Story by Lorrie Reyes
Photos by Jose Romero
Traveling from around the world, these girls teamed up in Los Angeles to create the dance crew “We Are Heroes”
Having the word “heroes” as a part of a dance crew name means you have to live up to the hype.
But, as the purple banner with the word “Champions” written across it dropped from the ceiling during season four of MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew,” “We Are Heroes” has been trying to do just that.
“We Are Heroes” was the first, and only female group to win the show and the smallest crew to have won, barely meeting the minimum requirement with five members.
Their style is heavily influenced by male dominated genres like “popping,” “tutting” and break dancing. One body, they blend both tricks and studio-style dancing to provide a more feminine feel to their sets.
“We’ve never been the girl crew to say that we are better than guys,” says Riquel “Riqi” Olander, 24. “We wouldn’t be who we are without the men, but we like to wear our heels and go beyond what the girls in the club are doing.”
Formed in 2009, Hiroka “Hero” McRae, 27, pieced the five-member group together from different parts of the world.
Hero and Mami Kanemitsu, 28, moved from Japan to pursue dancing in America.
“I wanted to make the dopest female crew that would represent and I individually called them,” said Hero.
Alison “Ali” Iannucci, 28, moved from New York and Riqi is from Idaho. Their fifth member is Nichelle Thrower, from Los Angeles, who is currently pursuing other endeavors in her career.
“We all moved out here to pursue a professional dance career,” says Riqi. “The base has always been business, but we’ve become family and best friends.”
The heroes realized their journey to Los Angeles and to the America’s Best Dance Crew stage was fate.
“We come from all different backgrounds, but that’s why our styles blend so well,” says Riqi.
Since America’s Best Dance Crew, now in its seventh season, the group has made numerous appearances including daytime tv shows Oprah and Ellen, and music videos.
But the crew also loves performing at colleges and clubs to stay more in-tune with their fans.
“When we were on the show, we were just focused and just wanted to dance,” Ali says. “We didn’t know how much we inspired people.”
Fans use both their shows and social media to tell “We Are Heroes” how inspiring they have been in their lives.
“We do feel like we actually are heroes because we broke through so many barriers,” says Riqi. “Nobody respected us as a crew as much as they do now.”
We Are Heroes are also heavily involved in charities.
Hero and Mami, along with the rest of the crew, dedicated a show to Japan to raise money after the tsunami.
“We donated $2,000 after the earthquake in Japan,” says Mami. “It was really special that we were able to do that.”
They also appeared on a charity episode of America’s Best Dance Crew in season five, and in the season finale in season six.
“We Are Heroes went and proved to everybody that there are no boundaries and no limitations. No matter who you are or where you come from, you can rise to greatness,” says Phillip Chbeeb, a season six contestant of America’s Best Dance Crew during an interview.
The plan is to not just ride on what they have already accomplished but to continue to push boundaries. Just like any hero, their job is never done.
Photos By: Jose Romero