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Saturday, 4 July 2009

Dance Off Stays On The Hook...

Billed as a big night where music and dance come together, Dance Off should have been a huge success. But it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. Nicky Short reports...

Boy Blue, Nike D-Clash, Ironik, Killa Kella, Kymberlee Jay… What a line up! ‘Dance off’ in Matter at the O2 on Thursday 26th June lacked nothing; hip hop dance heads would have been hard pressed to think of something missing. So why did the night stay firmly ON the hook?

Theories might include blaming it on the venue: Matter is cavernous and featureless with bleak, unfinished looking décor that looks as though the plasterers have been in but no one has painted. It started filling up from 8pm- preliminary rounds of the battles were held earlier in the day- but even at its fullest, it felt empty. That said, the floor and space were perfect for the sneaker touting dancers, the stage was a good height with Amphitheatre style benches so the usual urban event sight issues didn’t factor. The sound was good with Kiss 100’s Manny Norte banging out fresh tunes and classics. That would be enough to ensure success, surely?

The night even ran more or less on time with dance performances interspersed with music sets, culminating in the battles and Ironik’s show. D-clash executed their varied set to completely instrumental music, demonstrating their prolific skills in contemporary and urban styles including an exemplary head spin from b-girl, Lyra. They were let down by the unnecessary dry ice which masked them so thickly that it was only when they stepped through to take a bow that the MC realised ‘oh wow, they’re all ladies!’

DJ Yoda mixed music and video seamlessly and cleverly, including cuts, scratches and footage from Everybody Hates Chris, Kindergarten Cop and Only fools and Horses. The technical set up and some of the less mainstream musical and visual references kept the geeks happy and as the general crowd lost direct interest, circles opened up on the floor.

Everyone remained mesmerised throughout Boy Blue’s set, Kenrick lead his troupe through the piece with charisma, and the dancers and choreography were fierce.

Killa Kella was equally aggressive, with a silver set of teeth round his neck he sang, growled, beat boxed and spat into the mic. A very laid back DJ and eccentric drummer in a wig who twirled and mimed the flute on his sticks backed him up. The audience warmed up and those fans who had specifically come to see him got a great show but, as in the case of DJ Yoda, the set was a little long for the dancers to maintain interest and they eventually trickled back to their circles.

The battles brought the focus onto the floor which Kymberlee Jay hosted with ease. DJ Renegade provided the tunes for Lucky Track- where anything goes musically- and Bonnie and Clyde battles. In the semi finals of Lucky Track judges Kenrick, Babyson and Junior favoured Kofi’s explosive style over Swarf’s effortless footwork. Raoul took his time and incorporated wacking and locking against Bruno who flung off his towel and tipped into the circle with shades on. The judges were unanimous in favour of Raoul. The Bonnie and Clyde battle final saw UK duo Roxy and Mouse take on Smiles and Zero from the US. Team America was aggressive and powerful but in the end the home team with their effortless funk, Roxy’s headspin and double-jointed freeze won them the cash prize and Nike gear. The Lucky Track final didn’t deviate too far musically from the expected in any of the three rounds. Kofi went straight for the jugular with a slick windmill and demonstrated his musicality, creativity and eccentricity but in the end Raoul the cool won the day.

Junior and Babyson showcased some nice tricks, freestyles and commandos. His gorilla arms didn’t disappoint as she took care of the top rock and he performed the equivalent on his hands!

By this time the murmurs of a rumour had started to ripple around the audience, triggered by a distressed Suzette of D-Clash interrupting Kymberlee mid-host to show her a text message. By the time DJ Ironik took the stage the audience was distracted to the point he stopped the show to ask people to ‘please show some support for UK music’. How Ironik. Everyone will remember where they were the night Michael Jackson died. For many London dancers it will have been at an event that, despite genuine quality of talent, for various reasons lacked the hype it promised.

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