Mona Shield Payne
Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012 | 5:21 p.m.
Forty-three countries. Three thousand dancers. One-third of a point: At the 2012 World Hip Hop Dance Championships at the Orleans Arena on Sunday night, the numbers behind the competition were almost as dizzying as the dance moves.
That seemingly miniscule fraction of a point helped bring home the gold for the Philippines, whose underdog dance team the Crew surprised with an adult-division win that had the packed house chanting cheers of support in Tagalog.
Neutral Zone from Mexico made history at the competition with a silver medal win, the first Latin American country to take home a title in any age category in the reputed competition’s 11-year history. San Francisco’s Academy of Villains took home bronze with a fitting Olympics-themed performance.
In the varsity division (ages 13 to 17), Japan's Sol-T-Shine took home top honors, while New Zealand’s Sorority took silver and Japan's J.B. Star Varsity won the bronze.
Among the junior division (ages 7 to 12), Bubblegum of New Zealand upheld last year’s title with another gold win. The ferocious Flip of Canada took silver, while Japan’s Onizawa Ikka brought home bronze.
This year’s championships rounded out a week of heated competition among more than 100 teams, a 28 percent increase in attendance and participation from 2011. Representation ranged from Las Vegas’ own junior division favorites the Prodigy to countries as far as India and South Africa.
For more than four hours, the 22 finalists teams spun, leaped and flipped their way across the stage in a show of athletic prowess so impressive that simply watching from your seat was enough to break a sweat.
Each crew’s elaborate, synchronized choreography drew on three decades of hip-hop dance while still bringing a distinct style and personality to the routine. The junior division surprised with some of the competition’s most complex numbers, with Canada’s all-girl be-mohawked Flip snarling and somersaulting through a pop-infused performance that would’ve been right at home in a Lady Gaga video. In contrast, South African adult-division crew Brooklyn leaned less on spectacle than on old school hip-hop moves like popping and locking in what was arguably the evening’s most classic performance.
After each number, competitors would stand, often arm in arm, hunched over, chests heaving, the stage slick with sweat. Still catching their breath, they shared their stories with the audience, and it became increasingly clear that for many of the teams, dancing was the easy part.
First-timers SNV, for example, spoke on overcoming cultural taboos toward hip hop in their native India to make it to this year’s competition; South Africa’s Brooklyn was the only team without a sponsor, with each member taking out a personal loan to afford the trip; Canada’s Rockwell Family had to unexpectedly replace three members of their team in the weeks leading up to the competition.
As the mic made its way down the line of dancers, some would thank their families, some thanked their managers; others, whose English was limited, simply said “thank you” or spoke in their native language.
Of all the international expressions of gratitude, however, one, from an 11-year-old on the Canadian crew Freshh 2.0, stood out among the rest: “I want to thank hip-hop for bringing the world together. One love.”