A room in downtown Aldergrove is where teen dancers “jerk,” and “pop lock and drop it,” in sync, and at a frenetic pace.
Hip hop dance has found a home in the town affectionately known as The Place Between.
And there are plans to take over Canada, and quite possibly the world.
The Street Kings Academy of Dance, an Aldergrove-based hip hop dance studio, is sending three varsity teams to the Canadian Hip Hop Championships being held June 5 at the Chateau Royal in Laval, Quebec.
Crews medalling in Laval have an opportunity to advance to the world championship in Las Vegas in August.
The Street Kings will be represented in Quebec by two all-girl teams and one all-boys team, and all of the dancers are between 14 and 17 years old.
Led by Street Kings Academy of Dance co-owners and choreographers Paul Otterbein and Darylle Johnson, the academy started in 2013 and has grown exponentially since then, using studio space at Aldergrove’s Kick It Up A Notch Academy of Dance.
“We started with 24 kids and now it’s grown to almost 80,” Otterbein said.
He added, “A lot of our kids represented Canada on the national team this year and we competed in Italy at the world championships, and they’re actually ranked No. 2 in the world, right now.”
Johnson said the style’s popularity is growing: “The culture is getting really big based off the music and music videos and what not, but Vancouver and the Fraser Valley is a crazy hub for talented, world-class dancers. We’ve been fortunate enough to have a faculty that has some of the best of the best in the city and when we go to competitions, the kids do really well from their training.”
Hip hop dance has a visual appeal that draws different ages and demographics to the style, according to Johnson.
And it isn’t exclusive to teens and young adults, Otterbein added.
“When you go to the world hip hop championships, they have a 31 and over category in Europe and when you go to the world championships in Vegas, there’s adult crews, varsity crews, and junior crews, so it’s all ages,” he said.
Ice hockey was Otterbein’s passion 18 years before switching to dance when he was 21. Now 37, he’s been a dancer and choreographer for the past-decade-and-a-half.
Hip hop dance has been part of Johnson’s life for 23 years – she started practising that style of dance when she was seven at the first hip hop studio in B.C., in Surrey.
Now, both are focused on next month’s national event, and as the Montreal competition draws nearer training intensifies, with the crews practising their routines between 10 and 12 hours and in some cases more, each week.
Street Kings crews include roughly 10 dancers from Langley and one from Aldergrove, while the rest of the dancers come from all over the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley, including Vancouver, Chilliwack, White Rock, Surrey, Richmond, and Delta. There’s even one dancer who travels from Victoria to Aldergrove once a week.
A member of the all-girls crew “Dominuss” is R.E. Mountain Secondary student Jasmyne Gabert, who said the dancers are like family to her.
“The crew is one big, happy family and it’s not just one crew, it’s the whole studio,” the 15-year-old Gabert said. “Everyone is so kind to each other; everyone has each other’s backs. It’s a safe place for everyone.”
Gabert said hip hop dance is a way to “express emotions, to express feelings. That’s my personal opinion on dance, and that’s why I kind of got started. I love entertaining people and I feel like most people do, too.”
The Street Kings crews heading to Laval are:
Dominuss (all girls)
Kristina Nishi-Beckingham, Kyla Sabatino, Jordie Hall, Jasmyne Gabert, Elena D’Archangelo, Sydney DeGianni, Dominique Mailloux, Shelan Humphrey, and Camryn Jackson-Gola.
Dames (all girls)
Autumn Juanicotena-Heal, Ashley Patterson, Bella Alton, Madeleine Burke, Madison Kinch, Mackenzie Tremblay, Serena Manhao, Talia Mathers, and Cora Drieschner.
GGG (all boys)
Logan Juanicotena-Heal, Tyler Hamel, Damon Gabert, Gabriel Sanchez, Austin Ardon, and Andrew Machon.
These groups are performing at Highstreet shopping centre, 3122 Mount Lehman Rd., on Saturday, May 21 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Heading to Laval and paying for hotels when there will be costly and the dancers are fundraising on their own and collectively, they’ve also set up a GoFundMe page.
“It’s very expensive,” Otterbein said. “And if they medal and make it to the world championships, then that’s another expense as well.”
Donations will be accepted during their Highstreet performance and on the Street Kings’ GoFundMe page: “Send Street Kings to Nationals.”