On August 5-8th of 2004, the 3rd Annual USA & World Hip Hop Crew Championships were held in Los Angeles California. Dance groups from all over the United States, Japan, Trinidad, Canada, Netherlands, Philippines, Brazil, and much more competed to be the world Hip Hop dance crew champions! The event was thrown by Howard and Karen Schwartz of Sport Fitness International. This event had almost 50 teams competing in 3 different categories, which included a junior division, varsity division, and of course the adult division. Throughout the four days the judging panel had judges from the USA as well as Italy, Trinidad, Netherlands, and Canada and ranged from people like Easy Roc of the Rock Steady Crew, well respected choreographers and dancers Debby Allen, Shane Sparks, Dave Scott of the featured film You Got Served/B2K, Head Judge Marc Castillo, Seattle choreographer and dancer Daniel Cruz, Natasha Jean-Bart of Canada’s 1926project, Todd Cameron of BLOC agency, Choreographer’s Carnival producer Paulette Azizian, and our very own Dennis Infante of Nu-Origin Dance Crew and online Hip Hop magazine, One Cypher. The four-day event also featured comedians Speedy and Chris Spencer as the emceeing hosts of the show.
by Shelley Oto & Dennis Infante
Our perspective of this event varied throughout the two days we were present. The attitudes of the dancers were extremely positive and it was really nice to see the competing dance crews support one another. All the teams were really excited and prepared to show their competitors and the world what they could do. It was an honor to meet so many of the participants, hear their feedback, give props to opposing crews and listen as they gave a thorough description as to what exactly they underwent to prepare for this event. It was awesome to see the various teams interacting with one another, and recognizing one another for each other’s unique flavor and style.
Netherlands team, Foundation stated,
“we’ve seen some really good styles, I really like Formality’s style.”
No doubt one of the best crews to represent was Junction 8, from Japan who entered the junior division category. They were so ill, so raw and so talented. They’re performance blew me away and it was remarkable to meet these talented youngsters after their performance on both Saturday and Sunday. They’re energy was immeasurable, choreography and routine were clean and they’re routine consisted of both Locking and Breaking. Those kids knew what the hell was up. I couldn’t help but get up and give them a standing ovation. MUCH LOVE AND PROPS TO JAPAN! I spoke to several spectators and participants of this event and when asked, “who do you think is going to win the junior competition?” the response was pretty much unanimous.
Superdave who is a freestyler for Bay Area crew Housing Authority and a professional Los Angeles dancer/choreographer stated,
“Japan hands down.”
Marc Anthony, one of the dancers from Eclectik of the Trinidad team stated,
“…the Japanese. They’re really good.”
Amongst other junior teams who represented was Oakland, Bay Area dance crew Mini Shock. I was proud to have these young, talented dancers represent the United States. It was inspiring to see such a diverse group of kids come together and perform such a fantastic show.
Director of Mini Shock, Darnell Carroll stated,
“They’re the bomb. I think they did excellent and they worked really hard. We practiced about 4 hours a day, for about a month 3 to 4 times a week. They are some dedicated dancers. This is their baseball, softball, soccer, whatever…this is their sport. They really put their heart into it, and this is what you get.”
It’s crazy to see so many young people dedicated to their team and motivated to excel in their craft-absolutely amazing job by Mini Shock. Mini Shock had tons of supporters and amongst them were Allan Frias of Mind Over Matter who stated,
“I’m rooting for mini-shock…those are my babies.”
After interviewing what seemed like hundreds of people, everyone seemed torn between both talented dance groups. Much props to both of these teams for a phenomenal performance.
Amongst the adult division, The Face, from Brazil and Eclectik, from Trinidad stood out like crazy. Trinidad had so much energy, original choreography and their performance was powerful. They had the crowd screaming their entire performance. We had the opportunity to interview Garvin Medera of Eclectik and they informed us of their dance crew history.
“We’ve been a team for 2 years. We’re all from several different groups. Back in Trinidad we combine elements of Calypso and Soca with Hip-Hop. We feel privileged to be here…we take it to the heart. One good thing in our country, we have a lot of concerts. We are familiar with different dance techniques but incorporate the Caribbean flavor, the calypso flavor, everything will be really appreciated.”
A lot of people liked Eclectik’s performance and presentation. Well-respected choregrapher Tabitha Dumo stated,
“Trinidad had their own vibe-even in their clothing.”
The Face, from Brazil consisted of eight guys who incorporated b-boying, locking, high energy and had really good formations. We met with Raphael Terada of The Face and this is what they had to say.
“We dance four styles, Locking, Popping, B-Boying and freestyle Hip Hop. We try to do a little bit of everything together. We also do Beatboxing. It is our first time competing outside Brazil. This is a great event. It’s really such an honor to be here representing Brazil. The Face is composed of 3 other dance groups from Brazil and there are 30 members total but only the top ones got to make it here.”
Both The Face and Eclectik really stood out in our minds. It was refreshing to see these crews really utilize foundational Hip Hop dance styles in their routine.
Sport Fitness International should be very pleased with the turnout of this year’s event. They created a positive environment along with a memorable experience for all the participants, and people were definitely acknowledging it.
Choreographer Tabitha Dumo stated,
“we had a great time, and it’s fabulous to have something like this for the kids. Something to look forward to.”
B-boy Flipz of the crew Skill Methods, the films You Got Served and Honey had a couple things to say,
“I actually love the competition. As you know Japan won, there are groups from all over the globe, when I came I thought there would only be people from the US. It just so happens that it was worldwide. The love and respect given by these groups was phenomenal. It wasn’t just a competition; there was a lot of love. I was backstage and I know a competition when I see one. This had so much to do with love, it almost wasn’t a competition.”
Lastly, it was great to see so many organizations, companies, and dance crews present at this event. Amongst them was Elm Pizarro of www.boogiezone.com, Culture Shock Los Angeles, Funkanometry LA, Breed, Randy Bernal of the Groovaloos, SuperDave of the Groovaloos/Housing Authority, Tabitha and Napolean, Melissa of UrbanFX, Limbert of Pac Modern, B-Boy Flipz amongst many others. This event was an overall success, much thanks to both Howard and Karen for allowing One Cypher to be apart of it. Much love to all the talented dancers! You guys blew us away….PEACE!
Final Standings in all Divisions:
1st: Junction 8 (Japan)
2nd: Mini Shock (Oakland, USA)
3rd: Groove (Canada)
1st: 4 Real (USA)
2nd: Future Shock (Oakland, USA)
3rd: Urban Style (Canada)
1st: Extreme (Canada)
2nd: Ecklektik (Trinidad)
3rd: Foundation (Netherlands)
Commentary by Shelley Oto,
The only criticism I have…and this is totally just my personal opinion—although this competition was titled the international Hip Hop dance crew championships, technically the majority of the show didn’t contain real “Hip Hop.” A lot but not all performed a lot of the harlem shake, a lot of ass shakin’…but considering this event is titled the international “Hip Hop” championships-one would expect to see more real Hip Hop. This is not necessarily at the fault of the performers that this happened. It’s a little confusing to title a competition the international “Hip Hop” competition, when the majority of the judges weren’t/aren’t participants/experts of actual Hip Hop streetdance. This makes it difficult for participants to determine the kind of dance to put into their performances and how exactly they would go about being judged? Dancers from Soul Central stated, “ I would of chosen someone who is really educated on the real back ground of Hip Hop. Who knows the foundation and the roots of Hip Hop. Instead of just choosing people who are famous and got brought up real quick. Easy Rock was a really good judge, he knows the background, he knows Hip Hop from the beginning-he was basically one of the people who started it. With Rock Steady you know. More people like that would have been cool.”
Hip Hop has done SOOOO much for this generation and deserves to be respected and carried out in the manner that it was created. For the past several decades Hip Hop has acted as a highly influential subculture that supports artistic self-expression and constructive social change while uniting men, women, adults and children of all backgrounds. It’s a beautiful thing. If people continue to misuse the term “Hip Hop,” then future generations will have an inaccurate interpretation of what true Hip Hop dance is…and Hip Hop will eventually fade into something that it’s not. Don’t get me wrong…if the competition was called the world dance championships…(or something of that matter) I would have no complaints. I’ll I’m saying is let the competition do justice to the name of the event. Super Dave said it best in a past interview when he stated,
“It goes back to studying your craft. If your going to practice that style, know that style, know the originator, where it came from, all that stuff. Cause that’s real talk.”
Commentary by Dennis Infante
This year’s USA & World Hip Hop Crew Championships was definitely one to remember. Having experienced the show from an audience’s perspective, a judge’s perspective, and an onstage-offstage journalist, it was really interesting to see how the overall vibe of the show was. First I’d have to say that the event was very well organized. Any entity that can plan a show globally AND pull it off gets a two thumbs up.
All the judges were required to attend a judges briefing to go the scoring criteria. There broke it down into catorgories: performance and skill. The performance category consisted of the creative aspects such as musicality, costume, etc. The skill category consisted of the technical aspects such as execution, synchronization, etc. They even had us do a couple of practice scoring based on performances from last year’s show, which I thought was a real good idea, because it basically put us judges on the same page. One other thing I liked about the judging was that they took out the highest and the lowest scores given out by the judges. This was a good way to filter out any bias towards a team.
Now for the fun stuff, before any of the dancing started, I really didn’t know what to expect. One thing I did notice though was the representation of the Culture Shock crews from the Bay Area as well as various teams from Canada. BOY did those two roll DEEP! hahah. I had three favorite teams, but if you think I’m going to tell you who they were this quick, you better keep reading. hehehe. Don’t get me wrong, I think all the groups did great! Each one had their own unique steez that they brought to the floor.
One of the highlights for me in the Junior Division was Mini Shock. These kids always bring it and take it to the floor, representing with a lot of energy and intensity. I was proud to have these little ones represent the Oakland, Bay Area.
In the Varsity Division, I really liked Krystal Clear’s precision and execution in their moves. All of them were hitting everything. Other Bay Area crews Future Shock and Abstract 5 had real clean sets as well. I especially liked Abstract 5’s Missy Elliot set that had a little drum & bass flavor mixed in with it. I also liked 2 X-treme’s opening set, where they did a locking piece to James Brown’s remix to Give it Up or Turn it Loose. The locking was okay, but I liked how they really showed their appreciation for locking by dancing to the music that should be used when incorporating it into a set, some raw, home-cooked, get-up to get-down, funk, and nothing says that more than a little JB. Texas based crew called Yes, incorporated some house into their routine, one of my favorite styles of dance! The Miami based group 4 Real was definitely FORREAL! They came out explosive with lots of aerials and flips. I liked their energy as well. One of their members, Tucker was a favorite amongst the crowd.
One of my favorite moments in the Adult Division was a piece by Mind Over Matter from San Franciso, CA. Nothing put a smile to my face than seeing them lock to one of my favorite Cameo songs of all time, Rigormortis! They really brought the funk during that piece. I also enjoyed Hip Hop ConnXion of Chicago, who added little comedy bits here and there throughout their routine. I like it when groups go that extra effort to do something different. Hailing from the Netherlands was a group called Foundation. Their partner stunts were just amazing. It had that raw, graceful vibe, that if any true dancer watched them, whether it’d be a bboy, locker, house dancer, or whatever type of dancer, that they would sit there and really appreciate the art of what Foundation did. San Diego group, Formality came out dope as usual. I liked their balance of bboying as well as the clean execution in their choreography. Nothing beats their ending too. Rather than going the usual-explosion-ending-pose route, they walked off stage with that mean attitude look. Believe me, you just had to be there to see it. Another thing you had to see, were the Defending Champions, Extreme of Canada. Not only was their routine well executed, but these ladies were hitting freezes and inverts with ease. Surge from Texas, had this piece to the song, Grindin’ where they did it in reverse after doing a routine to it. I’m not sure if they did that during the USA finals, but I thought it was a nice change-up to their routine throughout the competition when they did it during the world competitions. Another Texas based group, Soul Central of Houston had some nice bboying routines. It showed that people had some respect for foundation when you not only see the headspins and airchairs, but see the uprocking and footwork as well. They’re bboying routines were well executed in my opinion. You just had to give it up to em for incorporating moves that are difficult to do in routines with others as opposed to soloing by yourself.
All in all I think all the groups did great and had good routines, but my most favorite teams were……….drum roll……suprise suprise…Junction 8 from Japan, The Face from Brazil, and Eclectik from Trinidad. First things first, Junction 8 from the Junior Division was just plain dope! If you were there, you couldn’t deny it. Those kids had all the intensity, all the fun, and the moves all balled up into that 2-minute routine. You can tell that they were well disciplined in their training. Even their CCs in their footwork routine were done in perfect unison. Just the way they hit the moves in their locking set itself was indescribable. They were doing it the way it was supposed to be done….funky! Of all the groups in the competition who did locking, I’d say that Junction 8 really had the closest essence to the way locking is suppose to look.
In the Adult Division, Eclectik from Trinidad had some dope stunts. I really liked their overall energy as well. Eclectik’s routine dance style reminded me of early/mid 90s underground Hip Hop dance. Trinidad truly did represent! The Face, from Brazil really stood out from the rest though. Just the vibe in their routine had that Battle of the Year type steez. They had that bboy flavor hitting everything together from the toprocks as well as the freezes, and their Hip Hop routine was very non-studio choreography in feel, which is always a plus for me. Their song selection was excellent. Not once, did I hear a song that I would hear on the radio or see on MTV haha. They utilized and danced to every sound in their routine mix from the drum snares to the futuristic sounds & melodies, and to me that’s what real dancing is about…dancing not just to the music, but to ALL that’s IN the music. I would’ve liked to see them place, but it didn’t happen, and I don’t know why.
Good show, good organization, good vibe, flawless right? Well….almost. I’d have to agree with Shelley on her thoughts on the actual name of the event. If you name something Hip-Hop, make sure it stays true to the name. A lot of the spectators as well as members of some of the crews competing would liked to have seen more of a Hip-Hop “CULTURE” educated judging panel, and I couldn’t agree with them more. I also wished more underground crews came out to represent. That would have been dope. Coming from a dancer’s perspective, you want a judge who is also a dancer and knows where you are coming from. They should have more dancers like Easy Roc on the panel. If you were including old school styles as a requirement in a competition, why not have one of the Electric Boogaloos or Medea Sirkas on the panel? Not only are they pioneers in those styles, but they would be able to point out the groups who show the true form of what the dance is suppose to look like. It would be a lot better to get scored for your form and execution on locking or popping, rather than getting points just because you had a locking or popping piece in your routine, regardless of how okay it looked. It all comes down to knowing FOUNDATION for whatever style you are presenting.
The judging criteria was almost perfect. It was very technical, but maybe a little too technical, where it specifically encourages all the groups to include floor moves as well as tops. Teams were also encouraged to do both an old school (locking, popping, bboying) set and a new school set (choreography routines). I don’t know, but to me, when there are requirement formulas like that, chances are, all of the groups are going to look the same. Even the scoring on costumes asks if it is “street enough?”. In my opinion, it almost wasn’t letting the dance groups be free to be creative without being docked some points for not filling a requirement. So what costume does make something “street”? Is it sports jerseys? Beanies or trucker hats? Baggy jeans or cargos? What about the Electric Boogaloos’ zoot suits, or the funky outfits that The Lockers used to wear? Those outfits may not seem very “street” in today’s standards, but those groups are definitely pioneers in STREET dance. My point is, it doesn’t matter what clothes you rock. As long as you rock it on the floor. Let the groups do what they do best…let them dance..dance freely. Like Shelley said, I’m not putting anything or anyone down. I respect all forms of dance, commercial AND underground.
Rap is something you do…Hip Hop is something you LIVE, and the same applies when it comes to the dance aspect of Hip Hop. Hip Hop is a culture, so it should be preserved right, so that the people know the differences between real Hip Hop and commercial Hip Hop. RESEARCH the people in its’ culture to get who would be best for something titled a Hip Hop Competition. The commercial choreography scene is starting to grow into it’s own world, and I think that’s perfectly fine. It’s one of the beautiful things of the dance culture in general that proves to people that it’s okay to think outside the box. I’m not trying to say anything bad. These are just my personal thoughts and opinions. All the groups did fantastic, the event was well organized, and I really enjoyed the positive vibe, the people, the groups, the dancing, and the heart that the contestants had in it. Would I recommend going to it? Yes I definitely recommend it. Now go out there and dance damnit! hahahah