COURTESY KABA MODERN
Dance crew Kaba Modern represents a group that is 34 members strong.
Dancers stepped it up for TV show
CABLE network MTV has suffered repeated criticism over the years for not airing enough music videos, opting instead for mindless drivel like "My Super Sweet 16" and "The Hills."
Place: Aloha Stadium
Time: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
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Those complaints faded a bit earlier this year, however, when "America's Best Dance Crew" made its debut in January. Executive produced by Randy Jackson (of "American Idol" fame), the show brought together 12 of the best crews from around the country to battle it out for $100,000 and bragging rights.
Based in Irvine, Calif., Kaba Modern was one of four teams picked to represent the West Coast. They finished third in the competition behind San Diego's Jabawockeez and Boston's Status Quo after eight weeks on the show.
Kaba Modern members Jia Huang, Lawrence Kao, Cindy Minowa, Mike Song and Yuri Tag spoke with the Star-Bulletin via conference call last week about their MTV experience and how it has affected them.
QUESTION: How did Kaba Modern come about?
JIA HUANG: It all started 16 years ago. We're actually a club at the (University of California-Irvine) called Kababayan. They'd put on a Filipino culture night and do a lot of cultural dances.
Our founder, Arnel Calvario, wanted to establish a new crew ... and so Kaba Modern became the Filipino modern dance. It just developed every year until it became this group now, which is 34 (people) strong.
Q: Who picked the final six members to be on the show?
LAWRENCE KAO: Arnel sat down with the (team) coordinators for 2007, which were Cindy Minowa, Mike Song and myself. We just picked out the people who could best represent Kaba Modern as a whole to be on TV.
Q: Looking back, did you expect all this attention from being on the show?
MIKE SONG: Honestly, we're very grateful for the opportunity. When we first embarked on this journey, we really didn't expect anything.
We thought it would be a small TV show and just did it for fun. We're just trying to give back for everything that we've been given.
Q: What was it like being on the show from week to week?
YURI TAG: We would get one challenge every week ... (so) a typical week would be filming on Tuesday, and then we would find out our next challenge the day after. And then we wouldn't get the rough edit of the music until Friday.
And then even with the rough edit, we knew the music was going to change, so the dancing would change too. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, like all day we'd try to create the concept for the routine and just practice pretty much the whole day.
Q: Was it the hardest you've ever worked?
YT: Before all of our competitions, we'd always have a hell week. And that was really intense, because we'd practice from 9 p.m. until like 5 or 6 in the morning every day before the competition.
But what made this experience different was that we were on the show for, like, eight weeks, so it was like hell week every week. And it's just stressful with the changes in the environment, like staying at the hotel all day and being with the same people all the time. It was difficult psychologically ... but it was definitely a good experience overall.
Q: Does anyone have a favorite episode or performance from Season 1?
CINDY MINOWA: Michael Jackson was probably my favorite, because Michael is a huge hero of mine and to be able to rock it on stage in front of America was definitely an honor for me.
JH: I have to say one of the most thrilling weeks was not even any of the weeks of the show (itself). It was the audition special because everything was so new and we didn't know what to expect.
I don't think any of us will ever forget that first touch of what the show was going to be like.
Q: Was the level of competition higher than you expected?
MS: I think because it was such a brand new concept ... all the crews were able to bond with each other. We didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. We were like the guinea pigs together, and that made it so cool for us.
They housed all the crews in one big hotel, so it was like one big dance dormitory ... (and) we all hung out together and got really close. It was like competing against your friends.
Q: Did that make it harder to bring it during the show?
MS: Well, it got more and more painful each week to see a crew leave, because they had to leave the hotel and we wouldn't be seeing them anymore.
Q: What is it like now that the show is over?
LK: When we're walking around, we'll get fans recognizing us. After the show, we've just been getting a lot of opportunities to travel around the United States and Canada to perform and teach. And we get free stuff, too!
Q: Do you see yourselves as role models for kids interested in the performing arts?
CM: I don't know if I actually qualify to be a role model, but all we ask is that we hopefully instill some inspiration in kids to start dancing and direct that energy in a good and positive way.
YT: We're definitely excited to meet all of the younger kids. We haven't been able to do a lot of performances for the younger crowd, yet.