Monday, May 21, 2012
One of America’s best dance crews,JABBAWOCKEEZ, have taken up residency on the Gold Coast. Crew member BEN CHUNG tells RACHEL BARNES about the group’s stage show MÜS.I.C and their partnership with Jupiters Hotel and Casino.
Jabbawockeez began as a group of friends who wanted to help each other grow and progress as dancers. Their trademark masks, gloves, and hats have been a part of the crew since the very beginning and were put in place to force the audience to look at the group as a whole and not focus on individual talent or skill. Crew member Ben Chung was in the audience at the group’s first ever performance and says that he had his mind blown. “I was immediately a fan,” Chung says, “but later I found out that the guys that were in the crew were guys that I knew that were also on other teams,” Chung was made an official member of the crew in 2007 after a top secret initiation.
Despite their roots labeling them as a hip hop crew, the group prides themselves on being innovative and are inspired by all styles of dance and martial arts. “People say that Jabbawockeez, through the course of the years, have created our own style,” Chung explains. “They call it the Jabbawockee style, and that was never really our intention but it just kind of happened like that because our minds like to explore and we don’t like to limit ourselves to think inside the box,” he says.
The tight-knit Jabbawockeez only began receiving mainstream recognition after they won the first season of America’s Best Dance Crew in 2008. Though they were skeptical about trying out for the show, the group decided to do it in honour of their fallen member, Gary Kendall, who was adamant about trying out for the show but passed away just months before the first taping. “We did it out of respect for him, even though we didn’t want to go forward with it, we were like ‘we have to for Gary’ and we stuck it through, and lo and behold…” Chung says. “We didn’t know that we were going to win the thing.”
The crew has been a sought-after act ever since ABDC, allowing them to land a dream gig – a residency at Las Vegas casino Monte Carlo. “A Vegas show was something that we always dreamed of and talked about just kind of like a pie in the sky kind of dream,” he says. Still unable to believe their dreams have come true, the boys feel very blessed to have continued building their success via a partnership with Jupiters Hotel and Casino.
The 20 million dollar refurbishment of the Jupiters theatre at the casino is immaculate and the new surroundings have the Jabbawockeez looking forward to being a part of the new entertainment program. Despite the great reception they’ve had so far from Australian audiences, the group isn’t used to such a low level of recognition. “It’s really humbling to know that a lot of people out here have never even heard of us before,” Chung says. “They don’t even know what a Jabbawockee is. It’s a challenge and it gives us an opportunity to feel brand new at it again.”
The crew is showcasing their Vegas show MÜS.I.C with a few tweaks here and there due to a difference in stage designs and some new music. “The cool thing about our show is that there is a big portion of the show that has a freestyle element to it, so no two shows are ever going to be exactly the same and I think that’s something that we pride ourselves on, that our show is always changing everyday,” Chung says.
And if it’s your dream to dance alongside these amazing performers, you might just be in luck, if you can stick out the initiation process that is. Though there is no audition process for the crew itself, Chung says that they try to preserve the crew mentality by keeping the group as an exclusive group of friends. “There is a process of how to get into the crew and it’s kind of this top secret code that we all follow, Chung reveals. “Let’s just say that there isn’t necessarily a hazing but there is a top secret society type of way to get initiated into the crew.
“If we find any worthy candidates we might have to let them in on our little secret society but we will have to keep that under wraps for now,” Chung laughs.
But if a more intimate style of dance is what you are hoping for, and if you can recognize the boy’s without their masks on, the group isn’t planning on holding back during their stay in Australia. “There are single members in the crew and everyone is very open-minded,” Chung laughs.
“Oi, Oi, Oi,” fellow crew member, Joe Larot shouts enthusiastically in the background.
You can catch the JABBAWOCKEEZ at Jupiters Hotel and Casino from now through to Thursday Aug 16. Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster. Check out www.jupitersgoldcoast.com.au for more information.