Cloverdale-based hip hop crew Queen Bz, from the Street Kings Academy of Dance, have just returned from Phoenix, Arizona, with medals around their necks.
Since they placed second at a qualifying competition in Vancouver in March, the junior team has had their eyes set on the World Hip Hop Dance Championships.
After months of practice and hard work, they’ve returned from the competition as world champions. Representing Canada in the Junior category (ages 7 – 13), they beat out 46 teams to place second.
The World Hip Hop Dance Championship is hosted annually by Hip Hop International, a Los Angeles-based producer of live and televised competitions. HHI created the show “America’s Best Dance Crew” for MTV, and they host championships, workshops, and hip-hop ‘battles’ throughout the world.
The Reporter caught up with Queen Bz team captain William Jope (13), assistant choreographer Gabriel Sanchez (17), Romy Sanchez (10), and studio owner Darylle Johnson to talk about the crew’s recent rise to the top.
The Queen Bz ranked second at regionals in Vancouver allowing them to move forward to nationals in Ottawa, where they had to rank in the top three in order to go to the world championships.
It wasn’t easy — in fact, the team had a couple close calls at nationals.
“We thought we weren’t going to make it through, because we had a couple mess ups on stage,” said William. “There’s this trick where [one of the dancers], she runs on our backs and the person on the end slipped and wasn’t in place. And she fell back. But she got up straight away and we kept dancing.”
“And we were still so good,” he said, joking.
“Okay, humble,” said Johnson, laughing.
“We kept our calm,” said William. “We didn’t let it get to our heads.”
William was in good shape to keep calm, because unlike the majority of his team, who hadn’t been to the world championships before, he had already been there twice.
But the Queen Bz kept their cool, and came back from nationals to train even harder. At worlds, they would face their hardest competition yet. Forty-six countries would be sending their best teams to face-off in a six day competition in Phoenix, Arizona.
The toughest competition would come from Russia’s team, Blast, who would place first in the junior category, and Next JR from Japan, who would place third.
As a choreographer, Gabriel studied the other teams’ strengths, influences and techniques. “You can see their cultural influences in their dances,” he said. “You can see where the teams have their best techniques. Some teams have great dancehall, some teams have great popping, some have great locking.”
“Japan is mostly known for their technique,” said William. “They’re known for their locking, mostly. They’re clean, they’re in sync.”
“They were definitely hard competition,” said Gabriel.
As for Russia?
“Honestly, Russia could be in the varsity category,” said Romy. “They were really clean. They had one fall, but they recovered really well, and they had all these cool tricks.”
“Every single one of them could bone break,” said William.
For those not in the know, bone breaking is a contortionist move that looks just as painful as it sounds.
“It’s basically breaking your joints in order to move,” explained Gabriel.
“We weren’t expecting to see that calibre of competition. [The Queen Bz] did typically well throughout the local competitions. But going to worlds was a whole different ball game,” said Gabriel.
“It was interesting to see how the other countries train, especially Japan and Germany,” he continued. “It’s so much different from how we train.”
Japan, for instance, would be in the gym at 5 a.m. “All day and all night,” said Gabriel. “The Queen Bz trained for two one-hour practices because the heat was pretty crazy there. But Japan and the Philippines, they were training in the parking lot at 112 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It was pretty cool to see,” he said.
The Queen Bz’ final performance, which can be viewed on Hip Hop International’s YouTube page, was performed at the Grand Canyon University Stadium in front of an audience of 7,000 people.
The Queen Bz team includes dancers Romy Sanchez, Kennedi Clements, Kate Fleming, Emily Patterson, Joey Pacheco, William Jope and Claire Zalamea; head coach and choreographer Paul Otterbein, assistant choreographers Bryce Koebel, and Gabriel Sanchez, and assistant coaches Ashley Patterson and Elena Darchangelo.