MTV Puts More Than Four on the Floor
At the Chicago tryouts for
"[We're trying] to find a crew in America that best represents that up-tempo, pop-culture style of dance that's referred to as hip-hop dance," choreographer Napoleon D'umo says.
D'umo -- who with partner Tabitha has worked with top talents including
And that's what sets this series apart from other dance-competition shows -- the increased difficulty because of the precision this particular style involves.
"Normally, when you teach a piece of choreography to dancers in this kind of setting, you would teach them a little section with just dancing, and you'd watch them," D'umo says. "But what we're incorporating into [the show] is that they have to set it on their crew. There are little portions of individuality you can put into it, but the whole crew has to look the same."
It's that crucial element of uniformity that's giving some of the Chicago crews trouble. They're trying their hearts out -- most of them, anyway -- but it's obvious that a few just are not synchronized the way D'umo would like to see them. They've put countless hours into these routines, both individually and as groups, and it's heartbreaking to watch some of them give it all they've got only to get the thumbs down.
Some would say that that's showbiz.
But D'umo has more insight into what he's seeing not just here or at the "Best Dance Crew" auditions elsewhere, but in the dancing world as a whole. In his view, many dancers today are missing the forest for the trees -- or in this case, the feet.
"Everybody's getting really good at doing more and more technical steps," he says, "and forgetting about the performance. The person who's a layman dancer doesn't realize that you're doing something more technical. They just feel the performance. And if you make them feel something, they think you're good. It doesn't matter that it was really simple or it wasn't. ... I think that came from dancers dancing for dancers because the art wasn't appreciated, and now this show, and all the other dancers that are out are bringing it to the layman and saying, 'Hey, it's more than just steps. There is a performance here.'"
Some of the crews at today's auditions understand this. Although a number of teams have been disqualified for their imprecision, a few have managed to hang on by bringing energy and spectacle in abundance. Overall, D'umo is impressed.
"We had the FootworKINGz go in there, who are the guys on the
Getting to "that next level" is a priority for D'umo and for everyone working on this new series. With executive producer Jackson's name attached to it and MTV's involvement, "Best Dance Crew" has the potential to really bring dancing to the forefront for a new generation -- a fact of which D'umo is keenly aware.
In his mind, it's the chance for dancing to truly reclaim the respect it once had from the masses, and to create opportunities for aspiring professional dancers almost unheard of at present.
"I'm hoping, as a choreographer, that it's going to bring it to the next level again, just like