Raas Chaos 2016 Lineup, Show Order, Placings, and REVIEWS!!!

Started by Raúl Larsen
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Raúl Larsen

Chaos
Congratulations to all the amazing teams! I am so criminally behind that I decided to just post these and finish the remaining teams when possible. I have discovered it takes me more than a week to write reviews. I decided that for critiques this year, I would use the time stamps of the primary videos distributed by Raas Garba Bhangra TV (RGBTV) to teams Sunday morning so that I could be more specific when describing moments and avoid long, confusing descriptions. If your team has NOT received its RGBTV recording, please email rlarsen@desidancenetwork.org to receive your performance videos. If your team would like a critique for future competitions, please send a video to the above email address and I would be happy to post your review. These and future reviews will be exclusively on the DDN Forum.

GW
First song made a good impression. I think your team is more athletic this year, and you made good use of that. I liked that you started on stage (as opposed to running on, which is a strong opener, but overused, in my opinion) while hitting Tran Tali with great execution and energy. Formations at 0:24 were not clear as to whether they were supposed be windows of Jodi pairs or front line girls on the same marker as backline boys. I would suggest windows to make the formation clearer. Loved the formation work from 0:28 to 0:40. Center, stage right pair was a bit too close to formation at 0:51, but all the execution to this point was truly excellent. Boys, watch turning speed at 1:05 – this is something I took note of during the show (specifically, stage left). Step at 1:28 should be standardized for boys – is it leg back or knee up? Different things were happening. I liked the dandiya pass off. I really enjoyed your windmill move – I think the lighting and music choices really enhanced and added flavor to an expected step. Formation placing at 3:08 didn’t quite seem to hit. Watch dropping arms (3:18) and for bent arms vs straight arms at 3:28 until the end of your set – it’s an indication that people are getting tired. A few dancers (particularly one on stage left) cut moves around this time and had formational issues like bumping into each other. Maybe slow walk throughs to solve this for future performances? I like the steps at 3:54, but I remember thinking that it was an unclean part of the performance because dandiya angles on snap ups weren’t standardized and because you all moved out of formation while doing steps. Shout out to my man Haseeb for killing the final jump to close the set, but I would hope the entire team could end that powerfully. If the step is supposed to just be a hop, I would strongly recommend switching to a jump because of how energetic that can look (as long as a minimum of sync is maintained!).
Overall thoughts: Best GW performance I’ve seen live in a long time, and I am really excited to see where this team is going. Given the overall quality of execution so far, I think this team can also be ambitious with the remaining choreography you learn for spring competitions.
Things for other teams to watch: Good stage presence, traditional elements (like ground hits), and straight arms (so consistently good!)

UMBC
Opening the show is a tough position to be in, but I think your intro nailed what needs to draw in the audience and tell them what to expect. I would prefer an attempt not to clear the stage for the rush in, but that seems to be a circuit standard, and there’s nothing to do about that than comment in reviews. That said, be sure not to enter stage early and to keep away from curtain edges before entering, or the entrance lacks the same crispness that a rush in tries to build to. I love the way you work cascade moves and I think the rest of the circuit should take note – this will [hopefully] become more of a standard in coming seasons. At 0:55, make sure your center 8 dancers are synched because even just having one or two miss an arm movement that the whole stage is performing will make a good step look sloppy. By my count, 14 of 16 killed that step, but the placement of the last two (one girl, one guy) really took away from the first impression I had when watching the team live. When the guys have high energy for the side lift/kick at 1:15, the girls should at least try to match either crispness or height, because the contrast was stark. At 1:31, try to standardize the directions of turning for spin moves (found this to be more of a stage left issue). I liked the girls line kick, but spacing was weird, which left some arms bent and others hanging in the air. On the ends, one arm was up and the other was down. The trumpets were a great moment! At 3:25, watch how the two lines move, as is such an exposed moment. I especially enjoyed the formational work before and after the four-minute mark. At 4:44, the turn could be much more crisp, which I would extrapolate to most/all similar turns – clean those up and make them sharp to give a really strong impression. By the five-minute mark, energy has dropped considerably, but I think it will probably be an issue only relevant to the Fall. I strongly dislike dancers leaving the stage right before the closing act both because it is distracting (wondering when they will return until it is clear that they will not) and because it makes the stage feel empty. That said, I think the format of the end is really cute and left a good final feeling. I found the lack of dramatic mixing very refreshing (enjoyably), and I would love to see this team keep a more traditional mix for the season (start a trend!)… even if I think it’s fairly unlikely.
Overall thoughts: this is the team to watch in the spring. I think they were underrated in this performance and should have been in contention for top half. I also think stepping up the formation execution will highlight how refreshing they are, and how well the team uses the stage. Provided they can replicate the high quality of comp to comp improvement they had last season, I can easily see UMBC at RAS 9.
Things for other teams to watch: Musicality is excellent – the moves felt like very natural extensions of the music playing, and that helped make the routine feel very organized.

RAGA
Uneven spacing and asymmetrical entrances left a lot to be desired in your opening skit, and it set a tone that I’m not sure the team recovered from. Maybe markers were off center (I was pretty sure the backdrop and center light “Open” were), but the audience could see visibly that sides entered and exited entire steps ahead or behind their mirror as they crossed stage. Formations at 1:06 felt off during the show, and going back to the video, it looks like that’s because of stage left vertical spacing was off and stage right line alignment (make sure you’re standing directly in front of/behind your line!). At 1:36, watch how much dancers move in place during moves (during performance I noted back stage left girl as moving and entire body’s width to her left). I loved the dandiya pass offs at 1:38. Lots of stuff going on at the 1:50 formation movement: make sure arms are synched, body direction during movement is standardized (are dancers looking forward, looking to the direction of movement, etc), are arms straight, footwork matching? There’s a pretty revealing screenshot to find around 1:52. The hair dryer moment was amazing, but I would make the hair dryers bigger and of a contrasting color to the stage lights, as I barely caught that there was a second hair dryer in the back (stage) left. I liked that boys were Tran Tali, but I’m not sure I thought it was especially graceful (the speed and sharpness of moves felt like it took away from that). At exactly 3:00, watch for body angles because of how much variation there is on stage left. Watch spacing for the subsequent circle (especially stage front!) because it’s such an easily recognizable formation. I don’t know what was going on with 3:25 stage left. It feels like, in general, your team would benefit from trying different methods of fixing formations at practice, because lines just aren’t hitting. Boys’ solo props reminded me of UCSD’s shoes – great idea that needed to be more visually apparent for a first/only time viewing audience. For barrel rolls at 4:16, it felt like stage right was better at executing than stage left. Make sure everyone synchronizes heads when heads are the only step being done while kneeling! It felt like the team was much more confident with the song at 4:59, so whatever you did with that can hopefully be replicated to other parts of the routine where dancers look hesitant or are a little off-sync. I thought it was a little odd that four dancers left stage at the end for two dancers and two theme stunters to return. In general, the closing gimmick didn’t feel up to the standard of your other theme moments, but the layered head bobbing from the stuntmen was really cute and ended the set nicely.
Overall thoughts: a lot of this has been said, but there is a feeling of familiarity watching RAGA routines over the years. As soon as that builds an expectation, it creates a feedback loop where specifically similar trends (boys solo, certain “signature” steps) give the audience the impression that they’ve seen it before. As soon as they confirm that expectation, it’s hard to make the set feel original.
Things for other teams to watch: Theme incorporation – For being so early in the season, your set up and incorporation were very competitive. It feels like the circuit is going in the direction of stepping theme up, so make sure you don't lose momentum. When execution can be stepped up as we’ve seen with previous RAGA years, this team will always represent a threat to any lineup they’re on.

Emory
The opening skit was cute, but be sure that dancers reach the curtains at the same time (same issue as Rutgers), or it will appear that they’re just trying to get off of stage as quickly as possible). The dance entrance was bananas. So much energy, lots power, but be sure to keep entrance formations well-kept. Around 1:50, I noted an execution drop, and by 2:00 there was a noticeable energy drop (watching live, I noted the crazy contrast on far side stage left front boy and back girl/guy). For the camera gimmick, be sure to check during tech time that the stage lights let the camera be clearly visible – you all point to the direction, but there should be no doubt of where attention focuses in this moment. At 2:35, the symmetry of formations is very off, but I’m not sure what the intended formation was. In the 4x4 box, it becomes very apparent that dancers move in spot significantly during steps, and that becomes something I look for during the remainder of the routine. By 3:15, you have people essentially walking through their steps, especially when they’re in the back (I’ll stop pointing it out for reasons of redundancy, but the example that really stuck with me post-performance was the backline boy between saraAS markers, who had about 2 steps to move, but didn’t capitalize on how high heeches/sways/glides could be in that time). Somewhere around the boys’ solo, I stopped seeing teamwide head bobs, with only a handful of frontline people committing to them throughout the routine. For the end of the routine, the biggest thing to work on is snapping and execution as your energy bottoms out.
Overall: This is obviously a high potential routine from a good team. However, I think the discrepancies between the general opinion and where I would have placed Emory can be explained by my natural tendency to watch the back dancers, or dancers who seem to be “hidden”. At the beginning of the routine, there was a control/cleanliness issue; throughout, there were formation execution issues; most pressing, though, was that the first significant energy issue was noted before the two-minute mark (a little over 90 seconds into actual dancing), and never went away. The top performing dancers had so much energy and control that they were creating an unflattering contrast against which back dancers could be compared, even on first viewing.

To be continued (someday)…