Middling

The fancies and reflections of a loquacious ninja

Tribute to the JabbaWockeeZ

Meet the JabbaWockeeZ.

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They are without a doubt my favorite dance crew of all time (and yes, those are masks they’re wearing). I can’t say I know a paparazzi-load of information about them, but some of the things I know they’ve done:

They’ve danced on shows like So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Got Talent. They made an appearance in the movie Step Up 2. They’ve toured Australia. They now have their own hit show in Las Vegas. I know them mainly because they were Season 1 Champions on America’s Best Dance Crew.

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There were some amazing crews on ABDC Season 1, but in my mind, the Jabbawockeez set themselves apart right from the beginning. First, the masks. Their explanation: When you wear a mask, you become faceless. Thus an audience cannot watch a crew of masked men as a bunch of individuals, but is forced to look at them as a whole (or so the theory goes; I just think they look cool).

In every team (and dance crews are no different), a balance is needed between the group itself and the individuals that make it up. The Jabbawockeez have struck that balance flawlessly. Every last one of them is an amazing dancer, and what I love is that they let each other shine. They show each other’s strengths, but they do it in a way that doesn’t take away from the group as a whole. When they’re dancing as one unit, no one person looks better than the others or stands out from the rest. When one person is soloing, that person and that person alone is in the spotlight. When they go from one solo to the next, the last person melts seamlessly back into the group and the next person steps up (and the fact that you can’t see their faces only adds to the whole effect). I also love how together they look even when everyone is doing something different. It’s hard to describe… They just ebb and flow as a group so well.

I’m not sure if they have any particular connection with Lewis Carroll’s poem that inspired them to call themselves the Jabbawockeez (something about appearing, killing the performance, and vanishing), but here’s what I see: When they dance together, they’re so in sync with each other that it looks so unreal. When they really get into their choreography, they’re so good at performing while making you forget you’re watching a performance, it’s like being transported into another world, one created by masks, gloves, and pure style. And if ever there was a crew that could match the creativity and whimsy of Carroll’s writing, the Jabbawockeez are the ones.

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From a dancer’s perspective, I find it impossible not to love the JabbaWockeeZ. Their near-perfect unity in movement, their amazing musicality and ability to dance not just with music but to music, and their very unique style. I love how choreography-grounded it is; they craft so much creativity into each of their routines. It’s also an extremely versatile style; whatever they take on (be it popping, locking, breaking, stepping, whatever), it becomes their own.

I suppose between the masks (some people find them creepy) and their uncommon style, they can be a bit of an acquired taste (especially to someone who isn’t familiar with urban dance). But I think their sense of theatricality and body language is one that anyone can enjoy and appreciate. They have so much body expression, it doesn’t matter that you can’t see their faces; if anything, the way they dance just employs the masks to express their personality even more.

jabbawockeez.glogster.com

Around the time of the ABDC season 1 auditions, a beloved member and mentor of the Jabbawockeez, Gary Kendell (also known as Gee One), passed away. At the time, ABDC only allowed crews of seven people or less (there are 11 Jabbawockeez total I think, including Gary), and the seventh crew member was originally going to be him. As a tribute to Gary, the Jabbawockeez now end every performance by pointing to the sky in his memory. His obituary ends with these words: “To the lives you touched, to the rhythms you followed, to the footsteps you left behind, and to the talent that will never be forgotten. Here’s to a beautiful life lived. We love you Gee. We will miss you. Dance for us in Heaven.”

As I saw the Jabbawockeez throughout Season 1, I noticed a few things in how they interacted with other. They always got everything done, as was made obvious by their consistently stellar performances. At the same time, they always found time during rehearsals to joke around and have fun. What astounds me the most about them is that for all the episodes they spent on America’s Best Dance Crew creating a new performance every week, they had no established leader. They really treated each other as equals; all contributed choreography ideas, and all ideas were respected. I guess they kind of just passed the baton of leadership around with no problem. They were so tightly knit as a dance crew, and as a group of people who loved each other. It showed in how they interacted with the other crews even and after they won the championship as well. They maintained their reputation as down-to-earth guys who knew the meaning of good sportsmanship and humility, even in the wake of great success.

I recently found an article on the Jabbawockeez with a brief bio of each of the six members that danced on ABDC (not including Gary). And there were two links that ran through all their responses when they were asked about what inspired them. First, they cited each other and mentioned some great dancers, but all of them highlighted Gary as their hero and mentor. Second, five out of six pointed to God as a personal source of inspiration. One of them was even so bold to proclaim that he is a born-again Christian, and that everything he does is to glorify the One up above. =)

Let’s just say that their excellence on the dance floor and the stage has a deeper root, shall we?

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But I’ve said too much already (most of which probably didn’t mean anything to you unless you’ve seen the Jabbawockeez before anyway). So now that I’ve raised your expectations impossibly high and put my unabashed admiration of this crew out onto the chopping block for all to see, I’ll let you watch on your own and make up your own mind (having filled it for the last dozen paragraphs with the Jabbawockeez’s praises). Feel free to let me know whether you agree or disagree with me and why. It’s a long video, but in my opinion, worth every minute of it (though the last part of itΒ  just shows them taking off their masks and exciting the crowd).

I hope you enjoy watching them even more than I do.

P.S. Shout-out to my newest blogging friend whisper, pursuer of a different kind of Jabberwockies and lover of all things epic.

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3 responses to “Tribute to the JabbaWockeeZ

  1. whisper August 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    That is a cool group! I love the pictures of them that you posted, and as I watched the video I understood what you said about the masks forcing one to view them as a whole and not as individuals. The masks also definitely helped in making them all blend together; for most of the video, I couldn’t tell any of them from the other. >_>

    I love the name! I love the creativity and the Jabberwockiness of it! “Something about appearing, killing the performance, and vanishing” – that’s an amazing interpretation of their name. XD

    I’m not familiar with modern/urban dance, so I’m not sure how good they are compared to their contemporaries, but it was an excellent performance. The coordination and the unreal robotics of it all were so well synchronized. πŸ˜€

    “I guess they kind of just passed the baton of leadership around with no problem.” Interesting… very interesting. That is a rare thing in this world; in all the movies or bands or books I can think of, there’s always a leader to every group. It’s refreshing to see leadership handled differently and being so freely shared. I like that concept. I like it a lot. πŸ™‚ It wouldn’t be useful in every context, but there’s a few places I’d like to try it in.

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