Article - Office of College Advancement

Dance crew gets Ohlone on MTV radar

By Linh Tat, The Argus.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—He may have trouble gliding, but he's managed to glide his way into many young girls' hearts.

Former Ohlone College student Raul "RJ" Navalta, whose street name is "Kool Raul," has been lighting up the stage each week on MTV's popular "America's Best Dance Crew."

Ten finalists kicked off Season 2 in June, with one team getting the boot each week. Now, five teams remain, including the Bay Area crew known as "Supreme Soul," whose members include Navalta and another former Ohlone College student, Jonathan Bayani, aka "Bionic."

"Supreme Soul" is an offshoot of "Soul Sector," another crew that's been around since the late 1990s. The group is known for its mix of break dancing and hip hop.

In between tapings in Southern California late last week, Navalta returned to Ohlone on Friday night to deejay a B-boy competition for high school break dancers. Wearing a black T-shirt with the words "Know Your Rank" etched in bold white letters—the same shirt "Supreme Soul" dancers wore on stage during a recent performance—Navalta spoke with assurance about his crew's chances of winning.

"If you don't see yourself winning the competition, why are you there?" he asked, moving in step with the music in the background.

As for his T-shirt, he said the statement tells America that "Supreme Soul" members know where they stand, regardless of the judges' critiques.

"We've put in too much effort to let anyone degrade us. We know our rank. Do you know yours?" he asked.

Even with confidence on his side, Navalta said he believes "Supreme Soul's" biggest competitor on the show is "Fanny Pak," a group whose bright 1980s-style outfits and unique dance moves have earned it the label as the underdog team. But the very fact that it's unique makes the group memorable, Navalta said.

Although Navalta has lived and breathed dance the past seven years, it was by happenstance that he stumbled into his career. He still recalls the date his life changed: May 16, 2001.

At that time, he was a professional roller blader and hanging out with other guys who roller bladed. Then, on that day, he noticed that it had been a month since he'd seen his friends. Wondering what they were up to, he went over to one person's house and found the guy break-dancing.

His friend encouraged him to give dancing a shot, so he tried out some moves on the spot.

That launched a dancing career which has taken him to China—through a trip with Ohlone College dance students last year—and into millions of households through "America's Best Dance Crew."

Over the weeks, Navalta has been featured on the show as the one member of "Supreme Soul" who struggles with a move known as gliding. But he's managed to laugh at himself and to keep going.

Ohlone College dance instructor Sergio Suarez, who dances with Navalta on the local crew "Beatz N Pieces," described his friend's style as "high energy and very smooth."

As for the rest of the guys on "Supreme Soul"—which was labeled early on by some judges and audience members as cocky—Suarez said they've won international competitions and are well known for their skills. He encourages viewers to vote for the team.

"In the dance world, those guys are established," Suarez said. "They should win America's Best Dance Crew."

America's Best Dance Crew airs at 10 p.m. Thursdays on MTV. Reach Linh Tat at 510-353-7010 or ltat@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read her blog postings at www.ibabuzz.com/tricitybeat.

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