Zahara 2016 Lineup, Show Order, Placings, RGBTV Videos, and REVIEWS!!!

Started by Raúl Larsen

Raúl Larsen

Zahara 2016
13 February 2016
Harris Theater, Chicago

Raas Garba:
First Place: SLU Raas
Second Place: CMU Raasta
Third Place: University of Florida GatoRaas

First Place: Michigan Manzil
Second Place: Marquette Mazaa
Third Place: UIUC Fizaa

Show Order:

01 ASU Andaaz
02 SLU Raas
03 RU Ehsaas
04 IU HoosierRaas
05 Marquette Mazaa
06 CMU Raasta
07 Delaware Kamaal
08 TAMU Wreckin' Raas
09 Chicago Adaa
10 UIUC Illini Raas
11 Michigan Manzil
12 UF GatoRaas
13 UIUC Fizaa
14 Columbia Raas
15 UW Kahaani


Full Show:

Raas, Primary View:

Raas, Secondary View:


Raúl Larsen

IU HoosierRaas
I loved how clean the opening song was, and the first song did a lot to establish that this was a very well-prepared set. I touched on this in your last review, but your team is good enough that you can push your comfort boundaries on choreo complexity at this point. It’s okay to trade off some of that abundant polish for faster/more complex steps. For the 90 degree arm movement at 1:47 and 1:48, watch the horizontal arm (many arms drop below the 180 horizontal) and that both arms extend fully (nearly half the team has bent elbows for this move). There are a couple times when I catch a front boy dancer doing a high knee instead of a leg back. Following the spin (which was synced closely enough) at 2:05, boys seemed to lose the snapping and cleanliness for moves (including not matching horizontals at 2:08 and 90 degree angles at 2:11. As boys exit, make sure that the stage left exit matches the stage right exit, as it looks like people are leaving too quickly stage left. The brain gimmick is a moment where having a more elaborate backdrop would have helped prevent the feeling of an empty stage – this is exacerbated by the staggered start to the Tran Tali, where some girls went 20 beats without moving feet or doing a space filling move. Until the infinity formation at 3:08, I think you all handled dance 8 by 7 really well (formations were crisp enough that I could see where the missing girl was supposed to be). However, at the infinity, stage right collapsed to become smaller than the boys’ side. Even if that was an intentionally asymmetrical moment, I think it comes off to as a mistake to a first impression viewer. Make sure that, in the boys’ solo, the original back four dancers complete their moves with full extensions of the arms. For me, at least, I tend to look at the back of stage more than the front – that’s where I’m expecting mistakes, and having a balanced roster is a better indication of how well a team has prepared their routine than watching the front 2-4 dancers slay moves in the spotlight. Speaking of which, the lighting was much improved from what I remember of your BTR performance, and I got more out of the solo with the floodlights on. For the girls’ solo, the lack of formational movement was a slowdown in the routine for me, but shout out to the girl far stage left during the cascades for absolutely killing it. Boys’ entrance at 4:40 was really good until they got to the quarter stage marker, at which point the line got muddled for the handoff. The 5:10 speed up in the music hit me much harder this time, and I really felt the energy come up on stage for the close of your set. The X spin was executed really well, and added to the hype. Make sure the formation at 5:39 shares that clarity – it initially looks like front row missed their markers and the back lines committed to marker formations instead of lining up behind dancers. I think it’s supposed to be a 3x4 box with 3 people in the front row windows, but maybe have the girl move even farther forward so it becomes a pentagon? Finally, at the end, it looks like Dorothy is struggling to cross the diagonal of stage in 6 beats – a glide/heech/sway might make that final entrance more graceful instead of giving the impression that she is struggling to keep up with the music. Overall thoughts: this routine really brought dynamic cascades/staggers more than any other team I can think of offhand, and I like that the trading off steps/songs was a style of your team. The energy level was about the standard of what a completed routine requires as a minimum, but could have appeared to be much higher with either more stage movement or a faster mix. I think you can certainly trade off cleanliness (which was generally quite fine) for some more complicated choreo. The single biggest thing (from me) to keep in mind for next year’s routine is to avoid having [m]any moments that leave the sage feeling empty in the middle of the routine. It breaks the flow of the dance and makes me wonder if theme could be integrated more cleanly to maintain more consistent movement. I really enjoyed watching you dance at BTR and Zahara, and I am very excited to see you all perform this weekend at Royalty!

