With season 8 nearly upon us, what better way to anticipate what is certain to be an epic season -- EPIC EIGHT, you heard it here first -- than by posting that laziest of critical discourses: A LIST. And not just any list. No! A list that I wrote 1.5 years ago. Do you see how committed I am to bringing you all the phreshness? So without further ado, my ranking of Don't Call Them Breakdancers, updated to take season 7 into account, and with media added this time too.
I'm only going to look at the US show (it's the only series that I've a comprehensive grasp on), and I'm only going to include dancers who actually break, rather than simply hip-hop dancers (so, as much as I love them, no Cedric, no Jamile, no Chbeeb, no Comfort, no Tony B. haha j/k nobody loves him).
Of the 8 b-boys/b-girls on the US show, then, I rate them based on three categories: actual breaking skillz, versatility, and intangibles (basically cheating through a free score that lets me adjust their overall score to my liking), with 5 points for each rating.
8. Jose Ruiz (S7) -- Total points: 5 (1 breaking/1 versatility/3 intangible)
7. Musa Cooper (S2) -- 6 (2/2/2)
He's sort of a hybrid, a popping b-boy or a breaking popper, with some eye-opening tricks certainly, but nothing that makes me want to lose my mind beyond his signature back somersault onto his stomach. I don't remember how he did outside of hip-hop styles, which I'm taking to mean that he did forgettably. I gave him an extra intangible point for being hot.
6. Ryan C (S1) -- 8 (4, 2, 2)
He set the standard for a b-boy solo for a long time -- he has some of the best toprock of any of the show's breakers plus a crazy assortment of power moves, spins, and freezes that just involve his elbow.
And, for a b-boy, he was unusually flexible, so he could pull off even crazier Gumby-like moves. However, he was pretty brutal when he had to do other styles, and I deducted from his intangibles because he basically quit the show, but then I gave points back for rocking a Final Fantasy haircut.
4-tie. Hok (S3) -- 9 (4, 2, 3)
He may be tiny, but into that small package is jammed a hell of a lot of explosive and dynamic power. Tons of energy, incredibly strong flips and power moves, and fast to boot, with magnificent control. Unfortunately, he didn't handle choreography terribly well either -- I remember one of his Latin dances with Jaimie for being especially dire. But, and I'm not sure if anyone remembers, he was featured in a decent Wade piece:
Pretty swell, huh? And for which we all will compensate his overall score with a slightly inflated intangible score (plus, the accent).
4-tie. Sara (S3) -- 9 (1, 4, 4)
This pains me to say, but Sara was never much of a b-girl. Her toprock and downrock were relatively sloppy, and her power moves rarely ever popped -- she wasn't so much a b-girl as she was a modern/tap/jazz dancer who discovered breaking. Of course that's just the thing: her training in other styles made her the most versatile hip-hoppers on the show. I still love "Cabaret Hoover," and she was slinky in cool in her jazz with Pasha and held her own in the West Coast Swing. Lastly, I don't think there'll be another breaker whom I'd develop as serious a crush on as her.
3. Dom (S3) -- 10 (3, 3, 4)
I had to do a double-take when he out-ranked Hok and Sara both. I didn't love his solos -- he basically phoned in his toprock before he got to what he really wanted to do -- air flares, windmills, baby windmills, and headspins -- and he never really showed specific attention to musicality. That said, out of his fellow Quest-mates, he had the most success outside of hip hop (with no small thanks to Sabra) -- he had a decent rumba with her, plus what ought to be considered the show's hallmark lyrical hip hop.
Like, suck it, NappyTabs.
Finally, he was riotously funny, and among the best face-pulling camera-muggers SYTYCD has ever had, and ten times the judge that Omarion was on ABDC.
2. Legacy (S6) -- 13.75 (5, 3.25, 5.5)
Easily one of if not the best b-boys to grace the show. Watching his transitions into and out of power moves was like watching water flow. Nobody is as fluent as he is when he's on his head, nor has as much control generally during power moves.
Of the natural b-boys, he did admirably well in non-hip hop dances, and not just because his partnership with a certain someone helped him out so much -- he needs to be given credit for his dance ability, on top of his effusive emotional quality that allowed him to throw himself into his performances that helped him do so well in other genres.
And, OK, his ship with Kathryn gives him oodles of intangible points, plus: "... it's America."
1. Gev (S4) -- 14 (5, 5, 4)
He paid attention to the traditional values of Western dance; his audition solo really showed off an unusually wide range for a b-boy -- he did some popping and some liquiding, he worked some nice waves into his piece, and he had great control with which he combined with his musicality for some really outstanding moves and hitting some lovely lines. AND he didn't even bust out his biggest power moves! He saved that for his solos on the show -- that insane forward somersault/suicide, that seizure on the ground, plus that one freeze where he did a headstand while leaning his legs back and then raising himself up by his arms. Talk about IV Real.
I also think he's been underrated overall, but that's what happens when the lineup of guys ran as deep as it did in S4. Loved his rumba (seductive and strong) and contemporary (soulful) with Shortney and "Five Guys Named Moe", and he never fell on his face with the rest of the choreography (except, strangely, hip hop). But considering the track record of past b-boys, his ability to look at home in, say, ballroom, was revelatory. All by himself, he raised the bar for b-boys.
He wasn't as outrageous or effusive as other big-personality b-boys, but his brand of humor was a bit more sly -- giving Shortney a certain MESSAGE, or even including some goofy windup toy monkey moves into a solo, or just affably sharing his manscaping technique with everyone. He even took his elimination in remarkable stride with deft and light equanimity. And finally, he had some courage in wearing an Abu Ghraib tee shirt, and resourcefulness in actually getting it shown on air -- and on FOX, no less.
So that takes care of the b-boys and b-girl, next up: I crank out my rankings of SYTYCD's contemporary dancers in a single day. And while you wait for that, you can expect this show to not patronize hip-hop dancers! A-a-and for Nigel to not diminish female dancers because of their looks!