There is one thing that every single dance instructor in America will tell you, and it goes something like this: dancing is not just about movement, or just about sound. Itâ€™s about passion, because to truly dance you must communicate without talking.
This sounds like the typical motivational bullshit that artsy types recite so fluently, and, to be fair, not all dancers successfully capture that passion. However, this is exactly where dance differs from other art forms, because other kinds of artists can still find success with a bit of bullshitting â€“ but dancers, for the most part, canâ€™t.
â€œI really felt that impact when I saw fans crying during and after we were performing. To see that we could impact a person who we had never personally met is amazing.â€
Jeff â€œPhiâ€ Nguyen is 26, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, and a member of the universally recognizable dance crew JabbawockeeZ. The now L.A.-based Nguyen is easy-going, endearing, energetic, and the kind of interviewee who makes you want to save his phone number, just to call every once in awhile and say hi and Happy New Year and to see how the dance thing is going. No, I didnâ€™t add Jeff to my address book, but I get the impression that if I had he would have genuinely enjoyed hearing from me, because he was genuinely real like that. And, the more I talked to him, the easier it was for me to see how he might turn that personality into a very passionate, bullshit free dance performance â€“ which he and JabbawockeeZ other nine members have done time and time again.
Jeff is both a dancer and a hip hop instructor â€“the latter of which he loves, but does somewhat less of now that the troop deals with more hectic touring schedules. After landing the gold on the MTV hit, Americaâ€™s Best Dance Crew, last year, the JBWKZ took the ground running, releasing Jabba, their popular line of clothing, and an exciting production called Jabba TV, which is still in production. But for Jeff and his fellow dancers, the real value finding the spotlight is the ability to impact more people with their passion, because that is absolutely what you see when you see the ten members moving in unison. â€œI really felt that impact when I saw fans crying during and after we were performing. To see that we could impact a person who we had never personally met is amazing.â€
Of course, not everybody cries when they watching the Jabbawockeez do what they do best; spectators are known to keep it together, too. However, if theyâ€™re not bleary-eyed from tears, they are wide-eyed from â€œHOLY SHIT,â€ because the tightly knit group of dancers seems to become one person when they hit the stage. Jeff attributes this to the brotherhood that exists within the troop as much as he does to the loss of personal identity that comes with the use of the masks, mentioning that the friendship between the dancers goes about as deep as it can go. Just one example of this is apparent at the end of every dance, when all ten of the boys point to the sky in remembrance of Gary Kendell, a member of the group who died of pneumonia not long before the group’s start on Americaâ€™s Best Dance Crew. Jeff says they feel him with them all the time, and Garyâ€™s death seems to mean little in regards to an ongoing friendship with him.
Life post-ABDC has been different for the down-to-earth JabbawockeZ, but it hasnâ€™t done much to change their approach to life. However, though their personal approach hasnâ€™t changed, that doesnâ€™t mean the way the world approaches them has stayed constant. For instance, in 2007 you wouldnâ€™t have found them in Spain, shooting a commercial to be aired on Superbowl day. You wouldnâ€™t have found them designing clothing, either, or traveling around the world giving pointers to packed out rooms of aspiring dancers. But you would have found them dancing, tirelessly. You would also have found them kicking ass at it, moving forward of their own accord, and that is perhaps what makes these guys such a perfect embodiment of the art form. If you werenâ€™t watching, theyâ€™d be doing it anyway, and if you werenâ€™t standing there in front of them, theyâ€™d still have something to say â€“ and theyâ€™d be saying it without words.