The members of Boston dance
crew Status Quo Joshua Green, Darius Rutledge,
Jamal Weaver, Dwayne Hines and Ernest Phillips
compete tonight in MTV's series "Randy Jackson
Presents: America's Best Dance Crew." Courtesy of
By Katherine McInerney
Special to the Reporter
Six members of Boston's 15-person all male dance
crew, Status Quo, are competing on MTV's new show,
America's Best Dance Crew, and showing the world
what true street dancing looks like.
"We don't perform, we entertain," said Status
Quo member Darius Rutledge, one of three Dorchester
natives competing on the show. "We get 'em on our
side and we keep it coming."
The "boys from Boston," as they're referred to
on the show, stand out among the other teams
hailing from dance companies, with formal training
and famous choreographers.
"We're different because we're untrained," said
Darius. "We bring excitement."
Status Quo's high-energy theatrical style blends
acrobatic stunts with hip hop, break dancing,
ballet, tap, and the relatively new street dance
style known as krumping, which uses exaggerated,
violent movement as a way to release anger and
frustration with life's struggles.
After seeing Status Quo perform for the first
time, Shane Sparks, one of the show's three judges,
said, "I've been waiting for years and years for
this to come on TV, dancing like this. It's always
been sugar coated. This is the gutter and I thank
y'all for bringing the gutter."
The members of Status Quo haven't taken dance
lessons. Some of them have never even stepped foot
inside a dance studio. They don't have sponsors or
uniforms, no fancy jackets or sneakers like the
other crews. Oftentimes they don't have bus fare to
get to competitions, they said, so they walk. What
Status Quo does have is heart. They have talent, a
passion for dancing, and a hunger to make it out of
that's a crazy area," said
Ernest "E-Knock" Phillips, the group's leader and
choreographer, who grew up near Franklin Field.
Dancing became a way of life and a way out of the
violence on the streets where he lived. As a kid,
he took cues from artists like MC Hammer and
Michael Jackson and from everyone else dancing in
the streets near Franklin Park.
"After a while I started picking up other boys,
making a stronger group," Ernest said. "I liked how
flipping looked, I liked how popping looked. It
helped me get the ladies, that's why I kept to
Though he doesn't miss the weather back home in
Dorchester, Ernest said Los Angeles has been
stressful. He was visibly upset on last Thursday's
show after a less-than-perfect performance. Ernest
said he hurt his ankle practicing his signature
flips; the doctor recommended he stay off it for
"Of course being E-Knock, Mr. Hardheaded from
Boston, I want to go out there and give America
what they want," Ernest said. "I wanna go out there
and entertain. So I'm really debating whether I'm
gonna sit this one out and watch my boys go out
there and kill it or if I'm gonna go up there and
kill it with them."
Status Quo made it through to the next round,
though they were ranked in the bottom four after
"America" voted. They'll have another chance this
Thursday to stage a comeback and said they planned
to spend a lot more time practicing this week.
"Coming from the streets of Dorchester makes me
work harder. I want to practice even more," said
Darius, who is enjoying his time in Los Angeles,
away from "the danger zone" of his own Fuller
"For me, Status Quo is my life now," Ernest
said. For all the crew members, it's been a
brotherhood, an alternative, and maybe even a way
"We used to just look at each other and think,
man, one day we're gonna all make it out of the
hood together," said Tyrell Lowe, 19, of Roxbury.
His energy pulled him out of his chair as he spoke.
"I'm just a regular kid who found a passion in the
hood and one day all of this dancing will pay
Tyrell was originally supposed to compete with
the other six on MTV, but he decided instead to
stay home and get his diploma. He is one of nine
Status Quo dancers that didn't get to make the trip
because they were either too young or needed to
stay in school. It may not be easy for them to
watch the rest of their crew performing on MTV, but
they support their "brothers," especially Ernest,
whose leadership and talent has inspired them
Last year, Ernest auditioned for the Fox
network's "So You Think You Can Dance," along with
Jamal Weaver from the group. Ernest was panicked
while warming up when he couldn't get the steps
right and he called Cindy Reed, the "Status Quo
mom," in tears. The rest of Status Quo was
energized, in the midst of practice but after
hearing from Ernest, the mood changed. "All of a
sudden, Marquise got quiet and put his head down,"
Cindy said. "Then one by one, without a word the
room went silent and they were all sitting with
their heads bowed. They didn't have to say
anything. I knew they were praying for Ernest."
Ernest and Jamal didn't advance very far on "So
You Think You Can Dance," but they became stars for
their humorous antics and stunts, which the judges
loved. As Boston's top dance crew, Status Quo
members have become local celebrities. As young men
who proclaim themselves above the influence of
violence and drugs, they are targets for criticism
"People test us and try to start fights at our
shows," said Christopher Perry, 18, of Dorchester.
"They say we're soft or we're gay. But we say,
'Y'all just paid $15 to watch us dance and you do
it every show.'"
Status Quo has won 11 titles, including first
place in 2006 and 2007 at the Beantown Big Bounce
competition, the largest and most competitive
contest in the area. The night before one of these
shows, the 15 boys slept on the floor of the
Dorchester Boys and Girls Club after practicing
outside in the parking lot late into the night.
Ernest stayed up all night perfecting the mix and
they went to the show in their street clothes,
without any props. "By that point, we had worked
too hard to give up," Christopher said, so they
pulled their steps together, went on stage and took
Status Quo has also garnered five wins over the
years at Dorchester Idol and performed in the
Dorchester Day Parade on Dorchester Avenue.
Kevin Barry, organizer of the Dorchester Idol
competition, got to know Status Quo over the
"I kept putting on talent shows, and Ernest just
kept showing up with his group," said Barry, who
remembers the summer of 2005, when Status Quo got
into a fight after leaving a competition at Roxbury
Community College. The group was en route to Carson
Beach, where they could practice their stunts,
walking since some of the boys didn't have bus
fare. At the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue
and Columbia Road, a carful of guys pulled up and
started a fight, leaving Ernest and his brother
At Barry's next competition a few weeks later in
Codman Square, Status Quo showed up to compete
without the brothers, who came straight from the
hospital to catch the end of the show. Ernest, in a
body cast, received a standing ovation from all the
teams in attendance.
"I'll never forget that month of activities,"
Barry said. "Senseless violence that was never
reported in the newspapers. Caring and
unbridled raw talent."
On a Friday night, the nine Status Quo members
that didn't get to make the trip to Los Angeles,
gathered in a makeshift gymnasium turned dance
studio at the Roxbury YMCA. Someone started the mix
as the dancers rose from their seats in unison and
moved as one to the open floor. Fourteen-year-old
Shaquan Reed, the youngest and smallest member of
Status Quo, weaved through the formation, counting
the boys into the beat before falling into the
steps himself at the front of the pack. Using a
wall of plate-glass windows as mirrors, the boys
tapped, krumped, and popped and locked along to a
mix Ernest had made before leaving for Los
"They'll be at this all night, if you let them,"
warned Status Quo mom, Cindy.
"Just wait until America sees all of Status Quo
out there together," Tyrell chimed in. "Not to
brag, but we're one of the illest dance groups
America's Best Dance Crew airs Thursday nights
at 10 p.m. on MTV.
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