some of of Yanis Marshall’s (a fairly well-known choreographer from Britain’s Got Talent who has become known for “heels” choreography) YouTube videos, and I will say that the girl can DANCE.  Additionally, “heels” is becoming a more well-known and well-appreciated choreography style these days, and I have a definite appreciation for the difficulty of it. It may not look like much, because heels do impose some limitations to the type of movements that can be done (gymnastic tricks are pretty much out, and balance/flexibility tricks like extended legs tend to be risky), but the fact that these girls can still turn and and spin and stretch in those shoes is pretty remarkable.  So I’m left somewhat torn on this act – part of me really appreciates the difficulty of what they do, and part of me is also “This isn’t competitive enough for this show.” I will agree with Derek that they need to come up with some more dynamic ways to fill time in their routine, aside from just sexily walking from spot to spot. My gut feeling is that they probably won’t make it past the duels – but I do think what they do is valid, and maybe just not super-compatible with this competition.

Cool In Theory, Maybe Not So Much in Practice: Silverbeat. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse by saying this again, but this is yet another act that I think was probably sought out by producers and enticed into trying out to fulfill the “we truly are the biggest dance competition in the world!” quota that seems to be getting emphasized more this season; and they perhaps weren’t necessarily a great fit for the show, but that doesn’t invalidate the importance and skill of what they do. I thought they had great energy, and loved how unique the moves were; however, the dance vocabulary just wasn’t there, relative to other acts.  But I’m glad we got to see them, and I hope the show is good exposure for the great work they’re doing 🙂

Derek & Aneta Jr: Daniel & Mishella. How they managed to find mini-Derek is beyond me 😛 And they managed to find a little girl that at least bore a passing resemblance to Derek’s old partner, too! Loved their spunk and their stage presence, but I do agree with whichever judge (Ne-Yo, maybe?) pointed out that they needed to clean up some of their steps and up the ante a bit – and I agree, although I do think they may just be a tad limited by their age.  Part of me worries that they’re going to end up pitted against an older ballroom couple (namely Jonas & Ruby, who are leaps and bounds ahead of them in age and skill) and they’re just going to get trounced and heartbroken, but who knows. I don’t know that I see them lasting past the duels…