Tiny Harajuku-style dancers flew over each other’s heads to the tune of MC Hammer. You could practically hear everyone in the crowd of about 9,000 thinking, “Man, these kids have moves,” but the 2013 World Hip Hop Dance Championship had just gotten started. Over the next four hours, the audience at the Orleans Arena and TV viewers in over 80 countries would wonder how the judges could rank such a talented pool of dance crews. But these are the World Finals, and that was their job.
Begun as a platform for highlighting the talents of street dancers in Tokyo and Paris, Hip Hop International’s annual tournament has grown to include teams of all ages from all over the world. Converging in Las Vegas each year to decide who gets the gold, the championships seem to draw talent from certain countries more than others. With eight teams in three divisions from junior (ages 7-12) to adult (18+), Japan was more than representing. Likewise, the Philippines, New Zealand and Canada were out in full force. And the geographic diversity was matched by generational range. When the MC asked the oldest member of Kiwi crew Hip Operation—whose members range from ages 66-94—“What in the world are you doing?” she didn’t miss a beat: “Having a wonderful time.”
That answer clearly applied to the hundreds of passionate dancers who traveled so far to compete, including a dancer who performed with two broken fingers. But another part of their drive surely comes from inspiration like Les Twins, the new style dancers who were the featured performance of the evening. The brother act set YouTube aflame with over 6 million views in less than a year, and the duo is currently on tour with Beyoncé and models for the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier. Although the twins, with their subtle charisma and flawless timing, were amazing, other performances shined just as brightly.
Canada cleaned up in three out of four categories (a first!), but memorable performances that didn’t garner gold included a condensed production of the Wizard of Oz, a trio that looked straight out of an iPod commercial breaking to Space Age jazz, and hardcore numbers featuring shirt-ripping dudes and sassy single ladies. And each group that took the stage demonstrated something unique to hip-hop: a creative playfulness that allows you to be as entertained as you are impressed. At the Orleans Arena on Sunday night, we were both—and glad that it was up to the judges to pick the winners.