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Battle on the Dance Floor: Hip-hop festival builds dreams, brings unity

Mike McGee | 8/8/2014, 1:12 p.m.
The All Styles and BBoy/BGirl Battles brought dancers from cities throughout Texas and Oklahoma to the Power House of Dance ...
The multiethnic audience reacts wildly as one contestant finishes an impressive move during the All Styles and BBoy/BGirl Battles at the Power House of Dance studio on July 25. Photo by Mike McGee

The Dallas Examiner

“Once you’ve danced, you always dance. You can’t deny the gifts that God sends your way.” – Judith Jamison, artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

The All Styles and BBoy/BGirl Battles brought dancers from cities throughout Texas and Oklahoma to the Power House of Dance studio at 12300 Inwood Road on the last weekend of July. The evening’s event – a competition featuring the best local underground hip-hop dancers – kicked off the third annual Dallas Hip-Hop Dance Festival. Touted as “a platform for hip hop dancers of all ages, representing all styles of hip hop in its truest form,” in a statement released by founder and director Geena Ngaaje, the festival was held July 25 and July 26.

“It’s basically a lot of amazing dancers getting together and showing what they’ve got,” said Barnell, a 23-year-old dancer, as he described the competition. “It’s basically a showcase but at the same time making it a little battle. The battle basically will put someone to the next level.”

Barnell said this was the second year that he entered the competition.

“This is my first time I’ve ever battled,” said Taj Campbell, 20. He felt that the battle was more a symbolic phrase than anything else. “It’s really more about everybody coming together to have fun.”

He said that the event was significant to performers within the community.

“It’s an outlet for them to express themselves through dance, to be active in their interests, and allow the community to see what’s in Dallas – what’s going on, something they may be interested in getting into,” Campbell stated. “And also an entertainment factor.”

As the event brought the community together, the music and dance united the artists.

“For me personally it allows several different cultures to get together,” Barnell interjected. “Dance and music are the two most rounding things. Whether you know the language of the person next to you, it doesn’t matter; they literally just vibe out off of the movements. Like, that is our language to each other.”

The participants shaking up the studio affirmed his statement. While the wooden dance floor was clearly the domain of the 25-and-under crowd, there was a virtual rainbow of ethnicities present – Black, White, Latino, Asian – all indulging their love of a dance form that is primarily African American in origin. The ratio of male and female dancers was about evenly split. Families gathered to support their competitors and take in the rhythmic artistry on display.

As for the battle itself, the event was positive and free of conflict. The dancers seemed very encouraging and supportive of one another regardless of the differing dance styles displayed.

During the battle, the competition was held in multiple consecutive rounds. Judges selected members of the various dance crews to line up in two rows of three, the competitors facing one other. A dance-off would then take place between the six performers, each individual competitor showcasing his best moves for thirty seconds as a DJ spun hip-hop music on old school vinyl. The judges looked for the performers who could “connect” to the music as well as the performers’ outstanding technical skills.

“Don’t set it up, don’t wait, just go in,” one judge instructed the contestants before the competition.

After the initial rounds the judges pitted their top 16 picks to go head to head.

“And from there, we’re going to get to battling,” the judge announced as applause filled the room.

Campbell didn’t win, but said he hoped that the contest would help him attain a personal goal.

“Dancing-wise, I’m hoping to be either a choreographer, have my own studio, just have freelance performances …”

On Saturday, the festival held a Best of Both Worlds Workshop, an intermediate to advance level class for ages 8 to adult, and closed out the weekend with a Hip-Hop Dance Show. Ngaaje expressed that the show was not as big as it was last year, but she plans to triple its size next year.