Hip Hop International dances again in LA, despite Delta, with its US Championships


For dancers who communicate, collaborate and compete in front of crowds, the pandemic has stolen much of their art form. For the thousands of dancers who come together for the US and World Hip Hop International Dance Championships each year, it has also taken on a major hub for the dance community and culture.

The 2020 edition of the championships did not take place due to COVID concerns, but in 2021 the event is back, but with an additional virtual component. The US Championships drew crews from Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Washington, Nevada and across California. Gold medal in the megacrew (Elektrolytes) and minicrew (El3kt) divisions came from Gilbert, Ariz., while San Diego had a strong performance with gold medals in the Varsity (Imperium) and Junior (Lil Supremes) categories. The Las Vegas Killas won gold in the Adult section. The event took place at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel & Convention Center from September 3-5. The World Championships, where all of these winning crews will compete against other countries, will be presented online on October 9.

For memory :

11:13 a.m. Sep 7, 2021The world championships will be broadcast on October 9, not October 2. Additionally, Don Campbell won the Living Legend Award in 2005.

Boston’s Lil Phunk competes in the Mega Crew Division in the 2021 American Hip-Hop Dance Championship Finals.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

For teams and studios across the country, the event is a welcome reminder of life before the pandemic, which hit many dance companies hard in terms of registrations. Reia Briggs Connor, owner of several dance studios in Boston and the driving force behind Phunk phenomenon, a dance company that works for the Boston Celtics and has many other activities on the East Coast, has been one of the leaders who have struggled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I lost a ton of dancers. Our numbers fell to less than half of our dance studio, and a lot of dancers just weren’t comfortable coming back. It was definitely an eventful year, ”said Connor. “Financially, it was difficult, but we have a good number of sponsors [to attend the Hip Hop International competition]. I had to limit the number of teams we sent – I usually fill all the categories. “

Dancers on stage compete in the 2021 American Hip-Hop Dance Championships Finals.

One of the Mega Crews competes in the 2021 American Hip-Hop Dance Championship final.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Connor is one of the many veterans of the hip-hop dance community who have participated this year. Its platform is raise awareness of Sanfilippo syndrome, but she and others also have a relationship built on more than a decade of trust with HHI.

“This year is a little different for Hip Hop International,” she said. “We’re going to kind of get together and let them know that we are supporting them because they were also touched by not being able to host their event. We really feel like part of a family.

The Haus of Snap dance team watch a member flip.

Members of the Phunk Phenomenon crew celebrate their victory.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Howard and Karen Schwartz have always tried to bring this family attitude to Hip Hop International. They started the organization, which grew out of an 80s dance and fitness craze, in 2002, and it has since grown to include 53 countries that represent HHI with their own championships and activities. The US and World Championships are often held together, but they have been separated this year. It may strain this year’s theme – “get together” – but it doesn’t quench the excitement the couple felt after announcing that the American side of the event would take place in person.

“Everyone said they just wanted to be outside again. They wanted to be on stage again. They wanted to see their fellow dancers again, ”Howard said. “It opened up the dance community – the competitive side. That’s all they really needed to see is that there was an event, and it made them start over. “

The Santa Clarita Avenue dance team waits backstage.

The Santa Clarita Avenue dance team waits backstage.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s a wonderful relationship and we all play a part in its success. We give them a platform, but without their incredible talent and skills it would be nothing, ”added Karen. “We reached out and got very positive feedback that said, ‘If you do this we’ll be there,’ and that really motivated us to host the US Hip Hop Dance Championships in Southern California.”

HHI has hosted its events primarily in Arizona and Las Vegas, with stops in San Diego and Florida. The Schwartzes were the most comfortable, however, moving the competition to Los Angeles because that’s where they’re based and where they thought they could best enforce their COVID protocols as well as community rules. .

A dance team wearing Chicago Bulls jerseys over white shirts and pants.

A dance team pays homage to one of the oldest forms of hip-hop dance with locking moves.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“We felt good with the way Los Angeles was handling the pandemic. This is the homeland of HHI and Southern California has many established dance teams, ”Howard said. “But just being in an environment that we control and allowing our employees to come home was a plus. Things were changing quickly in other states, so we also wanted to be closer to where we were already in contact with the community and could know how things were being handled. ”

For Cheryl Armor Frye, including Origin Hip Hop Academy flourished in the San Diego area after reopening in a mall and reinventing itself, the California side was more than helpful as its dance company competed in every category available.

