As they dance into their 10th year, and with the undeniably rich, and yet seemingly inexplicit history engrained within that decade, it feels almost obligatory to rewind tell the story of SGBM’s past. Justin J. Vaughn, a long-time team and community leader, was generous enough to share with me some insights on this journey and beyond. Let’s start from the ground up…
Brought to conception in November of 2005, “Super Galactic Beat Manipulators,” “Super Galactic,” “Super,” or simply, “SGBM,” was initially formed by Kevin Brewer of the JabbaWockeez. As the now-nationally recognized team was beginning to gain momentum in the dance scene, Phil, a fellow JabbaWockee, started a team called Boogie Monstarz in Sacramento (their hometown). This prompted the ever-creative, and always-hungry KB to build something similar in San Diego, by humble, organic beginnings of inviting local dancers simply to train and share with each other. These sessions proved to hold so many rewards, that he decided to establish it as a team. In 2005, SGBM held their first formal auditions at Studio FX.
Several community leaders and veteran dancers were involved in the formative years of the team, which would later prove to be one of the most crucial and defining characteristics of SGBM. Along with Kevin, Lando Wilkins, Ben Chung, and KJ Gonzales became the “founding fathers” of SG, the 4 biggest influences that defined their artistic styles and principles. J. Vaughn came on board 8 months after the team’ s inception.
2006 as a pivotal year in the dance community, according to J.Vaughn; several teams began to expand and evolve artistically. At Body Rock 2006 SGBM made their “debut”, presenting themselves as a unique hybrid of the JabbaWockeez style performed with a community audience in mind. This became the launching pad for the next 9 years.
After KB formed Super in ’05, Press P.L.A.Y. was established with Joe Larot (another JabbaWockee) in Sacramento in March of ’06. The 4 teams (Super Galactic, Boogie Monstarz, Press P.L.A.Y., JabbaWockeez) were then established as “Fam Royale.” Kevin, Joe, and Phil wanted a set of core values for all the teams and promote like-mindedness in their approach to training. Over the years, the teams truly became one big family, and to this day inspire and motivate one another. The idea of Fam Royale is part of SGBM’s identity- and is not only a big part of what makes the team culture so unique, but why ‘community‘ is a core value.
Some Things Never Change (Even if Everything Else Does)
J.Vaughn transitioned into directorship in 2007 with KJ (along with Vinh Nguyen as artistic director) when Lando left SGBM in ’07 in pursuit of his own goals, followed shortly thereafter by Kevin and Ben, to perform on America’s Best Dance Crew with the JabbaWockeez. KJ’s foundation combined with Vinh’s developing style, in my humble opinion, was a display of the finest synergy the dance world could’ve experienced. (What I would give to train under those two…)
In reference to the first few years of SGBM’s development J.Vaughn says:
“The first 4-5 years were full of changes, always. Some good, some bad, but it always fed the dancers with something that kept up the momentum for growth. And to this day, SGBM is open to evolving and progressing, as long as it feels true to its roots. After all, the team was originally founded on diversity, with its 4 founders being so different in very way they think, lead, and choreograph. This motivated us leaders to continue that legacy, even after KJ stepped down.”
From Exhibition To Competition
When KJ retired from the dance community, which left Vinh and J. leading the team in 2009. Along with a batch of new dancers, they were confronted with the decision of transitioning into a competing team. (I can acknowledge and appreciate the tremendous talent that exhibition teams display, and I can equally acknowledge the contagious excitement that comes with competing- so I can see how both sides of the matter were of comparable significance.)
After some back and forth, the two had decided at the end of 2010, that the push they needed for this new generation of dancers was the inevitable spark that lights in anyone when competition is introduced to the picture.
With some fine-tuning, J.Vaughn and Vinh managed to interweave that competitive perspective with their existing sensation of sharing their craft. However, by this time, they had already built the majority (70%) of their 2011 medley. After performing its first version at Traffic (December 2010), Vinh was challenged with the task of revamping the original medley into a competition-ready set for VIBE 2011.
Following SGBM’s competitive ventures thereafter, J. describes that a lot of the team’s successes “were not intended to be as such, but was the result of what came naturally with an extra push for the team.”
What Now? What Later?
Considering J. Vaughn has spent 13 years in the community, and from this interview alone, it was obvious to me that not only has the community shaped him (as a dancer, a leader, an individual), but that he was doing his part to give back in any and every way that he could. “My personal mission for SGBM has always been, albeit unofficially, to instill the idea of community investment. Newer generations are so susceptible to getting lost…”
And, (excuse me if this sounds elitist) I agree. Not that we’re stuck in a downward spiral of fame-obsession and hyper-competitiveness, but I can, to some degree, see how the ideas of “community” and “collective growth” and the “spirit of sharing,” in our generation, can get buried under so many distractions. SGBM is supremely thankful “that our roots run so deep. [We] aspire to continue to represent that.”
Observing a dancer, a team, a community’s growth, as a manifestation of its strong foundation, gives a refreshing perspective on this evolving scene, and it never hurts to call attention to the things we hold value in.
“The San Diego community, in general, is shaped by loyalty to our past, and all our teams and sub-communities coexist in a manner celebrated by sharing, rather than competing. With each new generation that passes, the members change, the directorship changes, the artistry changes, yet each team has stayed true to their own essence, without exhibiting drastic fluctuations, because of their awareness of, and constant tribute to their origins.
“Volunteering for shows, being active in the community, and the general demeanor around other dancers is something that’s embedded in our moral backbone. It doesn’t come with much thought or effort. It’s what our leaders to taught us, for us to teach as future leaders.”
Body Rock and Beyond
Time for a big reveal: J. Vaughn expressed to me during the interview, that he will be retiring from SGBM after this last season. “I feel ready to pass the torch. Give the newer generation an opportunity to do what I’ve been blessed to do for so long.” He hopes to lead each day purposefully, to encapsulate and preserve what Kevin and the other forefathers established a decade ago.
And yet, once you fall in love with the dance community, you don’t ever fall out.
This past year, J. served as a co-producer for Body Rock, under the mentorship of Anna Sarao, the founder of the show, fellow SGBM alumni, major community leader (and one of my personal heroes). 2015 will be J.’s first year as head Producer, an exciting venture that gives him both a) the challenge of utilizing everything the community has taught him in order to give back, and b) the honor of being the man behind the scenes of this unique, amazing experience to performers and audience members alike. “I want to make sure people feel what I felt.”
We, as dancers, as members of the community, recognize in subtle ways how the lessons in dance almost- imperceptibly trickle into every area of our lives. Further, what each of us should become intimately familiar with, is the idea that dance is about more than dance. And you are more than a dancer.
I left our conversation with a renewed appreciation for dance and everything it means to me, and the highest gratitude to Mr. Justin J. Vaughn for the insight and enlightenment. My intention had only been to find out more about the team, yet ended up learning so much about the larger dance scene, as well as about myself. Get the running theme here?
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