A SELF-ADMITTED “troublemaker” at 15, Anthony Sakellis followed his divorced mother back to her native Hawaii from Washington state to get his young life straightened out.
He found salvation through dance, specifically the current urban style known as jerking. It’s the latest evolution of street dancing that dates back to hip-hop’s breakdancing and more recently to the inventive aggression of krumping. Despite its name, jerking borrows signature from those styles but is more lithe and fluid, and its practitioners tend to skew a little younger.
The dance movement got its name and hype from a music video two years ago called “You’re a Jerk” by New Boyz. The duo helped promote the national Jerk All-Stars online competition, sponsored by Sprite and Myspace, that Sakellis, 20, and his dance crew, Aloha Inc., won in March, besting 300 other groups.
|See Aloha Inc.’s video for Vlado Footwear at www.youtube.com/alohaincrep|
Sakellis and the crew — representing Waipahu, Pearl City and Kalihi — is made up of co-leader JP “The Diverse” Orpilla, DeVante “2SkyHigh” Moore, Gabriel “Gabe-Real” Decastro, all 18 years old; Shaunstan “Shaunstar” Usam, 19; and the smallest member of the group, 13-year-old Clint “Sam 2uce” Ibera.
“Each of us are strong in different styles, and together we represent Hawaii as Aloha Inc.,” Sakellis said. “We chose to use the word ‘aloha’ to make us a family.”
The crew — minus Orpilla, who couldn’t get away from work — got together recently at one of their old stomping grounds, the basketball court of Hale Ola Park in Aiea, to show off their moves for the camera. Sakellis, whose nickname is “Washing10” in honor of his birth state, did repeated gymnastic flips with ease. 2SkyHigh and Shaunstar hammed it up with smooth arm and leg movements, Gabe-Real brought back some old-school breakdancing, and Sam 2uce was all angles with his body-breaking specialty.
“We’ve done our routines in parking lots, stores. … The weirdest place we’ve danced was in the aisle of a plane,” Sakellis said.
Aloha Inc. just added another accolade as U.S. winners of the NJA International Poster contest, sponsored by Vlado Footwear, a corporate player in the jerk dance movement.
“We started doing this just for fun,” Usam said, “but things have changed after the wins, so we’re always working on new moves to put into our routine. The more dancing we do, the more opportunities that will come our way.”
The next contest in the guys’ collective sights is MTV’s popular series “America’s Best Dance Crew.” The hip-hop Hype 5-0 crew of Honolulu was one of nine finalists on the show last year, and Sakellis hopes Aloha Inc. will be next to represent the isles. “Not one jerk crew has ever made it to on-air competition, but I think we could break through because we include dance while we do our other body work,” he said.
“We’re clean. We’re not sloppy with our moves. They’re precise and with a flow to them. But we make sure we have the ‘eye-catchers’ and ‘blow-ups’ that will help distinguish ourselves from other crews.”
“It’s all about teamwork and energy,” Decastro added.
Sakellis, who works at a fast-food restaurant to support his wife, Tiani, and their 4-month-old daughter, Azriella, has proved to be studious in his craft.
“When I started seeing people doing these jerk dance moves, I knew I didn’t want to look like everyone else,” he said. “The first thing I worked on was footwork, then it went to doing something interesting with my arms. Instead of just basically standing, I made sure my whole body was doing something, changing up height levels, so it would always look different.”
He’s proud that Aloha Inc. has made a name for itself and the state in the urban dance movement.
“It seems every couple of days, kids I don’t even know come up to me in public and say, ‘Hey, you’re Washing10,’ and tell me that they’re fans of what we do, and that makes me feel so good,” said Sakellis, who hopes to one day make a career out of dance.
“I want to keep doing this. I want to start teaching and help keep kids from the street out of trouble, because I’ve been in that situation and it’s been dancing that has helped make my life better.”