The local break-dancing group has a world-wide reputation for skilled break-dancing acrobatics, but it’s competing on MTV’s stage that could catapult the crew to new heights. The IE interviews Massive Monkees members, Jerome Aparis and Brysen Angeles, as they sit in the thick of heated competition.
Q: TELL ME ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF MASSIVE MONKEES?
Brysen Angeles, 28, a Japanese and Filipino American, says that in 1999, two b-boy crews, the Massive Crew and the Untouchable Style Monkees, collaborated and eventually fused to become the Massive Monkees. The long-time friends consider themselves family and often share a house together, what they call, the Monkee House. The members include: Marcus Garrison, 28, a Filipino and Irish American; Jerome Aparis, 26, Filipino American; Brysen Angeles, 28, Japanese and Filipino American;
Terrence Guillermo, 29, Hawaiian and Filipino American (not performing on the show);
JD Rainey, 28, African American; Sam Ly, 26, Cambodian American; and Tim Soriano, 25, Filipino American.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE MM?
BA: “We are a dance group of b-boys who are inspirational with a family or crew-first mentality. Decisions are dictated by how we can benefit as a whole and how we can be an inspiration to others. We do everything: put together routines, set-up b-boy choreography. We learned a long time ago to throw the egos out the door to win as a team.”
Jerome Aparis: “We’re really about sharing. We’re about passing on the torch. Because we were taught by pioneers and legends who opened doors for us.”
WHAT KIND OF AWARDS AND RECOGNITION HAS MM RECEIVED?
Angeles and Aparis list a number of impressive titles, including being 2004 Breakdancing World Champions and earning two Japanese titles, two in London, and two in France in international competitions. Several members have also won solo titles. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced earlier this year that April 26 is officially Massive Monkees Day in recognition of their accomplishments in hip hop and as mentors and leaders in the community. In 2007, the crew was also honored with the Mayor’s Art Award and the Vanguard award from the 206 Zulu Nation Chapter, for their contribution to culture and in giving back to the youth.
AFTER THAT KIND OF RECOGNITION, WHY COMPETE ON MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew?
JA: It’s a whole new challenge, a new avenue we haven’t touched yet.
BA: When we compete internationally, our supporters can’t see that. Another motivation is so that they can see us.
HOW WERE THE TRY-OUTS FOR ABDC?
BA: Even before that, it took a long time to decide to try-out. Because for people in this group, except for Jerome, they have family and kids.
The members say that to compete for several months, they had to consider the sacrifices potentially involved. That means figuring out what to do about their jobs and leaving family and responsibilities. But the group felt this was an important opportunity and tried out in one of the audition locations, and headed to New York.
WHAT WAS THE REACTION WHEN YOU FOUND OUT YOU WERE GOING TO BE ON ABDC?
JA: I was very happy. We had tried out for Season 2, and were pretty far along in the audition process, but my knee popped out.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE PRESENCE OF SO MANY TALENTED ASIAN AMERICAN GROUPS BEING ON ABDC AND NOT ONLY THAT, BUT THE WINNERS OF THE PAST THREE SEASONS WERE ASIAN AMERICAN OR HAD API MEMBERS?
JA: We take pride in being a mostly Asian crew, but we try to focus on what we need to do. We have love for those who came before but this is our chance to do something different and shine and bring our background to the forefront.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE WEST COAST DOMINATION IN THE LAST THREE SEASONS? THERE SEEMS TO BE AN EFFORT TO BROADEN THE SHOW REGIONALLY.
JA: We’re just happy to represent period.
JABBA WOCKEEZ, SUPER CR3W AND QUEST CREW WERE ALL WINNERS, ALL B-BOY CREWS, AND ALL FROM THE WEST COAST. THIS YEAR, THERE IS ONLY ONE B-BOY CREW (MASSIVE MONKEES) AND MORE DIVERSITY ON GROUP DANCE STYLES. COULD THIS MOVE AWAY FROM THE WEST COAST AND B-BOYING HURT YOUR CHANCES?
BA: All of the groups that are here are talented, but it does seem like that. People are asking, ÔCan a East coast non-bboy group win?’ I can’t speculate; we can only do the best we can do, put all our effort in and hopefully win!”
WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ON THE FIRST GROUP ELIMINATION ON EPISODE 1 OF THE ONLY ALL-ASIAN GROUP, FR3SH?
BA: I was sad to see a crew go. We know what it’s like: the struggle, the frustrationÑeverything that goes into performing. To be eliminated hurts, but it’s a competition. The reality of the show set in. With the bottom three crews, it was a toss up on who was going to be eliminated.
AS THE ONLY B-BOY-FOCUSED GROUP ON THE SHOW, HOW WILL MM MAKE THAT IT’S BENCHMARK OR STRENGTH RATHER THAN A LIMITATION? WILL THE GROUP EXPLORE OTHER DANCE STYLES?
JA: Whatever music we’re given for that challenge, we’ll explore the possibilities. We’re all dancers first and really listen to music. Being creative with music is key!
WHAT’S THE GAME PLAN TO WIN?
JA: We have a formula. We’ve done this before. We know what works for us, what doesn’t. It’s all about revise, reviseÉ Our biggest goal for ABDC is to express ourselves and be creative.
SEATTLE’S HIP-HOP SCENE IS GAINING MORE AND MORE ATTENTION NATION-WIDE. BEING THE ONLY GROUP FROM SEATTLE TO APPEAR ON THE SHOW, HOW WILL MM REPRESENT OUR CITY?
BA: From the beginning, we’ve always represented Seattle. In b-boying, it’s all about representing the style unique to your region or city. You’ll see us wearing Sonics jerseys or Seahawks jerseys. But we want people to know that we’re not the only hip hop group in Seattle.
I UNDERSTAND MM GIVES BACK TO ITS COMMUNITY. WHERE DID THIS MINDSET COME FROM AND HOW DO YOU DO IT? WHAT’S THE MESSAGE?
BA: I know how hip hop and dance has impacted my life. Due to dance, I’ve become a better person. I’ve learned teamwork, how to express feelings, dedication, and hardwork. It’s a direct reflection of how I live my life. What I’m learning guides me. I want to share that with people.”
JA: Without those who mentored and taught us, we would’ve had different lives. Because of it, we’ve been able to travel the world and seen other cultures.
WHAT DOES MM HOPE TO GAIN FROM THIS EXPERIENCE AND EXPOSURE BEING ON ABDC?
BA: Now that we’re here, what keeps us motivated is understanding that this opportunity is bigger than usÑit’s about what we can share, not what we can get out of it. We want to push the boundaries of what bboying is.”
Aparis leaves us with this comment to the Emerald city: “Seattle, we love you, keep voting for us. We’re working hard and representing for everyone in Seattle. And even for those not from Seattle, we represent the dream.”
The group also just completed filming a documentary on virtually no budget. The film is a tutorial to educate people about where dance came from, the essence of b-boying and the creative process involved. The “Way of the B-Boy” ( HYPERLINK “http://www.thewayofthebboy.com” www.thewayofthebboy.com) was honored at the New York Film Festival with Best Music in a Documentary.
To watch the hometown boys of the Massive Monkees crew work the stage, watch MTV’s America’s Best Dance. Check local listings. Text your vote!.