As a kid, I always hated not having a consistent place to dance.
Like many of my peers across the country, in the late 90s I often found myself scrounging through the mall or looking for some side hallway in my high school to practice in. The football players had their field, the basketball players had the gym, but the dancers had to fend for themselves. Like me, Jerome “JeromeSkee” Aparis of the Massive Monkees crew shared a similar struggle as he transitioned from being a top soccer player with full access to practice space & organized games to an up and coming dancer who had to ride the bus for 90 minutes just to practice. Seeing an opportunity to change this experience for his students, Jerome started a middle school and high school B-Boy & B-Girl league in the Seattle area to provide his students a consistent arena to practice and compete against each other.
After 7 years, the Massive Break Challenge has evolved into Seattle’s ‘super bowl’ of school dance programs with over 10 schools competing for prizes and the respect of their peers. In fact, it’s the first official high school & middle school breaking league in the country. Each month 2 schools compete against each other in various formats (1 vs. 1, 3 vs. 3, crew vs. crew) allowing students to hone both their solo and team work skills as competitors. At the end of the school year, Massive Break Challenge holds a grand tournament where all of the schools get a chance to compete against each other. When asked about his inspiration to start the program Jerome adds “I wanted my students to have something to work towards every month and to give them a chance to battle people at their skill level as a stepping stone to larger breaking battles.”
When Jerome presented the idea of having this month’s Massive Break Challenge (MBC) at the Beacon during our free after school program run by Extraordinary Futures, we jumped all over it. Aside from being one of the founding members of Massive Monkees, Jerome plays dual roles as a teaching artist for Arts Corps and as the Director of After School Programs for Extraordinary Futures, so bringing MBC to the Beacon was a great way to align his work across all 3 organizations. This month’s competition featured more than 20 up and coming dancers from Chief Sealth and Cleveland High School who came ready for war. The progression these students have made in a few short years is amazing and their hard work in Jerome’s Arts Corps & Extraordinary Futures classes has clearly paid off. They even brought their own ‘fans’ from each school, supportive students who came to watch and cheer on their classmates.
At one point during the battle, I found myself reflecting on my days of dancing in dirty hallways and bugged out over the level that Jerome has taken Massive Break Challenge to. We’re really excited for the this year’s finals taking place at The Bagley Wright Theater on May 27thduring Seattle’s Northwest Folklife Festival and are eager to host another ‘school vs. school’ heat in April at the Beacon.
Executive Director | Extraordinary Futures | @ExtrdnryFutures
Massive Monkees Crew | @Massive_Monkees