Massive Monkees
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Massive Monkees

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"A philanthropic future for the Massive Monkees?" - Northwest Asian Weekly

"2007 Mayor's Arts Awards announced"

Mayor Greg Nickels has announced the recipients of the fifth annual 2007 Mayor's Arts Awards. The Seattle Arts Commission reviewed nearly 200 public nominations and recommended the recipients to the mayor.

The 2007 Mayor's Arts Award recipients are Clarence Acox Jr., musician and director of Garfield High School's jazz program and its renowned jazz ensemble; Earshot Jazz and its Executive Director John Gilbreath; Jean Griffith, founding member and retired longtime director of Pottery Northwest; Longhouse Media's Native Lens Program; Massive Monkees, a b-boy (breakdance) crew; literary arts center Richard Hugo House; and Seattle Art Museum and Director Mimi Gardner Gates. Read more about the recipients here.

The recipients will be honored at the Mayor's Arts Awards ceremony, noon, Friday, Aug. 31 at Seattle Center's Northwest Court. The outdoor ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will feature award presentations, followed by the official opening of Bumbershoot's Visual Arts Exhibits, which are free and open to the public from noon to 6 p.m. on Aug. 31.

The Mayor's Arts Awards are presented in partnership with Bumbershoot®: Seattle's Music and Arts Festival and primary media sponsor Encore Arts Programs, the magazine proudly serving performing arts organizations throughout the Puget Sound. Media support is also provided by Seattle Channel and Seattle Magazine.

"Seattle artists and cultural organizations enhance our quality of life, they inspire, engage and contribute to our economic well being," said Nickels. "This year's award recipients reflect the diversity and extraordinary artistic achievement throughout the city, ranging from arts education to the literary and visual arts to jazz, film and hip hop."

The Mayor's Arts Awards recognize the contributions made by artists, arts and cultural organizations and community members who make a difference through arts and cultural activities. To reflect the diversity of artistic achievement throughout the city, the awards do not have set categories.

"The Seattle Arts Commission is pleased to partner with Mayor Nickels to recognize the great contributions of this year's award recipients who inspire, provoke and connect us through a variety of artistic genres," said Dorothy Mann, Seattle Arts Commission chair. "The Mayor's Arts Awards shine the spotlight on the artistic and cultural jewels making a difference in our community." - Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs

"Massive Monkees put Seattle on the b-boy map"

The banner ad for the 2004 World B-Boy Championship in London didn't mention Seattle.

Next time, it will, thanks to four members of Massive Monkees, a Seattle b-boy (breaking-dancing) crew.

Jerome "Jeromeskee" Aparis, a member of Seattle b-boy hip-hop group Massive Monkees, performs at Caterarts At The Lakeside during a celebration party Wednesday. Aparis was one of four members sent to London for an international competition, and the boys returned with a second-place in the two-man category and a first in four-man competition.
Last Saturday, in the two-man dance battle category, Massive Monkees came in a respectable second, after France's Wanted Crew.

On the second and last day of the competition, which featured four-man battles, they pushed past Wanted Crew and all others, coming in first and bringing a crowd of 6,000 people to their feet.

Back home, they celebrated with the rest of the crew by -- what else? -- dancing at their regular Wednesday night hangout, Caterarts At The Lakeside, 2501 N. Northlake Way.

Whirling like hip-hop dervishes, tap dancing in percussively prone positions and sliding like silk on satin in spins, freezes and air flairs, they took turns in the spotlight and nodded in appreciation at subtle things, like the rhythm connoisseurs they are.

Together for four years and all veterans of other crews, Massive Monkees is a dance collective and social club. Less than half of its 23 members are currently dancers. The rest are DJs, graffiti artists, producers and a good-vibe support team.

Nearly all graduated from Franklin High School, and nearly all grew up in Seattle's South end: Beacon Hill, Columbia City and the Rainier Valley.

The four who brought honor to their crew are in their early 20s: J.D. Rainey, Marcus Garrison, Jerome Aparis and Brysen Angeles. Massive Monkee producer Benito Ybarra went along too, because, as he put it, "I booked the show, I had to go."

All expenses were paid by Just Fabulous, producers of the 2004 World B-Boy Championship. Just Fabulous scouts sifted through thousands of video dance tapes and flew all over the world to find the 30 teams invited to compete.

Ybarra said he thought the Massive Monkee sweep was partly due to the fact that the judges were "old school" and appreciated the cohesiveness of the group.

