“Instant noodles” now has a new meaning for Chapman students, and it isn’t a cup of ramen.
The Instant Noodles dance crew is comprised of six members, four of which are Chapman students and alumni. The group is competing on season six of America’s Best Dance Crew, MTV’s competitive dance reality television series produced by American Idol judge Randy Jackson.
The next episode of America’s Best Dance Crew airs Thursday at 10 p.m. on MTV, and there are only six crews left out of the original 10 teams.
By sticking to their original style and choreography, the members of Instant Noodles see their time on the show as a means to grow as dancers instead of a title to win. They dance for themselves, not for the audience and judges.
“We aren’t on [the show] because we’re trying to show that we’re better. We’re here because we want to showcase who we are,” said crew member Robert Tsai, an ’08 alumnus. “There’s always room to grow, and this is only the first step.”
Instant Noodles is the first all-Taiwanese crew to compete on the show, although they aren’t the first to showcase the “B-boy” style. A B-boy, or break-boy, is a male dancer who practices the acrobatic hip-hop dance style commonly known as breakdancing.
The crew is composed of alumni of the Taipei American School in Taiwan who moved to California for college. They helped pioneer the B-boy scene at their high school before separately making their way to the United States.
They reunited in Southern California, with four of the crew members – Tsai, alumnus Chuck Maa, and juniors Mike Yang and Charles Lee – coincidentally ending up at Chapman.
“[Tsai and Maa] were wonderful additions to the department of dance during their time here at Chapman,” Dale Merrill, associate dean of the College of Performing Arts and chair of the dance department, wrote in an email. “We all enjoy their performances in our dance productions. Now, the world will get to see what we already knew: they are fantastic.”
Tsai was first exposed to B-boying through commercials and movies. Because this was before the days of YouTube, he relied heavily on VHS tapes that wouldn’t make their way over to Taiwan until two or three years after their original U.S. release.
Although they had been dancing for a number of years, the members of Instant Noodles have only performed choreographed stage shows for the past two years.
After entering small competitions and auditioning for season five of America’s Best Dance Crew, they found out that they had earned a place on season six two weeks before the season began.
Their humor and creative choreography style earned them a place on MTV’s hit show. They received harsh criticism on their first performance, from a judge who said they did not represent the best of the B-boy style.
“We can represent B-boys through our B-boying, but ultimately […] there is no one we could possibly represent except for ourselves,” the members of Instant Noodles wrote on their blog.
The crew has been able to remain in the competition after a save from the judges in the first week and from viewer votes in the past two weeks.
Tsai said the show’s pressure sped up the crew’s process and efficiency and that they rehearse five to six hours a day.
The crew wrote that they always put more emphasis on style than power moves or tricks when it comes to their choreography.
“I’m not saying that Instant Noodles has the best style or we are the best B-boys. I mean, who can really be the best B-boy?” crew member Geo Lee, who went to UC Irvine, wrote on their blog. “Dance is art, and you can’t measure art.”
However, if art can be measured, Instant Noodles has received high marks. They are a fan favorite on the show, and they placed fourth in the 2010 Hip Hop International competition.
“I always saw those guys practicing in Henley basement, but I was so surprised to see them on TV,” said Katherine Leon, freshman English major.
The crew came up with the name Instant Noodles in 2003 when they were eating at a Chinese restaurant.
“We didn’t want a generic crew name that’s always an intense adjective with an overused noun,” they wrote. “Instant Noodles was the most Asian thing we could think of.”
Tsai said that the crew wanted the chance to completely define their name, rather than vice versa.
Win or lose, the members of the crew share the same roots and have formed tight bonds through dancing together.
“Our chemistry is really strong,” they wrote. “A lot of other crews are made as business ventures or crews will recruit for skill level, but Instant Noodles was always because of family.”