Drama is an essential ingredient when it comes to reality TV competitions, but Puerto Rico's 787 Crew got more than they bargained for last week. The night before their first performance on hit MTV show America’s Best Dance Crew, Emmanuel Pagan [aka PeRy]—one of the seven-member crew—broke his leg.
“I was on top of the [human pyramid], I did a back flip, and fell,” PeRy told us when we caught up with the 787 Crew in their hotel room across the street from the Warner Bros studio lot in Los Angeles, where the show is taped. Now, 787 is worried the setback could cost them the competition. “We had five hours to change the choreography,” says the group’s leader, Pedro Aviles. “People may say it’s sloppy, but they don’t know what happened right before the show.”
Still, the group is determined to advance in the competition this season. Comprised of instructors from a well-known dance school in Guaynabo, 787 came a long way to perform in front of celebrity judges JC Chasez, Lil Mama, host Mario Lopez and show creator Randy Jackson. Pedro competed in Season 3 of the show, as a member of the G.O.P. dance crew, but was eliminated after the first episode. “This time, it’s going to be different. We’ve been practicing for a year and half, from 8pm-1am every day,” he says. “It’s like something religious. We see each other more than we see our own families.”
Since Pedro’s crushing defeat on Season 3 of ABDC, the crew has had a taste of success: they won Univision’s talent competition Quiero Ser Estrella with their signature “trick-based” choreography combining street-style dancing, acrobatics and Latin flavor. Instead of blowing their prize money on bottle service, they used it to get to the ABDC auditions in Chicago. “We decided not to spend any of the prize money on ourselves,” Pedro tells us. “We used it to buy new clothes, plane tickets, whatever we needed to get to Chicago.”
The gamble paid off, and now the group is keeping their fingers crossed that, this time, they’ll make it past Week One on ABDC. “We’re the best in Puerto Rico. Nobody can do what we do. But the United States is something different,” says Pedro, looking around nervously at his crew.
For the 787 Crew, the stakes are especially high to do well. “In Puerto Rico, you can’t make a living dancing. I’m one of the only people who can, because of the school,” Pedro explains. “I want to change that. We want to do well for Puerto Rico, and we want to do well for PeRy.”
As for PeRy, he refuses to stay on the sidelines during his crew’s big moment: “I’m gonna be on stage with my people, even if it’s in this wheelchair.”
Check out 787’s moves on America’s Best Dance Crew—premiering tonight on MTV—and a video of the group performing at Hip Hop International earlier this year:
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