In the sleek black-and-white lobby of Suite 15 in the strip mall that was once home to the Liberace Museum, B-boys and girls of all ages will discuss music, show off their gear and try out new moves. To the right in an 800-square-foot studio, dancers will learn krumping, popping, hip-hop, breaking and DJing from world-renowned choreographers. During open session, dancers will practice at their leisure in a second studio. To the left, shoppers will peruse local brands in a consignment store, barbers will style customers with the latest cuts and tattoo artists will adorn anyone over the age of 18 with fresh ink.
At least this is how Ronnie Albaldonado (Ronnie boy), Chris Gatdula (Cristyles) and Rock Gallego, performers in JabbaWockeeZ and members of various local dance crews, envision their unique hip-hop complex, Distrct (their spelling), which opens its doors on Jan. 7. This vision and their desire to create lifestyle culture in their hometown drove them through struggles to make their dream of becoming professional dancers who give back to the community a reality.
More than 15 years ago, when they were still in high school, the three dancers started Full Force and struggled to find a place to practice. They alternated between garages and attics (Cristyles remembers practicing back spins on a wooden coffee table in his living room) and organized battles with other local crews. Although it was clear the friends had a passion for dance, family and friends believed they should pursue traditionally careers.
“That fed our fuel when people would doubt us,” Ronnie says, “it made me want to work harder not only to prove to them but to prove to myself that anything is possible.” After graduating, Cristyles joined JabbaWockeeZ, which became the first champions of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew and Ronnie won the Season 2 title with Super Cr3w. When the three friends performed together in JabbaWockeeZ Müs.i.c at the Monte Carlo they decided it was time to give aspiring dancers a place to learn from the biggest names in hip-hop dance.
In true Full Force fashion, this didn’t come without some challenges. Distrct was set to open in October. But the complex changed owners, and three weeks before grand opening they were forced to find a new location. Fortunately, they discovered the Liberace suites, which better suited their concept because the space had previously functioned as rehearsal studios. Now the dancers are set to see their dream materialize with a place that encourages everyone to express themselves and embrace the hip-hop lifestyle. Ronnie assures, “You ain’t going to get kicked out for dancing here.”