By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
On Sunday, May 29, the Neptune Theatre in the University District came alive with the sounds of breakbeats as the venue played host to dancers from all over the world for Massive Monkees Day.
The international breakdancing competition, hosted by the Seattle-based breakdancing crew Massive Monkees, brought b-boys and b-girls from all over, not just the country, but the world—from Canada and Mexico, to Singapore and Kazakhstan.
“They make their names at our events,” Hocine Jouini, Massive Monkees member and event producer, said.
Dancers battled in four categories for prizes, including cash ranging from $300-$4,500 and custom four-finger rings. For the three-on-three battle, Rock Force Crew out of California came away with the win against Mexico’s Native Blood, while Canada’s Megabots beat out Seattle’s SCC in two-on-two open styles. In the footwork competition, Arizona’s b-boy Conrad of The Mayaboys won against b-boy Nabil from France. And in the students of the game battle (youth 16 and younger), Hawaii’s The 808 Breakers Crew won against I Dunno from Canada.
The judges also hailed from all over the world, including Sacramento, Los Angeles, New York, and Kansas City, Mo. in the United States, and Canada, France, and Finland internationally.
Massive Monkees co-founder Jeromeskee was also one of the judges.
Bringing it back to the community
Before it became an international event showcasing breakdancing and hip-hop culture, the first Massive Monkees Day was April 26, 2004. It was proclaimed a holiday in Seattle by then-Mayor Greg Nickels, in honor of the crew’s victory at the World B-Boy Championships. While this was their first world championship, Massive Monkees had been making a name for themselves in the breaking world since getting their start in the mid-1990s at the Jefferson Community Center on Beacon Hill. Their first major victory was the B-Boy Summit in 2000.
The crew also placed third on “America’s Best Dance Crew” in 2009.
The first Massive Monkees Day event was held in 2005.
Despite the Massive Monkees’ widespread success and fame, community has always been part of the crew’s ethos and Massive Monkees Day fell right in line with this.
Preliminary battles were held on May 28—with top dancers advancing to the finals the following day—at Pratt Park. Originally set for Hing Hay Park in the Chinatown-International District (CID), the event was moved to the park’s covered basketball courts due to the rain.
The idea was to bring it back to the neighborhood where the crew’s dance studio, The Beacon, had been located for almost eight years.
“It was a great experience,” Jouini said about having the studio in the CID. The studio closed in November 2020 as a result of the pandemic and he said theyre in the process of looking for a new studio space—ideally located in the CID, Beacon Hill, or Georgetown.
The May 28 event also included public dance workshops, graffiti artists, and a car show. Massive Monkees received a grant from the city’s Office of Economic Development to help with funding for the weekend’s activities.
Massive Monkees Day also included a community barbecue on Memorial Day at Jefferson Park and a kids’ exhibition at Seattle Center.
And going beyond holding activities in local community spaces, the beginning of Sunday’s event included a land acknowledgement that was more than just recognizing the Duwamish Tribe—the first peoples of Seattle. Host Tracey Wong of the Asian American dance collective, Malicious Vixens, shared information for how attendees could sign a petition to get the tribe federally recognized and financial help.
Creating safe spaces
While breakdancing may be a male-dominated art form and culture, b-girls and female dancers—from competitors, to judges, to the Malicious Vixens’ showcase performance—were also in attendance.
The culture’s lopsided demographics were addressed at the beginning of the show as Massive Monkees’ b-girl Anna Banana Freeze shared her story of how she fell in love and found a home with breakdancing and hip-hop, but over the years, began distancing herself from it as she began feeling unsafe in such spaces—only to realize she wasn’t the only one who felt this way.
To address this issue, a representative from The Good Foot Arts Collective, a Seattle-based organization focused on youth violence prevention through arts education, shared resources for the crowd on how they could build spaces where not just b-girls, but everyone, could exist and feel safe.
For the main event on May 29, Massive Monkees partnered with Seattle Theatre Group (STG).
Although Massive Monkees’ collaborations with STG date back to 2010—with crew members performing at and working with various STG shows and programs over the years—this event was only the second time the two groups co-produced a full event together. Last year’s Massive Monkees Day event was the first.
Jouini said one of the reasons their partnership with STG works so well is because of their shared focus on community.
Rex Kinney, associate director of education for STG, agreed, describing the crew as an amazing group of individuals who put Seattle on the map when it comes to breakdancing. But it goes beyond that.
“They are also just amazing mentors,” Kinney said, pointing out Massive Monkees’ efforts to teach and educate the younger generation about their art form and making it accessible to as many people as possible—which was on full display as Massive Monkees welcomed five new b-boys to their crew with a special performance.
“They do such amazing work in the community.”
Samantha can be reached at email@example.com.