BY MAUREEN O'CONNELL
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hype 5-0, the first hip-hop outfit selected to represent Hawai'i in MTV's "Randy Jackson Presents: America's Best Dance Crew" competition, is polishing its synchronized moves, breakdancing and athletic backflips.
The seven-member O'ahu crew will tonight make its first appearance on the show to take on four other crews representing the west in a regional competition. The top three will advance to the show's season-five nationals, slated to get under way Feb. 18.
Look for a nod to traditional Hawaiian dance in Hype 5-0's performance, said Josh "Hazmat" Ulep.
Explaining his "hazardous materials" nickname, the 22-year-old Wailua resident said, "I like to think of my choreography as something dangerous."
Of the performance the crew is rehearsing in Los Angeles, Ulep said, "It's very high-energy ... but we like to add some Hawai'i island flavor into it."
He added, "There's some mild hula just enough to get the point across."
Two years ago, under Ulep's direction, Hype 5-0 began training as a crew. Previously, the dancers were part of an elite performing group at Hypersquad Dance Company in Waipahu.
Hype 5-0 auditioned unsuccessfully for a spot on seasons three and four of "America's Best Dance Crew." The second time around, crew members' hopes were fueled by a call-back invitation but dashed when they failed to make the final cut.
William Soares III, 19, of Honolulu, called last year's experience the "biggest rejection of my life."
However, he said, "Even though it was a big letdown, it was also key in how we made it this season. It gave me the motivation to push harder" to dance at the level expected for the show.
Soares, who goes by "Nessy" as crew members say he resembles the Loch Ness monster when swimming, said Hype 5-0's dance strategy stresses teamwork.
When asked what the judges expect, Soares said: "They're definitely looking for something new, something they haven't seen before."
He added, "So, we're ready to show them that in Hawai'i, yeah, we do the hula thing, but we also have a hip-hop scene. It exists in Hawai'i."
Jonathan "Ramones" Ramones, 18, of 'Ewa, echoed that sentiment: "We want to put Hawai'i on the map. We want to show them that Hawai'i goes hard."
But to stay in the hunt for the title of "America's Best Dance Crew" and its $100,000 prize, Ramones pointed out, Hype 5-0 will likely need votes from Mainland viewers, too. "We're also hoping to make America fall in love with us not just Hawai'i," he said.
Another 'Ewa resident, Allen-Charles "Brain" Pascual, described himself as "not your normal dancer."
Two years ago, Pascual, 26, earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Hawai'i and is now working for the Hawaiian Electric Co. and pursuing a professional engineer license.
Before Hype 5-0 flew to the Mainland last week, Pascual, a dancer for six years, was working on his moves four days a week each session lasting three to four hours. Even so, Pascual joked, "According to all of them (other crew members), I'm still a dork." Still, he said, "I consider myself kind of cool because I dance."
Pascual is now trying to keep his nerves in check. "I'm trying to keep my cool by thinking of all of the people back home and the reasons why we're doing this," he said, listing his own family, the crew " 'ohana" and Hawai'i fans as motivators.
"I really want to make them proud," Pascual said.
Crew member Brittnie Aguilar, 18, of Mililani, agreed, adding that after training and analyzing past seasons of "America's Best Dance Crew," "it'll be exciting" to see Hype 5-0's goal of performing in that spotlight realized.
Casey Kalahiki, 23, said that regardless of the competition's outcome, Hype 5-0 intends to continue performing. The show "just opens up so many doors of opportunity," said Kalahiki, a crew member and Honolulu resident. "For all of us the dream is to be dancing doing what we love with the people we love."
She added, "We've seen the show do that for so many other crews."
For instance, Cara Horibe, who grew up in Hawai'i Kai, served as captain of the UH Rainbow Dancers and competed in season two as a member of the Los Angeles-based Fanny Pak crew. After placing third, that group went on to perform in various venues and as part of America's Best Dance Crew Live tour.
Hype 5-0 crew member Marc "Dueynutz" Duey, 21, of Kapolei, started learning breakdance moves about six years ago and these days spends just about every night either dancing or dreaming up choreography.
When asked why the art form is a daily preoccupation, he said, "As a b-boy you can express yourself through your whole body. ... I just like to perform and dance."