After shining on MTV, D.C.'s Beat Ya Feet Kings want to stay in spotlight

By Wil Haygood
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Now the dream is in full flight, even if the bank accounts remain rather low to the ground. Now they want the world to come calling.

Five 20-something dancers who strutted and stomped and posed on national TV last fall, who bragged up their Southeast Washington neighborhood to anyone who would listen. Five dancers known as Beat Ya Feet Kings, who snatched a piece of semi-fame on TV, sometimes feel as if they can't quite catch this thing called stardom.

So what did all that applause mean?

And what did all those people voting in their living rooms and bedrooms and on their sofas during Season 4 of Randy Jackson's "America's Best Dance Crew" on MTV mean?

They'd rather the dream not be deferred much longer.

They're mostly unemployed, although a couple have a little part-time work on the side. Four of the Kings have little children. Right now, in this empty Mount Airy dance studio -- on a wall, there's an amateur painting of President Obama embracing Michelle -- some of the children are scampering around munching on Skittles while their parents practice. Parents with bills to pay and restless feet.

"I think everyone's dream is to be an entertainer," says Dante Hancock, 25, one of the group's founders. "We gonna try to keep this thing together as long as we can."

"My dream is to push forward," says Jose Hancock, 26, Dante's brother and also a co-founder. "We want to stay true to ourselves. I want to wake up one day and flip on YouTube and see that the Japanese and the Koreans are doing our dances."

Step to the rhythm

What does the dance known as beat-ya-feet look like? Imagine the famed French mime, Marcel Marceau, moving against a hip-hop beat, dancing with a staccato rhythm. Stop, go, stop. Fluid, but also jerky. Dancing without a song.

The Beat Ya Feet Kings grabbed the attention of the Washington Wizards during their MTV stint and were invited to perform during game timeouts. "I like preparing for the Wizards fans," Dante Hancock says. "That's somewhere I never thought I'd be."

"That's a good morale boost for us," agrees Porche Anthony, 23, the group's only female member. "We're right up there under the lights of the nation's capital."

"You get in the games free!" pipes in Richard Ogunsiakan, 24, also a Kings co-founder. "And you have all these business people just getting off work who see us."

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