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April 19, 2014

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Olympic spirit permeates Las Vegas in World Hip-Hop Dance Championship

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Leila Navidi

The Mexican crew Neutral Zone performs in the varsity division’s preliminary round at the World Hip-Hop Dance Championship at Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012.

Mexico's Hip-Hop Dancers

The Mexican crew Neutral Zone performs in the varsity division's preliminary round at the World Hip-Hop Dance Championship at Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Across the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of athletes are representing more than 200 countries in the 30th Summer Olympics this month. This week in the west valley, there is a smaller, but just as passionate, international event taking place.

On Wednesday, Las Vegas had its own parade of nations at Red Rock Resort, where representatives of 43 countries carried their flags onto the convention center stage in the opening ceremony of the World Hip-Hop Dance Championship.

“Who would have ever thought that something that started on the streets of Brooklyn would end up a world-class event?” said Laurence Cohen, spokesman for World Hip-Hop Dance Championship. “There are 15 pages of rules and regulations, and there are both technical and creative judges. If you compete in the finals in Finland, it’s the same rules and guidelines as the world championship and every other country. It’s very much like the Olympics.”

The dance competition started in 2002 with 11 countries. This year, there are more than 2,500 dancers, a 28 percent increase from 2011.

Just like in the Olympics, some of the delegations are large (Brazil, Philippines, United States) while others squads can be counted on one hand (Romania, Finland, Croatia). The competition is expanding every year, and this year, new countries include Paraguay, Ecuador, Israel and Croatia.

No country from Latin America has ever taken home a title in any age category (adult, varsity or junior), but with more South and Central American teams coming every year, the odds are improving.

The Mexico delegation, with five teams including a “mega-crew” of more than 40 members, is one of the larger delegations, but one of its top teams is not quite as large as it should have been.

The Creatorz, a Mexican dance crew in the adult division, is making its first appearance at the world championship. The team, which formed in February 2011, won its division in the Mexican championship in April.

2012 USA and World Hip Hop Dance Championships Preview

Former Mayor Oscar Goodman toasts the return of the USA & World Hip Hop Dance Championships during a media preview at Fremont Street Experience on Thursday, June 21, 2012. Launch slideshow »

While applying for their visas to enter the United States, Creatorz members said, two of the crew’s members decided to add relatives to the list of performers on their applications so their family could make the trip with them. They should have applied for separate visas for family members, and U.S. immigration enforcement caught the ruse. A week prior to the competition, the Creatorz found out two of their dancers had been denied entry to the United States.

“It’s been very difficult,” Diego Lozado, 25, of the Creatorz said in Spanish. “We tried to tell the other guys that they shouldn’t have lied on the visa application. We had to redo our routine and choreography for five people instead of seven in one week. It was a really big change.”

The group, which comes from Mexico City, is jittery with excitement now that it’s in the United States and meeting fellow devotees of hip-hop dance from all over the world. Not all of the members are from Mexico City, but they met in dance classes and workshops in the capital and later decided to form a group so they could film routines and enter the national competition.

“We beat a lot of crews that had been competing for years, so there definitely was some surprise when we won,” said Creatorz dancer Mario Cuesta, 22. “There was yelling, hugging and even some crying.”

The dancers, who wear burgundy shirts with grey vests and white fedoras during their routine set to Bluey Robinson’s “Showgirl,” said they feel a camaraderie with the other Mexican dance crews and the other Latin American nations, many of whom they have met.

The Creatorz said they came with the goal to win Latin America’s first title, but most of all, they want to perform well and demonstrate their style.

“One of the most difficult parts is incorporating all of our different styles of dance into one routine,” Cuesta said. “We don’t use as many special effects or tricks as other crews. We strive for good, clean choreography that demonstrates our own way of dance.”

Much like the Olympics, the opening ceremony for the dance championship was a lively, spirited affair with loud cheers roaring up from the seats for every nation called.

“We want to enjoy it all, meet others who love dance and learn from the whole experience,” said the Creatorz’s Valentin Ramz, 19. “It’s amazing to bring so many people together from all over the world for this event.”

The World Hip-Hop Dance Championship runs through Sunday, with the finals at Orleans Arena. All other rounds are at Red Rock Resort.

After the competition, the Creatorz, who are rounded out by Daniel Cuesta, Diego Armando and alternate Paco Rene, plan to make the most of their trip north of the Rio Grande and spend a month in Los Angeles participating in dance workshops.

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