"A lot of the teams were all-stars," he said. "They could do amazing things, but we represent our own culture and carry our own style developed together over time. The crowd loves to see people spin on their heads, but we do it within the fabric of our routines. Dance first, and power moves second."

The competition at the Wembley Arena took place in elimination rounds, five minutes each.

"Round by round," said Angeles.

"Inch by inch," said Rainey.

"Step by step," said Aparis.

Rainey said he thought that dancing in competition was like playing chess, and all agreed.

"We have routines, but we have to know which moves to make in a given situation," he said.

Aparis added that your dance is your character, and you win by staying true to it. "The essence of dance is to be your character," he said.

They were in London four days. They were supposed to relax on the first day and sleep off the jet lag but instead pushed the beds in their hotel rooms against the wall and practiced.

Because everybody who won a 5-minute round received money, the top prize on Sunday came to $10,000 of the original $100,000 purse. Massive Monkees made another $5,000 for their second place win on the first day.

Ybarra has big plans, including a Web site, clothing line and videos they shoot themselves, although he's quick to note nobody wants to get "too commercial."

"We aren't in it for the money," said Aparis.

"But the money's nice," said Rainey.

All have been devoted to hip-hop's dance offshoot since their early teens.

Its roots can be found in African tribal dance combined with Brazilian capoeira and American gymnastics; the fancy footwork of James Brown and later Michael Jackson; electric boogaloo poppers like Don Campbell and in the percussively-charged footwork of Brooklyn kids in the 1970s. To avoid summer heat trapped inside their apartments, they fooled around, outdancing each other in the street.

Rainey remembers being 14 and seeing a kid who was walking down the hallway suddenly start dancing. He thought, I want to do that.

Most of the Monkees can be found, on and off, at the Jefferson Community Center Monday and Friday nights, the central place where aspirants pick up tips from their elders.

Expect to see them next summer at Bumbershoot, as they are organizing a b-boy event that will match their status as b-boy royalty.

Joshua Trujillo / P-I
- Seattle PI

"America's Best Dance Crew: A chat with Massive Monkees"

September 24, 2009 | 10:05 pm

The Massive Monkees were one of the most popular crews on "America's Best Dance Crew" this season, and though they were eliminated on Sunday, they were nice enough to sit down and talk a bit about their season and their mission. Confession: The initial interview was lost (eaten by my imaginary electronic dog), and Massive Monkey crew members Brysen and Jerome were nice enough to re-chat with me about the Monkeys' past and their travels through the season. After the interview there's a video conversation with Shane Sparks after the Rhythm City-Massive Monkeys battle about how he thought the season was going, and a few words from Fanny Pak's Glenda. Three days until the live finale, and congratulations to Massive Monkey Tim Soriano on his and his fiance's new baby girl!

Tell me about the b-boy culture in Seattle?

[Updated: An earlier version of this post called the crews that Brysen talks about the DBS Crew and the Box Crew. They are the DVS Crew and the Boss Crew. Thanks for the comments!] Brysen: The b-boy community and culture in Seattle is a lot different from other places that I've been. A lot of the b-boy crews have a real beef or an actual conflict with other crews off the dance floor and I think that's something different than in Seattle. Of course, it's competition, competition, competition, and we're out there to win and show that we're a better group, but when we get off the dance floor, it's really all love with a lot of the crews in Seattle. I think that started with one of the first b-boy crews out here, the DVS Crew. They started coming up in the early '80s doing their thing ... and they took what they learned and taught another crew called the Boss Crew, and we're kind of the third generation from that line of b-boys.

... We try to learn from each other. There's another crew in Seattle called the Circle of Fire that came up alongside of us, but they were a lot different,,,, more freestyle dancers ... We've become friends and they made us better dancers

You wanted to show America what Massive Monkees was all about ... Do you think that with the format, the challenges and the time limitations, that you got to do that?

Brysen: One thing that was really good about it was that, where a lot of other b-boy crews want to be real strick b-boys and be all about competition, competition, competition -- and we can do that -- but our crew likes to have fun with it and be able to let our character shine through with the dance. And using the challenges let us do that and show how much fun we're able to have.
What we weren't really able to do because of the time limitations was show our individuality. As a b-boy crew, all of us are strong individuals, but because of the format, we didn't get to showcase [that] and highlight how strong we were as individuals... Hopefully from here, a lot of our fans will continue to watch and see what Massive Monkeys is all about.

