For the first time in six seasons, the winner of MTV’s hit competition show America’s Best Dance Crew comes from a region other than the West Coast.
Teen sensations ICONic Boyz, from Englishtown, N.J., battled “brain-banging” I aM mE from Houston in Sunday’s finale. “You both have the DNA to become America’s Best Dance Crew,” said judge JC Chasez.
But out of 50 million votes cast, the multicultural I aM mE, led by former So You Think You Can Dance contestant Phillip “PacMan” Chbeeb, won the ABDC title, the articulated golden trophy and $100,000.
“We went into this knowing it could come out either way,” Chbeeb tells PEOPLE, “but we are proud of what we’ve done. We were just glad we made it this far!”
Along with Chbeeb, his winning crew includes 15-year-old phenom Olivia “Chachi” Gonzales, Brandon “747” Harrell, Emilio “Millie” Dosal, Jana “JaJa” Vankova and Di “Moon” Zhang.
“I think we all learned something special about each other,” says Dosal about the ABDC experience. “Every week has been really, really hectic, a lot of frustration, a lot of pain and injuries and some arguments here and there, but as a team, we’ve all learned to love each other, not just as a crew but as a family.”
“All we really wanted to do coming in to this competition was tell our story, how we really dance and the style we bring that is different from [champions] one through five,” says Harrell. “Tonight’s performance is going to send us off with a big boom. It’s the perfect exit for us.”
The finale was particularly special for Zhang, whose parents flew in from China to watch him dance, the first time they had ever seen him perform. “Words can’t describe how I feel right now,” Zhang says. “It’s amazing. They can see more why I want to be a dancer.”
First thing’s first, though – after their victory, “I think we are going to spread the trophy around,” says Dosal. “Everyone gets it for one week or so!”
I aM mE joins the growing roster of ABDC champions, including the Vegas-headlining first-season winners JabbaWockeez, Super Cr3w, Quest Crew, We Are Heroes, whose member Hiro McRae was just spotlighted on SYTYCD and Poreotix, who opened for Justin Bieber on his recent tour.