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‘Xpression!’ dance exhibition brings vibrant hip-hop culture to CSU

Fort Collins is not the place one would think of as being home to a vibrant hip-hop dance community. But with Sunday night’s “Xpression!” dance exhibition at Colorado State University’s Lory Student Center, it appears there will be many similar events in the future.

“Xpression!” brought together dancers, singers and songwriters from Fort Collins and beyond for an explosive night of creative hip-hop expression. Organizer Kent Washington said its purpose is to give a voice to a once nearly voiceless community.

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“‘Xpression!’ was created to provide a platform for hip-hop dance and culture,” Washington said. “There is no other art form that can express more than dance.”

The exhibition gathered one truly impressive list of performers. Crews present at “Xpression!” included Colorado-based COhe and the award-winning HYPE 303.

Special guest MPACT, a B-Boy from the world famous KINJAZ crew, flew out all the way from Los Angles, California to teach a workshop at the University Center of the Arts and held a live Q&A session.

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Alex Milewski aka “WhiteBoi” kicks of Xpression! Photo credit: Matthew Smith

To kick off the night was the master of ceremonies Alex Milewski, aka WhiteBoi, member of the Boulder dance collective Block 1750. WhiteBoi pumped up the intimate crowd at the front of the stage, leading them into a chant of the four elements of hip-hop: “peace, love, unity and having fun.”

These four value sum up what “Xpression!” was all about: creative expression without limits. Every performer, whether they were individuals or groups, added their own unique style and flavor.

Singer-songwriter Shyann Lee presented a set of highly dynamic songs showcasing her incredible vocal abilities, topped off with the sensual original track “I Don’t Want You To Go.”

Lee was followed by the mysterious solo dancer Kwaz, who chose to wear a full mask as to not let his face distract from his art. Other groups such as Side by Side and The Nasty Kidz used musical breaks and clever editing to add a narrative into their dance routines. DJ Zenas masterfully provided music from stage left.

Throughout “Xpression!,” audience members danced and cheered with the music, creating an active and free atmosphere of judgement-free creative flow.

After the intermission, MPACT emerged onto the stage and presented a short but stunning presentation of his championship break dancing skills before sitting down with WhiteBoi for a live interview.

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Alex Milewski and MPACT talk hip-hop in a Q&A Photo credit: Matthew Smith

“Expression is your ability to create yourself and show the world who that person is inside and out,” MPACT said.

To MPACT, hip-hop became the medium through which he could truly express himself. What began as an interest in the break dancing skills of his older cousin became a healthy obsession in college and then a professional career.

At the night’s conclusion, all the performers formed a semicircle on stage and took turns free-styling to DJ Zenas’ curated beats.

While “Xpression!” represented one of Fort Collins’ largest celebrations of hip-hop culture, there was much to be desired. For next year’s edition, Washington says it can only go “bigger and better.”

“MPACT had an amazing message,” Washington said. “I wish a lot more people heard that message.”

Until next year, hip-hop fans can attend Franchesca Ramsey’s talk at the LSC theater on March 30. Ramsey is the host of MTV’s YouTube show “Decoded,” a breakout hit with over 29 million cumulative views.

Collegian reporter Matthew Smith can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @latvatalo.

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