justDANCE! Xtreme Soul Style

Xtreme Soul Style (XSS) is a prominent dance crew that has received world wide recognition for their dance. The XSS crew are: Lorenzo Bernabe, Jonathan Bongato, Jerome Esplana, Jonathan Kol (JC), Porson Lee, Roy Manansala, Jordan Lee, Justin Oquendo, Onifur Garcia, Justin Paysan, Norman Purganan, and Carlin Vicera.

Can you give us a little background on XSS?

Onifur: As a group, we’ve been together for about three years now, and gone through ups and downs…

Roy: Yeah, it’s been about our third year, and we came together from three different crews. It was Style Elements, Extreme Steps, and Soul. What happened was there was this competition outside of town, and we needed to put together a big team to represent Fresh Groove Productions, so our choreographer took all three of our groups and put them together. We were pretty successful in that competition, so from then on, we kind of just stayed together as a group.

Onifur: It was supposed to be a temporary thing, ’cause it was supposed to last only one competition, but since we did so well, it kind of became an on-going thing. It’s been pretty successful to date.

What kind of dance do you guys do?

XSS: It’s a variety of different dances, like pop, locking, breaking, isolation, and a whole lot of others.

Roy: To put it all together, it’s choreo. We can’t just give it all it’s own name, ’cause we do have our basic technique. We’re not fully hip-hop, or fully technical dances, and we can learn from all different dances in Vancouver and take the small little things from them to make it out own style.

Onifur: The good thing about this is that our style is very versatile. We don’t pick one style and just stick with it for the whole way. We like variety-ing our style and everyone in the group brings forth different styles, and at the same time, we are always trying to learn different styles.

How do you see fashion and dance related to each other?

Lorenzo: The stuff we wear on stage is the stuff we would wear everyday.

XSS: Sometimes during practices, we just go, “hey we like what he’s wearing”, and then we just go with what ever it was. It’s important at the same time because what we wear really reflects who we are, what we do, and what we believe in.

Can you describe how XSS got so close as a crew?

Norman: Just practices every day. We fool around but we practice every day and still get stuff done.

JC: It’s not just practices too. When we go on trips outside of town, we always bond closer because we all stay at the same hotel, and we share the same rooms-

Onifur: I don’t like where this is going!

(XSS laughs)

JC: We always just pack a room to cut down on costs, because we basically pay for everything ourselves through our own fundraisers or out of our own pockets. This includes our membership here, our trips, our own costumes. On competitions and when we go on trips, we bond so much closer together, and not just our group, but all the groups also at Fresh Groove Productions. We are always supporting each other.

Roy: It just comes down to love for the dance. We all have our different personalities and likings, but we all love the dance.

How do you find time to balance between your other responsibilities in life, like school and work, with your dedication to dance?

XSS: It’s all about time management! (Everyone points to JB)

JB: Yeah, I’m at SFU (Simon Fraser University) in second year, and yeah, it’s all about time management. It’s pretty much school during the day, dance during the night for me, and I still have to balance with all the homework and projects, especially since my program is all project based. There are a lot of big nights for me and you just have to learn how to make sacrifices.

Teamwork and coordination is a critical success factor in this game. How does XSS make sure everyone is on top of their game?

Onifur: Just encouragement I guess. When people are missing out and stuff, we just let them know and talk to them about how they should be getting back to practices and stuff. It’s also about honour system too. If someone misses something, which is often, you know, we make it up ourselves by just asking someone on the team and just see what was missed. All in all, everyone is just willing to teach each other.

Lorenzo: When we see one person working extra hard, it just makes all of us want to just as hard as that one person. It works within the group, ’cause we just feed off each other.

How have competitions shaped the XSS crew?

XSS: There are those competitions that have made us stronger in the sense that we realize what we have and clearly what we don’t. The whole preparation for the competitions and the competitions themselves really make us realize our strengths and weaknesses. You look back on it and you realize what you did wrong and how we could improve, and it just encourages you to work all that much more harder

Which one competition was the most rewarding competition?

XSS: World Hip-Hop Championships (Worlds).

Onifur: Whether you place or not, it doesn’t matter because it’s just an enormous experience just being a part of it.

