A number of local dancers recently took the trip of a lifetime to learn from some of the best in the world.
Twenty hip hop dancers aged seven to 32 from Pound It Hip Hop Studio in Red Deer landed in New York City last month.
“We have always been very interested in the history of hip hop which came from New York,” said Rico Martinez, owner of Pound It Hip Hop Studio, which has been open in Red Deer for three years. “Hip hop originated in the late 70s and early 80s from people who were struggling. People used it for something positive and that is how they came up with this dance we do now. The original style of hip hop is called break dancing or B-boying.
“I just knew I had to bring my students to New York to see and learn what it was all about.”
The group attended a festival called Street Style Lab which was put together by some people in France to bring it to New York. On the last day of the week-long festival, dancers from Pound It Hip Hop Dance Studio participated in a battle called Step Ya Game Up.
“It was just amazing,” said Martinez. “One of our young dancers made it to top eight. We competed with dancers from Japan, France, Italy – all over the world. It was amazing to see our dancers from Red Deer competing.”
The festival included a number of classes as well as panel discussions and tours throughout the week, according to the Street Style Lab web site.
As part of their trip to New York, the Red Deer dancers got to learn from the best in the world.
“We learned from Rock Steady Crew and we learned from Crazy Legs,” said Martinez. “We also learned from dancers who danced with Michael Jackson in Do You Remember the Time video and Thriller. They learned from the best of the best in the world – hands down.”
He added the opportunity to take his students to New York is something that he’ll never forget.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The kids didn’t understand, I kept telling them about the stories and it’s not the same to hear the stories as it is to experience them,” said Martinez. “They don’t say much, but just by looking at them, it meant a lot to the kids (to be able to take this trip). We’ve talked about it before and I’ve talked about the stories since day one – it was amazing and they were grateful.”
For Martinez, it was all the more amazing that he could experience New York and the birthplace of hip hop with his students.
“It means everything for me. What I do, I am passionate about and I really appreciate and I am thankful to be able to take them there so they can see it. It means so much to me.”
One of the areas the group travelled to was the Bronx.
“We went and saw the graffiti that was there and they had a chance to meet with people there and explained how rough it was. It was awesome and it was just amazing,” said Martinez.
He added the trip would not have been possible without the support of the parents of the students.
“It was crazy – we had to take the train everywhere and we got lost a couple of times,” he laughed. “But the parents have been so supportive of this which has been great.
“We have some awesome stories. It was exciting to be there and we all had a great time together. I can say these kids are ready for battle here in Canada – or anywhere in the world.”
According to Wikipedia, “Hip hop is a subcultural movement that was formed during the early 1970s by African-American, Caribbean, and Latino youths residing in the South Bronx in New York City. Hip hop is simultaneously a new and old phenomenon; the importance of sampling to the art form means that much of the culture has revolved around the idea of updating classic recordings, attitudes, and experiences for modern audiences – called – ‘flipping’ within the culture. It follows in the footsteps of earlier American musical genres such as blues, salsa, jazz, rag-time, and rock and roll in having become one of the most practiced genres of music in existence worldwide, and also takes additional inspiration regularly from soul music, funk, and rhythm and blues.”
Looking ahead, Martinez said there will be a Street Style Lab-type festival in Red Deer. “People from France will come and some of the pioneers will be coming to Red Deer.”
The following year, the dancers will head to Los Angeles for a competition as well.