At the stroke of midnight on July 7th, the first two videos of Jon M. Chu’s web series, The LXD, went live for viewing in the United States, and the international release should not be far behind. Beginning with its “Moments” trailer released last December, The LXD has been hard at work during the first half of the year promoting its dance team and raising awareness for the web series with performances at TED, the Oscars, and So You Think You Can Dance. Billing itself as “the world’s first online dance adventure”, The LXD promises a transmedia experience spanning multiple platforms, including instructional videos, live events, film, and television supplementing the web series.
In his talk at TED 2010, Chu described The LXD web series as “a living, breathing comic book series – but unlike Spiderman and Iron Man, these guys can actually do it.” The LXD shows a world where dancers are superheroes with powers and abilities related to body movement and dance. A great battle between good and evil looms on the horizon in this world of superdancers, encapsulated in an event known as “The Uprising.” “There is a legion,” the unnamed series narrator tells us: “a legion of bravery, of hope, of the extraordinary. They lie amongst us, preparing for battle, waiting to rise and change things for good.”
The initial two videos offer a troupe of tropes from the “good vs evil” archives. There is Trevor, quiet and repressed but possessing secret powers of dance, a secret crush, and a demanding father. There is Illister, the villain, and the Observers, who are with the good guys and who protect “the son of the Drift.” There is also the conspiracy theorist reporter, determined to unlock the secrets of the LXD, and two best friends who will be torn apart by jealousy. Yet, in the story are some intriguing elements that rise above the tropes: what bestows these powers of movement on the dancers? what is really in the warehouse, who put it there, and why? And who is the Illister, my current personal favorite, described in the site’s character biographies as having “no side but his own”? (Except that his mission is to kill Trevor, so it sounds to me like he has a side – an evil side.)
Trevor Drift, son of Joe Drift (presumably a powerful figure in the LXD, either now or once upon a time), is a quiet high school student with a crush on Alice Wondershaw (who could her namesake be?), the only female presence in the series thus far. Naturally, Trevor has a rival for his affections: Brendan Broman, aka “The Bro”, skillfully portrayed by Ryan Hansen of Veronica Mars and Party Down.
Trevor’s story is told in delicious shorthand. Chu uses the good/evil tropes to his advantage, clueing the audience into the story with situations that we immediately process because we’ve seen the tale told so many times before. Viewers get the backstory in seconds – the crush, the rival, the unreasonable father who won’t let his son go to prom because “people will be drinking there” – leaving plenty of time for Trevor to astonish his classmates with his dancing powers once he sneaks away to prom. The good guys and bad guys are also introduced without any lengthy reveal – the “Observers” protect the son of Joe Drift as the DJ (an LXD agent, of course) and the Illister (bad guy!) watch.
Anyone who loves dance and loves watching dancers perform will enjoy the videos. The dancing sequences make up a significant portion of each video and incorporate a number of dance styles along with acrobatics and moves from the martial arts. While the stilted acting and trope-riddled storyline needs improvement, the dance scenes and the music sweep all of that away and charge the videos with energy and a passion for motion.
The second video introduces two more dancers and another character: Cole Waters, a high school drop-out who attended school with Trevor and is now documenting the activities of The LXD, which he believes to be a “top secret government dance conspiracy.” His website offers very little content at the moment, but it may be that the character of Cole will provide some of the promised interactivity within the series.
The two new dancers, Justin Starr and Jimmy Angel, are best friends who are separated by jealousy when one gets invited to train with the LXD while the other doesn’t. Both are actually invited, but the Illister steals one boy’s invitation, setting the scene for a broken bond embittered by jealousy. In the midst of this all-too-familiar angst is the dancing, which to my eye is even better than in the first video. Gorgeous acrobatics in a dust-filled warehouse are more than sufficient to convince me to keep watching and to look forward to the next installment.
Character bios can be found here on the LXD website. Each character bio lists their dance superpowers – speedburn, airslices, mass distortion, gravity manipulation, and “body weaponry for internal bleeding.” It also gives the characters’ relationships to each other and provides some filler information on the characters so far. While many future character profiles are locked, the file names for the locked profiles seems to reveal the names of upcoming characters.
Also on the site, viewers will find a Login/Sign-up option on the top right and bottom left of the screen. The site uses the WordPress Ajax Login widget, which never sent me a password, but I was able to get one by using the “forgot password” reset option. Logging in to the site does not offer any additional content at the moment, and it remains to be seen how much interactivity will be available to the audience.
Episodes of The LXD can be found on the LXD website and are also available on Hulu, currently only viewable in the U.S. but with an international release soon to be announced. The LXD can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.
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