Hip-hop dance developed in the 1960s and ’70s as a type of street dance. Through styles such as breaking, popping and locking, dancers were able to express a wide range of emotions and tell stories.
Over the years, hip-hop dance has grown and gained popularity worldwide.
During the USA and World Hip Hop Dance championships from August 3 to August 11, top crews and dancers will showcase their dance skills. The competition is hosted by Hip Hop International, a company founded by America’s Best Dance Crew creators Karen and Howard Schwartz. Karen says the competition and TV show highlight the artistry of hip-hop dance.
“We have an appreciation for dance. There’s no question,” she says. “We also have a knack for bringing great events in front of people around the world and developing it in such a way that it showcases talent and entertains people.”
Howard says he and his wife also want to provide avenues for hip-hop dancers to pursue their dreams.
During its 17-year-run, the USA and world competitions have taken place in cities like South Beach, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
During both championships, crews compete in the 7- to 12-year-old junior, 13- to 17-year-old varsity, 18-and-over adult and all-ages megacrew divisions.
The megacrews are made up of 15 to 40 dancers, and the other crews have between five and nine dancers.
All events except the world championship finals take place at the Arizona Grand Resort and Spa Ballroom. The top teams from around the world will compete at the Grand Canyon University Arena on Saturday, August 11.
On Saturday, August 10, individuals or duos will compete against each other in breaking, locking, popping and all styles battles.
This year, the world championships will have more than 4,000 dancers from more than 50 countries. For the first time, countries such as Sierra Leone, Bolivia and Hong Kong will have representation in the competition.
International judges score crews on their incorporation of different styles, precision and skill and overall performance and entertainment value.
Howard says the world championships highlight the different forms hip-hop dance has taken throughout the world.
“We see it in the music. We see it in some of the actual dance moves,” Howard says. “We encourage it. In hip-hop competition, there’s no reason we can’t and we shouldn’t look at what’s specific to someone’s home country and their culture.”
The competition has developed a strong reputation in the dance world. Talent scouts from all over the world attend the championships, and dancers have a chance to audition for Cirque du Soleil.
Throughout the week, the dancers can take part in workshops taught by elite dance instructors. The workshops are open to the public.
The resort will offer dance parties following the competitions, food trucks with different types of cuisine and a marketplace with international hip-hop vendors.
The resort becomes an Olympic-style village, with people from all over the world. Howard says during the competitions, especially the finals, spectators often show their national pride.
“People come out with their national flags and chants. It’s very cultural, very Olympic-like,” Howard says.
In recent years, Arizona crews have had a strong showing at the USA and world championships.
The Exiles crew from Coolidge took silver last year in adult division at the USA championships, and the Elektrolytes out of Gilbert won silver in the megacrew category.
Exiles, a dance ministry, is based out of the United Dance Studio. Along with the adult team, the studio will take United Dance Company, a megacrew of 27 to 30 dancers, to the hip hop championships.
Established last year, the Exiles crew is made up of college-aged dancers, most of whom are self-taught.
When they started out, the crew performed at church services.
Leader Anthony Cordova says their faith continues to guide crew members as they perform.
“We want to make sure our hearts are in the right place, that we are doing it for the right reason. Our reason for dancing period is to give God glory and honor onstage and offstage,” Cordova says.
The team is made up of dancers from different parts of the Valley, skilled in styles such as krumping, b-boying, popping and tricking.
“Since we all come from different places in Arizona, we grew up with different styles. We get to learn from each other so we can be a well-rounded dance team. We do our very best to push each other and challenge each other to the next level,” Cordova says.
Although choreography requires the dancers to move in sync, they have a chance to show their individuality during routines.
“We do encourage them to practice foundation, which is a whole freestyle, improvisational section…All of those foundations that we do in our routines, that’s our identity,” Cordova says.
Based out of the Rise Dance Academy, the Elektrolytes won season seven of America’s Best Dance Crew and placed first at the USA Hip Hop Dance Championships in 2011.
This year, the studio will have crews in the junior, adult and megacrew divisions. The Elektrolytes megacrew of Gilbert has 40 members, ranging in age from 12 to 30.
Sal Banuelos, one of the group’s choreographers and original members, says with the megacrew, he can get more creative with the choreography.
“What’s fun about the megacrew is there’s so many people, so you can do so much and create a lot of crazy visuals,” Banuelos says.
While on America’s Best Dance Crew, the group gave the illusion of floating and created three robots as part of challenges.
A self-taught dancer, Banuelos started in high school. He and a group of friends practiced in his parents’ garage and performed at school pep assemblies.
Banuelos says over the years the group has developed the high-energy dance style for which it is known and continued to improve with the addition of dance styles such as krumping.
He says during his time as a dancer, the Arizona hip-hop scene has continued to grow in size and talent.
“There’s a lot more competition now, and there’s so many good crews out here,” Banuelos says.
USA Hip Hop Dance Championship Final, Arizona Grand Resort and Spa Ballroom, 8000 S. Arizona Grand Parkway, Phoenix, hiphopinternational.com, 6:30 p.m., Sunday, August 5, $60 for USA event pass, $200 for all-event pass, $25 for USA prelims, $30 for USA finals.
World Battles Final, Arizona Grand Resort and Spa Ballroom, 8000 S. Arizona Grand Parkway, Phoenix, hiphopinternational.com, 9 p.m., Friday August 10, $30 for world battles.
World Hip Hop Dance Championship Final, Grand Canyon University Arena, 3300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix, hiphopinternational.com. 6:30 p.m. Saturday, August 11, $150 for world event pass, $200 for all-event pass, $25 for world prelims and semifinals, $29.50 to $64.50 for world finals.