Wednesday 31 August 2011

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I can't dance.  There's your disclaimer, and something to keep in mind as I tell you about our evening at Jabbawockeez, a dance crew performing at the Monte Carlo in Vegas.  It's possible that my general lack of rhythm should preclude me from reviewing a dance show, but since I was at the show and you weren't (Unless you were, in which case why didn't you come over and introduce yourself?) I'm going to do my best.  Suffice to say, if you can keep beat to anything more complicated than 4/4 time, then you might want to take these thoughts with a grain of salt.

Prior to their arrival in Las Vegas, the only thing I knew about the Jabbawockeez was that they were eliminated pretty early in season two of America's Got Talent.  Apparently after that they went on to win the first season of America's Best Dance Crew, and have gotten bigger and bigger since then.  They did a couple of short stints as a guest act at the Monte Carlo, and then were signed to a contract when Lance Burton decided to end the run of his magic show there.  It's definitely brought in a much younger audience to the casino.  At Tim McGraw/Faith Hill I felt really young.  Here I felt like I should be parenting (or maybe grandparenting) some of the young'uns attending the show.

Lets start with the good stuff.  The preshow is long, but it's very funny.  A lone Jabbawockee (is that the singular?) comes out to entertain for a while by interacting with the audience.  There's actually quite a bit of audience participation in this show, so be warned that the front five rows are prime territory to be chosen as a "helper", unless, of course, you are young, wearing a little black dress, and recently overestimated a little when getting breast implants.  You they'll find wherever you may be in the theatre.  The music choices are good.  As I would expect, I don't know every song from the rap genre, but there were plenty of familiar songs, and those are the routines that kept my attention the best.  That just leaves the dancing.  Obviously they're amazing dancers, so that must be the best part of the show right?

Kind of.  Look, they are amazing dancers, but the problem with amazing dancing is that it's everywhere these days.  It's on TV all the time.  Every pop star tours with an entire crew of great dancers.  Just yesterday I walked down the street in San Francisco and saw some incredible dance moves from people who only wanted you to throw them a dollar or two, not the $85 that Jabbawockeez is asking.  It's kind of like sawing a lady in half.  The first magician to figure out how to do this probably became an instant star, but pretty soon everybody was doing the trick, and the only way to make your version stand above the others was to put your own spin on it.  This is where Jabbawockeez are.  They're "putting their own spin" on the dance show and I'd say they're about 60% there.  There's still some dull moments, and the storyline could use some cohesiveness as everything seems to fall under the giant umbrella of "Finding your own muse through music", but they're getting there and what they've started with is pretty good.

What I'd really like to see though, is something to differentiate between the different Jabbawockeez.  The white masks are worn so that you have to focus on the group as a whole and not as individuals.  This is fine when you're dancing, but when you're trying to develop separate personalities within a story (Wow! I sound like an English teacher.) it's hard to do without being able to tell them apart.  I want to cheer for the guy who lost the girl, I just don't know which one he is anymore. 

I hope the Monte Carlo keeps this show around for a while, as there's a ton of potential in it.  Most likely it will depend on whether or not the audience that the show brings in is the one that Monte Carlo is looking to attract.  I would absolutely be interested in going back to see the show again if it changes and evolves some more.  I'm just not going to sit in the first five rows, and I'm definitely not wearing my little black dress.