Jabbawockeez Hip-Hop Dancer Studies by Day and Performs by Night

DancerBy Christopher Kilkenny

Justin Emanuel, College of Southern Nevada student, performs in the hit show “Jreamz Journey Within” performing at MGM Grand on the Strip.

The hip-hop dance crew Jabbawockeez, best-known for winning the first season of America’s Best Dance Crew, performs weekly. Many know these dancers by the white masks they wear on stage. “Jreamz” opened November 2015 and still entertains audiences today.

“Everyone in the class was surprised to learn [Justin] was a professional dancer,” said John Aliano, instructor and director for videography and film at CSN who has Emanuel as a student. “Justin is low-key, humble and with the attention he receives, he would rather it go to his work than himself.”

During his childhood in Guam, Emanuel learned dance moves by watching music videos on television that he incorporated into his dance crew ZircleOne, made up of a bunch of his friends. Fortunately ZircleOne opened for Jabbawockeez during a show on the island. That opened the door for Emanuel to meet the dancers, which later turned into an opportunity.

After the show one night, Emanuel hung out with the crew. “Jokingly, I said to them I’m going to move to Las Vegas. If you guys ever have a show out there, we should keep in touch.”

Emanuel moved to Vegas and attended University of Nevada, Las Vegas pursuing an architecture degree. He was contacted by Jabbawockeez who asked him to help with promotions and marketing for the show. He coordinated flash mobs on the Strip that sparked interest. A year later Jabbawockeez offered him a job dancing as part of the crew performing at Monte Carlo Resort and Casino.

Following that gig, Jabbawockeez went on its Australian tour. “That was a highlight of my life, being able to travel through dance,” Emanuel said. He put school on hold to follow his dream.

After six months, the tour was cancelled and Emanuel was out of a job.

“As a dancer, it is difficult and a lot of pressure to channel your talent as an income,” Emanuel said. After he was laid off he had to find a new job as a dancer. “When that happens you just have to suck it up and figure a way to make it work.”

Fortunately he was hired to perform at several shows including the World MMA Awards show, conventions and corporate events.

Soon thereafter, Emanuel made the decision to study film at CSN.

“I decided to go to school to try to do something that I want to do,” Emanuel said. “In the mist of my dancing career I was already making videos anyway.” He wanted to learn more film techniques and ways to transform content visually to make ideas come to fruition. “When I listen to a song, I think how I can make it come alive through movement.”

“I think film shares that same idea,” Emanuel said. “Like how do you make it come alive, through visuals, having a story, setting the mood and editing, which is another way so people can understand what you are trying to express.”

“Justin sees the world as a filmmaker,” said Morgan Gould, production stage manager for Jabbawockeez. “He finds inspiration from his surroundings.”

“He definitely has a creative eye for composition as he progresses through school,” Gould said. “He is becoming a better storyteller; he is finding fun ways to incorporate his dancing with cinematography.”

“Justin is talented as a film student,” Aliano said. “He is focused, creative and finds a way to draw honest responses from his subjects.”


%d bloggers like this: