Way back at the start of the season, I mentioned that America’s Best Dance Crew was subtly making the changes it needed to make in order to become a better show. The initial episodes were one of the main concerns, with too many crews introduced, then one cursorily dismissed. But while that may be frustrating—especially for the eliminated crew—it’s probably not all that important for the season as a whole.
That’s not the case with the second-to-last episode, when the competitors are whittled down from three to two, and those finalists then have to compete for the final batch of votes. The show has struggled with the best mechanism for making this work. Back in season two, it seemed fair to have the crew with the most votes over the course of the season go into the final. That was the solid SoReal Cru, but they’d been fairly clearly surpassed by both SuperCr3w and Fanny Pak, one of whom (Fanny Pak) was eliminated, despite peaking at the right time.
The most-votes-overall model wasn’t continued moving forward, which was probably wise, but there were still structural issues. One crew had a nice safe performance, then another had to compete, raise the adrenaline, and get to appear as the underdog. Then, once the drama had been raised, and catharsis achieved… the two remaining crews got to dance again, anti-climactically.
I’m not sure that there’s a good way to avoid the anti-climax problem, but the producers did a good job this season of rearranging the form so that it seemed fair. The first major switch was that each of the three remaining crews performed before the bottom two were announced. This was a clever way for the pressure and response to be equal across the board, but it was also a good way for the episode to build to a dramatic conclusion at the end, instead of two-thirds of the way through.
That climax came when the bottom two crews: Elektrolytes and, in a surprise, Mos Wanted Crew, ended up competing against one another in a dance battle. The show has done this a few times before, but there usually seems to be something constrained about it. I recently started watching the first season again, and in the very first episode, the battle between the bottom two crews, with Flo Rida giving a live performance, had a level of chaotic tension and energy that I haven’t seen on the show at any other point. This battle dance didn’t quite have the energy, without the rapper right there on stage, but the tension was far, far higher, as was the quality.
Of course, quality is the most important thing. All the structure and drama in the world don’t make this compelling if the dancing isn’t great. Tonight, it’s better than great. Each performance is fantastic, which leads me to believe that this is one of America’s Best Dance Crew’s all-time best episodes, alongside the season two Missy Elliot challenge and Hip-Hop Decathalon from season three.
Part of that is the music. I was a little concerned about the David Guetta theme initially, as I’m not exactly an expert on world-famous DJs. Mario Lopez saying that the episode would be focused on “the hottest music genre in the world… electronic dance!” didn’t exactly help matters either. But my concerns were quickly demonstrated to be not merely wrong, but outrageously wrong. Guetta’s poppy hip-hop mixes ended up being absolutely ideal for ABDC, and the combination of three songs into mash-ups made sure that there was variety which each crew had an identical, and fair, setup.
The crews responded by having their best episodes. Other than Elektrolytes last week, this season has been sadly lacking in iconic routines. Here, we got three of them in a row. I think Mos Wanted Crew had the best of the night, but if I were grading it a 98 percent of a Beat Freaks' “Illusion,” then Elektrolytes and 8 Flavahz were a 96 percent. The strengths of the competitors, as well as the three-song mash-up, helped turn each performance into something different as well as accessing each crew’s strengths. Mos Wanted got to use their choreography with enough room to breathe on its own, then add a few tricks. 8 Flavahz did their wild, full-stage-using stuff, but were also able to demonstrate crisp technique. And Elektrolytes’ tricks just get better and better, with fantastic and occasionally surprising use of props.
I honestly thought Elektrolytes were done after the battle, though. Mos Wanted managed to maintain their well-paced isolations while adding intensity and athleticism, in a way that Elektrolytes didn’t quite manage to match. But Elektrolytes seem to have won over the judges (I also think Fanny Pak beat them when FP was eliminated, though Elektrolytes have certainly been better over the course of the season), and the favorite ended up going home.
And so we’re left with 8 Flavahz and Elektrolytes for the finale. I honestly don’t know which crew I’d vote for. Elektrolytes may have been a tiny bit better over the course of the season as a whole, but their tricks and visuals have become a bit conventional for an ABDC crew: a bit of SuperCr3w, a lot of Quest Crew, and a dash of I aM mE. 8 Flavahz wouldn’t just be a different winner for their age and gender combination, but their overall style—studio-based, with a hip-hop twinge. It’ll be a fair result either way, and thanks to the sheer quality of this penultimate episode, the victory will be deserved in hall of ABDC fame.
- Lil Mama’s outfit. That is all.