Dance crew adjusts to life after MTV fame

When Ernest "E-Knock" Phillips, leader of the local dance crew Status Quo, returned to Boston after competing on MTV's "America's Best Dance Crew," he was confident that a second-place finish would bring him and his boys the fame that they always dreamed of. But three months later, a second season of the dance competition has hit the television waves, the winning Jabbawockeez dance crew is on tour with MTV, and Phillips is back in Dorchester, wondering when his dancing will start to pay off in dollars.

Status Quo is noticeably smaller these days. At its peak, the crew totaled 20; today it's 12. Phillips and his brother are the only two remaining members that competed on MTV. The other four picked up two more dancers from Boston to form a new group called Status Quo aka Cali Boys. Cali represents their time spent in Los Angeles while they were on the show.

Phillips said the Status Quo aka Cali boys accused him of being a bad leader and making too many mistakes. He found out about their split through messages that his former crew members posted online when they went to perform in Texas. Phillips, whose loyalty to his crew runs deep, was confused and angered by their departure, but said he understands that everyone is just trying their best to make it big.

"I still got love for them no matter how bad they treat me," Phillips said.

The struggle continues for Phillips and his new crew, who now have their own studio in Roxbury. Having narrowly lost the title of "America's Best Dance Crew" and the $100,000 grand prize, Status Quo has received little compensation from their television appearance, aside from local fame.

They traveled to New York City in April to audition for NBC's "America's Got Talent," but were turned away due to a technicality: the contract that Status Quo entered with MTV prohibits them from appearing on other television shows until January of next year.

Phillips is currently working on a movie with Shane Sparks, one of the judges from "America's Best Dance Crew," and Status Quo has been taking frequent trips to New York City, hoping to be recognized and invited to celebrity parties. Most recently they attended R&B singer Rhianna's birthday party.

And at a dance rehearsal July 3, Phillips contemplated a Status Quo appearance at another birthday party. It was an invitation, received via MySpace, from a Boston mother whose son has been inspired by Status Quo's mission to use music and dancing to get off the streets.

"We gotta go," Phillips told his crew, flashing his signature grin. "This is why we do what we do."