'America's Best Dance Crew': A chat with Massive Monkees
The Massive Monkees were one of the most popular crews on "America's Best Dance Crew" this season, and though they were eliminated on Sunday, they were nice enough to sit down and talk a bit about their season and their mission. Confession: The initial interview was lost (eaten by my imaginary electronic dog), and Massive Monkey crew members Brysen and Jerome were nice enough to re-chat with me about the Monkeys' past and their travels through the season. After the interview there's a video conversation with Shane Sparks after the Rhythm City-Massive Monkeys battle about how he thought the season was going, and a few words from Fanny Pak's Glenda. Three days until the live finale, and congratulations to Massive Monkey Tim Soriano on his and his fiance's new baby girl!
Tell me about the b-boy culture in Seattle?
[Updated: An earlier version of this post called the crews that Brysen talks about the DBS Crew and the Box Crew. They are the DVS Crew and the Boss Crew. Thanks for the comments!] Brysen: The b-boy community and culture in Seattle is a lot different from other places that I've been. A lot of the b-boy crews have a real beef or an actual conflict with other crews off the dance floor and I think that's something different than in Seattle. Of course, it's competition, competition, competition, and we're out there to win and show that we're a better group, but when we get off the dance floor, it's really all love with a lot of the crews in Seattle. I think that started with one of the first b-boy crews out here, the DVS Crew. They started coming up in the early '80s doing their thing ... and they took what they learned and taught another crew called the Boss Crew, and we're kind of the third generation from that line of b-boys.
... We try to learn from each other. There's another crew in Seattle called the Circle of Fire that came up alongside of us, but they were a lot different,,,, more freestyle dancers ... We've become friends and they made us better dancers
You wanted to show America what Massive Monkees was all about ... Do you think that with the format, the challenges and the time limitations, that you got to do that?Brysen: One thing that was really good about it was that, where a lot of other b-boy crews want to be real strick b-boys and be all about competition, competition, competition -- and we can do that -- but our crew likes to have fun with it and be able to let our character shine through with the dance. And using the challenges let us do that and show how much fun we're able to have.
What we weren't really able to do because of the time limitations was show our individuality. As a b-boy crew, all of us are strong individuals, but because of the format, we didn't get to showcase [that] and highlight how strong we were as individuals... Hopefully from here, a lot of our fans will continue to watch and see what Massive Monkeys is all about.
You've already battled some of the show's winners -- members of Super Cr3w and Jabba Wockeez -- so did that weigh on you when you were deciding to go out for the show?
Jerome: We know those guys, and we knew that we'd really have to bring the Massive Monkey element and be different than everybody else. At the same time, we're a battle crew -- we're b-boys that are known for battling -- and the show comes second.
Who were you guys the closest with (in terms of the crews that were on the show)?
Jerome: Oddly enough, we were really close to Vogue [Evolution]. We have the same kind of understanding with them coming from an underground scene, a battle scene, and we share that ... Also We Are Heroes and Afroborike as well.
When you got to the show and were assessing your competition, who did you think was your biggest competition?
Jerome: Rhythm City. First shows and first impressions show a lot, and it seemed like Rhythm City was going to be in the finals.
How did you feel about the judges' big argument when you battled Rhythm City and their assessment of the "show" versus it all being a "battle?"
Jerome: First, a battle is a challenge Face-to-face. When you do a show, it's a show, You can't always "kill" it, so to speak, because there's so much structure. With the whole N'Sync show, we knew we had to really bring it and bring that intensity, though, and I think that's what Shane sensed. We were intense and just had that battle mentality.
Your elimination from the show ... how did you react to it as a crew and how did you deal with it yourselves?
Brysen: Of course, we came to win. But before we came out here, while were deciding to come, we had to set some goals and some things that we wanted to accomplish while we were here. And one was to show the world that b-boys aren't just one thing, that b-boys are more than one-dimensional. And that they are dancers. We can do theater-type work, and we also wanted to share a positive message. And I think that a lot of the goals that we'd wanted to accomplish with the show, besides winning the show, were accomplished. Of course ... we represented ourselves well, we represented out culture well. And we even represented our city. We think that all of the people that supported us are proud of us ... The winning and the title are really secondary to the long-term effects that hopefully we've inspired people to follow us. We feel really good about what we accomplished.
[Update: Jerome said that the group was upset at losing, not insulted as an earlier version stated.] Jerome: The biggest thing for Massive Moneys was the process. ... Building our skills mentally and physically and learning why we were here and what we could get out of this. It was really a process of learning from each other and just going out there, putting our hearts on the dance floor. And our passion -- and that's what we did. When they announced that we were eliminated, we all felt a little upset, but we're a group, a crew that's been together for a long time. It was more like 'Hey, we put it all out there.' It is what it is and we should be happy. There's no regrets.
What initially brought you together?
[Update: An earlier post called the meeting center the Justin Community Center. It is the Jefferson Community Center] Jerome: When we were kids, in high school and some of us in elementary, we just had the same common understanding and mentality that we just wanted to have fun and dance. We literally hang out at the same spot, a community center called the Jefferson Community Center, and we would just practice there twice a day, three times a week. And we just became close friends. And it was friends first before any of us knew we wanted to be in competition. It was just 'Let's hang out!'
Brysen: We didn't know, when we first got together, how far it would go. We just knew that we were vibing and we all got along and had a passion for the dance. So I guess that is what really brought us together, and is what we've been accomplishing, what we've been doing over the past 10 years together.
-- Jevon Phillips
Photo: Massive Monkees Brysen Angeles, JD Rainey, Jerome Aparis, Marcus Garrison, Timothy Soriano, Samnith Ly. Credit: MTV