America's Best Dance Crews comes from Asia
A trend was born when the all-Asian dance crew, the "Jabbawockeez," won MTV's competitive dance reality television series America's Best Dance Crew in 2008. Since then, many other Asian dance crews have come out on top, creating much controversy among the viewers at home, with some even referring to the show as "America's Best Asian Dance Crew."
Hiroka "Hiro" McRae, founder, leader, and choreographer of We Are Heroes, the first all-female dance crew to win ABDC in 2009, said dance education is strict in Japan where she is originally from.
"The Asian culture has, like, crazy discipline. It's like a martial arts culture," Hiro said. According to Hiro, training in Tokyo a lot of times takes place outdoors, around office buildings while using the window reflection as mirrors. Often times these practices occur from the time people leave work at 5 p.m. until as late as 5 a.m. the next morning.
"They practice forever, like, they are really disciplined, and also, they have a lot of competitions. You have to have a free-style, you have to compete at every style," she said.
According to Hiro,We Are Heroes was originally eliminated from ABDC at a private audition they had been invited to, due to the fact that two of her crew members didn't have a work visa.. But while pursuing Hip Hop International, a competition created by the same producer as ABDC, Randy Jackson, Hiro received a phone call from ABDC's casting crew, asking her to return to the show.
Hiro added two American girls to her crew last minute. The We Are Heroes members all live in Los Angeles, and while crewmember Mami Kanemitsu is also from Japan, the rest of the group has mixed ethnicities.
"I didn't go to school, I didn't have a textbook, and I didn't have a translator thing," Hiro said about coming to America. "I didn't have a friend, I didn't have money; I really didn't have anything. We are very blessed, you know, every time we have like amazing hotel. People are very respectful and very warm."
Santa Monica College dance teacher, Jae Lee, who moved to America in 2007 from South Korea, said she believes a lot of Asian dancers come to America because it gives them more options to study different types of dance, such as contemporary modern, jazz, and hip hop.
"Here, they can be exposed by watching So You Think You Can Dance," Lee said. So You Think You Can Dance another MTV competitive dance reality television series, has also been known to have discovered a lot of Asian talent.
Lee said she came to America to further her theoretical knowledge in dance. She graduated from the University of California Irvine, and landed her present full-time job as a dance teacher for Santa Monica College shortly after.
"I personally think, it's just my personal perspective, I think the technical level is way higher over there," Lee said about Korea, "because their training is so strict, just like Russian dancer."
"I'm not sure if they are still keeping that way of teaching methodology, but when I was there it was, you know, we had to dance all day, you know, we have to do rehearsals, and then we can't eat what we want," Lee said.
Gisear "Gbaby" Alcantara, a Filipino dancer from Los Angeles' "Rockin Legendz" dance crew, said that crews worldwide come to America for exposure. He said "Rockin Legendz" is mostly b-boy, but they also incorporate hip-hop, locking, and acrobatics.
"I enjoy watching 'America's Best Dance Crew,' but I know for a fact that the show is fixed, and it upsets me how MTV handled it," Alcantara said.
"They're racist. For example, the first season, 'Status Quo' somehow ended in the finals, because MTV knew that they couldn't have two full Asian crews in the finals, because the African American population that watched the show woul dn't tune in, because it was all Asian," Alcantara said. Still, he said he would compete on the show, and that he believes it's a great way for a crew to be seen and to go mainstream.
"Filipinos and Asians dominate in that show because we work hard," said Alcantara. "When we rehearse, we treat it like homework, and we can critique all the small details to get it right and make it look good."