Roy: You know America’s Best Dance Crew? Well Worlds have been going on for a while now. It’s a competition that’s usually held in L.A., and Shane Sparks, he judges for this competition. One day, Randy Jackson came down and he took the concept and idea of the competition and made it into a show. So, to be a part of a huge competition and see where that’s gone, it just reminds us that anyone from anywhere around the world has a shot at making it.

JC: Our first year there was the first year that Randy Jackson was there, so it just blew up from there. I can’t believe that the show is on it’s third season and we were there when it was just a concept and it was just a thought of, “it’s going to happen.” That’s why it makes us feel like we’ve been together for so long already.

Onifur: The good thing about Worlds is that you don’t really understand what other people really are saying because of all the different people there. The only word you really need to know is “dance” and everyone is just like, “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah”.

What is the one competition that you really wanted to win?

XSS: Worlds! You don’t really win anything; the top winner gets a medal or something, but it’s not really about that. What you really get is bragging rights. We’re in the age of Youtube and Facebook and stuff, and it’s the biggest exposure that you can possibly get. You’re representing your country, and you just really want to win this competition.

What do you think is lacking from competitions?

XSS: Publicity is what’s missing. A lot of the competitions that we go to, it’s really closed, and not really a lot of media there. Even inside the competition, you see these people there that you wouldn’t have known or even recognized outside in the real world.

Onifur: Appreciation too. Every one of those performers, they work hard for what they do. Everyone pays to work hard; they’re not getting paid to do what they do and love. It would be nice if the people putting up all the hard work got some recognition for the things they have done.

Have you guys ever done any of the informal street battles, and what is your opinion on these?

Norman: We even battle within our group.

Roy: I think “You Got Served” glamorized the whole street battle thing. After that movie came out, there was a whole explosion of little groups here and there. Before then, it was really no more than 10 real dance crews within Van city alone. But after “You Got Served”, every high school possible had their own dance crew, even high schools that I didn’t know existed.

Onifur: I remember before all this, we would go to high school dance competitions and there would only be about four other guys versus 500 other girls.

Who made your logo and what’s the concept behind it?

XSS: JABES

JB: I guess I was just experimenting with fonts and stuff and it’s an “X” in the middle with an “S” on both sides. It was a very simple approach to it and it was sort of an accident.

Lorenzo: Explain why it’s like that though.

JB: Oh yeah, it was actually kind of like two circles side by side before the “S’s ” were put on top, which represented, like, infinity, kind of thing, hoping that our group would stay together…for a long time?

XSS: Awww!

JB: On the bottom, there’s a “3” on it which represents the third generation that we’ve been in it, so that aspect of it will change. For our t-shirts, we always change it around a bit, with the logo first being horizontal, then 45 degrees, now straight up.

How do you guys see the current state of the dance scene in Vancouver?

XSS: It’s definitely getting there and it’s a lot bigger than before. A lot of stuff is happening down in the States, and it’s coming back up there. There’s a lot more choreographers coming up and really getting out there and just trying new things, and it’s really helped the scene a lot.

Roy: We’re getting a lot of Choreographers from out of town lately, and ever since Facebook happened, almost, I swear, every three weeks there’s a new choreographer from out of town coming in and teaching new things.

Onifur: The whole dance population has grown a lot more, too. More and more studios are recognizing hip hop as an art form, and not just some sort of street thing.

What advice or guidance would you give to the little ones that are just starting their own crew?

XSS: Don’t rush it and be patient. If you have the passion for it, then go for it, but really, take your time with it, and make sure you get it right.

JB: When I first started university, it was really hard and it just made me think and say, “oh God, this is really tough”, but in the end, I went back to it because the passion for it was there.

XSS: You have to be in it for the right reasons. Don’t be in it for the ladies!

What is HYPE?

Lorenzo: Energy. It’s the energy that you get spontaneously and you feed off of it. You use it to drive yourself and do what you want and need to do.

Roy: Our HYPE is the audience. We’re just starting to build up a large fan base and as soon as we get on stage, or even before we get on stage, we start hearing the audience go, “XSS! XSS! XSS!”. We’ve been blessed that way with how so many people are supporting us and what we do. That’s our main HYPE.

-More at www.xtremesoulstyle.net

Photography by Nico Mak & Jarvis Ho