'Dance War': Worse than picking kickball teams in the first grade

Maxx_dancewar_240 Tonight, Bruno and Carrie Ann pick their teams. Only it's worse than grade school because if you're last to be picked, you're embarrassed and have to go home. Why? I have no idea and they're not telling.

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Of the fourteen finalists, only twelve will continue on to compete after this point which I think is pretty jacked up. Way to put these kids through all that emotional trauma only to be unceremoniously dismissed after two episodes.

Anyhoo, the finalists open with a medley number - the Black Eyed Peas version of "Get Ready," Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough," and "Shake Your Groove Thang" by Peaches & Herb. I kind of felt like I was watching a show choir or the final number in Sister Act II. Afterward, host Drew Lachey says that next week all us people at home will vote for the team we like the best (to mysterious ends) and introduces Carrie Ann and Bruno, who sit down and are asked questions to kill time as the finalists change into their next outfits. Drew explains that the guys are going to perform twice - a group number and a solo number.

First the group number. They're performing "Hold On (I'm Comin')" by Sam and Dave dressed in pseudo-fatigues. For some reason, Phillip (the Blonde kid from Nashville) is doing one armed push-ups on the riser portion of the stage...and he's wearing an open vest with no shirt. Um. Okay. Tony starts the song off and is a little shaky but still has a good tone and is followed by Bradley, who is a bit more solid. Chris blandly sings his line next and I'm not impressed. Phillip then struts downstage and sings,opening his vest so the ladies (and some of the fellas) can ogle him a bit better much to the delight of the squealing girls in the audience. Cheesy and unnecessary? Yes, but I'm writing about him, aren't I? Zack, Qis and Maxx then get their solos. Vocally, Qis and Maxx win. Zack, Phillip and Bradley are next but Tony and Chris impressed me the least. Dance wise, Carrie Ann gives her props to Bradley and Zack while Bruno's vocal daps go to Chris (blah) and Tony (eh) with a dance shout-out to Phillip for being able to work it despite being untrained. They were all fine dancing but I'm wondering if Bruno is hearing what I'm hearing.  Chris? Really?

Next up are mini group numbers, which is weird because I thought all the guys were going to do solos. I guess that comes later. We also get little profiles since the ultra-quick premiere didn't spotlight the majority of the finalists much. Maxx is the first up. He's 18 and from Bartlett, TN and grew up on a farm. Qis is 26 and from Los Angeles. He wanted to be a football player but got injured so he got into dancing and performing. Chris is 18 and hails from San Bernadino, CA. He plays the piano and has a mom with MS. From Nashville, TN is 24-year-old Bradley who gives me a "I used to be on the <i>Mickey Mouse Club</i>" vibe. Everyone in his family sings and his brother performs on Broadway. The four of them are performing the Backstreet Boys "Larger Than Life." The choreography was much more intricate than the all-guys number but they all hit their marks. Carrie Ann points out Chris as a highlight and I still don't get it. I mean, he's good but I like the other guys so much better. I guess I'd only understand if I were a teenie bopper. Bruno tells Maxx and Bradley to watch their concentration on vocals.

The remaining guys get their time in the spotlight next. Zack is 25 and from Saratoga Springs, UT and his brother has Down Syndrome. Plus he's studying to be a dentist. Tony is 23 and from Los Angeles. He moved to LA with $600 and a bag of clothes to try and make it. His mom was a hip-hop dancer and taught him everything he knows. Impressive. Phillip is 24 and from Sterling, VA. His whole family plays instruments and they show a clip of him rock climbing. I shall now, from time to time, refer to him as "Sporty Spice." The three lads are performing the Black Crowes version of "Hard to Handle" with hand-held mics instead of headsets. Their number is much less conducive to choreography but still enjoyable. Carrie Ann said that these guys have the three strongest voices. I pretty much agree, though Tony is going to really have to watch his intonation (maybe he can't hear himself so well?). She also said that Sporty Spice really rocked it out, which he did. Bruno then gave Tony major props saying he's such a good singer and dancer that he's only scratched the surface.

When we return after commercials, the guys are standing nervously on stage while Drew throws it to a pre-cut package of Carrie Ann and Bruno saying who they want on their teams (for the home audience only). Now it's picking time and Drew has two envelopes which will determine who picks first. Bruno, being the gentleman that he is, lets Carrie Ann pick first...which he soon regrets as she gets the envelope that gives her first dibs. Carrie picks Bradley first - which is a shock because I was sure she'd pick Zack since they'd been fighting over him. Of course Bruno picks Zack first and the C to the A looked ticked. Carrie Ann picks Chris next. Eh. Bruno is almost assuredly going to pick Phillip. Oh, wait...he picked Tony. So far Bruno's team is winning in my book. The three remaining guys will later perform solos before they're chosen but first, the girls sing.