TAMU Wreckin' Raas
GREAT overall impression. I remember coming away from your dance being really impressed with what you all brought to stage, and sad that I wouldn’t get to see you compete more this year. Backdrop was very impressive, and the opening barrel roll formation was one of the best intros of the night. The lean back move was interesting because I haven’t seen it before, but I’m not sure what it brought to the routine otherwise. After girls’ solo, it was very odd that boys came in from the side and waited on stage until their entrance. If at all possible, avoid this in the future. Sync dropped here with arm horizontals not matching and timing differing a bit more. I hope that eight (girl/guy?) boy was okay when the left stage before the solo! Their knees had looked much lower than everyone else, so I was worried it was an injury issue, but the solo formations looked very symmetrical, so I don’t know what to think. Boys’ solo needs to focus on arm extensions so that straight arm movements have straight arms. I wish that the voiceovers did not cause such an abrupt break in performance, because while the theme incorporation with the backdrop was stellar, the routine felt very disrupted when people stopped dancing for 8-12 beats so the audience could hear the voiceover. I really liked the speed of the last minute of your set, and would have liked to see the rest of the routine closer to this pace. Overall, I think this routine was put together very well to be this polished by your competition, and you have a lot to work with for next season. I hope to see you all perform more next year, and good luck for at Sangam!

UIUC Illini Raas
I like the high energy start to the dance, but make sure everyone is synced for the claps. Big formational movement right off the bat makes a good first impression as far as the dance goes, and I think the stage is adequately set for to bring me into the moment. Watch the far (stage) right line (boy/girl/boy vertically), but the other formations seemed to hit well for the vertical line work. In the next formation (rows of 2 pairs, 3 pairs, 2 pairs), make sure that the spacing between pairs is consistent – it doesn’t come off as something wrong to remember after the performance, but it will detract from the impression of crisp formation hitting and might affect overall impression. Most of your cascade formation looks really good, but the turns on the dandiyo handoff don’t look clean enough, so work on making that uniform. The formation from the girls/guys split does not look defined yet (I’m not sure if it’s 2 triangles or 2 circles, or something else entirely). I really liked the formation with circle stage right in front of the girls’ line across stage. For the formations on either side of the dandiyo pick up, make sure that dancers move at the same speed. Girls song was good, but be sure to fully extend arms and finish(!) your moves (looking mostly at stage left on the staggered move back to a V). However, I did notice earlier that you had eight costumed girls on stage for the hype up, and so I was looking for a dancer switch. I guess the switch out is smooth (never would have caught it otherwise), but it definitely detracts from how difficult I think a routine is to have dancers switch out halfway through. Make sure the boy center stage who skips a move really kills it with energy and execution for the next 12 or so beats following the mistake – all eyes will be on him and that’s where you get recovery points back! Boys’ exit from the V formation/dandiyo handoff is very sloppy. Standardize a line or exit formation for them and make sure they completely dance off stage – the boys in the back stood up while still in full view of the audience. The bucket toss was really cool and I think it paid off with hype (at least for me), but if you have the time, it would be worth standardizing height of the toss (smaller nonissue, though). Footwork gets sloppy in the tran tali circle, and heads could be way bigger here – it would do a lot to bring up the energy of your performance/cover up any other mistakes that happen. In the back box for Charara, people move out of formation very noticeably and then do differing footwork in the very spread out formation and girls’ arms look really tired for the second half of this song. For the last song, make sure that dancers move across the stage in a line. Final formation spacing seemed off, but it was a good ending to your routine otherwise and I had an overall good impression of the set. Work on formations, completing moves, and footwork to finish polishing this routine; I think the energy balance will come from just having continual runs through the set – I can’t want to see you all perform at Royalty!

