For Kevin Brewer, dancing is personal — a way to express the music he felt coursing through his veins.
The computer technician didn’t expect to make it a career. But when he and his freestyling friends, known as JabbaWockeeZ, ended up on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew,” dancing became his life. And it was this personal commitment, as well as the 6 million fans of the show, that helped the masked men of the crew clinch the first season.
Now, Brewer and his other crew mates are joining finalists from the cable show on a live dance circuit. The 25-city tour of “America’s Best Dance Crew Live” will go down on Wednesday night at the Palace Theatre. In addition to JabbaWockeeZ, the second season’s top team, SuperCrew, along with BrakeSk8, ASIID and Fanny Pak, will battle on the boards.
‘America Best Dance Crew Live’
Where: Palace Theatre, Albany
When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $38.50 - $48.50
More info: www.palacealbany.com
“It’s a different feeling live,” said Brewer who took a break from rehearsal in Miami to talk by phone about the live show. “You actually see the person and the aura. You feel the energy in the room, what’s pushing out. The TV screen blocks that. It’s a totally different experience.”
Chance to let loose
For the crews, the showcase is a break from the reality show competition. The routines, many of them new, will be longer. In addition, there won’t be any breaks to hear judges’ criticism or for the tally of the votes cast by the show’s at-home fans. The live event is a pure blend of dance and music — exactly what Brewer loves.
“When I first started dancing, I didn’t think about getting paid,” said the 32-year-old. “It was about growing and understanding myself, physically articulating what I felt, hearing the music and seeing what could happen physically at the same time. There was always a wow factor and a deep connection to the music.”
He was especially drawn to freestyling, a mix of breaking, popping and locking, because of the range of music. It’s not just rap. All styles can create the pulse for the dance.
“In ballet, you would have classical or symphonic music; jazz dance, jazz music; salsa, Latin music. But there are no boundaries with freestyling. It’s so broad. The No. 1 thing is, whatever the music, you have to dance it physically and you actually see the sound.”
The JabbaWockeeZ crew got together in 2003. The eight original members performed in showcases and clubs in Los Angeles and San Diego. During those years, the crew honed its ensemble precision and its artistry. They also got the idea to wear their trademark white masks. Brewer said they wanted to cover their faces so that audiences would focus on their bodies. All eyes would be forced to take in the whole ensemble and the essence behind the choreography.
This unifying look reflects the crew’s unified spirit. All 10 members are close friends.
“These are the coolest dudes on the planet,” Brewer said of his crew mates. “I think it was our time for victory [in season one] because we ooze out love and respect. But we are goofy, too. We make each other laugh. We’re a bunch of fun guys. A lot of us have families. I have a 15-month-old son. We don’t take ourselves seriously, and people feel that.”
What he does take seriously, however, is technique. He said he learned to live on the ground as a break dancer, spinning on his head, shoulders and back, and to move his limbs freely, as if a marionette, as a popper and locker. And he disputes hip-hop’s reputation as a segue to street crime.
“There is the dark side, but there is a dark side to everything. Hip-hop is not about street cred to be legit,” said Brewer. “The true essence of hip-hop is love and freely expressing yourself. If you express yourself honestly, people will respect you. There is a tapestry to hip-hop. The crew owns a piece of that. It’s a dope culture.”
The TV version of the show is as much about the judges and audience as it is about the crews. Judges Randy Jackson, Mario Lopez and Lil’ Mama give pointers, some helpful, others hurtful. But Brewer said he and the crew took everything in stride. And with positive feedback from judge Shane Sparks, a well-respected dancer/choreographer, JabbaWockeeZ won over audiences.
As one fan noted on the crew’s Web site: “They kill it every time and they are amazing. They will forever be America’s best dance crew.”
Brewer said he feels blessed that JabbaWockeeZ has captured the hearts of so many young fans.
“The live show, we are doing for the fans,” he said. “We want people to enjoy. Life is tough. We want to use the gift to lift the load.”