You've already battled some of the show's winners -- members of Super Cr3w and Jabba Wockeez -- so did that weigh on you when you were deciding to go out for the show?

Jerome: We know those guys, and we knew that we'd really have to bring the Massive Monkey element and be different than everybody else. At the same time, we're a battle crew -- we're b-boys that are known for battling -- and the show comes second.

Who were you guys the closest with (in terms of the crews that were on the show)?

Jerome: Oddly enough, we were really close to Vogue [Evolution]. We have the same kind of understanding with them coming from an underground scene, a battle scene, and we share that ... Also We Are Heroes and Afroborike as well.

When you got to the show and were assessing your competition, who did you think was your biggest competition?

Jerome: Rhythm City. First shows and first impressions show a lot, and it seemed like Rhythm City was going to be in the finals.

How did you feel about the judges' big argument when you battled Rhythm City and their assessment of the "show" versus it all being a "battle?"

Jerome: First, a battle is a challenge Face-to-face. When you do a show, it's a show, You can't always "kill" it, so to speak, because there's so much structure. With the whole N'Sync show, we knew we had to really bring it and bring that intensity, though, and I think that's what Shane sensed. We were intense and just had that battle mentality.

Your elimination from the show ... how did you react to it as a crew and how did you deal with it yourselves?

Brysen: Of course, we came to win. But before we came out here, while were deciding to come, we had to set some goals and some things that we wanted to accomplish while we were here. And one was to show the world that b-boys aren't just one thing, that b-boys are more than one-dimensional. And that they are dancers. We can do theater-type work, and we also wanted to share a positive message. And I think that a lot of the goals that we'd wanted to accomplish with the show, besides winning the show, were accomplished. Of course ... we represented ourselves well, we represented out culture well. And we even represented our city. We think that all of the people that supported us are proud of us ... The winning and the title are really secondary to the long-term effects that hopefully we've inspired people to follow us. We feel really good about what we accomplished.

[Update: Jerome said that the group was upset at losing, not insulted as an earlier version stated.] Jerome: The biggest thing for Massive Moneys was the process. ... Building our skills mentally and physically and learning why we were here and what we could get out of this. It was really a process of learning from each other and just going out there, putting our hearts on the dance floor. And our passion -- and that's what we did. When they announced that we were eliminated, we all felt a little upset, but we're a group, a crew that's been together for a long time. It was more like 'Hey, we put it all out there.' It is what it is and we should be happy. There's no regrets.

What initially brought you together?

[Update: An earlier post called the meeting center the Justin Community Center. It is the Jefferson Community Center] Jerome: When we were kids, in high school and some of us in elementary, we just had the same common understanding and mentality that we just wanted to have fun and dance. We literally hang out at the same spot, a community center called the Jefferson Community Center, and we would just practice there twice a day, three times a week. And we just became close friends. And it was friends first before any of us knew we wanted to be in competition. It was just 'Let's hang out!'

Brysen: We didn't know, when we first got together, how far it would go. We just knew that we were vibing and we all got along and had a passion for the dance. So I guess that is what really brought us together, and is what we've been accomplishing, what we've been doing over the past 10 years together.

-- Jevon Phillips
- Los Angeles Times

"Seattle break-dancing crew Massive Monkees compete on MTV reality show"

We caught the break-dancing crew between rehearsals at a hotel in Los Angeles. Brysen Angeles and JD Rainey speak for the group below.

Q: Why did you guys decide to enter?

Angeles: We've just gotten so much support from our family, friends, our community. And, of course, Seattle always has our back, so we always hear — When are you guys going to do the show?. When are you going to be on TV? When can we see you? Where are you going to be at? ... It's just a thank-you to the supporters in Seattle.

Q: You guys have a crew 25-people strong, but only six are on the show; how did you choose which members would compete?

Angeles: A lot of us have families at home. A lot of us have kids. ... So aside from the people who felt confident and ready to be at this stage, it was just availability.

Q: How has this reality show tested your crew's family structure?

Angeles: We're here getting a lot closer. ... One thing that is really helping us out is that every night, we're getting together with just us six, and having something we're calling a pow wow. It's just our time ... to talk about how we're doing, how we're feeling about the show, how we're feeling about things personally, if we're having issues with each other. That way we don't have any lingering bad feelings. ... That's a priority every night, just like eating.

Q: What is a typical day on the show like?

