BARRIO – (Las Vegas Weekly) – The 20-year legacy of the Jabbawockeez—the masked hip-hop dance crew behind several successful Strip productions, including the current Timeless at MGM Grand—has grown well beyond anything the troupe ever envisioned.
“[Las Vegas] was something we had discussed in 2004 as just kids dreaming,” says Jeffrey “Phi” Nguyen, one of the original founding members of the group, along with Kevin “KB” Brewer and Joe Larot. “One of our crew members [the late Gary Kendell] was the first one to put it into the universe. He was like, ‘There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have a show in Las Vegas.’ Fast forward to 2023, and this May will be 13 years.”
After more than a decade of headlining on the Strip, the Jabbawockeez have grown accustomed to thinking big. Their next move? A world tour with Puerto Rican reggaeton sensation Rauw Alejandro, set to begin March 4 in Tampa, Florida.
Last year, the dance troupe joined Alejandro onstage at the Latin Grammys, and that moment has since brought the two camps even closer together.
“We had been trying to make a presence in the Latin community and we’d touched base on it over the years, but very lightly,” Brewer says. “When Rauw reached out to us, we pulled up and did a set with him, and I think there was a synergy there. We kind of vibe off each other’s lore.
“He’s got this sci-fi retro ’80s thing, and we’re keeping that in mind. We’re trying to integrate the art of storytelling as we transition from our set to his,” he continues. “It’s like we both jet set across the universe. Then Rauw finds himself in a situation where he needs to call the Jabbawockeez as backup. We pinpoint his location, and in our dragon cruise ship, we meet up and do this tour.”
Nguyen says ’80s classics like Back to the Future, Tron and The Terminator fuel the crew’s creative mojo as it works on new choreography. Applying those elements to Alejandro’s show should be an easy exercise. The Jabbawockeez have backed up several musical heavyweights on tour, including New Kids on the Block and Bruno Mars, but the upcoming Saturno tour will see the crew headlining in a much more collaborative and prominent way, Larot says.
“It’s cool to work with artists that look at us as artists as well,” Nguyen adds. “With this particular tour, we’re not opening up for Rauw, we’re actually in the middle of his set, where it’s actually our set.”
Larot says Timeless will continue to run in Las Vegas during the tour. And introducing new audiences to Jabbawockeez on the road should help draw different fans to the Vegas show, he says.
Brewer says 2023 is looking packed with opportunities, but the expansion of the crew’s legacy—and its family of “new young dragons, to take up the mantle”—remains top of mind.
“Our mission is world domination,” he says. “We want Jabbawockeez everywhere. Every inch and corner of the planet, that’s where we’re trying to have the mask.”
Rauw Alejandro and Jabbawockeez are in Toronto March 21. Purchase your tickets here.