First workshop with famed dance crew kicks off prospective monthly tradition
About an hour before fitness classes began at the Student Recreation and Wellness Ceter began on Feb. 19, a man in a mask showed up.
Don’t worry. He was a member of the world-renowned dance crew the Jabbawockeez, and he has nothing to hide.
In fact, the group spent hours last weekend teaching people how to move like a Jabbawockee, in their dance workshop “The Exchange” — a class that the SRWC plans to host regularly.
Dance lovers and fans of the Jabbawockeez gathered at the SWRC in hope of learning to dance like the masked men of mystery.
“They always show you techniques that you haven’t seen before and they always have really good analogies to help you think about musicality and creating movement or choreography,” said program participant Stephanie Sager. “I love it.”
Jabbawockee Phi Nguyen agreed that the lessons are about more than just learning steps.
“We want to exchange how we listen to music and our ideologies,” he said. “It’s not just a dance class. It’s not just you come and learn eight counts and then go home.”
Nguyen said the class aimed to show how the Jabbawockeez think.
“We want you to actually understand why we move to certain beats and certain rhythms and how music kind of talks to us,” he said. “We’re not dancing to the music, were just letting it tell us what to do.”
But that philosophy does not exclude dance technique — in fact, the group’s class was loaded with it.
The Jabbawockeez styles like BKD, isolation techniques and BBoy.
“I think its actually very useful,” Sager said, explaining that the demonstrations helped expand her technical repertoire. “My usual style of dance is … belly dance, so it’s pretty different than what I am used to do doing.”
All the Jabbawockeez have experience offering new ideas about dance. They have all taught dance professionally before.
Nguyen taught dance classes at San Diego State University and Arizona State University before coming to UNLV for “The Exchange.”
“I started out teaching, just being able to help people unlock their dancing, just get them grooving,” said Jabbawockee Kevin Brewer. “I like to see that they get a workout and that they enjoy the musicality of the music.”
He said that since the group won the first season of the TV talent competition “America’s Best Dance Crew,” the Jabbawockeez have not been able to focus on teaching. But now that they have a steady gig at Monte Carlo in a show called “MUS.I.C,” their interest in education is re-emerging.
“A lot of that teaching aspect went to the back burner for us,” Brewer said. “Now that we have more of a stable situation, with us being rooted here in Las Vegas with the show, we felt like it’s kind of time to start getting back into that.”
Brewer said that UNLV’s central location made it the perfect place for the group to start teaching classes. Their first day of sessions welcomed participants from the university and the general public.
“UNLV is off the hook, from the basketball team to the university itself,” Nguyen said. “It’s a cool place and we want to reach out to college kids that are interested in dance and UNLV is the perfect spot for us.”
So far, UNLV is the only place where the “The Exchange” dance workshop is being held.
The program is young and some of its goals are still up in the air.
“We just want to educate through music and dance,” Nguyen said, “and if [participants] are inspired and want to stick on a mask, then that’s the cherry on top.”
But Brewer said he wants to “create an army of Jabbawockeez.”
Though dates are not yet slated, the SRWC plans to host “The Exchange” monthly.
But again, Brewer hinted at bigger plans.
“I don’t think the guys would be opposed to showing up from time to time for a Rebels game,” he said.