VIDEO: Status Quo live at Brandeis
Jayjion Greer runs up a wall and flips over back onto the floor. Another guy runs up the wall after him and repeats the floor flip while yet another set of performers use a colleague as a human jump rope. The crowd at Brandeis University's student center on MLK Day marvel at the dance spectacle. But is this really . . . breakdancing?
The entertainers are from Status Quo, an 11-person performance crew from Dorchester that achieved national fame after having reached the finals of the MTV hit show America's Best Dance Crew (ABDC). And thanks to crews like Status Quo, a sect of hip-hop dance has evolved from the breakdancing-esque, street-styled origins of its birth into an almost circus-like multimedia performance experience. But Status Quo's perceived contribution to this development has put a target on its back, locally.
Posts on Facebook and the hip-hop-culture site bboy.org persistently slam the crew, calling them "Status Blow" and the like. Other crews have stopped talking to them altogether.
"This [one] crew had always known me as a breaker," says Javier Perez Jr., a/k/a/ JP, of Status Quo. "But after I was on MTV, they turned their back on me and told me I wasn't a real breaker. It kind of hurt."
Status Quo is assuredly not a breaking crew. They do incorporate some breakin' and krumping in their sets, but, in their own words, they are entertainers first. Beating out hundreds of crews to perform in the finals of ABDC, Status Quo scored mass appeal with their diverse group, which includes a contortionist, a tap dancer, and numerous acrobatically inclined youngsters. Since ABDC, they've performed with R'n'B acts Teyana Taylor and Danity Kane, appeared on MTV's MADE and My Super Sweet 16, and traveled the country performing at colleges. They could quite possibly be the next generation of hip-hop-dance crews, a conglomerate of dancing, acrobatics, and stunts. But their pop success has inexplicably angered some, and left others worried that their craft is being turned into a circus show.
"In a way, the media has helped, and in a way it's bad," says Eric Jose Cruz, a/k/a 3D, a popper with Losst Unnown, and a dance instructor at Extreme Dancesport Studio in Cambridge. "It's good for generating more money, but when the media begins to pay attention, your art gets exploited by people who don't really give a rat's ass."
Dancers like Cruz and Lino Delgado, a/k/a Leanrock from the crew Floorlords, have been immersed in the dance culture their entire lives. Their moves are clean, traditional, and hit the beat. They have evolved the traditional moves to make them their own, but they are still recognizable. These dancers want their version of hip-hip dancing to remain distinctly separate from this new conglomerate Status Quo–type performers have created.
"I can't diss them for what they do," says Delgado. "But what they do is not what I do."
BREAKONOMICS at MIT April, 2008: Floor Lords vs. Problemz Kru
"Lots of people just dance, but we entertain," says Ernest Phillips, a/k/a Eknock, one of the founders of Status Quo. "We started flipping, and even took out dance routines to put in some more flips. By 2007, we were winning all the competitions. Now everybody flips."
Phillips is just old enough to remember the '80s obsession with hip-hop-dance culture before the fad wore thin and the breakers, poppers, and lockers were stuffed back into the dark throb of the underground. Today, popular shows like ABDC (season three just started) and Fox's So You Think You Can Dance (season five is underway) have sparked a resurgence of interest in the hip-hop-dance styles. But this is not the same hip-hop dance from the high-top-hair days. Today's youth have been shocked numb. They are action-addicts with extreme forms of ADD and are not easily impressed. A skillful windmill or an impossible freeze isn't going to satiate their unwavering appetite for thrills. They want theatrical, acrobatic, death-defying performances — and Status Quo delivers.
"People feel threatened by us — that shows us we're doing something right," says Perez. "We're reaching the levels where we're a problem."