The space at Luxor that used to house IMAX motion simulation rides lay fallow for three years while casino executives waited for the right show to come along to fill the void.
Tomorrow night, when Jabbawockeez takes the stage in a brand-new theater on the site, it will be clear that the wait was worth it.
“PRiSM” fits the Luxor perfectly. Inspired by the Strip icon — a giant pyramid that emits a beam of light from its apex — the dance crew created a show based on a simple idea: how white light refracts into the colors of the rainbow when it enters a prism.
For the members of Jabbawockeez, ‘color’ connotes imagination.
Crew member Ben “B-TEK” Chung reminded the audience at today’s media preview that colors — like music— all have unique frequencies.
“When we hear music, it opens up our mind and our imagination,” Chung said, “and all of a sudden movement comes out and — wow. We have this cool piece.”
Jabbawockeez’s journey with MGM Mirage began five years ago at an audition in a Luxor ballroom.
It was simple: Just eight guys in masks. No identities. No speaking. Just music and movement.
But soon, the group had a gig at the Holly wood Theater in the MGM Grand — then an engagement in a 1,200-seat theater at the Monte Carlo that turned into a two-year run.
The Monte Carlo show, “MUS.I.C.,” was based on ‘nonsense’ — a play on the group’s means-nothing name. Chung said the production developed naturally, with a sense of “story” coming at the end of the creation process, to tie all the show’s elements together.
“We’re inspired by comic books and anime and science and fiction. We’re really just inspired by things around us,” Chung said, explaining how the group gathered ideas from other artists, musicians and thinkers and “Jabba-fied” them.
But as they started work on their new show, the crew tried to take the opposite approach.
“This time we were trying to figure out the story first, and we felt like it was holding us back a little bit,” Chung said. “So we’re like, ‘Man, let’s just have fun. Let’s just be free. Let’s just have fun with it and be nonsensical.’ ”
So they just danced.
And soon enough, new inspiration arrived. Finding a new home at Luxor presented the crew with new ideas, and quickly, the show took shape around the venue.
Jabbawockeez invented a meaning for “PRiSM”: Painting Reality in the Spectrum of Movement
“We really wanted to show the colorful side of music and movement,” Chung said.
The group didn’t try too hard to create metaphor or pile on meaning.
“That’s kind of the fun of Jabbawockeez. People attach meaning to what we do without us ever having intended it.”
The dancers chose music they liked — including the Bangerz, from the JBWKZ label.
“We have a whole eclectic lineup of music — from Motown to electronic to hip-hop to even some classic rock,” Chung said. “And it’s not like we’re trying to hit all the genres. We’re just students of music. We’re just fans of culture [and] art, and whatever speaks to us — whatever naturally comes to us — we incorporate into the show.”
The visual presentation was built on the crew members’ passions.
“We were able to pull inspiration from the different looks that we like from movies and from cartoons,” Chung said, describing the dancers’ costumes, which they will change to align with the show’s acts, portraying the colors of the rainbow.
The show begins when the Willy Wonka- esque Mr. Nonsense (a ideological throwback to MUS.I.C.), in his middle-split monochrome tails and a top hat with a checkerboard ring, entices the audience into the Jabbawockeez world as he manipulates colors in a surreal world projected onto a screen that covers the stage. The rest of the crew bursts onto the stage in half-white, half-black fatigues, and the trek through light, color and imagination begins.
“We’re all about contrast,” said Kevin “KB” Brewer, who plays Mr. Nonsense. “… You can appreciate one or the other by being exposed to the contrast.”
Organically and over time, PRiSM did take the form of a story. Brewer wouldn’t reveal the plot, but he did say that by the end, “color comes in to help restore balance.”
Jabbawockeez has found the balance between inspiration from the outside and creation from within. The eight “garage kids” that make up the group (plus six guests from ‘America’s Best Dance Crew’ Season Two winner Super Cr3w, who join the cast) have never had formal dance training, but they watched hip-hop dancers and b-boys and reconfigured what they saw to create a unique style of movement.
“We’ve always been accustomed to soaking up our environment,” Chung said. He thinks that’s why being at the Luxor brought so much meaning to their new production.
Brewer thinks the relationship between the artists and the venue was “divinely appointed.”
He said, “[God] locked this space down and said, ‘No one shall pass until Jabbawockeez comes here.’ ”
“PRiSM” opens tomorrow, May 18. It will play Thursday – Monday at 7 p.m., with additional 9:30 p.m. shows on Fridays and Saturdays.