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'America's Best Dance Crew': Chatting with We Are Heroes

September 25, 2009 | 11:30 pm


The women of We Are Heroes have been popular, but embattled, since the first episode of the fourth season of "Randy Jackson presents America's Best Dance Crew." In the bottom two crews a few times, they had to be saved by the judges. But in their last two performances, they cemented themselves among "ABDC's" best ever.  As the final decision approaches (two days left) and Heroes is one of the two remaining crews, they took a little time out of their schedule to have a final chat.

You're repping the West, but is everybody from this side of the States?
Ali: No, we're not. Hero and Mami are from Japan. Nichelle is from the Bay area in California. Riquel is from Idaho and I'm from New York.  But we did all move out to Los Angeles to pursue a dancing career.

How did We Are Heroes form?
Ali: We all met Hiro separately because we were all professional dancers and auditioning and doing jobs.  Riquel and Mami were dancing with her for a couple months. When they actually got to doing the show, there were two other girls dancing, one from Japan and one from Europe, and they didn't have their visas. So Hero had seen some of us perform and called me and Nichelle two days before the audition, and that's how we got together. I actually met Riquel at the audition.

What made you want to audition for the show?
Hero: I tried out in the first season and second season and third season. I almost made it, but I didn't have a visa at the time. On "ABDC," the dancer is the main [act], not background. Somebody else is not the star and we can do whatever we like and we are the people who get the spotlight. Dancers are very different, but at the same time we can make up a crew, which is amazing because you get to perform and at the same time have your support with you. We can do our style, not something that someone else has choreographed. I think those were the biggest points [in why we tried out for the show].

How did the challenges and time limitations help or hurt you as a crew?
Hero: These girls are really professional. I would hear the challenges and make them up and bring them to the girls. Then they would say 'Oh, you should do this!' So the crew was still OK.

Ali: But it is difficult. We get our challenge right after the show, and we get the music the next day. We literally only have about three or four days  to make up a really dope routine and perfect it and stage it and all of that stuff.  What's mostly against us is time. You have to rush your creative process and that puts a whole lot of stress on you mentally.

How did you deal with that stress?
Ali: If we had to take breaks, then we would do it. Sometimes Hero needed to go off into her own room to choreograph because that's where she felt most creative. So, you just always have to communicate with each other.

Did you have a favorite judge or was there a judge that you tried to impress every week?
I think everybody knew that Lil Mama and Shane very strongly supporting us and had our backs.  We'd impressed them multiple times. JC, on the other hand, had trouble with our crew and really getting into what we do. We've had different comments from him that threw us off because they were completely opposite of what the other two judges would say. We wanted approval from all of the judges, though, because those three -- up until the finale -- were the ones that could keep us on the show.

Hiroka: I talked with JC after the performance and he said that he's watched a lot of shows and performances, but he really liked our [finale] a lot. I was like, 'Oh my God!'  It made tears drop.

What will you do with the prize money?
Ali: To be honest, I don't think we all really know. Me and Nichelle have already said that we're going to take a thousand dollars and go shopping. That's for sure. Besides that, I think we're going to save some of it. Being a dancer is so up and down, so this is what people usually do when they get a good job and some good money cause you might not get another gig for a couple of months. ... I know that Hiro is probably going to fly back to Japan and take care of her grandmother.

Was there a time that you actually felt safe?
Hiroka: Yeah, but even when we were in the bottom, you have to think that you are safe because you have to think of the next routine or the next challenge only seconds later. So even if we are saved, you''re always thinking next. We never chill.

What does the future for We Are Heroes hold?
All five of us are family and we're goal-oriented and all about our business and our dance and that's what we want to do with our lives. Each of us has a few contacts ... but we're working on getting a manager first. Our goal was the show first, so we put all of those names in the back of our minds for now.

Is there pressure to be the first girl group to (possibly) win?
Riquel: It wasn't necessarily more pressure, it was just more motivation. Winning "America's Best Dance Crew" would be amazing as it is, but on top of that would be twice as amazing cause we would set a whole new record [as women] and it would almost be like a whole new start to "America's Best Dance Crew." We don't want to give that up to any other crew!

-- Jevon Phillips

Photo: Hiroka "Hero" Mcrae, Riquel "Riqdiculous Licky" Olander, Mami Kanemitsu, Ali Iannucci, Nichelle Thrower. Credit: MTV