Ask anyone who watched MTV’s new number-one hit, “Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew” and they will tell you that Kaba Modern deserved to be in the top two; perhaps even win the $100,000 grand prize along with a touring contract. With its pop-lock finesse and inventive clean moves, UC Irvine’s own KABA Modern made up of Mike Song, Jia Huang, Lawrence Kao, Cindy Minowa, Tony Tran and Yuri Tag quickly became a frontrunner in the show.
Until week seven of the show, it seemed like JabbaWockeeZ, in its white mime-like masks and Michael Jackson-esque gloves, was the group’s only competitor. So what happened?
According to member Mike Song, it was a steady progression downhill after its hip-hop performance of the Broadway hit, “You’re the One That I Want” from “Grease.”
“The Broadway episode was our most difficult dance, hands down,” Song said. “We received new music at 8 p.m. the night before the taping of our show. No exaggeration. We had complained all week to the guy in charge of music about how slow our music was but they wouldn’t change our music until the day of the performance (when the executives finally heard it). We didn’t even want to change the music anymore by the time they told us to, but they forced us to work with the music changes. We had to re-choreograph half of our routine the night before the show. We were performing on barely any sleep. That’s the kind of stuff I wish they would show on MTV.”
Coincidentally, that week, KABA Modern ended up in the bottom two and team member Yuri Tag was singled out by judge Lil’ Mama for missing a step. Despite their falter, KABA Modern escaped back to safety, sending BreakSk8 home. However, the next week, their fans were unable to save them and they went home placing third out of twelve teams. When their elimination was announced, the group huddled together while the audience chanted, “Let KABA dance!”
“I definitely wish we could have made it to the finals with JabbaWockeeZ, but as a group we’re okay with the results. We’re just glad we made it as far as we did,” Song said.
KABA Modern first heard about the show from Arnel Calvario, the group’s founder. He approached them with the opportunity and the group seized it.
“It was a great learning experience and I definitely grew as a person,” Song said. “It was such a surreal experience to be locked down for two months and do nothing but dance and eat. It gave me a lot of time to contemplate on my own and really develop a new outlook on how I want to live my life. Although it was stressful to be dancing 24/7, I realized there is nothing else I would rather be stressing over. And we gained a free pair of Nikes every week.”
Aside from the free Nikes, there were a few other perks the teams got. Teams were put up in a hotel in Culver City and as Song describes, “We cooped up there and only left the hotel to eat or dance. It got kind of crazy. We woke up around 8 a.m. every day to be driven to the studio where we practiced and filmed all day until 7 p.m. We’d get back to the hotel, take about a one-hour nap, and then go back to practicing until around 3 a.m.”
Despite the crazy schedule, the teams still had time for fun. They were stuck in a hotel for a week, and thus bonded despite their rivalry.
“On the nights of the tapings, all the crews would just gather up in the hotel banquet room and party and dance together. We would wreak havoc until the hotel security went crazy,” Song recalled.
Only in its first season, “ABDC” received rave reviews and high ratings, but it is clear to Song that there is definite room for improvement.
“The show needs more dancers working in the production staff,” Song said. “I think it is difficult for the production crew to understand the dancers’ needs when the production isn’t filled with very many dancers at all. For example, the camera angles were overly exaggerated, so the dancing was not properly showcased as a result, and I think the judges should start choosing when it comes down to the last couple of teams.”
Though season one is now over, KABA Modern’s experiences live on in the numerous YouTube videos showcasing all of their performances. “Thriller” was their easiest performance because the crew was able to grasp the choreography quickly and get a full night’s rest before the show, and “Sensual Seduction” is their most memorable because it “just flowed so well.”
Want to try out for ABDC? Go to http://www.mtv.com for more deatils.
“I hope that any crews that enter realize that they might not be able to fully represent themselves artistically because of the music or challenges they may be assigned. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes difficulties that don’t get shown on television,” Song said.