Their first group number is Donna Summer's salute to the "working girl," "Bad Girls." They start out much stronger than the guys solo-wise. Allysa, Mariel and Lacey are the best in my opinion. Kelsey is surprisingly good vocally - Elizabeth and Corina are equally solid. Charity is the least impressive singing. All the girls danced well, especially Elizabeth who's the least trained. She matched the others well. Bruno gives Lacey and Mariel the vocal big-ups while Lacey gets the dancing nod. Carrie Ann gives props to Elizabeth for how far she's come while Corina is told to step it up a bit. She also commends Allysa on her "sparkle." Awesome.

The first member of the mini girl group consists of Kelsey (20 from W. Munroe, LA) whose mom is also her dance teacher. Given they way she speaks in her clip, she smacks of "Stage Mom" which explains the Pageant vibe I get from Kelsey and the fact that she says, deep down, she's really doing this for her mom. Corina is 22 and from Southington, CT. She bitches a bit about being perceived as a "cute, ditsy, flirt" and hopes the judges take her seriously. Twenty-year-old Allysa hails from Fresno, CA. She didn't plan on auditioning but after dropping a friend off, she got sucked in. Charity (20, Nashville) is the last of the group. She teaches ballet to kindergartners and has a dad who's a Contemporary Christian artist. Ironic that she performed a song about call girls. This number is a bit more dad-friendly - "The Beat Goes On" by Sonny and Cher. The number has a cute Austin Powers vibe to it. Allysa kicks everyone else's butts vocally, especially since the other three went flat once or twice, and I can totally see what Carrie Ann was talking about in terms of needing more from Corina. She seemed to be cheating some of the arm movements. When Drew asks Carrie Ann if she liked what she saw, she said yes but not so much with what she heard. Allysa and Kelsey got acknowledged for their good jobs. Bruno is in love with Kelsey and also takes his shot at Corina by criticizing her singing.

Now on to our last mini group number. Mariel is from Chicago and 19. Her grandmother has cancer and decided to use her savings to put Mariel through college and help pursue her dream. Lacy is 22 and from Nashville. She's the choir director at her church which explains her big voice. Finally, Elizabeth is 20 and from Riverside, CA. She was adopted. Oh crap. They're singing "Lady Marmalade." But, as they're three of the four strongest vocalists, perhaps it won't suck. It's a weird arrangement but the girls really worked it out. Drew's reaction? "Ya'll better sang! I got goosebumps." My only criticism is that Lacey needs to work on her control. She sings big naturally but that style is prone to breath/support loss. Bruno is super excited and calls them Dreamgirls in the making while Carrie Ann says Mariel blew her away.

Team picks go the same way - first with the recorded package (Carrie Ann calls Allysa a cross between Beyonce and Shakira and Bruno likens Corina to Paris Hilton - insulting much?) and then with the envelope picking. Bruno gets first choice this time, both in envelopes and for team members. Bruno picks Lacy first and, not a surprise, Carrie Ann grabs Mariel. Kelsey goes to Bruno's team, which is also no surprise since he's been slobbering over her the whole time. Carrie Ann's last pick is Elizabeth, a mild shock since I know she wants Allysa and there's no guarantee Bruno won't take her first.

After the commercial break, we get the remaining contestants doing two mini numbers. Which is only confusing because when Drew said there'd be solos at the beginning of the show, I thought he meant they'd be singing alone as opposed to solos within the groups. I guess even reality shows suffer during the Writer's Strike. Charity, Corina and Allysa go first singing "Survivor" by Destiny's Child, I song I detest. No dancing this time so there's no excuse for shaky singing. It's not that Charity is a bad singer, I just don't like he styling and phrasing. Corina has a nice voice but again falls victim to bad notes. Allysa rocks it out again, not loosing much quality to the pressure. The remaining guys, Qis, Maxx and Phillip, sing Boyz II Men's "End of the Road." Is it just me or was the boys' number shorter? Maxx started out a little off but really pulled it out at the end while Qis and Phillip were solid throughout. Carrie Ann picks the envelope first and unfortunately has to pick second, which means she'll be the bearer of bad news.

Bruno chooses Phillip and Charity for his team. And now C to the A has to put her stiletto boot heel in someone's dream, poor things. She awesomely chooses Qis and Allysa. Overall, I think I like Carrie Ann's team better though I'd much prefer Chris be swapped out with Maxx. Drew then interviews Maxx and Corina and, though disappointed, they take it well.

So that's it. The "Super Groups" have been made. What say you all? Do you like the teams? Would you swap anyone around? And what mysterious fortunes await the winners? Because, really...I don't know. They haven't even hinted at it.