by Ronnie Estoque
A hole was left in the local dance community’s heart when the Massive Monkees (MM) dance crew had to close their Chinatown-International District studio, The Beacon, in May of 2020 due to the pandemic and increases in rent from the property owner. While MM had occupied the space for nearly eight years, they had only met the landlord once since opening that location in 2013. Other factors contributed to the MM crew choosing to leave their original space, including the apartments right above their dance space, which meant their music had to be cut off early. According to Hocine Jouini, who has been a member of the dance crew since 2008, the studio was a boon to the community: Community members would often support local businesses around the CID after attending events or classes.
“[MM was] just there to provide a space and support, and then we let people create and do their thing,” Jouini said. “We had classes and things, and then slowly it grew into something much, much bigger than the crew; it just became something for the whole community. … It was kind of like a huge family, people made it their own.”
The Beacon studio blossomed into a place internationally recognized by dancers, many visiting from different countries and parts of the U.S. to learn from the community space model MM had developed. These other dance crews then started their own community spaces in their respective cities.
After their 2020 closure, MM received weekly inquiries about the possibility of a new studio space, which galvanized studio director and MM member Brysen Angeles and original MM member Rodericko Francisco to work alongside Jouini to secure a new location. While they searched, they encountered landlords who didn’t align themselves with the MM vision, expensive rent, and locations that were not central to the local dance community.
MM created a donation campaign to help consolidate funding for the studio relocation project, and they received financial support from Seattle Restored, a partnership program with Shunpike, the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, and Seattle Good Business Network. With that funding, they ultimately reopened The Beacon at 812 Rainier Ave. S., a 2,500-square-foot space in a location that’s accessible by public transportation and also provides parking lot spaces for those who visit.
“We’re very happy. The place is big, it allows us to have two different studios,” Jouini said. “I think when we secured a space … for me, it was a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to be involved into reviving The Beacon. When we closed The Beacon, I was thinking of reopening every day.”
Once the space was secured, MM had to work on the roof, flooring, ceiling, and layout of the dance studio space. They plan to provide hip-hop dance classes for youth and adults of all ages and offer classes that teach community members how to DJ and emcee. They are also planning on making the space available to rent for private events, and they want to make sure the rates are affordable and accessible.
“It’s a lot about keeping the hip-hop, and the Massive Monkee legacy, alive in Seattle. … This thing was passed down to us from previous generations,” Jouini said. “But for [MM], coming back and sharing is what’s most important, because that’s what’s gonna make it grow.”
On Nov. 5, MM held an opening celebration of their new studio space, which included break-dancing workshops for all levels, dance battles, an open-styles cypher, and opportunities for reconnection among community members who haven’t seen each other throughout the pandemic. In addition to these inclusive community events, according to Jouini, MM wants The Beacon to be a space that represents the local dance scene’s best talent, especially as break dancing is actively being integrated into the Olympics.
“Hip-hop made us who we are today, and brought us together; we are all from different origins, ethnicities,” Jouini said. “It just brought us and made us one family, right, and so for us, it changed our life. … I’ve been dancing for over 20 years now, and I still have the same love and passion for it.”
Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.
📸 Featured Image: Massive Monkees gather for a photo during their grand reopening event. (Photo: Andre Reminisce)
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