And Then We Dance (D Camper/N Furlong/J Suecof) and Friday to Sunday (E Nuri/G Ogan/S Solanki – Justice Crew – 2010 and Dance with Me – Justice Crew ft. Flo Rida (C Rojas/L Nacht/T Dillard/ W Homas/D Scofield/A Carter) 2011 and Boom Boom (J Sean) – Justice Crew 2012.
The performers who would comprise the dance troupe Justice Crew were originally part of several separate dance troupes in Sydney who merged in 2009, they were inspired by YouTube dance clips of Michael Jackson, and the hip hop dance styles that emerged from the USA as far back at the 1970’s.
It is a uniquely urban American genre of freestyle dance that has evolved over the past forty years, performed to hip hop music, and has introduced the world to the signature dance moves – popping, locking, and breaking. It came to be identified with Michael Jackson’s “moonwalk: first revealed by him in the music video for Billie Jean, and seen earlier by viewers of the iconic black music TV show Soul Train, and the movies Breakin’, Beat Street, and Wild Style.
Hip hop dance styles have continued to evolve and gained traction across ethnic lines, B-boy dancing features acrobatic moves that combines intricate footwork with head spins, back spins, tumbling, windmills, flares, show spins, and hand glides, and when professionally executed, is mesmerizing. Krumping was a further hip hop dance variation which emphasized free expression, exaggerated and highly energetic movement involving arms, legs, head, and chest.
Collectively the members of Justice Crew brought these skills to their act, and presented a local package of hip hop dance talent that had not been seen before in this country, until they auditioned for Season 4 of Australia You’ve Got Talent.
Originally the ensemble comprised twin brothers John and Len Pearce of Filipino descent who had formed the dance troupe The Athelites while at Hunters Hill High School (Syd); Lukas Bellesini a B-boy dancer who had performed with Mass Mayhem and Anarchy Tribe; Paul Merciadez who began B-boying in 2007 with Psyke; Samson Smith, a Kiwi break dancer who used krumping and other hip hop styles in performance; Solo Tohi who was of Tongan/Tanzanian descent and was also a break dancer with the City Mission Breakers, and Emanuel Rodriguez, a break dancer and B-boy exponent. The troupe were originally a nonet but two original members Omar Kamara and Anastasios Repousis both left the troupe in 2011 to pursue solo careers, and Rodriguez would be sacked by his fellow members in 2014 because of artistic and personal differences. The troupe competed at the World Hip Hop Dance Championship in Las Vegas in 2009 and finished 13th, but they were also inspired by the performance of the UK hip hop dance troupe Diversity who won the 2009 season of Britain’s Got Talent, despite their Grand Final act being described by judge Piers Ackerman as “faultless shit”, in his usual disdainful way, but after all he has described Peppa Pig as a dangerous feminist with rabid Marxist-Leninist leanings! Below L-R – World Hip Hop Dance Finals 2009, BGY winners Diversity, Piers Morgan.
In 2010 after winning Season 4 of AGT the troupe were signed to Sony Records and released their debut single And Then We Dance, a lively electropop outing which was accompanied by a video directed by Marc Furmie and filmed in the underground parking lot of the Acer Arena (Syd), where the group performed several types of dance routines including b-boying, krumping, as well as backflips. They revealed their vocal skills for the first time on record as well, combining group harmonies with some rapping, and the song charted #26 locally and sold 70,000 copies, with the twins John and Len Pearce and Solo Tohi handling the lead vocals confidently, with the obvious assistance of autotuning.
They would follow up with Friday to Sunday in December 2010, more electropop written by American tunesmiths Eric Nuri, Greg Ogan, and Shridhar Solanki (Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Flo Rider) with Solo providing vocals on the chorus. The music video picked up from the scene of their debut hit in the carpark as the boys are leaving and heading to a party. Split screen images depict the members communicating via text and mobiles about news of the party, where the dance scenes were filmed, it was a #18 hit and notched up sales of 140,000 CD/digital copies
Their third single was Dance With Me, which saw the group move toward a more pop-oriented style similar to US boybands NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, verse vocals were shared between Len, Paul and John, and although this song was only 3.46 minutes long, it required no less than six songwriters to create what was a rather bland and uninspiring release. The inclusion of inserts by rapper-for-hire Flo Rider added little to the final mix, and the music vid shot in LA pitted Justice Crew against an all-girl troupe the Beat Freaks, but chart-wise it plateaued at #44 and sold only 35,000 CD/digital copies.
In 2012 the group embarked on what would be the most creative and successful period of their career thus far, as over the next two years they would emerge as capable songwriters and producers and off the back of an intensive touring schedule take five songs into the top ten including two #1 hits and notch up sales in excess of 1.2m CD/digital copies here and in New Zealand.
In February 2012 they began the Sexy and You Know It Tour of Australia, and in April were support act on One Direction’s Australian leg of their Up All Night Tour, and in July they released their fourth single.
Boom Boom was written by Anglo-Indian singer/songwriter Jay Sean and was the first single released from what would become their debut studio album Live By The Words which featured five songs on which the group had a co-writing credit, as well as contributions from songwriters/producers Mike Posner, Nasri Atweh (Magic!), The Messengers (Pitbull, Christina Aguilera, Chris Brown), Nolan Lambroza (Pitbull, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber), RoboPop (Cher Lloyd, Kesha, Lana Del Ray), and Mason MDL Levy (Justin Bieber, Maroon 5, Cody Simpson). Boom Boom was a catchy dance pop/hip house hybrid that became the Crew’s debut #1 hit and sold in excess of 420,000 CD/digital copies, it was also a solid #3 hit in NZ and climbed to #46 in Germany for the group’s first European charter.