Congratulations on third place! This was a super fun performance to watch, and I was pleasantly surprised (shocked) to see how much you changed from Chaos. Intro was super fun and engaging as far as the mix goes, but at first I was not too sure why the boys were in the front. Is there something that can highlight that moment even more? I think it’s very interesting to have the girls stay in the back to join the formation after the set has already started, but I also think it would fill the stage better for the intro to maybe have them texting/tweeting on oversized phones, maybe jamming out to music on an oversized iPod, or something of that sort. That option would probably be exclusive with the first suggestion, as it would entirely wash out the effect of revealing the Raas media letters. The first song had good formational execution, and I think was generally strong once you all started moving more. That goes double for the second song, where the stage movement is excellent in making you fill the area. That said, there are sync issues that start popping up, and the first I really noticed was the boys’ front line transitioning into girls’ solo. It’s a very exposed moment, and makes me start looking for further sync issues. That said, girls’ solo has those issues; it seems as though they are completing moves at different speeds. Emphasizing how to snap/complete a move and its extension should help you get this up to the level it needs to be. Make sure you hit the two vertical lines cleanly – with only 8 people on stage in a vertically deep formation, sync/energy/facials/choreo should really be stepped up because you’re not filling up the stage/moving. I think in general, your execution dropped in your fourth song, even before you got into the X formation. Spacing was off, and occasionally people overshot their lines. When you try to hit the four vertical lines after the X, make sure that stage right dancers are following the front person. That line was messy enough to make me wonder if there was a different shape being attempted, but it’s because people were all over the place. Even if the front person is on the wrong marker (and it looks like they were pretty close to fine, judging by stage left), people behind have to line up behind them. The partner interaction in the V formation was cute, and I liked the “selfie” gimmick. That said, you CANNOT have people walk off stage, even for a gimmick. The skipping off dancers looked good, but remember that the stage ends minimum 5 feet beyond start of the curtain. I was sitting dead center and I could see people acting like they weren’t visible anymore. This is an issue that comes up later in your set, and that definitely indicates that you need to practice to account for it. I’m also in the camp of people who were taken out of the dance by the poop emoji. If that’s a moment you all like as a team, by all means keep it. For me personally, though, I would like the routine more without it (there are many other options, and you’ve shown otherwise great theme choices). Guys’ spacing looks really off before/during girls’ entrance into the circle, so I’m starting to wonder if there was something off with your markers. They look pretty even to me, but maybe the As in “Raas” were out of order? The cascade movement looked good, and energy started to pick up with the mix tempo. In your second to last song, overshooting formations is a noticeable problem again, and I think it’s because dancers are pushing through being tired, and that makes them sloppy. I’m definitely looking for more stage movement in that last song, or even just more choreo and dancing. It felt like very little dancing was happening because of the cascades and low formation change. I hope the dancer who move offstage at the ending is okay – I wasn’t sure if he was doing something for a prop or was injured when he left stage, but when he returned, he wasn’t doing the arms of the choreo, and looked well enough to be back on stage. Very distracting, and not something you want judges thinking about at the end of your routine. Overall, I think there are a lot of things to look at (formations, line spacing, sharpness/sync, exiting stage, etc), but most of them are easy enough fixes. Bring up energy across the board, though. I think your back dancers/newer dancers gave away how tired they were when they would have to bend/kneel and fell behind beat, and that made them targets for watching throughout the routine. All that said, I’m blown away by how much you changed from Chaos. I think most of your changes were good, but it almost feels like too much was changed for you to have that same explosiveness and add the necessary control over your routine. Hopefully, that will be fixed by practices and runs, and I’m sure you’ll all kill it at Mayhem this weekend!

Columbia Raas
I loved the intro music and that you all seemed to be having fun. Sharpness for the opening 20 beats was solid, and the backdrop looked cool. It did not feel as though you used the entirety of the stage for formations, and that made the stage seem empty at times. The caution tape looked like it might have been a prop malfunction of the tape tearing, or that it was supposed to happen, but in any case, I was not very clear on what it was supposed to convey. The double I formations at 1:24 (RGBTV video timestamps) took just a shade too long to hit, and looked blurry for a beat longer than it should have. Make sure to sync timing of the ground hit hops. Barrel roll was executed quite well, and made me wish I had seen more in the routine. The “Drop It Like It’s Hot” moment was really funny and so entertaining that I nearly didn’t notice it was used for a transition to boys’ piece. Watch stage left formations on that V, though, as the back boy was noticeably out of line. For the solo, I think it was a bit much to be switching music that much – I lost the sense of flow from the routine; on the other hand, it was refreshing to not know when the song would switch – maybe work on mixing the songs to overlap more? At 3:26, I’m not sure the flip was worth the prep, but it might have been because other teams like UCSD pulled off flips so effortlessly before you at this comp. Girls’ solo seemed low, but I think it might have been an effect of choreo that kept them mostly in place. At 4:51, there was a jump that had really great energy for the guy in the window, but looked underperformed for the boys stage left (watch spacing in the back line, though!) by comparison. Ending on Chakardi was a good choice, but I think that song lends itself to more half beat steps than you were giving it. My overall impression is that this routine looks good, and that you all timed out your preparation for Zahara well. However, there were moments where just 1 or 2 dancers weren’t synced for timing and that led to an impression that you were less clean than you were. The choreo for the routine had moments of inspiration, but was, for the most part, pretty committed to whole beat movements and would have benefitted from more ambitious formation movement to communicate the impression of energy.