A member of Ill Habits with his arms raised.

A member of Ill Habits strikes a blow.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s very convenient for our Californian crews. Parents do not have to rent multiple hotel rooms and may be able to drop off their children for a long weekend. It was a blessing, ”says Frye. “LA is still LA, and the crews are excited to be able to get out.”

Frye has had children who have been through traumatic COVID events, and she saw by watching the programming that some dance companies were missing. She says it’s a mixed bag in terms of competition but is there to support the culture.

“We still noticed that some of our favorite teams show up, but there are a lot of studios that didn’t. Hopefully this will inspire studios to start over and start over. “

Tribute to Don Campbell

Flomaster and her son Prince on stage in black and white striped outfits

Flomaster and his son Prince pay special tribute to Don “Campbellock” Campbell, the creator of the dance lock style.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Don “Campbellock” Campbell, creator of Lock – one of the most popular hip-hop dance styles – passed away on March 30, 2020. Her dance group, the Lockers, which included “Hey Mickey” frontman Toni Basil and “What’s Happening” star Fred “Rerun” Barry, were among the first dancers to feature not as backup performers. , but as the main actor. Campbell has worked with Hip Hop International, observing and mentoring dancers from around the world who have adopted his style. HHI will honor the artist which will include interviews with his family, people from his popular “Soul Train” days and more.

“First of all, we are so sad to lose Don Campbell,” Karen said. “Ever since we met him, when we honored him with the Living Legend of Hip Hop Award, he has been such an important part of Hip Hop International. He was larger than life, and the number of people he touched … “

“We just hope we can do it justice with our little tribute,” Howard added.

His influence has helped the organization gain some credibility.

“[Events] were coming towards me, ”Connor said of his first meeting with the organization,“ but I didn’t think they respected hip-hop enough for us to be a part of it. When HHI arrived, and once I saw Don Campbell’s name, and knew he created the lockdown, I discussed it with the team and we tried to collect some ‘money and go to LA to give it a shot.

The Olympics are coming

A group of five young people wait backstage to perform.

The 860 Minis of Hartford, Connecticut wait backstage before performing.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

As break dancing is included in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, it is possible that some of the participants in this year’s HHI Championships will be competing. It is on the minds of many competitors. But some question the setup of the Olympics: who will compete, who will judge and the overall tone of the event.

“I thought it was amazing,” Frye said. “It’s very controversial because a lot of break dancers not think it’s amazing. Many of them are in fact against it. I don’t know if it’s 50/50 or 60/40, but a lot of people don’t want that to happen. How that is beyond me. I don’t see how they don’t see that it’s a wonderful thing for the community, a wonderful thing for hip-hop, and a wonderful thing for the athletes. Dancers are also athletes. Especially the break dancers!

Connor also saw the backlash among break dancers at the possibility of the Olympics eclipsing culture. She also sees, however, that there are solutions that could help her be more inclusive for purists.

A group of children sitting on the ground and standing.

Elektrokidz, of Gilbert, Ariz., Won second place in the junior division.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“Being someone who’s always been in hip-hop, I think that’s an amazing thing. The evolution of it and the appreciation of the athleticism of b-boying and b-girling. I think it’s going to be great on that side. I’m afraid the culture will get lost a bit, but I hope they both stay alive – the culture of just going to a jam and doing the dancing, not just the power moves. I think if they have the right panel of judges from the community who are able to judge, who are actually some of the founding fathers of today, that could be great. ”

“The old heads that may be against … they are the reason this is happening!” said Frye. “If they hadn’t been so good and hadn’t really pushed the younger ones to take the plunge, that wouldn’t happen. They should be proud of their accomplishment. I would like to see some of our little ones work in this direction.

A staff member silhouetted over the 2021 American Hip-Hop Dance Championships logo

A staff member sweeps the stage during the 2021 American Hip-Hop Dance Championship Finals.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s really no different than what Howard and Karen did, because Hip Hop International is the Olympics for hip-hop. You are competing there – why not compete for the big medal. They were visionaries.

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