By Alekya Reddy
Quest Crew, Kaba Modern, Jabbawockeez, and Poreotics are all representative of two worlds. Not only are the groups all from the West Coast, they represent an emerging culture of Asian American dance crews.
Over the last decade, Asian Americans have taken hip hop, break dancing, choreography, and robotics to new heights. So famous are these current top crews that MTV’s critically acclaimed television show “America’s Best Dance Crew” has been dominated not only by West Coast crews but Asian American West Coast crews.
From the Jabbawockeez to Poreotics, the champions of the majority of the seasons hail from the Southern California region.
Their display of dancing prowess shows not only an exodus of talent from the area but also an Asian American interest in displaying athleticism that challenges the stereotypical molds.
Break dancing, often considered one of the most physically taxing sports in existence, is no small feat. It’s a sport full of artistic concepts that require hours of practice and training to execute.
The top crews have become vanguards for the Asian American community. They show that doing what you love, even if it is not a traditional profession, can still be a worthwhile pursuit. With their examples of hard work and success, they break the traditional stereotypes of Asian Americans.
What is it about dance that draws Asian Americans? It’s more than just an idea; it’s a lifestyle choice. It’s a culture that has taken hold on the West Coast and has challenged succeeding generations of dancers to follow their passions.
One of the most influential aspects of these crews is their role in inspiring new generations of dancers on college campuses. USC’s own Chaotic 3, for example, is more than just a team. It’s a brotherhood of like-minded individuals who share a common passion.
“I think being Asian American definitely allows me to connect with the many other Asian American dancers on the team,” said Richard Wang, a USC sophomore and C3 member. “To be honest, I don’t know why or how Asians just came to be the majority of the hip hop dance team. But culturally, Asian Americans are able to bond more easily to other Asian Americans.”
According to Wang, C3 goes out for bubble tea and ramen all the time – “definitely an Asian American thing to do.”
Chaotic 3 is a major presence in the Southern Californian hip hop scene. This year’s competitions include All-Cal and Maxt Out. In the past, the group has attended competitions such as Prelude and Vibe, competing against teams from various universities all around California.
It’s not always easy to juggle the image of being an Asian American crew while also searching for new opportunities to dance. Some crews participate in events that showcase their heritage, such as Los Angeles’s Asian Culture Day and the Asian American and Pacific Islander Voter Registration Concert. But others have had to contend with the issues of negative stereotyping and being compared unfairly to other crews because of their Asian backgrounds.
In an interview with MTV’s Remote Control Blog, a member of the Asian American Fr3sh Crew emphasized the group’s desire to be dancers before Asian Americans.
“We are an all-Asian crew and we embrace our heritage, but we want to be thought of as dancers, not Asian dancers,” crew leader Adrian Causing told Remote Control. “There is nothing wrong with being compared to those crews, but we feel we have more to offer.”
Still, this dance culture persists and attracts more Asian followers each day. A new movement for the pursuit of artistic passion in the West Coast Asian American community? It seems so.