Angeles: Pretty much, wake up, try to find time for food. Rehearse a couple hours, try to find time for lunch. Rehearse a few more hours; maybe if we're lucky, we squeeze in a half an hour nap. Then after that, we're probably spending the rest of the day rehearsing in two- to three-hour blocks. If the routine isn't nailed down, then we're finding some quiet corner in the hotel, or outside the hotel, to kind of walk through our things, and sometimes, we're up until 3 or 4 in the morning, making sure we're tight and we're clean for the next day.

Q: What have the ups and downs been so far?

Angeles: It's stressful, but I think one thing we're doing is just reminding ourselves — this is stressful and it is a lot of hard work, but at the same time, how grateful are we are to be here ... that so many people can see the beauty of what we do as dancers. ... Really, I think we're trying to ... let people know that if you stick to your dream, stick to what you're passionate about, good things can come out of it.

Q: How did you choreograph the set with the hula hoops?

Angeles: I jumped through four hula hoops, which is hard, and then JD jumped over those four hula hoops at the same time. One thing you may not be thinking about is ... if I jump through those hula hoops, [and] he does not take off, then I'm jumping right into him. And even worse, if he takes off earlier and I clip his feet on his way up, that's an even worse disaster, so we rehearsed it over and over, but we got our bumps and bruises.

Rainey: It took its toll — bruised me up for a few days. I'm still pretty much sore from the hula hoops. Just having to do it over and over... Each time you do it, your energy gets lower and lower, and that's when injuries start to happen.

Q: What are you planning for Sunday's martial arts theme?

Rainey: Everybody has a different specific style, so we have extreme martial arts. ... Really flashy, a lot of dynamics, a lot of flying in the air. A lot of fast hands, fast feet. Really dynamic, almost gymnast-like.

Q: How are you planning to use this experience to get to the next level?

Angeles: After this show, I think it will be easier for us to maybe open up a studio or a school in Seattle and be able to get more of the students and youth involved in what we do. ... On stage what we do is 50 seconds, we can't really tell a story as well ... it's more like a 50 second sprint to see who can fill it the most. ... Imagine what we can do in an hour.

Marian Liu
- The Seattle Times


The Massive Monkees have shared their performances nationally and internationally for a wide variety of audiences.

They were the first to bring breakdance choreography to the NBA performing under the nickname, “Sonics Boom Squad.” Ranked top 5 in league entertainment, they were invited as featured performers to the 2004 NBA All-Star Game. They have opened for artists such as Beyonce Knowles, Alicia Keys and Jay-Z.

Their television appearances include MTV Made, Americas Best Dance Crew, ESPN, Fox Sports and Evening Magazine. In addition, countless colleges across the nation and local schools have experienced the amazing energy and excitement that the Massive Monkees bring. No matter what the event, the Massive Monkees have succeeded in entertaining audiences with their phenomenal dance moves.



Massive Monkees have brought Seattle to an international audience of dance fans since 2000; each event or battle has the city’s name across their chest no different than a professional sports franchise. For all their accomplishments overseas, nothing compares to the cultural foundation they built in Seattle, which promotes breakdancing as a healthy activity and method of expression for youth. Beginning with their free dance studio practices at Jefferson Community Center, which gave birth to an entire generation of Seattle breakdancers now forming their own crews and traveling the world… the Massive Monkees have given back with equal vigor as the drive to gaining acclaim. Despite being in their 20s with families of their own, the crew members have given time to voter registration drives , educating high school students at Evergreen when an anti hip-hop dress code was proposed as a way to control the student body, teaching classes at Velocity Dance Studio on Capitol Hill, holding drug and alcohol awareness workshops at Elementary Schools and creating an annual jam in recognition of the local holiday bestowed on Massive Monkees by the Mayor’s office in 2004.

The Massive Monkees have over 10 years of experience in professional entertainment and have captivated spectators across the globe. You can expect their performances to excite and amaze the audience with cutting edge choreography, spectacular dance moves and an eclectic choice of music that can be enjoyed by all. The Massive Monkees offer a variety of performances that range from a five minute explosion of the world’s best breakdance moves to a 30 minute theatrical stage production. Each show is tailored to accommodate the needs and theme of your event.

We love to get the audience involved! The Massive Monkees also offer breakdance workshops that can be paired with any performance. This is the crowd’s opportunity to get on stage and be a part of the show… Always fun and safe for all ages.